Tips for job interviewing while overseas

Job interviews can be challenging enough, but factor in time differences, shaky connections and unreliable technologies and it’s an even more daunting experience.

After spending more than half the summer overseas during a period when I was actively interviewing for a new gig, I’ve come up with a few tips for those who find themselves in the middle of a job search while outside the country.

  1. Make it clear you’re out of town

In my experience, most companies tend to reach out over the phone to schedule potential interviews so the last thing you’d want is to miss out on a job opportunity because you weren’t in a position to either take the call or check the voicemail after. That’s especially the case if you’ve chosen not to purchase a roaming plan while abroad.

I make a habit any time I’m out of town for more than a day to change my voicemail greeting to mention the dates I am away, the fact that I have little or no access to voicemail, and that email is the best way to reach me while I’m away. I’ll not only mention my email address in the voicemail greeting, but also spell it out just to make it easier on the caller.

  1. Bring your devices and always have a backup

I have a tendency to over pack whenever I go on a trip but the one thing I won’t compromise on is bringing my laptop. At any given time I’m usually working on some project or another and I just find I can do more on my laptop than on a smartphone or a tablet.

My laptop is also invaluable in the event I end up scheduling an online interview. It’s still my preferred tool for using Skype, but is versatile to allow me to install other programs as needed. I have had an online interview in the past with a company that chose to use a very specific program (one that maybe most might not have as part of their set of apps). My laptop is about five years old now but I haven’t run into any issues with downloading and installing new programs. I can’t say the same for some of my iDevices although generally when running the latest operating system you should be fine.

(Skype, I have found, seems to not recognize your login credentials unless you’ve updated to the latest version. Essentially, that’s made the Skype I had previously been running on my outdated iPad 2 to be worthless).

Either way, if you’re expecting you might have be taking part in an interview over the internet, make sure you’ve got multiple options available.

  1. Never rely on public WiFi

This one is arguably the biggest make or break when it comes to online interviews.

Your interview will only be as smooth as your connection is. My guess is, especially given the odd hours, you’re most likely going to hold your interview wherever you’re staying be it a hostel, hotel or a friend or family member’s place. Outside of the latter, I would suggest you’ll want to make sure you’ve got your own internet connection setup rather than rely on a public network.

Over the course of this summer I’ve done interviews everywhere from luxury resorts to hostels, from big cities to rural villages in the middle of nowhere, and the one thing they all have in common is unreliable WiFi. Some, admittedly, are better than others and probably could have sufficed. Others, however, would have been disastrous had I tried to rely solely on them.

One option to consider if you want to make sure you’ve got your own solid connection is to rent (or buy) your own mobile WiFi hub. These are often referred to as Pocket WiFi or Wifi Egg devices. I like these better than getting a separate sim card when you travel for a few reasons.

First, Pocket Wifi units allow you to easily connect multiple devices and you can usually purchase a plan that offers unlimited data and no speed caps. The travel sim cards that I’ve used in the past usually have data and speed cap limits, although perhaps there are better plans out there than the ones I’ve seen.

Second, travel sim cards require you to take out your existing sim card meaning you’re pretty much giving up on receiving calls during that time unless you plan to walk around with multiple phones. It’s also only a viable option for you if you happen to have an unlocked phone or device. The whole process of changing sim cards and making sure you don’t lose your original sim card is a bit of a nuisance as well.

Finally, the Pocket Wifi option works out even better if your service provider back home offers WiFi Calling. WiFi Calling essentially lets you use your phone as if you were at home if you’re connected to WiFi anywhere. That means you can place and receive calls, and send or receive text messages, without having to purchase a roaming package or pay exorbitant fees. I was pleasantly surprised to discover while I was in Japan trying to work out the details of a phone interview that my service provider, Rogers Wireless, actually does support WiFi Calling.

  1. Figure out your times, and get set up early

This one is a no-brainer, but is worth mentioning here still. This summer I’ve had interviews ranging from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. local time depending on where I happened to be in the world.

It’s important to arrange a time where you can be confident in knowing where you will be when the clock strikes. As an example, if you’re planning a late night out with and you’re relying on public transportation to get you back to wherever you’re staying, that might not be the best night to set your online interview.

You will also want to login ahead of time if for no other reason than to make sure there are no issues with your technology and that your WiFi connection is stable. I’d suggest at least 15-20 minutes before your scheduled start time which will give you enough time to come up with a quick contingency plan just in case something does go awry.

Thank you, SD43

Grateful.

There are so many words I can use to describe the past 13 months I’ve spent working at School District 43 in Coquitlam but ‘grateful’ comes to mind first and foremost.

I am grateful for the opportunity I’ve had in the last 13 months to work for an amazing organization.

I am grateful to have been mentored by a true communications expert who I’ve come to consider a mentor and a friend.

I am grateful to have met so many kind, friendly and generous colleagues and who made showing up to work every day an absolute pleasure.

Thirteen months ago when I arrived I knew that my time there would be limited because it was a limited-term contract to cover a maternity leave. But even with the ‘temp guy’ tag, it didn’t take long for me to feel comfortable in the role because of all the wonderful people I was surrounded by every day, not to mention a leadership team that really strived to make the workplace a positive one.

I also can’t say enough about my manager, Peter, who promised me 13 months ago when I started that he’d help make me a better communications professional by the time I finished.

If you ever have the chance to work with a supervisor who take an interest in – and is willing to help you with – your professional development take advantage of it. People like that are few and far between.

I will always be grateful for my time at SD43 and, if the stars align and the role is the right one, I would love nothing more than to be part of that work environment again.

As far as the immediate future goes, I’m focused on just one thing only right now…

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On Community Days and Event Management

We need more Community Days.

When I was growing up, Community Days never really appealed to me. I don’t remember being particularly enthused to attend such events.

But now I feel like I’ve gained a new sense of appreciation for them.

Having worked in event management in the past, I definitely know how much goes into it and how much the organizers do.

Events in public places and involving many different partners and groups are even more challenging. There’s everything from power requirements to portable washrooms to permits to consider, and then there’s mapping out the space, creating the schedule and planning out contingencies, which you have to do because there’s always something that goes awry.

Whether you’re a big or small company, if you’ve got a major event to run that takes place in a public setting, it may be worth your while to consult an event management group. If you’re in the Vancouver area, I’ll give shout out to a former colleague who is one of the best in the biz as far as I’m concerned.

You can find her on Twitter @gamesevenjen or on her website at www.gamesevenevents.com.

As for why I’m a big fan of Community Days now, I just find it nice to see groups representing a diverse range of people come together, share what they’re all about and do so in the spirit of friendship and inclusiveness

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Seems like it’s something we need to see more of in this world.

We need more Community Days.

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That time I hung out with Phil Kessel

Before my first introduction to working with the Canucks, I had the chance to be involved in another major NHL event in the annual NHL Draft.

The story coming out on Saturday from The Province’s Jeff Paterson on this event possibly returning to Vancouver as part of the Canucks’ 50th anniversary celebration had me taking a trip down memory lane back to 2006 when the event was here last.

That summer I submitted an application to volunteer for the event and was assigned to be one of the player guides/handlers that you might spot on the side of the screen if you’re watching the coverage on television.

As soon as a player gets drafted, he’s assigned a guide that helps him navigate through all his obligations once he’s finished the process of going up on stage, taken his picture, stopped for a quick interview with the host broadcaster, and met all the executives from the team that now owns his rights.

Those obligations include things like getting (multiple) photos taken, doing online chats with NHL.com, signing paraphernalia, and a whole host of other things that I can’t recall now.

Back in 2006, the NHL opted to do the Draft entirely in one day (usually it is spread out over two). I can’t say for certain whether that made a difference for the volunteers compared to their normal two-day event. For me it meant that, on that particular day, I had the chance to meet three NHL hopefuls.

The latter two individuals I met that day were Tomas Káňa, a second round selection of the St. Louis Blues, and John Armstrong, a third round selection of the Calgary Flames. Neither of them panned out in the NHL. They combined for just six career NHL games to date, all of them belonging to Káňa, but on that day both of them were VIPs.

The first one, as you’ve surmised by now from the title of his blog, is a guy that has carved out quite a nice career for himself in the NHL and has a chance to soon become a multi-time Stanley Cup champion.

I can recall many in our group of volunteers wanting to be picked to guide the Canucks’ draft pick – 14th overall that year, which turned out to be Michael Grabner (talk about the one that got away) – but I thought it was pretty cool I got tabbed for that fifth overall pick that ended up being Phil Kessel.

Kessel was highly hyped entering the Draft that year. He was the American that, as a 17-year-old, lit up the world junior tournament a year before he was Draft eligible and at one point was considered as a potential first overall pick. As I recall, his stock dipped ever so slightly in his Draft year and that’s why he fell to fifth.

The Bruins, though, were fortunate enough to nab a player who they felt could be the new face of their franchise and perhaps one of the early steals of the Draft.

Kessel was supposed to accompany me to the backstage area as soon as he had a quick introduction to the management seated at the Bruins’ table. But I found myself waiting and waiting before I finally was able to lead him to the backstage area because the Bruins’ PR person had him conducting interview after interview over the phone with, I suspect, the team’s local media back in Beantown.

As an aside, if you’ve ever wanted to see hockey PR people in action, volunteer at a Draft. They may be some of the busiest people you’ll meet.

Needless to say it took us quite a while before we finally headed backstage and, at that point, we were lumped in with the mid-round picks in the queue. The players drafted around Kessel – guys like Erik Johnson, Jordan Staal, Jonathan Toews, Nicklas Backstrom, Derrick Brassard, and Kyle Okposo – were long gone.

It was interesting listening to some of the banter between the newly drafted players as they awaited their next photo shoot or media obligation. Some of those guys have played with, or against, each other and some of them may just meeting for the first time. But on that day, all of them were part of a something special.

I recall Boston’s PR person following Kessel and myself pretty much throughout the entire process which took nearly three hours. In fact, it was only when we were just walking on the concourse at General Motors Place (now Rogers Arena) over to the area where Kessel was to meet up with his family when she had to abruptly leave.
She had a pretty good reason though.

As we were walking, Gary Bettman’s unmistakable voice suddenly blasts over the PA system. I may be paraphrasing ever-so-slightly but it went something like…

“We have a trade to announce. The Toronto Maple Leafs trade Tuukka Rask to the Boston Bruins for Andrew Raycroft.”

With that she suddenly stopped and said, “I’ve got to go. We just made a big trade. You know where to take him, right?”

I guided Phil over to the area where he met his family, congratulated him again and wished him well.

I wish I had more mementos from that time. The entire volunteer group did take a picture up on the Draft stage at the end of the day but this being the pre-smartphone era (okay, before MY smartphone era), I never did see that picture.

I still have the polo shirt that was the uniform for the day though, in addition to this cool story to tell.

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I’m sure Kessel will never forget the day he was drafted. I won’t either.

Cover photo: Flickr, John Biehler

My friendly neighbourhood sports bar

Let me preface this first by saying I’m generally not a reviewer. That is to say you’re not likely to find me on Yelp or Google or something similar to that leaving a review for a business, positive or negative, unless it’s park of the normal convention for that particular platform. After an eBay or Amazon purchase, for example.

That being said, on occasion when I’m treated to what I feel is exceptional service, I make a point to share it usually on a social media platform be it Twitter or Facebook. One such occasion just occurred last night.

I had made plans earlier in the week to have dinner with a friend of mine who was in town from Japan although we didn’t have a set plan for where to go. Both of us had been watching Game 3 of the Ducks-Predators series but with Nashville trailing 2-0 and looking like they had nothing in the tank, he began to make his way out to where we would meet. Lo and behold, as it seems to be a common occurrence so far in the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs, the Preds battle back with two quick ones to send the game to overtime.

I had mentioned casually earlier in the week after seeing a Facebook ad for a buy-one-get-one-free offer at the sports bar just down the corner where I lived so it became a no-brainer at that point that Cravings Restaurant and Sports Bar would be the destination.

Cravings isn’t quite like the typical sports bar to me, at least not on the two occasions that I visited. They’re a family restaurant converted into a dining room side and a “sports bar” side featuring wall-to-wall televisions after being taken over by new ownership. The “sports bar” is a bit on the smaller side – they’ve got about four booths and four more tables in the middle – and there’s not really an actual bar component.

None of that mattered to me, though. I’ve never been big in the bar scene, and quite frankly I was looking just for a place to watch what was to be left of the game.

I had come across Cravings several months earlier looking for a spot to catch a Canucks game, and after first stopping at the bar next door only to find the poor staff couldn’t find turn on their big screen projector and that apparently their kitchen service was already closed but they could order in food from the White Spot conveniently located next door (this was 7 p.m. on a Saturday), I cut my losses and went next door to Cravings which Google had informed me was now a sports bar.

I knew I would get friendly and personable service from their owner, Lily, as that was what I had encountered on my first visit to the newly-renovated restaurant months earlier.

What really got to me was the follow-up on social media a day later though. My experience was positive enough (minus the fact the Preds couldn’t manage to complete the comeback) for me to decide to write a nice review on their Facebook page. The reply I got completely amazed me.

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It wasn’t so much the offer of a free dessert – something that I later, in doing some research, noticed the restaurant kindly offered to many of their reviewers – but the fact the owner recalled what I had ordered the night before and recognized me based on my Facebook profile picture.

Perhaps I made an impression at the time, but then again for a restaurant that serves guests all day long, I’m still stunned that level of attention to detail was displayed.

If you’re an organization on social media, the ‘social’ part of it is critical. There’s not much use having an online presence, especially on social media, if you’re not being dynamic and interacting with those who interact with your page. You might as well not be on social media in that case.

I couldn’t find Cravings on Twitter, which is probably a good thing for the time being because I’m not sure being a small, family-run operation they’d have the resources to continually post updates while, at the same time, trying to run the restaurant. I was a little disappointed not to find them on Instagram, however. #FoodPorn is a thing, and I think they’ve definitely got a few menu items they can highlight in addition to promoting some of the special events they’ve got going on. (Word is you can catch all the big UFC fights here with no cover charge, although you won’t find me there because that’s just not my thing).

I’ll pass along one further piece of advice to them, and to really any organization out there, which is to claim your business on Google if you haven’t done so already. It lets you manage some of the information about your business that appears on Google’s page, including opening and closing hours, that many people take for gospel because Google said so. It takes less than five minutes, and could prove immensely beneficial down the road.

Kudos to you, Cravings. I’ll be back for that complimentary dessert and I’ll probably get those nachos that I probably would have ordered that night had the Ducks not scored so quickly into overtime.