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Tips for Effective Time Management

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time managementOne of the greatest challenges many people face is that there never seems to be enough time to accomplish everything they need to do, let alone finding time for things they want to do! They look with envy at those who are able to successfully fit work, family, personal, and other activities into their lives. The reality is that we all have the same 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, 52 weeks per year – it’s how we choose to spend that time that makes all the difference.

If you’re planning a career transition or job search this year, you’ll have to find a way to fit that into your schedule as well.

In order to develop a time management system that will be effective for you, it’s helpful to start with some formal or informal assessments to help you compare the way you are currently living your life with the way you would like it to be. Identify the obstacles that are preventing you from managing your time effectively. Become aware of your biological rhythms to determine what type of activity you do best in the morning, afternoon, evening, and late at night. Explore your personality type preferences, and the way they affect the way you perceive and deal with time.

Depending on your specific challenges, some of the following strategies may help you to achieve your goals:

  • Organize your space and paper so you don’t waste time looking for what you need.
  • Eliminate interruptions by closing your office door and letting telephone calls go to voice mail.
  • Be prepared with reading material or small tasks you can complete while waiting for people or in line.
  • Get tasks you find distasteful or overwhelming out of the way first. Better yet, consider delegating them to someone else.
  • Set personal and professional goals to help you identify your priorities.
  • Learn to say “no” and to focus on what’s important to achieving your goals.
  • Find a calendar system you’re comfortable with, and use it for all your activities.
  • Build flexibility into your schedule to accommodate the unexpected.

Don’t try to do all of these things at once! Changes to the way you manage your time should be implemented one at a time. Just like any other life changes, if you try to make too many at one time, you’re apt to get overwhelmed and discouraged.

Effective time management doesn’t happen overnight, but by determining what changes are needed and incorporating them into your lifestyle, you can take control of your time, instead of letting it control you.

Janet Barclay is a web designer, virtual marketing assistant and former employment counsellor who has supported career professionals and other small business clients since 2003. She can be reached through her website

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Networking Tips for Introverts

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networkingYou’ve probably been told that networking is one of your most important job search tools. Unfortunately, networking can be quite difficult if you are an introvert.

Not to be confused with shyness, introversion is a personality trait where individuals prefer to relate to the world by first taking it inward. Extraverts, on the other hand, are energized by direct interaction with the world.

If you’re not sure whether you’re an introvert or an extravert, take a quick quiz to find out. To explore how this may affect your career choices and job search strategies, ask your career counsellor about taking a personality assessment, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.

Even if you have a strong preference for introversion, there’s no need to let it keep you from networking and missing out on great career opportunities. Here are a few strategies that have worked for me.

Let them come to you

An important aspect of attending workshops, conferences, and other networking events, is meeting the other participants. But as an introvert, it can be challenging (to say the least) to approach strangers in a crowded room, when you’d really rather be sitting in the corner or, better yet, at home playing with your cat.

Savvy introverts have learned that there is a way to meet a large number of people without the discomfort of introducing yourself to strangers, the fear of interrupting a conversation, or the awkwardness of making small talk. Their secret is to volunteer at the registration desk. This role provides the opportunity to meet nearly everyone as they come in (depending, of course, on the number of people staffing the registration desk) and something to say to them (here is your name tag, the bar is over there, etc.) without having to step very far outside their comfort zone. And, because most people will be eager to move on to where the activities are taking place, they’re unlikely to want to stick around and engage in lengthy conversation.

Offer to speak

Studies have shown that more people fear public speaking than fear death. I can relate to that!

I’ve spoken in front of many groups, both large and small, at a variety of different events. Although I’m still pretty nervous before speaking, once I get up there, I actually enjoy it! In fact, many people express surprise when I identify myself as an introvert. I’m actually pretty surprised myself. The only thing I can figure is that as an introvert, I’m not comfortable approaching others, but if they come to me as a subject expert, that’s a whole different story.

Arrange to meet with others one-on-one

There’s no law that says networking can only take place at large formal gatherings! Although they’re a great way to meet people, they’re generally not conducive to the type of one-on-one interaction you thrive at.

If you make a good connection at such an event, follow up and invite them to meet you over coffee. This will allow you to build a deeper relationship, and you’ll be much more relaxed.

Do the same thing on a regular basis with others you know. Pretty soon networking will be as natural to you as breathing!

Additional Resources

If you have other great tips or resources for introverts, please share them in the comments!

Janet Barclay is a web designer, virtual marketing assistant and former employment counsellor who has supported career professionals and other small business clients since 2003. She can be reached through her website


Illustration courtesy of idea go /


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How to Get Your Resume up to Speed

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resumeAs you prepare to leave school and the workforce, it goes without saying that you’ll need to update your resume. Even if you have no formal work experience, a well-written entry level resume will make you stand out from other candidates and help you get your foot in the door.

Make sure you describe the experience you gained in your part-time, summer, and co-op positions, but don’t stop there. Your resume should also include the skills you attained while working on academic projects, such as research, writing, and teamwork. In addition, be sure to add any volunteer activities you were involved in. Were you the president of the student association? If so, mention that on your resume as well.

Active voice is more dynamic than passive voice, so keep this in mind when listing your accomplishments. As an example, Processed orders with 98% accuracy in a fast-paced environment has much more impact than Order processing.

In addition to ensuring that your resume is up-to-date, you will need to decide what resume format will present you most effectively. The two main resume formats are chronological and functional.

A chronological resume is the right one to use if you returned to school after establishing your career. This format lists your experience and education in reverse chronological order. Don’t be afraid to include the dates you were out of the workforce furthering your studies, as this will be less worrisome to potential employers than an unexplained gap.

If your work experience to date has been limited, you might choose to use a functional resume instead of the chronological one. A functional resume summarizes your skills and education by category and puts less emphasis on the dates. The layout might be something like:

  • Education
  • Professional Skills
  • Self-Employed or Entrepreneur
  • Communication Skills
  • Sales Experience
  • Multilingual Skills
  • Honours Bestowed
  • Other Activities

Choose headings that fit your background and best highlight the skills you will need in your new job.

Remember that your resume is the first impression most prospective employers have of you. This first impression must be favourable to expedite your entry or re-entry into the work force.

Janet Barclay is a virtual assistant and former employment counsellor who has supported career professionals and other small business clients since 2003. She can be reached through her website

Photo © Stuart Monk / iStockPhoto

For sample entry-level resumes, refer to Best Canadian Resumes, and for additional support, inquire about our next Career Planning for Youth Workshop.

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professional man with business cardI worked in employment services for many years before I decided to start my business, and I’ve noticed that job seekers and entrepreneurs really have a lot in common.

  1. Small business owners and job seekers need to define their target market and develop a plan for connecting with key decision makers within that market.
  2. Job seekers and small business owners need to identify and articulate their unique attributes and why employers or clients should choose them rather than their competitors.
  3. Entrepreneurs require marketing materials that clearly indicate what they have to offer to their clients. Job seekers require a powerful resume and other career documents that clearly indicate what they have to offer to their next employer.
  4. Job seekers need to try and schedule job interviews with potential employers until they secure their next position. Entrepreneurs need to try and schedule consultations with prospective clients indefinitely.
  5. Small business owners and job seekers require a strong online presence in order to be found by their target market.
  6. Job seekers and entrepreneurs must continually grow and leverage their online and offline networks.

When you think about it, it basically boils down to the same thing: formulate a goal, develop a plan to achieve that goal, and connect with the right people. Repeat as needed.

Janet Barclay is a virtual assistant and former employment counsellor who has supported career professionals and other small business clients since 2003. She can be reached through her website

Photo: © / Gina Smith

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Are You Communicating Professionally?

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English dictionaryIf you frequently use your cell phone to send text messages or emails, you probably use a lot of acronyms to reduce the amount of typing you have to do on that tiny keyboard. You may even use some of these shortcuts in your other communications, whether out of habit or just to save time.

If you’re sending a personal email, you can probably get away with using Internet slang and acronyms. You can probably even make grammar and spelling mistakes, and your friends will still like you, because they already know what a wonderful person you are.

But remember: when you’re sending out resumes, cover letters, or other job search documents, the recipient usually knows nothing about you except what they see on the page or on their computer screen. Just one spelling or grammatical error might be all it takes to eliminate you from being considered as a potential employee. Even a simple typo might give the impression that you don’t pay attention to details, a critical trait for many positions. And using “NetLingo” in a professional document will definitely not earn you any points!

Spell checkers can be wonderful things, when used properly, but overreliance on them can create a whole new set of problems! The following are all real examples of the misuse of spell checkers that I have run across.

Pay attention to what the spell checker is recommending. One of my former co-workers created a form letter with “Hamilton, Entire” in the return address, because the spell checker didn’t recognize “Ontario” and suggested “Entire” as an alternative. That letter was sent out to hundreds of people before the error was caught.

Don’t trust the spell checker to catch all of your mistakes. Just because the word you’ve typed was found in the dictionary doesn’t mean you’ve typed the correct word. I’ve seen countless resumes where the job applicant is looking for work or has experience as a “manger” or in “costumer service.”

Be careful when using the “add to dictionary” function. If you accidentally add a word that is spelled incorrectly, it will never again be caught by the spell checker. If you’re anything like me, you’re apt to make the same typing mistakes over and over, so this can be a real problem, and to fix it, you’ll need to figure out how to edit your user dictionary.

Because it’s common today for employers to check out candidates online presence as part of their screening process, anything you post publicly on the Internet should be subject to the same scrutiny as your career documents. Avoid careless spelling or grammar mistakes, profanity, or inappropriate comments about your current or past employers.

In the case of important documents, I  highly recommend getting someone else to take a look at your work before you send it out. Even good spellers and proficient keyboarders make mistakes, and it’s often difficult to spot your own errors, because your mind already knows what it should say, so that’s what it sees.

Janet Barclay is a former employment counsellor who helps career practitioners and other clients to optimize their online presence by creating websites and blogs as well as providing blog promotion, proofreading and editing, content management, and WordPress technical support services. She can be reached through her website

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