Nurturing our networks in person is still possible in COVID times

Two women walking along side each other wearing COVID masks

Meeting with friends and colleagues in person is still possible in COVID times. Image courtesy of Gustave Fring – Pexels.

When I first started working from home full time in March, I found the experience a welcome disruption to my routine. I enjoyed sleeping in later and dressing casually. Every day was dress-down Friday. My husband and high-school-age son were working and learning from home too. It was All in the Family all the time.

Fast forward almost six months. We’re still working and learning from home. I’m in the dining room, my husband, in the basement, and our son is in the guest bedroom. Technology may make it possible to telecommute but I miss the real-life interactions with my colleagues and peers.

We may not be able to return to the office just yet, but we can still nurture our networks.

Opportunities for networking in person during COVID times

Get out and meet up with colleagues

This week, I met up with colleagues I worked with years ago. We’ve kept in touch with emails, texts and more than a few dinners but, I hadn’t seen them since last year! We chose a park with picnic tables and we each brought a chair and our own lunch so we could socially distance. It was energizing for all of us to get out of the house, talk about work and family, and whatever else came up.

Next week, I’m brown-bagging it with colleagues who I have been working with online. I’m eager for updates about their lives outside of work and how their staycations went.

Speak to strangers

It sounds scary, but it’s not. Start with a place where you’re likely to meet like-minded people, such as at leisure, social or sporting events. A friend enjoys attending her son’s baseball games and inevitably strikes up conversations with other parents about the team and the game. But they also end up talking about home renos, past holidays, and yes, work.

A boy at bat during a youth baseball game

Image courtesy of Lino Khim Medrina – Pexels.

My friend even scored a job interview through a contact she made at the baseball games. Another friend found a cabinetmaker for his kitchen reno among the players in his Oldtimers’ hockey league.

Speak to your neighbours

It was by chatting with a neighbour several years ago that I learned he worked for an international beverage company that also makes soft drinks. He became my go-to guy to supply soft drinks at our annual street party. Make a point to stop and chat with neighbours when you walk your dog, or better yet, ask a neighbour if you can borrow their dog when you go for a walk.

I once worked at a media station where a new assistant was hired after she chatted with her new neighbour about how her job search was going. The recent grad’s neighbour turned out to be the station’s news director who was looking to fill a production-assistant spot.

Meeting up with friends, peers and colleagues in person is not only healthy, but it’s also enjoyable and stimulating.

How gardening can help you find a job

laptop and garden tools next to flowering plants

What you learn in the garden can help you in your job search

At first glance, gardening and finding a job seem to have nothing in common. Gardening is supposed to be a hobby that’s good for your health and keeps us moving in the great outdoors, while finding a job can be stressful and tends to keep us sitting inside.

However, anyone who is a serious gardener or has seriously tried to garden knows gardening can be thorny and demanding. But the payoff can be wonderful and fulfilling. These are the lessons I learned from gardening can help you find a job.

1. Start from the ground up

Make sure your plants, however large or small, have the right type of soil, the right amount of light and the space to grow. Likewise, ensure that you’re ready to begin your job search. Are you in the right frame of mind or are you angry, upset or resentful?  Give yourself the right environment to succeed, even if that means taking a break from your job search.

2. Learn from your mistakes

I tried planting lavender next to hostas but the former need a lot of sun and a little water, while the latter are the complete opposite. Similarly, remember what works and what doesn’t during your job search. What questions did you answer well? What can you improve upon?

3. You can’t control everything

One year it’s aphids, the next, whiteflies. You can plan for garden insects but not for extreme weather. Equally, when you’re looking for work, accept there are events beyond your control. Case in point, the coronavirus. Be flexible.

4. Create a positive environment

Talking to plants never worked for me but I know for sure they thrive in a positive environment; good soil, sunlight and the company of other plants. If you’re surrounded by negative people, you’ll become negative. You become your thoughts.

5. Be patient

It takes years to cultivate a mature garden, at the very least one season to see the results of your labour. Don’t expect success overnight. To find a job, consistency pays off.

6. Make a plan

You’ve researched sun and water requirements, soil type and plant species for your garden.  Do the research for your job hunt, from résumé writing to job search strategies and market research to mock interview

7. Get your hands dirty

You can’t plant a garden without getting a little dirt under your nails. Be prepared to review, research and rewrite job-search strategies. There should be a lot of reflection and introspection. It’s messy but the results are worth it.

8. There are no guarantees

Putting in the time doesn’t guarantee results. Hedge your bets by putting your efforts in the right place at the right time. Even then, extreme weather or a one-in-a hundred-years pandemic can mess with your plans. Pause. Regroup. Start again.

9. If you think something is crawling on you, it is

If you get an itchy or tingly feeling while gardening, you can be sure you’ve got a bug on you or the start of an allergic reaction. If you sense something is not right during a job interview, you’re probably right. Listen to your instincts. Move on.

10. There’s strength in numbers

Plants do really well when there are other plants nearby. You’ll be better off with a network of friends, colleagues or family supporting you.

Bonus

11. Be resilient

I’ve almost killed plants by forgetting to water them but just when I think there’s no coming back from the shrivelled vegetation before me, a little water and fertilizer bring them back to life. Rejection is hard but keeping lessons four and ten in mind, you too will bounce back.

Three dam good ideas for a summer activity near Montreal

Hydro-Quebec Riviere des prairies dam

Rivière-des-prairies Generating Station, courtesy of Hydro-Quebec

That’s not a spelling mistake in the headline. It’s a hint on how you can spend a few cool hours this summer learning, exploring and discovering something electrifying. Have you ever wanted to see a real hydro-electric dam up close and personal? You don’t have to travel to the North to see one. Hydro-Quebec has opened several hydro dams in the Montreal area to the public and they’re absolutely free to visit.

The daily 90-minute tours are scheduled in French at 9:30 a.m., 11:15 a.m., 1:00 p.m. and 2:45 p.m. and are also given in English by request.

The daily tours run until August 30. Arrive 15 minutes before the start of your tour to clear security. Simply make a reservation by calling 1-800-365-5229. Or, click on their website for more information.

The hydro-electric dams are also open for school tours as of September.

Rivière-des-prairies Generating Station

Address: 3400 Du Barrage Laval, Quebec H7E 5A2

Distance from Montreal : 20 minutes north of Montreal

Located in the middle of the river between Montreal and Laval, the guided tour lets you go down into a turbine pit and walk along the spillway – the walkway along the top of the dam.

Fun Fact: Just one of the plant’s generating units weighs as much as 22 elephants.

Beauharnois Generating Station

Address: 80, boul. de Melocheville Beauharnois, Quebec J6N 0M1

Distance from Montreal : 45 minutes west of Montreal

Beauharnois Generating Station

The Beauharnois Generating Station, courtesy of Hydro-Quebec

This generating station was once one of the world’s largest hydro-power plants and it’s still Hydro-Quebec’s most powerful river plant. Yet, its construction more than 80 years ago was started with a pick and shovel. Imagine doing that today. The Art-Deco style hydro dam is also a National Historic Site.

Fun fact: The generating station is as long as three Eiffel Towers laid end-to-end.

Carillion Generating Station

240, rue du Barrage Saint-André-d’Argenteuil, Quebec J0V 1X0

Distance from Montreal : 1 hour west of Montreal

Carillion generating station

Carillion Generating Station, courtesy of Hydro-Quebec

This hydro dam on the Ottawa River in the Laurentians has a lock feature that allows boats to go right through the dam. A park next door makes for a great family picnic spot.

Fun fact: The Carillion generating station makes enough electricity to power 150,000 households.

Social distancing and extra hygiene measures are in place at all the dams so book your tour several days before you plan on visiting.

Use What You’ve Got & Other Business Lessons I Learned From My Mom by Barbara Corcoran

51M8T2BB6YL._SX313_BO1,204,203,200_

Penguin Group, 242 pages.

We all want to believe in a magic trick that will make us successful and wealthy beyond our wildest dreams.

Barbara Corcoran will have us believe the simple childhood lessons she learned from her mother propelled her to real estate stardom in the Big Apple, gave her the confidence to take-on and win a battle with Donald Trump before he became president and ultimately, made her a multi-millionaire.

Whether mom was that instrumental or not, Use What You’ve Got: & Other Business Lessons I Learned from my Mom is a great read.

How Shark Tank angel-investor made her money

Barbara Corcoran is an investor on the ABC TV program Shark Tank and the founder of The Corcoran Group real estate firm in New York. Realtor to the stars (she’s found homes for Brittney Spears among others), the firm generates over 2 $billion in annual revenue.

Ghost written by journalist Bruce Littlefield, the book starts in the early 70s in Edgewater, New Jersey. Corcoran is a 21 year-old diner waitress when her destiny walks through the door. A handsome man plunks himself at her counter. She falls for him, moves to New York, and he loans her $1,000 to start a real estate company.  He subsequently leaves Corcoran and from the ashes of her half of the business, launches The Corcoran Group real estate company, which she sold for $ 70 million in 2001.  Corcoran remains chairman.

The book is written more as a motivational manual than an autobiography, but we learn about her childhood, family, career, and ultimately, what makes her tick;  not money, status, or power; but pride, hard work, and fear of being wrong. Corcoran goes to great lengths to tell us she’s ordinary.  A ‘C’ student who never went beyond high school, Corcoran grew up poor in a Catholic family with 9 other siblings who shared one floor in a house.

How Corcoran beat Donald Trump in the real estate game

Each chapter is titled after the lesson gleaned from mom (there are 24).  Some are mysterious like Chapter twelve’s, When the clubhouse is quiet, they’re probably not making spaghetti. Each chapter begins with a situation Corcoran finds herself in on the road to success and then flashes back to her childhood and a particular lesson learned. Each chapter ends with how she applied that childhood lesson to a very adult situation.

For example, in Mom’s Lesson #22: You’ve got to bully a bully, The Corcoran Group brokered the sale of Donald Trump’s Plaza Hotel for $90 million in 1994. Trump subsequently tried to back out of $2 million in sales commission. Torn between using an in-house attorney or a litigation specialist, Corcoran flashes back to her childhood. A boy is bullying Corcoran’s younger brother, who’s afraid to play outside. Corcoran’s mother gets on the phone and calls the mother of the brawny boy next door and together the two boys confront the neighbourhood bully.

Corcoran writes: “That day, Brendan Higgins whipped Joey Bunt’s butt and Joey never bothered my brother Tommy again.” Corcoran then brings the reader back to the present where she hires the meanest lawyer she can find. Corcoran ends the chapter with, “We were paid our rightful commission because we spent the money to hire the right attorney. Despite my efforts to convince The Donald to settle our differences outside the courtroom, in the end we had to hire a bully beater so the bully didn’t win.”

If you don’t have big breasts, put ribbons on your pigtails

Other words of wisdom range from common sense to cutthroat:  Mom’s Lesson # 11: Go play outside’ (the best business ideas take place outside the office) and Mom’s Lesson # 16: Sweep the corners and the whole house stays clean (clean out the bottom 25 percent of nonproductive employees).

Corcoran has come up with an original hook to distinguish herself from the mounds of motivational books out there. The result is an enjoyable and easy read. The last point is an important one for Corcoran who says she’s dyslexic. This same book has been republished under the attention grabbing title, If you don’t have big breasts, put ribbons on your pigtails.

From someone re-entering the work force after a prolonged absence, to simply being in a rut, this book will make you believe in luck and hard work. As for the spaghetti clubhouse lesson, you’ll have to read the book to understand.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Three-hundred-and-thirty-seven pages. Published by Simon and Schuster in North America.

By the end of the read, I wanted to name the book, A Man Called Love instead of Ove. Because, love and acceptance, although rather begrudgingly, is what this book is all about.

amancalledove_pb_900Backman takes a classic, cranky-next-door-neighbour tale and spins it into a humorous story of acceptance, burying the hatchet and finding new friendships in unlikely places.

I simply couldn’t put it down. If you enjoyed another Swedish book, The 100-Year-Old-Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, by Jonas Jonasson, you will positively relish this novel. The convoluted writing style of Ove is peculiar yet easy to read. In his end notes, Backman thanks his editor for making numerous grammatical corrections and suggestions, and for letting Backman ignore them all.

Ove is the curmudgeon next-door, old beyond his years. Life has not been kind to him and he’s bitter because of the hand he’s been dealt. Ove unexpectedly meets the young new neighbours in his townhouse complex when one of them runs over his mailbox while backing-up a U-Haul. Not the best start to a new friendship but it’s the beginning of the blossoming of Ove.

I chose the word blossoming because Ove keeps a sharp eye on the complex for non-approved greenery and flowers residents might plant. But sometimes flowers show up in unexpected places. For Ove, there are rules and they must be obeyed. Playing by the rules is the only thing Ove knows how to do but his neighbours and their trials and exploits force Ove to look beyond the black and white that has been his life.

I won’t spoil the novel with a synopsis of events but they are at times surprising, expected and always serve as an explanation of how Ove got to be the way he is.

A Man Called Ove is a quick and easy read that will lift your spirits and help you see the best in everyone.