Category Archives: Professional Development

My Internship – Part 2

Jessica Lau, CHRP Candidate Vancouver, BC

Jessica Lau, CHRP Candidate
Vancouver, BC

So I’m slowly approaching the end of my HR internship, it’s been more than ten weeks since I’ve been doing this. Though the drive between Whistler and Vancouver every weekend may be tiring but let me tell you, it’s really worth it. My experience so far has been very good and when you are so involved in what you are doing and learning along the way, time flies by very quickly. I can’t believe there’s only a few weeks left.

During these ten weeks, I have gotten the opportunity to take on HR project such as the Colleague Engagement Survey and initiated “Game of the Week.” Taking on the Colleague Engagement Survey, I was able to utilize my organization skills and persistent trait to execute the survey with 98% completion rate. I would have loved to help the hotel reach 100% completion rate but learned that a lot of factors play a big part in this big organization. In particular, with this location being a resort location so a lot of the colleagues are away during this time of year and a lot of them are casual. It was a very fun project!

To add some fun for the colleagues, I created “Game of the Week” to help the colleagues stay positive, engaged and involved during the slower season. Last week, I put up “Guess who?” for the colleagues. It was very fun to see the colleagues surrounding the game and trying to guess the person. Every day, I had colleagues coming in and emailing me with guesses. Though it is something very small, I really enjoy being able to create something to help the colleagues have fun while at work, which is what Whistler is about.

To help better understand the hospitality industry and the operations of this organization, I took on many opportunities to cross train in different departments. I cross trained from banquets, sales to front desk just to name a few. As I mentioned in my last blog article, the colleagues in this hotel have been helpful and great to work with. When I cross trained with them, they were very willing to help, teach and work with me.

During these ten weeks, I supported various HR professionals in different areas and now have an even better understanding and clarification in the area of HR I’m truly interested in.

I am very excited for the work I have planned for the next few weeks like preparing for the HR audit and job fair.

My Internship Journey – Part 1

Jessica Lau, CHRP Candidate

Jessica Lau, CHRP Candidate

I have recently taken on my first HR job in Canada, an HR internship position with a luxury hotel and resorts. It is great timing to talk about my experience, especially following last month’s World Café topic “When entry-level positions demand that all applicants have work experience, how can recent grads and those seeking to enter the field land their first job” in which I suggested taking on internship as a way to overcome this issue.

It’s been five weeks since I started with this organization and it’s been an amazing experience. I don’t even know how to begin in explaining what makes this experience so amazing; there are so many different reasons. But in particular, the three that really sticks out are the organization itself, the culture, values and people and the ability to learn different aspects of human resources.

Let me begin by talking about the organization itself. This hotel and resorts is amazing, being one of Canada’s top employers. During my 5 weeks at the hotel, I’ve learned some of the reasons why the organization has been given this award. To begin, there are many opportunities given to the employees to grow and develop. The organization really cares about helping their employees grow professionally and gives their employees opportunities to cross-train and move within. This is speaking of not just about giving them opportunities to move within one location but throughout all their hotels and resorts around the world. I have met so many employees that have traveled and worked at various departments and locations within the organization. There are programs to recognize their staff, monthly award ceremonies to show appreciation for their staff’s hard work and social events to help bond their organization. I was even given the opportunity to plan a week of events to show appreciation and thank the employees. The week of events involved the executive teams rolling up their sleeves and serving their employees. I know a lot of organizations try to have recognition and appreciation programs but this organization actually make it a commitment and priority to do these things for their staff.

The second thing I really love about my experience so far is the culture, values and people. The values of the organization have built a very friendly culture where everyone works together as a team and respects each other. The values are also shown through the practices and through the people I’ve met. I almost feel like the organization has hired a team of people who actually breathe and live their values. It must be said that the HR and management team do a very good job in their recruitment and hiring process. When we spend so much time at work each day, it is so important to like and enjoy the culture and people we work with.

The last thing I really enjoy about my internship so far is the experience and the ability to learn about different aspects of HR. As the HR intern, I have been exposed to various aspects within this HR department where I have supported everyone from the HR coordinator, benefits coordinator, health and safety coordinator, recruitment manager, training manager to HR director. the HR team has been very open to teaching me their specific area and helping me learn as much as I can. It has been very exciting learning the various aspects of HR and getting a more hands on approach and experience to the HR department of a big organization. I have been given various supporting tasks, as well as different projects such as creating an employees appreciation week. From this project, I was exposed to and learned how this very big organization function. It was different than what I am used to but I was able to successfully learn, adapt and pulled off the week of events. During this internship so far, not only am I learning about the different aspects of HR but also learning a great deal about a big organization and a lot about myself. I cannot wait to see what is to come in the coming weeks.

Evaluate Leaders Around You; Set Goals for your Future Self

“Patience is not the ability to wait but how you act while you’re waiting.” Joyce Meyer

Geraldine Sangalang, CHRP

Geraldine Sangalang, CHRP

I was speaking with a professional in a leadership position recently when this person said, “I don’t believe that email is a tool for communication, so I don’t answer emails.  It’s easier to delete 200 emails than to respond to 50 of them.”  This was shocking to hear because it showed me that this person proudly admits to ignoring client inquiries; it was a demonstration of just how ignorant a leader can be when they are out of touch with those they lead.

I am connected with a number of leaders in the public and private sector.  As someone at the beginning of my career, it’s fascinating to watch those in high positions manage unique situations from the sidelines.  Some actions are inspiring, while others make me question how I could have made the situation more positive if I was in their place.  Would I have had the gumption to ask a few more questions before making a decision?  If the onus of the decision was mine, would I have acted differently?

We posed a Coffee Shop HR World Café topic a few months back asking what entry-level folks can do to gain interviews. Essentially, what can you do at the beginning of your career to get your foot in the door?  Looking at this question in another way, I’ve begun to ask myself what I have learned from the leaders around me, and how can I best hold onto those lessons for the future.

Seeing the struggles and successes of various leaders, these are the attributes I hope to embrace:

1.       Listen and evaluate more than you speak.

Everyone has an anecdote about being in a meeting (often a lengthy meeting) and having zero engagement for the duration.  The speaker is there to deliver a message rather than engage in a conversation, and that’s infuriating because it feels like a waste of time.  When you engage in conversations with employees, hear what they have to tell you, evaluate their position and offer alternatives if they are seeking advice.  Sometimes employees just need you to recognize their point of view.

2.       Respecting staff means being able to communicate with them; know as many names and positions as you can so that you can respond thoughtfully.

I’ve always believed that the key to being a successful leader is being able to communicate.  That statement has become ubiquitous in our world of text messaging, and other forms of photo messaging, but the same is true.  Knowing the names and positions of your employees allows you to connect with them in a more thoughtful way because you can better anticipate how to deliver messages to them.

We all learn in different ways – some people need pictures, some prefer formal documents, while others require a conversation to gather their thoughts.  Recognize that some people respond to information immediately; others need to contemplate what they’ve heard, process the information and then respond.  Just because an employee who takes a lot of meeting notes doesn’t pipe up immediately after you’ve announced news to the group doesn’t mean that person is not engaged.  The opposite may be true.  Because that employee is engaged and has an opinion, he/she would prefer to choose the appropriate language to share with you later on.

3.       Provide alternative solutions each time you want to oppose an idea; own up to your choice of words.

I will always be an agent for change as long as the change supports what’s best for the business, with minimal impact to staff.  But it irritates me to no end when people respond with a resounding “no” without offering alternative solutions.  By offering options, you demonstrate that you understand what management was attempting to improve, have a solid understanding of the business, and can be counted on to support the change in the most positive way.

If you can foresee pitfalls that others can’t, why wouldn’t you communicate that?  While people are outraged and scared, be the source of information that they are seeking.

4.       Embrace technology.

This may sound odd, but remember that leader I mentioned who does not believe that email is a useful communication tool?  I understand this individual’s concerns with misunderstandings caused by tone, but in leadership roles, I believe you must possess a strong service orientation.  If those around you feel comfortable communicating with you via email, be grateful that they are willing to connect in the first place, and respond using the medium they chose.

By receiving an email and saying “I do not believe the use of email is conducive to communication” you are showing those around you that you can only support them on your terms.  Responding using the source that they provided is similar to shifting down to the height of a child when providing direction. 

In the future, who knows what the equivalent of email will be.  I’ve spoken with Gen Y leaders who outwardly say “email is useless, I use Google Docs to communicate with staff en masse, and it’s free.”  So when I’m trying to connect with staff at different levels who communicate using a technology that you can’t see or touch, I hope that I have the gumption to embrace it, and learn to use it well.

5.       Do not take criticism personally; be prepared to defend your work.

This will always be a challenge, and it should be.  The day that you have zero emotional attachment to criticism is the day you completely disengage or suppress your emotion.  But I think it is positive to control the emotions that you show to people.  The most positive thing you can do is respectfully and intelligently defend your work when criticized.  Take ownership and be accountable at all times.

Time to Get Back into the Game!

Geraldine Sangalang, CHRP

Geraldine Sangalang, CHRP

Here in Vancouver, we pretend that the weather doesn’t rule our lives, but it does. We just work around it because we know that when the weather is beautiful, nature will remind us of how vivid colours actually are.  When the weather is not so lovely, the world is grey.

A local news station used to play a weather commercial where news anchor, Tamara Taggart explained that sure there’s a lot of rain in Vancouver. But once the sun comes out, that’s when you realize just how lucky you are to live here.

We’ve been blessed with a fortunately warm and dry summer in Greater Vancouver this year, and that’s been my excuse to avoid – completely forget about – my professional development.

We all have our excuses for neglecting professional development:
• It’s gorgeous out
• The annual raises are coming soon
• I finally get along with my boss, so I won’t rock the boat right now

But guess what, it’s a work in progress. Professional development is your responsibility, and it takes time.

My undergraduate degree is from the University of British Columbia. I only attend alumni events once or twice a year (confession time: I’ve only attended wine tastings, but they really were valuable networking opportunities). So when I saw the invitation to the Annual UBC Alumni AGM, my initial reaction was, “why would anyone attend? Why would I vote for people I don’t even know?”

That cynical, “why should I care” mentality is what snapped my brain into fight mode. When I form a strong opinion about something I know very little about, and a wash of complete cynicism (without humor) takes over my thoughts, I know it’s time to form an educated opinion.

I registered that day.

But I understand if you would have hesitated if you saw the same invitation. You’re probably thinking:
• It could be a good networking opportunity, but networking is scary!
• What would I wear?
• Where is it?
• Should I dress formal or wear something comfortable?
• Should I bring a friend?
• Where are my business cards?

I really do get it. A lesson I’ve learned along the way is that you need to accept that networking is a conversation – that’s it. If you make it scary, it’s a scary conversation. Again, that’s it.

You also need to accept that every opportunity is a chance to improve your life. You’ll never know which chance takes you down the road you’ve been hoping to find all these years.

So I’ve registered for the Alumni UBC AGM. Do I know anyone going? Who knows – probably not. What  I gonna wear? Who knows – something nice.

All I know is that invitation, combined with my ridiculous reaction was the kick I needed to get into gear, and focus on my professional development again. And truly, that’s all I need to know right now.

A friend shared a great quote with me that I like to reflect upon when I know I’ve been neglecting something:

“Courage doesn’t always ROAR. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying,
‘I will try tomorrow’ Mary Anne Radmacher

Good luck trying to get back into gear before the end of the summer!

My Struggle with Resume Writing

Jessica Lau

Jessica Lau

As I started to explore my career path and job search, like most other graduates are doing, I have encountered the struggle of creating the “great resume” despite my recruitment experience. It doesn’t matter if you hear about a job through your network or saw it online, you will need a great resume to showcase your experience, abilities and skills to your potential employers.

I began meeting HR professionals, attending different career planning workshops, reading recommended books and following different groups to gain some tips on job search and resume writing. This is where the interesting issue of “how to write a great and effective resume” began and a couple of questions came up. What is a great resume? What do HR professionals look for?

To begin, I have to say I really appreciate all the suggestions and tips given to me by people I’ve met and books I’ve read. I can’t begin to thank them enough for their time, advice and feedback. It’s just I’m really curious what is the general consent out there in regards to resume writing. I am pretty sure there are other job seekers encountering the same issue and struggling with creating a great resume.

Upon attending some workshops and readings, I learned that my resume needed a lot of revamping, which I was prepared for. I began my process of editing, which took weeks as I heard that my resume looked a bit like it was from a template. I was suggested to not use full sentences in my profile section of my resume, as recruiters and hiring individuals don’t have time to read sentences because they have to go through so many resumes. This makes sense. Instead, it was suggested to me to put key accomplishment statements in bullet forms under my profile section. All of my accomplishment statements need to identify the tasks along with answering the question “so what?” Ideally, if there are quantifiable figures, write them down. Sounds simple? Well, that is definitely not the case. As I also need to ensure each bullet statement to be as concise as possible; if it takes up more than two lines then it is too long but if it only takes up one line, it is likely missing something, possibly didn’t answer the “so what?”

Then I met other HR professionals who told me to leave some mystery in my accomplishment statements. At different occasions, I was told to leave out some information in my accomplishment statements so it attracts the recruiters and hiring individuals to wonder how those specific accomplishments were achieved. And I was told to write my profile like a brief biography to let recruiters and hiring individuals know who I am.

So now, a few months since I first began my resume editing, I am still in the process of creating a great resume. I guess what I learned through this process is that different HR professionals will look for and expect different things from a resume. There is no real “right” or “wrong” resume (well, to a certain extent); it really depends on the audience that’s reading your resume.

HR professionals and recruiters, do you have any tips for me and other job seekers on what you look for in a resume? What is your perspective of a great resume?

Agony and Elation: Additional Thoughts for Job Seekers

Nicole Davidson

Nicole Davidson

In my last post, I gave advice to new grads as a fellow job-seeker who had just left the job market. As my new position has a significant recruitment portion, I have spent much of the last two weeks sorting through resumes, many of which are for an entry-level position. My advice from my last post is still ringing in my head, so I wanted to add a little bit more to it, especially after looking through all the resumes which are being sent to me.

Have someone else proofread for you. I really had no idea that people still needed this advice, but given the 100+ resumes I scanned this week, it is evident that there is much work to be done. I understand how there is something painful about exposing yourself this way; resumes, despite their purpose, still feel deeply personal, and giving a resume over to a friend or relative to edit can ignite feelings of fear or vulnerability.  I certainly felt the same way giving mine over to be read- but I did it, and I benefitted from it. Spell-check can’t help you if you don’t know how to use a hyphen, comma, or semi-colon.

Pay attention to your formatting, and be aware of what other formats (plain text, for example) will do to your resume. I received several resumes where there was a definite lack of consistent spacing and consistent format. The writers came across to me as careless and not detail-orientated. I know with my resume, I noticed that some formatting I had done (changes to margins, certain fonts) would translate to an uneven, weird-looking resume. In one case, I noticed my name (in large, bold font) came out looking like comic book writing- not what I was going for. It’s important to be aware, and always check what you resume looks like if you importing it into resume software.

Don’t get too personal. I was shocked by the amount of cover letters I received which divulged significant personal details (the recent loss of a loved one, a bad breakup). I don’t know if perhaps there are other recruiters who might be unfazed by this, but I would definitely recommend erring on the side of caution when including personal details. A cover letter should convey enthusiasm and personality without making the recruiter feel like they are listening in on a private phone call.

On that note, now I’ll get personal (but this is different, you get that, right?).  I wanted to include a few more inspirational thoughts for my last post, which upon re-reading I was concerned came off a more negatively than I had hoped.

I was in a particularly desperate place towards what turned out to be the end of my job search. I believe that there is a certain part of your identity that comes from the work you do, and lacking that piece of identity, especially in the long term, can start to damage your own self-image. I was in a recruiter’s office, waiting to be interviewed, when I saw a quote on the wall which said “the silence is still a part of the music”. I found it to be a comforting thought when considering my own job search, and the larger issue of my own self-image, and I wanted to share it. It can be hard in that moment of silence to appreciate it for what it is, but when the music starts up again you understand its significance.

A mentor of mine tried to convey this idea to me as well when I went to him around the same time to talk about how miserable I was feeling. He seemed surprised that I could have imagined the job search any other way. “Of course you’re unhappy, and of course it’s hard and it’s taking forever,” he said, “how else will you know to appreciate it once it’s over?”.

Related Pages

Agony and Elation: Searching for Work in a Turbulent Job Market, by Nicole Davidson

Keeping a Resume Current: Don’t Just Wait Until You’re Job Searching by Michelle Yao

Branding is About More Than Having a LinkedIn Profile by Geraldine Sangalang, CHRP

Amazing Things Can Happen When You Decide to Take That First Step

Geraldine Sangalang, CHRP

Geraldine Sangalang, CHRP

It is truly amazing to me that has been live for six months. When I first started the site, my intentions were the same as they are now. But our successes continue to surprise me on a daily basis.

One of my major goals was to recruit writers from three different continents. I hoped to achieve this goal in three months. It took me six months, but with the addition of our newest writer Gareth Cartman, there are now ten Coffee Shop HR Contributors writing from three different continents.

The main reason why I started was because I enjoy facilitating thoughtful discussions, I appreciate the talents of others, and as someone at the beginning of my career, I wanted to show the world what I can do in my own way. Although my day job involves working with HR data and employee files, I`m not really able to engage in the conversations that excite me; payroll is not my greatest passion when it comes to challenging HR issues.

I took a big leap of faith in my own abilities when I began the site. But I was (and continue to be) inspired by HR sites including Fistful of Talent and HR Bartender. Something I realized from following Fistful of Talent in particular was the value in bringing other writers on board. One of the biggest challenges when it comes to writing is having a great idea; being open to inspiration is the key. If I was the only writer on Coffee Shop HR, it would have been a huge challenge to keep discussions fresh and relevant to what`s going on. But because I have invited contributors to share their abilities, the onus isn`t left to me alone.

On this six month anniversary of, I want to commend the two writers who have been with me from the beginning: Bonnie Milne, PhD and Michelle Yao. Thank you so much for sharing your work, and enlightening us with your perspectives. Thank you genuinely for trusting me along this adventure of ours.

I also want to thank you, our readers, wherever you are. It amazes me to see where our readers come from, and how they`re directed to Coffee Shop HR. It`s astounding and inspiring to see where traffic comes from on a map.

So I say to you dear reader, I truly have no idea what`s led you to my site. And honestly, unless I connect with you personally, I could never guess why you`ve decided to lend me your attention. But I do wish you the best of luck with your career. I hope you learn that any step you take involves simply that: one step. I thought about creating Coffee Shop HR for at least a year before I finally told my friends, “that’s it, on Nov 3rd, I’m going live.”

The concept of just taking one step was never as clear to me as when I took on a challenging hike in Vancouver called The Grouse Grind. It’s an extremely steep climb up a local ski mountain. Most people ride a gondola up the mountain, but in the summertime you can hike stairs made of rock, wood and earth. It was definitely one of the most physically challenging things I’ve ever done.

I remember having climbed for an hour, and taking one of the many breaks I took during the hike. I stepped off the trail with a friend. I looked up, completely out of breath and nearly out of water. I remember thinking, “holy crap, how am I going to make it up the mountain?” Then I looked down, and the steepness scared me more than I could have imagined because we had somehow traveled so far. Although I was breathless and scared quite frankly, I knew it would have been more cumbersome to trek my way down the mountain than to press on. So I kept saying to myself the rest of the way, “just this step, just focus on this one step.” And I did – somehow I made it up that mountain.

Coffee Shop HR has come a long way, and I intend to direct the site to grow in countless other directions.  But please know that all things – personal and professional development included – start at the beginning. I challenge you to take that first step, whatever it may be.

Related Pages:

Facets of Motivation by Bonnie Milne, PhD

A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes, Even if All You Wanted Was a Tiki Bar by Geraldine Sangalang, CHRP

Agony and Elation: Searching for Work in a Turbulent Market by Nicole Davidson