Category Archives: Building my CV

Tomahawks and Giddy Up

‘If we wonder often, the gift of knowledge will come’ ~ Arapaho

Hay bales line the streets. Restaurants and bars take on a saloon-like appearance. The crowds, a sea of cowboy hats. Dusty boots, clicking spurs and faded-worn jeans walk the streets. I never realised what a big deal Stampede would be to Calgary, not only is the city transformed into a metropolitan version of the Wild West for the tourist invasion but I got a real sense of genuine local pride for the cow-herding, gun-slinging heritage of the province.

On Friday I went to the Stampede Parade, spectators lined the streets awaiting parade floats in the 31ºC heat. I love parades and festivals, on the condition I get a decent standing place in the crowd (I’m a little 5’3”) to watch the colourful celebrations. I love how the music fills the air and everyone is in high spirits and there to enjoy themselves. I love the dancers, the marching bands, flag wavers, balloons, bejeweled costumes, the horses. Maybe I’m just a really excitable person? Here’s a few of my favorite images from the day:

Perhaps this is the appropriate time to tell you that back in the deep dark dawn of time I bought Horse & Pony magazine and replaced my Transformers wallpaper with my Little Pony. Even now I have to say, horses are quite beautiful animals especially when they’re in motion cantering and galloping.

The parade lasted for about 2 hours, so I was shifting between standing and sitting, doing a little jig on the spot to keep my legs awake. I finally got to see the Chinese Cultural Society do their lion and dragon dances which was worth waiting for. Now cowboys are rootin’ tootin’ and all, but Native Americans are pretty awesome. Totem poles, tomahawks, dreamcatchers, battle cries, potlatches and pow-wows. Brave warriors and hunters of the old West.

So what else has been going on?

  • I have caught up with snail mail, so instead of online activity I’ve put pen to very pretty paper, mailing postcards and dusting off those air mail envelopes. I love the thought of my friends’ faces lighting up when something drops into their mailbox and they know I’ve thought of them. Now to tackle that scary looking pile of emails.

  • Uploaded nearly 1000 Banff photos, intrepid traveler tales will follow.
  • World Cup withdrawal. I get sucked in by world sporting events – the passion, the frantic flag waving, crowd eruptions and goal celebrations. I had backed Spain since England came crashing out, the final was very physical and tense. But I did cheer when Spain won especially after the Dutch ninja-kick foul that never got red carded. Must add to Bucketlist – Will attend one World Cup in my lifetime.

  • Becoming more and more demoralised by the job (or lack of) situation. I’m trying not to question my achievement and self-worth, but I see so many things I lack the requirements and experience for. Applications I’ve made (via job sites and speculatively) are hardly setting the place alight.  Should I reassess my career dreams? Should I go to graduate school? I’m really asking myself these things. If I don’t find employers willing to sponsor me to stay in Canada I will need to return to the UK by March. I graduated almost 1 year ago and it’s really denting my confidence that nothing has worked out. I don’t know how to sum up this year with a positive tone that recruiters will drool over. I have really been trying but it feels like I’m running out of steam. Limiting my job search to Calgary is really frustrating, maybe going back to England wouldn’t be such a bad thing. The term double-dip recession scares me, but maybe we’ll be out of it by then. It’s so tough. Especially when David has got a nicely paying jobs here.
  • Volunteering – been enquiring about tutoring in homework clubs for Grades 1-12, an internship at Shaw TV (something a bit different!), becoming a member of Big Sisters and having conversation meet-ups with Korean students wanting to get to grips with English. Not exactly career-related but I’m not one to sit around and do absolutely nothing.
  • Getting excited about Shark Week on Discovery next month. My first ever science career dream was shark and marine mammal research.
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Filed under Building my CV, Calgary, Canada, Career, Graduate, Life, Life Lessons, Musings and Aphorisms, Nature and Planet Earth

Not Great Expectations

‘I am not in this world to live up to other people’s expectations, nor do I feel that the world must live up to mine.’ ~ Fritz Perls.

Panicked. Anxious. Questioning what I should doing and where I am now. There was I hoping my twenties would be a carefree existence with the distinct joy of finding myself and my place in the world. The moment the pressure lifts from academics, then the job search/be successful pressure hits full throttle. I feel guilty not knowing what I should do with my life with absolute 100% certainty, I’m chasing ideas and running with them (stong pull:fertility lab). But if something isn’t happening, when do I decide to give up and try another avenue.

The Daily Mail released an article today. It’s crazy how many of us fledgling adults are slumping into a ‘quarter-life crisis’, and sad that the pressure of life are getting to us at a time in our lives when we should be enjoying our newly found freedom and be full of hope for our futures. Instead many of us are directionless and uncertain. I remember a few months after I graduated feeling this way, I read the quarter-life crisis section of the Prospects.ac.uk forum and was shocked at how low some people felt. I remember one girl who had graduated in 2007, had been working temp jobs and just felt like a robot, sick of living with her parents still and wondered how long it would be til something came her way that was even loosely related to her degree. One guy shockingly felt so down that he had contemplated jumping in front of the train as his life felt so static, lacked meaning and had spent so much time unemployed and feeling useless that he thought he would never get employed. My heart broke for these people, would I feel the same if nothing had worked out for me years in the future? A shade of failure and inadequacy.

As the article suggested – take a break from the rat race and do something meaningful to lift your spirits. Which is precisely why I’m in Canada – avoiding stewing in my anxiousness and an unstable economy (plus the small matter of love). I have dipped my toe into the volunteer realm, the thoughts of making a difference at the dog shelter and getting started in a new project freed my mind from the worries of what I should be doing, but happy to do something I wanted to do. If it takes me longer to find my calling (scientific journalism? creative writing?) or be given a chance in the working world (Health Service hire me!) then so be it. It’s hard to say that and I do worry, especially when I see the busy streets and roads at 7am of people making their way to work and thinking ‘Shouldn’t this be me?’. What if my untapped potential fades away? What if no opportunity presents itself even though I keep my ears a-prick? What if I’m out of employment too long, does that make me a loser? Should I go to graduate school?

Something that always hurts when reading these articles is the insensitivity of some of the comments. Claiming Gen Y are a bunch of whiners and feel we are ‘entitled’. I certainly worked hard to get my degree but I never feel like I was owed anything. I think if it was known how many resumes some graduates have sent out to secure a single interview, the number of young people working for free just to get experience for the hope of an entry-level job in the future, the competition, the moments of feeling worthless. The vicious cycle of ‘needing experience, but needing some experience to compete for the experience opportunity’ plus the curse of student loans, maybe they could understand the upset.

The authors touch on pressures from the celebrity lifestyle. This certainly isn’t me, I love a new pair of shoes and something sparkly to add to my accessories carousel  as much as the next girl but if need be I can live minimally and on a budget. I think we’re bombarded with images of what ‘success’ is and by some mystical osmosis we start to absorb these projections. Which is the source of unhappiness. Success is purely subjective, it’s where you want to be. Expecting something unrealistic is only going to lead to heartbreak and stress. I’m still trying to figure out my definition of success (with happiness leading the list) but it certainly won’t be shaped by anything other than my wants and desires.

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Filed under Building my CV, Career, Graduate, Life, Life Lessons, Musings and Aphorisms, NABLOPOMO, Personal Development

A Dog Day

Tiresome and stuffy, the bus journey dragged on, I was wondering if I would even get off at the right stop for the animal shelter. After escaping the confines of the vehicle and letting 45 minutes of journey evaporate away I was standing in front of the building. I could sense the creature compassion and happy wagging tails before I even entered. My purpose for being here was actually volunteer-oriented and I had an interview with the volunteer manager – which went swimmingly well and she was super nice.

Not only are neglected, abandoned and surrendered doggies bought here but the biggest lop-eared rabbits you’ve ever laid eyes on, kitty cats, guinea pigs, hamsters, birds and even a rogue snake has found its way into the shelter’s possession. 7000-8000 animals a year are bought through their doors – imagine that!  Using their super powers of love and care they arrange adoptions, offer top-notch care and educate the public, real life animal heroes.

One thing that struck me about the dogs here was how well-behaved they were, either greeting you with barks and bounding – wanting to lick your face off in the friendliest of ways, or calm and gentle – to put you at ease in their company. Each dog has such a distinct personality, like people there are those that immediately want you attention and crave it, and those that are happy to sit back and maybe be a bit cautious about revealing too much of their personality till you know them better.

I thought I would share some photos of my day, including my favourite dogs. Yes, if I had the room I would love and look after them all, then buy a sleigh so I can get around the city when the winter snow starts to layer the ground.

Human kindness

Ginger (German shepherd, rottweiler cross) and Yoyo (American Eskimo). Great dogs, great spirit.

Top: Benny. Love at first sight. Here’s 50% American Eskimo, 50% who knows (pure awesome). He looked so full of joy I thought he would burst. Below: Charlie, a giant Saint Bernard, though between you and me I think he’s crossed with a giant teddy bear.

I have such a promising feeling about getting involved here, I’m excited to be a dog walker and carer and looking forward to putting a positive stamp on animals’ lives. Who wouldn’t want to spread kindness in the face of unconditional puppy love?

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Filed under Building my CV, Calgary, Musings and Aphorisms, NABLOPOMO, Nature and Planet Earth

Keep Moving

‘Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach’ ~ Tom Robbins

Thank you from the bottom of the heart for all who gave me their 2 cents with the decision issue. It caught me very off guard and I appreciate the encouragement. My main problem is making up my mind and not staying static and just blindly worrying. So after a weekend of not assaulting my brain with options it seemed to come almost to its own conclusion. Which seems to be how my brain works, if I take some pressure off, get outside and away from the computer it seems to work its neural magic and get me back on track. Like when you forget a name or the vital part of a fact, and somehow it will come to you in the shower and it’s a ‘A ha!’ moment. What precious grey matter! I am back.

Just making a decision is important. The very ability to be able to come to a decision and a calculated one at that is a skill in itself. The ability not to over think, stress and wrestle with a decision but to stay cool, collected and confident in your choice.

The scariest thing is facing the unknown, wondering how another choice would have played out and how different your life would be with this path in motion, there will also be the struggle with challenging the existing balance of everything and embracing change.

This is what I did. On Sunday night I emailed the laboratory director and explained my situation – the work permit 3 hours rule, which I suggested I could adhere to whilst waiting for medical clearance to be allowed to go beyond work experience and actually be employed in that environment. So after a decision has been left resting with me I’ve volleyed it back. I should also mention that the job was part-time with no benefits to speak of, but as far as getting my foot on a ladder and something of some career relevance, it works. And did I mention the cryopreservation area was awesome?!

This doesn’t chain me to Calgary forever, life happens and all you can do is make the best decision that is right for you at the time.  As well as thinking about what you want you need to be realistic and take into account the economy and job market. I hear the coalition government in the UK are cutting a lot of jobs in the public sector and things will get worst before getting better, wouldn’t it be foolish to not at least attempt to make the opportunities here work for me? So I wait for her decision now, if she says 4-6 weeks is too long to wait then I will make a mental note of ‘not meant to be and tried’.

Like the quote commands, flexibility. Your choices don’t have to encase you in concrete, stuck.

About two minutes ago I applied for a temporary job at the University, working full-time two months on cell lines and their response to therapeutic agents. Unfortunately the post has a strong internal candidate but hey, I am not standing still. Definitely still watching from my lookout post.

Still moving.

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Filed under Building my CV, Canada, Career, Graduate, Life, Life Lessons, Musings and Aphorisms, NABLOPOMO, Personal Development, Science

Curveball

I’m determined not to ask why these things happen to me, just try to suck it up and carry on. The worst part when things don’t go to plan, there’s a setback or everything is thrown into disarray is when I don’t know what action to take. How should I respond? Who to ask for advice? Worst when there is a time frame to know the answer to these questions, when you don’t know how to handle matters.

Yesterday I got a call from the IVF clinic, apparently the work experience had fallen through my heart immediately sinks to my shoes. But she wants to see me tomorrow as she might have a proper employment offer to make me, this should make me jump with joy and dance around doing a hula or something. Maybe reenact a Gap advert right then and there on my living room carpet, regret the carpet burn later. The thing is this position is for the long-term, we’re talking for several years being in Calgary. This was against my original plan. Should I be more flexible? It would mean I wouldn’t be able to apply to the training program I reaaaaaally wanted to as which had a good career progression, professional accreditation, MSc possibilities and it would put me back in Europe again.

The reason I wanted work experience and not the full shebang, was my work visa only lets you have a certain number of hours in contact with patients and bodily fluids a week and work experience would be a lot of shadowing, looking and learning. Getting to grips with equipment and techniques and taking that information on with me on my journey to getting to where I want to be. I would need a medical to have this changed, which could take time and the offer won’t stay around forever. I’m torn. Then there’s getting the visa extended. Being a foreigner in a country is tough. I’m realising that. Sometimes I really miss England, you take for granted belonging, just being, not having to worry that some time down the line you need to refresh your right to be there. It’s only when wrestling with the nightmarish red tape and waiting I have been able to appreciate this.

So last night instead of catching up with emails and blogs (which is tomorrow’s plan) I went and read through some books and notes I thought might help me for my meeting. I was so tired I’m surprised I managed to blog on time. It was 24 hours from our phone call to the face-to-face.

If anything, I have had a tour around a fast-paced fertility clinic. I have spoken to a laboratory director, who was a wonderful lady – really energetic and jovial, a few interview questions peppered with chattery exchanges. I have seen lab assistants on the job checking morphology slides. I have been around a cryopreservation storage facility. It was pretty amazing. It sounded really good, even if it wasn’t exactly in the field I anticipated, the opportunity being the andrology side (male) of IVF. Even this meeting is resume worthy, it’s an education experience.

If I thought about myself, I could just accept and quit if the training scheme accept me. But with reason and my conscience winning out more often than not, I couldn’t do that to the clinic, the whole team seem a lovely bunch and I hate to disappoint people after they have invested in me, especially really nice people. If I’m going to commit to it I have to do it on their terms and not my own agenda. Am I too soft-hearted? Then there’s the visa aspect buzzing around my mind.

Over the next few days I have a lot of thinking to do. It feels good to write this down, clarify what’s been going on in my mind.

I have learned about not clinging to the expected and hope I get what is right for me. Now to read my gratitude post to feel a bunch better.

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Filed under Building my CV, Graduate, Life, Life Lessons, Musings and Aphorisms, NABLOPOMO, Personal Development

World is All Gates

‘The world is all gates, all opportunities, strings of tension waiting to be struck’ ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

If my opportunities were strings they would be pulled taut waiting for the strike.  If they were doors I would be sat on the step waiting for them to open after hearing my knocks echo for what felt like a long eternity.

Plagued the IVF clinic answering machine again today, treading the line of persistence and nuisance. It’s like when a friend begins telling you something and cuts off right before the good bit, you really want to hear what happens next even if it means twisting their arm. I feel a bit like that, like they’ve teased me with an intern possibility and left me hanging. I’ve put myself out there for a few jobs so far, including a Lab Attendant for Canadian Blood Services, and feel like I get back a screen of silence.

I also made another important phone call – to the hairdresser. Can I confess something? I haven’t had my hair cut in over 5 months, I guess I never got around to making that call. So my bangs have reached that awkward stage and any style that was originally there has grown out. It looks totally different to the girl who left the salon back in December (who got a fringe cut for the first time since she was 12 years olds). I’m always surprised by how much difference a haircut, a kind word, a smile or wearing a pretty top can make to the bounce in your step. When you catch sight of yourself in a shop window and feel like twirling, then watching it back at 1000 frames per second. Then there are those days which eat away at your confidence. Everyone deserves that bounce.

I was drawn into Indigo bookstore yesterday. 501 must-see cities book was sitting in the window. So in a trance I enter the store and take the book to the counter, it was 10 bucks and I’m far too weak to resist a book that ignites wanderlust with a capital W. Plus this is as close as I will get to Tokyo, Berlin and Paris for now.

Whilst serving me the colleagues behind the till are talking among themselves. From what I could make out a guy had just found some resumes that were about two months old and figures it’s about time to looking through them, in a grudging tone. He mentioned there was a girl who had two and a half years worth experience at Chapters. The lady next to him shrugged, and said something to the effect of – “Do we really need someone with that much experience?” Hearing this conversation was disheartening.

I hate to think of resumes sitting and collecting dust, lost and forgotten. I might as well have just mailed it to a super massive black hole at least then I would have the pleasure of watching it being stretched  into spaghetti. Careers services told us that experience makes all the difference not just to whether you will get the job, but an interview. Employers want to hear about experience, what you learned from it and how it can be applied to the position they are hiring for. CV girl is likely to be aware of the top authors in an assortment of genres and probably able to operate the till system, I’m not sure how a couple of years in a book store could make her overqualified and I bet she happily wrote it down on her resume thinking it would be a selling point. Waiting on a call that may not happen for a couple of months, if at all.

If something doesn’t happen, remember,

you gave it your all and that’s the best anyone can do.

Sometimes things are out of our control, remember,

you gave it your all and that’s the best anyone can do.

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Where Time Ran Away

‘Success is simple. Do what’s right, the right way, at the right time’ ~ Arnold H. Glasgow

This week I feel like time has snowballed out of control. Gathering momentum when I wasn’t looking and before I knew it the weekend was here. I had intended to blog post on Wednesday, catch up with everything. Wednesday came and went. I had a To-Do list which has remained mostly untouched, so many intentions and so little action. Time only flies like this when a) I’m dreading something b) I have an imminent deadline and c) I’m exceptionally busy.

By the time Thursday came round I realise this time it is a definite (b). I still haven’t written a persuasive ‘hire me’/’sell myself’ covering letter for my job opportunity discoveries, due FRIDAY! Maybe it made me nervous to have to write something that had so much riding on it that it was easier to keep putting it off. When I was in University, I told myself I wouldn’t search for a job when I graduated, I was on the look out for a career or an opportunity that would help me in my search for the elusive and mysterious career. Any graduate knows this isn’t how it works exactly and you end up having to let go of this notion and grasp reality.

Back to the job applications, these are the first positions I’ve seen where I can see myself enjoying the job, making some contacts and learning something useful along the way. Not something I’d class as ‘just putting up with to get by’. It’s a lab assistant position in the field of gastrointestinal physiology (mouthful much?) with focus on gastric bypasses so I researched into the topic so I could show understanding of the research on my covering letter and then began to weave some paragraphs on my skills and how they fit the requirements for the job. After proof reading my letter closely in fear that a spelling error might have slipped through spellchecker, I attached my CV and sent them along their way. Begin: hope.

On Monday I left answer machine messages at the IVF clinic. I still haven’t heard a peep from them. It’s getting to the point where I want to keep reminding them I’m here but not become a nuisance. Persistence is key but is there a limit? I did specify in the message to contact me if there had been any updates, but maybe there hasn’t been any. I think I made a good impression in our first conversation – confident and eager. I want this really badly but I hate being kept hanging and wondering what the etiquette is in this situation.

I ended up leaving two messages as I thought I sounded too nervous in the first one. So I wrote down exactly what I wanted to say and calmed myself and left a second one in a more calm manner, apologising for leaving multiple messages and this time adding some extra details. It felt so foreign to get nervous over leaving a message, when I worked for Sheffield Uni undergrad admissions leaving messages was part of my job and I did it without a second thought. There’s no pressure to leave the perfect message on a friend’s machine. I guess it’s because the IVF clinic message really matters and it has to leave a good impression, no exception.

This weekend…

Introduced to Jones Orange Cream Soda. Coolest thing – you can submit your photos to the company and they print them on the label. Every label is unique. I thought being in Canada and having a chilled grizzly on my bottle was rather fitting. So sharing my first bear sighting in Canuck land!

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Filed under Building my CV, Calgary, Career, Graduate, Life, Life Lessons, Personal Development