Globe and Mail Column - 06/26/07

It has been an interesting experience so far writing for the Globe, a little bit challenging but I am thankful for the experience nonetheless. Here is my most recent column that was in the "Careers" section yesteday (Wednesday):

As mom might have said: Honesty's the best policy

June 27, 2007

MONTREAL -- Another Monday morning, another new city, another first day on the job. I put on my only suit, took out a map and hopped the Metro for the office of Venatus Conseil Ltd., an executive recruiting firm in downtown Montreal. Thirty minutes later, I was sitting across the table from the company's president, Nathalie Francisci, discussing my career journey and the subject of careers in general.

It was the 14th week of my project to try out a new job every week in communities across Canada. It is my way of discovering what attributes of a career I will find appealing - essentially, to find the kind of job that will be a good fit for me. Ironically, I had landed at a headhunter - a firm that normally tries to fit a candidate to the job.

Working here, I observed the career search from a different perspective - reviewing job descriptions, searching the firm's database for qualified candidates, observing initial telephone interactions; I even sat in on a couple of face-to-face interviews. In the process, I learned a valuable lesson that can apply to both sides of the process: honesty is the best policy. It may seem like a no-brainer, and deep down I probably already knew it, but being honest with ourselves in what we seek in our employment - and then being honest about that with prospective employers - will save everyone a lot of grief in the long run. Honesty was something that guided Ms. Francisci when she began Venatus Conseil about 10 years ago. At the time, she recently had had a child and was working part-time from home, mainly in recruitment and human resources consulting for companies on a contractual basis.

Although she enjoyed this work, she knew that she did not want to become a stay-at-home mom and felt that she needed to work in a professional business environment. In her search for a new career, she was honest with herself in defining what she would need in order to be happy. By taking the time to do this, she says it became clear that she had already found her ideal situation - she was already making a living doing what she loved and so the decision to start a headhunting firm was an easy one.

I now realize the honesty that allowed Ms. Francisci to recognize the right fit for her is crucial. We must be honest with ourselves in asking the question: "What are the characteristics of a career that will make me happy?" I couldn't really answer that question last spring when I graduated from a business college in North Vancouver. But over the past four months, having held down a number of different jobs, I have been learning something new each week that is helping me to answer that question.

For instance, after working with a software company in Vancouver for a week, I quickly realized that an office environment is not for me. Looking out the window, I couldn't help but think of all the other places I would rather be and how I would go insane if I had to come to the same desk day after day, week after week ... I now see that I will need to be in a career in which a significant amount of time is spent travelling to different locations, meeting people face to face, and using the office simply as a home base.

I have also learned that I enjoy being presented with new challenges; indeed, by the time Thursday comes around, I am already looking forward to the following Monday for what awaits in my next One Week Job.

Almost two months ago in Edmonton I was presented with the challenge of teaching a yoga class. It was nerve-wracking, I had never visited a yoga studio before; yet, I was excited as I saw it as another opportunity to challenge myself and learn something new.

Later, as a lift operator at Lake Louise Mountain Resort, I enjoyed the constant interaction with new people. I am now convinced my own ideal career will involve meeting, sharing, and discussing ideas with a variety of people.

But, in identifying these characteristics, it is not enough to be honest with ourselves - that honesty must also extend to our potential employer. This is something I learned last week at Venatus.

A candidate that the firm had placed only a couple months earlier was having difficulty with the employer. At first, it seemed to be a good fit - the candidate had the required experience, her personality seemed to complement the companies' corporate culture and both candidate and client reported they were happy. But an issue cropped up: It seems there was a conflict over the interpretation of what was meant by "some" travel required in the job. It turned out that the candidate has a family and was not willing to travel often. This was not clearly expressed in the interview stages and, as a result, a perfect fit was not made. Although I now recognize that honesty plays an integral role in finding my ideal career, I still have the task of identifying the characteristics that would make up this particular career. And so, I am committed to keep on searching, one job a week.

Sean Aiken will write occasionally about his career-discovery journey as he takes on a new job each week across Canada. He is also blogging about his experience (and taking job offers) at www.