Musings about the world of work

Happy Halloween and happy work anniversary to me. October 31st is the anniversary of my first official day working full time. Since that first day I found myself walking into a corporate Bay Street office, I have definitely learned a few career and life lessons.

* Always be careful what you say and do outside of the office. On the Saturday evening before starting my first full time job, my friends and I found ourselves on a subway platform for an evening on the town. Little did I know when I arrived at work on Monday, one of my new colleagues greeted me by saying they saw me at the Eglinton TTC station on Saturday night. Luckily in my case, it was a great conversation starter and made me feel welcome immediately. He became my first work friend who sadly passed away four years ago but I will forever remember how welcome he made me feel.

* First impressions matter so getting the first day an employee starts right is so important. Remember to introduce your new team member to everyone, invite them to lunch with the team in advance so they aren’t eating on their own, set up their work station with supplies and have an agenda for them. Make the environment inclusive and inviting.

* When speaking about others, never use names in public for privacy and confidentiality.

* Remember you will not always become friends with everyone you work with nor will everyone like you. Many will not care for you. Learn not to take it personally.

* Don’t burn bridges. The world is small and a good or bad reputation in the workplace will follow you. One never knows one day who might be on the other end of an interview. Aim to be professional, a team player and kind and you will earn the respect of others whether they like you or not.

* Avoid gossiping, backstabbing, bullying, sabotaging and throwing others under the bus. Take the high road. Do not get caught up in these destructive and toxic behaviours nor promote them. We all need to do our part to create happy, respectful workplaces.

* Never say it isn’t my job.

* Dress for the position you aspire to or at the very least to impress. Always dress up for any job interviews, informational meetings and the first day of work. If you can wear it to the nightclub or the beach, do not wear it to work. First impressions matter. If you aren’t sure where to start, ask someone with a fashion sense you admire for tips.

* Always be nice to the receptionist. They are the most important person you will ever meet when you have an interview.

* Please, thank you, excuse me, saying good morning and asking how someone is goes a long away in business and in life. Manners never go out of style. Take an interest in others and get to know them personally. I remember once working for a team where no one acknowledged you or said good morning. I vowed to never be that person. Connecting with others makes a world of difference.

* Always take notes. When you get busy and have too many things on your mind, you will forget.

* Don’t hide behind email and social media. Pick up the phone or meet people in person. Face to face interactions help build relationships.

* Always use formal business communication in the workplace. Leave the text talk and emoticons for your friends and family. Don’t send emails when you are angry and always read them for tone to ensure they do not come across as rude or abrasive. If your verbal and written communication skills need improvement, commit to working on them. They are an essential skill in the workplace and in life and will serve you well. In my first job, I was lucky enough to have my team member critique my written correspondence and it helped me to become a better writer. I continue to work on it today and am forever thankful to her for that lesson.

* People get hired on technical skills but often fired because of their soft skills and inability to get along. Emotional intelligence is very important in the workplace.

* If you don’t like something, don’t complain about it. Be proactive to come up with a solution to change it or move on. Negativity leads to toxic environments.

* Trust your instincts.

* Just because your friends are taking a certain career or education path does not mean you need to. Determine what your strengths are, what you are passionate about and what will make you excited to go to work everyday. Follow that path.

* Always be learning formally and informally. If there is an area you want to learn about, tap into a subject matter expert to discover more. If are looking to grow in your career or struggling to move into a new area, sign up for continuing education classes or gain your experience via a volunteer position. In my opinion, if you’re not learning, you’re dead. Be curious and ask questions. Knowledge is power.

* Always take time to share your knowledge with a new graduate, someone growing in their career or a newcomer to Canada. We were all in similar positions at some point. Commit to sharing your learnings with others.

* Take your vacation time. While you may not have the budget to travel, take the time to recharge and take care of you. This is absolutely essential for your own health and wellness.

* Do not spend all your time working that you miss out on having a life. There will never be enough hours in the day to do everything. Your job will not love you when you are sick. Your family and friends will. Life is short and retirement is not a given. Live life without regrets.

* YOU are your brand. Determine what your life values are, your own personal mission statement and your life compass. Live and breathe your brand.

* Building a resume is not the same as building a legacy. Decide what you want your legacy to be and constantly be in pursuit of it.

* Be authentic. Never be a cookie cutter version of someone else. Be YOU!

Without a doubt, the most important life lessons I learned were from my amazing role models – my parents. They both moved to Canada from Finland as children and taught both my brother and I to work hard, to be interested in others and to treat them as you would want to be treated. Important lessons that have definitely guided me in work and life too.

image

New Beginnings

image

September and back to school has always felt like a time of new beginnings to me. While I am no longer in school, I enjoy the rituals, excitement and the sense of new this time of year brings. September is also a time of reflection.

In September 1996, my great grandmother who was like a second mother to me passed away. While expected, the loss of a loved one is never easy but I decided to move forward with a previously planned holiday to Vancouver to visit a dear university friend. Always one to make friends on my travels, I enjoyed a lovely conversation with my seatmate who was a successful businessman in the latter stages of his career. During our journey, he shared this insight about life with me.

“Many view life as three parts – school, work and retirement – where we finally get to pursue and enjoy pleasurable pursuits. Many go through life like this but to truly enjoy life fully we should incorporate all elements throughout our lives.”

I truly believe people come into our lives for a reason and I was so thankful to receive this message just two years into my professional life and after the loss of my great grandmother. To this day, this is one of the best pieces of advice I have ever received and has helped me weather the ups and downs and challenges that life has brought.

I definitely took this message to heart and continue to put it into practice by always learning, by volunteering and giving back to my community and ensuring that I do things I enjoy. Good health and retirement are not a given. We must not wait to do the things we want to do until later in life. We all need to live fully now.

As we embark on a change of season, are there aspects in your life that feel out of balance? Is there something you always wanted to learn even just for fun? Are you waiting until retirement to travel? Are you dreading going to work every day? Do you want to make an impact in your community? Are you having challenges with your health? Are you consistently missing out on spending time making memories with your family and friends? If you answered yes to any of these questions, I encourage you to reflect on what is important to you and consider implementing this simple yet valuable advice by including something that may be missing into your life now. Many wait until January 1st to make resolutions or changes in their lives or keep putting them off all together. Why wait when you can embark on change today. Remember it is never too late for a new beginning.

Happy September!

Remembering Katrina

Prior to Hurricane Katrina, I always had a fascination with hurricanes. Many evenings would be spent watching the approaching storms on various news outlets. Waiting for Hurricane Katrina was no different but as we know now that storm was different. The unbelievable destruction and loss was unimaginable to me. I had never been to New Orleans nor did I have any ties to the city but always knew it was a place I wanted to visit. I wondered if that would ever happen after Katrina. Little did I know that my visit would come in the form of a volunteer opportunity a year later.

imageIMG_3638
On a summer afternoon in 2006, an email popped into my inbox about the Junior League of New Orleans looking for volunteers for their ReBuilding Together weekend. Almost a soon as I read it, I forwarded it off to a group of friends. Before long we had seven Junior League of Toronto members signed up to travel to New Orleans on our Canadian Thanksgiving weekend to help rebuild. The Junior League of New Orleans made the ask and the call was answered in the form of 600 members from three countries. Truly amazing.

We had no idea what to expect when we arrived in New Orleans but quickly learned the impact of Katrina on a bus tour of the city and it was overwhelming. Street after street had been destroyed. Some yards only had steps left that homeowners once climbed to get into their homes. We saw houses that were no longer habitable, no birds, no bushes, no flowers, dead trees everywhere. The X’s that marked homes searched still remained. Katrina and the flooding were indiscriminate and everyone had a story to tell. I cannot tell you how many times people thanked us for coming to volunteer.

The volunteers were given opportunities of where they might like to help. As a lifelong foodie, I felt a calling to help at Willie Mae’s Scotch House Restaurant located in the Treme area of New Orleans after seeing this short film http://youtu.be/3uVUNpkvAiA. Miss Willie Mae Seaton had been making the best fried chicken in New Orleans for over 50 years and had received a James Beard Award in 2005 for it. Many well known Southern chefs including John Besh and John Currence worked endlessly to get her back up and running. In the sweltering heat, we scraped, sanded and helped paint to get her back into her kitchen cooking her secret recipe where she belonged. I had never been that dusty and dirty in my life but loved every minute of it. I had the amazing opportunity to meet Miss Willie Mae and was touched by her incredibly warm spirit, smile, her stories and that southern charm – “all you pretty, pretty girls”. She shared some of the reasons for her success – be nice to everyone and to always be real. Wise words from a beautiful woman who I was lucky to meet and help. While her great granddaughter Kerry is now at the helm, I was happy to be able to return two years later to see the restaurant completed and got to enjoy the fried chicken and other southern treats. They were worth the wait. Continue reading “Remembering Katrina”

Welcome to FinnSpirit

Hello World!

Welcome to FinnSpirit. The Finn represents my Finnish heritage and spirit represents my positive attitude.

I am a positive super spirit builder, aunt, foodie, anglophile, philomath, traveller, Junior Leaguer and volunteer who loves all things beauty, style, pink, photography, people, careers, community and making a difference. I love connecting with family, friends and people as I wander through this world. A perfect day for me is enjoying great food, wine, conversation and laughter. Simple joys make my spirit happy.

For as long as I can remember I loved to write from letters to cards and now via social media. After much encouragement from a friend to start a blog, I find myself writing this post. I envision FinnSpirit will be filled with all things lifestyle, wisdom that I have learned on my travels and a bit of fun too. I aim to live each day with joie de vivre and my hope is to share a wee bit of inspiration to empower each of you to live life more beautifully. 

Live, love, laugh and be happy.

Thank you for joining me on this journey.

Enjoy! 

Michelle