career coach

The Real Reason I Started a Business

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Why did I start this business? Really?

This is a tough question. To be honest, I have written an opening paragraph and then deleted it four times now but that wasn’t getting me anywhere so I’m just going to try the stream-of-consciousness style of writing. Bare with me, please.

In December of 2016, as a 28-year-old man, I literally woke up one morning in a panic when I realized I knew nothing about money. I had always been frugal, but that was mainly because the extent of my financial plan was “spend as little as possible so you don’t run out of money to buy food and then die of starvation”.

Lying in bed next to my sleeping girlfriend, Ariana, I googled “Best books to learn about money” and found Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. It was only $8.95 so I went to the mall and picked it up later that day. I read Rich Dad Poor Dad over the next three days and I can’t say I understood much (I’ve read it twice since and taken in a lot more), but it certainly got my financial blood pumping.

I read about 8 more personal finance books in the next month and also had a long talk with my most financially successful friend about savings, budgeting, and investing. After just a few weeks of vigorous, panicked financial education, I had designed a personal budget and created a master plan to pay off the last $12,000 of my student loans in 6 months on only my income as an early-career university administrator (see that story here).

Once I had the budget plan in place and got closer to sending in my final loan payment, I started to think about what I was going to do with all my extra money. I was paying off about $1,600 per month and I knew I didn’t want to just waste that money by immediately upgrading my lifestyle and taking on more expenses. I wanted to play the long game… I just didn’t know what that meant yet.

I did a deep dive into investment research, including reading The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham, a 500+ page paper brick that the internet said was for “beginners”. It went waaaayyyy over my head. In the end, I decided to open a Tax Free Savings Account, and invest my money there using fairly safe vehicles like Exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

By July 2017, after one final large lump sum payment of over $3,000 (had to tighten the belt that month), I paid off my student loans and started saving to build my investment portfolio.

The weightlessness of being debt-free was incredible! I don’t own a home or a car (and don’t plan on doing so anytime soon either, but that’s a conversation for another time), so I really had no responsibilities outside of my day job at York University.

I had no debt. I had a reliable, unionized job with good benefits and an enviable pension. I could have stopped there and been fine, but something wouldn’t let me.

You can call this a blessing or a curse, but for as long as I can remember, whenever I’ve had a moment in my life where I felt like I was “good” and I could just coast, something bad would happen to me, usually health related. Maybe that’s why I was afraid to let myself relax, for fear of getting sick again.

I know a part of it was financially driven. Maybe I wasn’t satisfied with the passive 4% to 8% growth I was going to get from my ETFs. Maybe reading about all the entrepreneurs and lifestyle designers like Chris Guillebeau and Tim Ferriss during my quest for financial literacy had me dreaming of a life of financial freedom.

Most likely, it was a combination of fear, drive, and dreaming that revved my engine and got me moving. At some point between July and September 2017, I committed to the idea of starting my own business.

It didn’t take me too long to decide that I wanted to help people find jobs through resume writing and interview coaching. During my last few months in grad school, in 2014, I practically lived in the Career Center, (I’ll explain why another time, but trust me, it’s a juicy tale) and since then, I had become the go-to resource for friends and family members who needed help during their job search.

My next questions were, would people actually be willing to pay for my help, and how could I find those people? These two questions paralyzed me into inaction for several more months, but luckily, I’m a big New Year’s Resolution guy, so on January 8th, 2018, I got my shit together and launched the damn business (forgive the cursing, I just wanted to drive that point home).

Nearly 18 months later, I’m still going hard. Whatever the initial reason was, it was good enough to get me started. What’s more important is that I know now why I still run the business. I love connecting with clients and helping people feel confident about their job searches. It’s been very rewarding to learn how to market myself, develop my reputation and as resume writer and interview coach, and find new ways to expand my business.

As long as I’m able to help people and keep challenging myself, I plan to keep this thing running!


4 Reasons Servers Deserve a Job Interview Almost Anywhere

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Respect your servers, people. Not just while they are serving you. Respect them when you meet them at a party, when you see them at the gym, and especially when they apply to work for you.

If you are asking “why?”, first… human decency. Respect everyone, please. But secondly, servers do amazing work in a high-pressure environment for hours on end. And they do it with a big, toothy smile on their face. I’ve outlined the exact skills servers bring to the table (pun not originally intended but now that I see it, I love it). For context, I’ve also illustrated some non-serving examples of each of these skills that may or may not come from my own life experience.  

Side note: Personally, I’ve never been a server (though I worked in a hotel for five years so I’m no stranger to demanding, impatient customers), and to help me paint the picture, I solicited the assistance of the person who I’ve spent the most time with in my entire life, my dear sister, Michelle Langstaff. Michelle is a long-time server, turned Kinesiologist, and she has bailed me out of more near tragedies than I’m able to count. Thanks, brosif.

 

1. Multitasking

Multitasking in everyday life: Scrolling Instagram with Gilmore Girls on in the background.

Multitasking in the average workplace: Checking your email while pretending to pay attention in a meeting that absolutely could have been replaced by at 3 minute phone call.

Multitasking for a server: You’re speed walking through a minefield of moving food and beverage to greet each new table within 30 seconds of their arrival (a strict restaurant policy). As you’re taking your first table’s drink orders, you notice another table walk in. You quickly punch in the first table’s drink orders and then sprint (without looking like you’re sprinting) to the new table to meet your next 30 second deadline. Just as you’ve punched in the second table's drink orders and gone to deliver the drinks from the bar to your first table, you notice a third table sit down. Now you’ve got table one who wants to place their dinner orders but the clock is ticking on greeting table number three.

I’m exhausted and we haven’t even taken everyone’s drink orders yet! Michelle went on to tell me all about setting the tables, running food, correcting mistakes, offering dessert, getting bills, cleaning spills, condiment fills, and a dozen other tasks that I was too overwhelmed to even write down.

As someone with a lot of event planning experience, I liken this level of multitasking to running three complex events simultaneously, without ever being able to sit down. The thought is dizzying and it inspires great confidence in former servers to deliver when things get hectic.

 

Other jobs that require this level of multitasking: project manager, supervisor/manager, detective, pilot, film or theatre director, nurse, preventative-medicine physician, teacher, event planner

 

2. Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence in everyday life: Telling your friend you’re sick when you bail on their birthday party so they won’t hate you.

Emotional intelligence in the average workplace: Telling your boss that they’re being a doofus without forfeiting your ability to buy dog food… and human food.  

Emotional intelligence for a server: Your salary is determined by how much a random hungry person off the street likes you. There’s nothing to tell you what kind of a day that random person is having, how peppy or straight-to-the-point they’d like you to be, or any other factors that might influence their decision to tip you.

Servers have a split second to gauge the emotional state of the table sitting down in front of them. Once they’ve determined the unwritten social rules that the customer has established, they’ve got to adapt their serving style instantly to please the customer. It’s either that or get a lousy tip.

This kind of interpersonal awareness and adaptability are extremely valued in high-level corporate relationship building and change management projects. So let’s value them just as highly in our serving staff. Tip your damn servers, people!

 

Other jobs that require this level of emotional intelligence: psychologist, customer service rep, manager/supervisor, real estate agent, social media manager, social worker, parole officer, politician, wedding planner, marketing analyst, occupational therapist, crisis negotiator

 

3. Team Building

Team building in everyday life: Asking a stranger to watch your stuff while you go to the bathroom… the real-life equivalent of a trust fall.

Team building in the average workplace: A half-day team retreat in a boardroom with a couch in it.

Team building for a server: Some of the other server experiences I wrote about had crossed my mind before, but Michelle opened my eyes to just how precarious the relationships a server needs to build among their team can be.

As a server, you need the kitchen staff to have your back in case you need to change an order in a rush. You need strong communication with the hosts/hostesses to be aware when tables are being seated. And you need to have each other’s backs, constantly running food for each other, clearing each other’s tables, and mopping up each other’s spills. And it all happens so fast. There is no time to take a personality quiz and share your preferred confrontation approach. You are playing with live ammo and figuring out how to support each other as you go. This is the kind of attitude that is required to run a start-up or pilot project.

 

Other jobs that require this level of team building prowess: entrepreneur, corporate educator, surgeon, manager/supervisor, police officer, chef, athlete, construction manager, human resources manager

 

4. Resilience

Resilience in everyday life: Cooking up a nice healthy chicken breast when you reeeeaalllly want to order that gooey, cheesey, deep dish Dominos pizza with Brooklyn style pepperoni and garlic dipping sauce (sorry, I'm hungry).

Resilience in the average workplace: “It’s Friday. It’s 2:30pm. I know the weekend is just a couple hours away, but I’m going to stay off Facebook and finish this report."

Resilience for a Server: Your work uniform is a bit more revealing than you are comfortable with on this particular day. You have to spend 95% of your workday standing and walking. You don’t know if your shift is going to end at 10:00pm or 3:00am. As a server, you have learned to be comfortable with discomfort.

Beyond the physical discomfort, there are also very uncomfortable human interactions. Servers will regularly muscle through customer complaints, inappropriate suggestive comments (often sexual and unwanted), drunken misconduct, and all-around entitled, impolite, unpleasant people. Obviously most people who visit restaurants are generally kind and considerate; however, even one or two of these interactions in a day is more than most of us are equipped to handle.

Servers find a way to press on through all the challenges, all the uncertainty, and all the unpleasantness. When things get tough, a server will still get the job done. That is why I want former servers on my team.

 

Other jobs that require this level of resilience: entrepreneur, CEO, software developer, author, referee, performer, disaster and emergency preparedness manager, sales representative, firefighter, pretty much every challenging job out there

 

Offer Servers an Interview

Some servers are amazing at their job and want to keep doing it forever and that is awesome! If you do ever have the good fortune to interview a server who is trying to get out of the restaurant game, give them a shot, will you? They’ve got a lot to offer.

And if you are a server out there looking to make a change, don’t sell yourself short. You are amazing!