Of Comfort Zones And Plants

Funny how you are either pushed out of your comfort zone or choose to leave it.

For example:

If my husband hadn’t been laid off in the later part of 2015, we may have never left our comfort zones and we would have missed out on meeting some of the amazing people we have met to date, through networking, support groups, etc.

If we hadn’t changed churches, I would not have obtained a contract as a copywriter/content writer as the odds of me meeting the principle of the marketing company – who attended the same church – I’m contracted to would have been slim.

According to this article http://lifehacker.com/the-science-of-breaking-out-of-your-comfort-zone-and-w-656426705,  leaving our comfort zone has various benefits, including;

  • increased productivity
  • easier to deal with unexpected events – such as job loss – which forces you out of your comfort zone
  • the more you leave your comfort zone, the easier it becomes
    you’ll be more creative – seeking out new adventures, learning new skills, gets those creative juices flowing

Which Brings Me To The Ultimate Out-of-Comfort-Zone Scenario
a.k.a. I’d Rather Die Than Network 

Here’s some tips for leaving your comfort zone which have worked for us, applied in a networking context.

  • Do it in small steps. For us, deciding in advance how long we’ll stay at a new event helps calm our nerves. Thankfully, there’s no rule that says you have to stay until the bitter end (but if you’re having a great time, go for it).
  • We also defined what “success” at a networking event would look like for us. Maybe we didn’t get leads on jobs or who hiring managers were for certain companies, but we did meet and talk to two or three new people. That accomplishment alone is success for us.
  • Going with a friend, significant other, co-worker, etc. definitely increases the comfort level.
  • While getting out of our comfort zone can be rewarding, and result in increased personal growth, we determined it’s okay to take a break and go back into your comfort zone for a short time to re-charge and re-group.
  • Do what works for us. Large, noisy, groups aren’t our thing. One-on-one, face-to-face, meetings, on the other hand, rock!

Just as purposefully and intentionally stressing plants causes them to thrive –  http://www.greenhousegrower.com/production/plant-culture/stress-is-good-for-plants/  the same could hold true for us; funny how intentionally leaving your comfort zone  can be where the magic happens.

One Year Ago Today

One year ago today my husband was laid off. This was waiting for him when he came home on November 18, 2015.

Here are the positives of the past year:

  • My husband had worked for this company for over 10 years, so he received a good severance package.
  • We were able to spend 37 days in our RV (a record for us) on vacation.
  • We were more able to be there for others, such as my mother-in-law, who needs assistance at times.
  • Bianca and Laid Off Calgary.
  • For both of us, as often happens when in a period of adversity, there’s been a time of extreme growth. Mostly this growth was all good, as:

You never know what you’re capable of, until you have to be capable of it.

There was much to learn, and much to do.

My Journey

I graduated with honours in 2014 from the University of Calgary with a Certificate in Professional Writing (PR and Marketing concentration). I’d been looking for work since, albeit somewhat languidly, as my husband was working. My love of, and natural affinity for, writing is such I have several passion projects on the go and have volunteered my writing and editing skills. Wanting, and now needing, to get paid for my skills, my husband’s layoff was the kick in the pants I needed to take looking for work seriously. I got my ass in gear.

I had to stop hiding my light under a bushel. Moreover, I had to stop thinking I didn’t even have a light to hide.

I had to learn to put on my big girl panties and suck up all my fears and insecurities.

I am super grateful for those  I’ve met along the way, and so thankful for the part-time writing contract I secured this fall, as well as other possibilities waiting in the wings.

Our Journey

We had to make ourselves climb out of our comfort zones, at times kicking and screaming. In some cases, we went way out of our comfort zone such as the time we were filmed for an appearance on the news, while in the midst of a photo shoot for laidoffalberta.com.

We had to learn how to network, how to develop an *elevator pitch, revamp our resumes countless times, study interview techniques, attend presentations, sell ourselves, get out there, and talk to strangers. I’m a shy extrovert, and my husband is an introvert, so meeting new people is difficult enough for us, never mind talking about ourselves and our accomplishments. Networking is a work-in-progress for both of us. We both had to learn to do what works for us. In the world of networking, one on one is more our style.

We had to learn to ride the emotional rollercoaster of job-hunting.  As our applications for positions were ignored,  we’ve had to remind ourselves, over and over again, of what we have to offer companies.  When interviews were granted for positions we were a strong fit for, yet the jobs went to someone else, the feeling of “always a bridesmaid, never a bride” emerged.

As someone mentioned the other day, in this economy, “there’s a lot of sellers, and not many buyers”, which makes it difficult to remain positive. “It’s not me, it’s the economy” soon became our mantra.

We had to be there for each other in countless ways to keep our relationship strong.

And our faith? Oh, our faith, to be honest, it’s been a challenge to trust that God’s got this.  He may have it, but He’s sure taking his time delivering it.

*My elevator pitch:

I am a self-starting, results-driven writing Ninja with a breadth of writing experience.
Put your idea in front of me and I’ll bring it to life.
I’m an excellent story-teller with the skills to creatively communicate
your ideas, product, business or service.

*My husband’s elevator pitch:

I am a Business Intelligence Specialist with 20 years experience in providing advanced problem-solving analysis, specializing in data analytics and data /system integration. I have the ability to break down complex data and/or system related issues by redefining them in ways that are solvable.

I am looking for an opportunity to help the business to improve their ability to manage their business processes.

This Isn’t Your Grandmother’s Job Search


I co-facilitated a “Laid Off Calgary” meeting recently. Here’s a link to one of the Event Brite listings which provides information on the meetings.https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/tuesday-afternoons-laid-off-calgary-support-group-tickets-26154444648?aff=erelexpmlt

I’d prepared a hand out prior to the meeting, which was updated after the meeting to incorporate some tips raised during the group discussion. Sometimes family isn’t as helpful as we’d like them to be.  These tips may help.

  • Consider who you are talking with. A close family member whom you love dearly and see often may “merit” more response vs. a second cousin twice removed whom you only speak with once a year.
  • Handling unsolicited advice:
    • Here are some tips for what to say when offered unsolicited advice fromhttp://theglasshammer.com/2015/01/16/how-to-handle-unsolicited-advice-2/(which can be adapted for the situation):
      • “It sounds like you have some ideas for this. That’s great. We need all the ideas we can get.”
      • “I’m going to try a few options to see what works best.”
      • “I can tell you want to help. I’m still working through this myself.”
      • “Thank you for always giving your advice, but there are things that I really want to figure out on my own. I like figuring things out and when I need help or advice I’ll be sure to ask.”
  • Alternatively, say something non-committal like “I’ll take that under advisement.” Or, “Thank you for your thoughts.” Or, “Thank you but I really just need someone to listen to me right now without advice.”
  • More tips: Have a script ready for times when family/friends are giving unsolicited advice, such as:
  • Consider giving your “elevator speech” to family/friends who suggest you apply for jobs other than that which you are qualified for and/or interested in.
  • If someone asks how goes the job search, and you don’t feel like talking about it, say “thanks for asking – it’s going as well as can be expected, but I really want to hear more about your ___(hobby, project, family).” (Change the subject). And/or say something like “I’m diligently pursuing all leads I feel I am qualified for and interested in. How are you?”
  • Educate them on the realities of job searching in today’s economy, for example, mention that nearly everything is done online and that unsolicited resumes (like unsolicited advice ;)) are not usually accepted.
  • In discussions with family, try to incorporate a positive of being laid off (while still acknowledging being laid off sucks). Positives could include spending more time with children, able to catch up on projects around the home, trying a new hobby, take a course, go for walks, etc.
  • Be aware of generational differences. “This isn’t your grandmother’s job search” – that generation may not have even had to go on interviews.
  • Be aware that family dynamics seem to rarely change and are established early on *i.e. the advice-giving brother will always be the advice-giving brother no matter what age/stage the both of you are at.
  • When family members don’t ask how things are going, a suggestion for opening up that sort of dialogue could be “I notice you seem to have a hard time talking about my layoff, and it’s important to me to be able to discuss this. I need some support and someone to listen.”
  • And finally, recognize they are trying to help, but just may have a not-so-great way of doing so.

Preparing for Evacuation


Picture this:  you’ve just been told you have 30 minutes to evacuate.  You may become a bit confused as to what, exactly, you should take with you. I know I would.  With the fires blazing in our province, and an entire city of almost 80,000 evacuated, this issue is top of mind for myself.

When you aren’t under a state of evacuation, prepare as much as possible “just in case”.  I’m not suggesting becoming one of those “preppers” we read about who have storehouses full of items, but merely putting together as much of an evacuation kit as possible when you aren’t in panic mode.

Things to Do in Advance:

1.  Make copies of your important documents such as your will, your insurance (particularly your home insurance in case you lose your home), a couple utility bills, and your mortgage. Store in a fire proof safe or in an off site location such as a safety deposit box.

2. Remove some cash from your bank in advance, and store with your important documents in your safe/safety deposit box. (Remember to bring the fire proof safe).

3. Go through your home – remember this is happening before you need to evacuate – and find any mementos or photographs you wish to keep.  Place in a duffle bag.

4.  Back up onto a jump drive or external hard drive, any critical documents or photographs that are on your computer or laptop. Place the jump drive in your safety deposit box.

5.  Ensure that your contacts list in your phone is updated.

6.  If you have enough clothes and toiletries that you won’t run short, pack a few days worth of clothes and necessary toiletries in the duffle bag.

7.  Do not forget any critical medications you may need. You may also wish to pack a first aid kit and bring some painkillers.

8.  You may even wish to place a small pillow and blanket in your duffle bag, along with a pair of earplugs. This will help with a bit of comfort and noise reduction, in case you are evacuated to a shelter. You may wish to consider bringing a tent (weather permitting) in case shelters are full.

9.  If you have pets, know where your pet carrier is so you can grab it quickly. Store a few cans of pet food in the carrier along with a dish for water.

10. Food and water.  Dried goods such as granola bars, nuts, beef jerky, dried fruit, instant coffee, tea, sugar, canned tuna, ichiban noodles, and canned fruits and vegetables can be packed in advance. This may not be haute cuisine, but it will keep you alive. Don’t forget the can opener, plastic forks and plates.   Pre-purchase bottled water.

Store all of these items in one location. Ensure you take your  passports, and any other government-issued ID, and all your bank and credit cards.

This article was also published on my LinkedIn profile.


Five Businesses That Prosper During a Recession



Not every business is losing money during the recession Alberta (and other parts of the country) are having.  I’m betting these businesses are doing okay for themselves:

  1. Shoe repair places – People who are economizing will opt to get shoes, handbags, belts, etc. repaired rather than replaced with pricey new alternatives.
  2. In a similar vein, those who alter clothing for a living may see an uptick in their business as consumers choose to have clothing “re-imagined” rather than buy their new expensive counterparts. If the consumer has lost a great deal of weight, having their existing clothing taken in is cheaper than purchasing new. [I can attest to this from personal experience having lost almost 50 lbs. My husband’s lost about 30 lbs.  Getting our clothes altered vs. buying new has saved us a bundle.  My husband’s Tommy Hilfiger t-shirts, for example, would be easily $50 each CAD to re-buy new. Alterations came to just $20.00/shirt.]
  3. Dollar stores, thrift and second hand retailers and discount food emporiums – As consumers search for the best deals possible for the necessities of life, as well as clothing and furniture, retailers in this category likely see an increase their profits.
  4. Campgrounds – vacationers select camping as the low-cost alternative to pricey fly/hotel –based getaways.
  5. Home renovation stores – homeowners opt to do their own repairs and renovations rather than higher expensive contractors to do the same (know your limits – some jobs are best left to the professionals such as plumbing, gasfitting and electrical). For example we had to re-do our deck this year – the wood was so rotted out, it had become a safety issue. The cost of doing it ourselves, even with hiring my husband’s nephew to help, was around $3,000.00.  A professional would have likely cost between $5,000 and $10,000.00.

Sadly there are also businesses such as gold buyers, and pawn shops, who profit off the misery of others.

I’m no economist so I may be off in these predictions, but this makes sense to me.