Thriving and Surviving During Economic Downturns

Times are a little crazy right now, so we thought it would be important to take a moment and chat a bit about surviving, and maybe even thriving, during downturns and transitions in our industry. On July 8, your YPAC UAlberta and Southwestern Ontario chapters co-facilitated a panel discussion with three industry peers – Wendy West (VP Safety, Quality & Compliance, TC Energy), Justine Sousa (Sr HR Business Partner, Enbridge Gas), and Darren Hopkins (Senior Technical Advisor, TC Energy). 

It was a lively discussion focusing on three main topics – personal development, creating new experiences, and overcoming challenges and luckily we were keeping notes – check out the conversation below.

Remember that all skills are transferable, it’s all about how you sell them and tie them back to the role. Something as simple as managing a soccer team for an after-work social league, or volunteering in an animal shelter could provide coordinating & planning, budgeting, communication, and leadership skills which are applicable to any future role.

Crucial, yet oft overlooked skills are communicating and emotional intelligence. Day to day life, especially during these higher stress times of isolation, provide endless opportunities to practice and perfect your skillset. Experiment with new techniques like active listening, and demonstrate your listening skills by asking thoughtful, engaged follow-up questions. Our panel also discussed the need to demonstrate initiative and make yourself visible. Don’t be afraid to run with something and refine as you go. Online learning can be a great way to learn some new skillsets and keep busy during downtime, but don’t rely on it too much. True development and growth is primarily experience based, brought on by the the act of doing – so if you are doing a course or two, be sure to seek out opportunities to apply the material in your daily life.

We all miss the small social connections of working into the office – the organic catch-ups in the hallway or over a cup of coffee. Networking is a key component to revealing new experiences, so don’t shy away from connecting with others, just about everyone is open to grabbing a coffee (typically a zoom-coffee these days), however it’s important to be genuine – you can’t lead a conversation with “I need a job,” but you can build genuine connections and demonstrate your interest, purely for interests sake and the rest will follow. The stresses of quarantine and isolation are allowing vulnerability, and people are expressing a willingness to “be real” and it will be important to keep this behaviour alive in the future.

All of our panelists have been in the position of recruiting and reviewing resumes, and discussed the importance of a tailored application. Researching the organization and weaving this into the coverletter demonstrates a genuine interest and passion, which will stand out from a standardized resume. If you have limited professional experience – skills from your personal life are still transferable. The most important part is to highlight what you learned and how you applied those learnings – building the capacity to be a “perpetual student” will keep you agile in the future.

The conversation closed on a discussion of how to stand out and advance in your career. Remember that an opportunity isn’t always an upward progression – a lateral move to develop new skillsets or a wider perspective can be a significant opportunity, so be ambitious and take the initiative to yourself out there (but remember to be patient, thoughtful and focused of what you pursue, and avoid over committing yourself). Don’t be afraid to express some of your personality in what you do – as teams become tighter and more integrated, fit within the team can be as important as technical ability, and expressing some of your personal interests can build deeper relationships with your peers. Ultimately, putting yourself outside of your comfort zone is where true growth occurs.

Be sure to check out our upcoming events calendar, and stay tuned to our LinkedIn feed for the latest events news!

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