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Pekarsky Stein March 2015 Newsletter – Spring Forward, and Pay It Forward Too

March 2, 2015

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

A good friend recently reminded me of an old sign that greets passers-by as they approach the town of Radium. It reads:  The Mountains Shall Bring Peace to the People. Fittingly, I write this post from the Pekarsky Stein Fernie Office and as I stare out the window contemplating the month’s message, I can confirm that the people are, indeed, at peace. At least this person is.

Although I would like to report that I am in Fernie mid-week working on a major, high-profile search mandate for the Elk River Guiding Company or, better yet, skiing epic mid-winter powder, alas neither is true. In fact, what brings me here is my daughter’s Grade 8 class project; a three day work apprenticeship with an actual employer that can’t be your mom or dad’s place of work.

When initially raised at the dinner table a few months back, I magnanimously suggested to my wife and daughter that I, 13 time dad-of-the year, would enquire of our neighbour in Fernie, proprietor of the local Canadian Tire store, whether he might take our 13 year old under his wing and show her the ropes at the giant red triangle. He agreed and I selflessly chaperoned her to this little slice of heaven we lovingly call the Fernie Office.

It’s an interesting conversation, the one you have with your 13-year old that begins “how was your day at work, sweetie”? Guess what? It was hard. It wasn’t exactly like they had her building the railway… best I could gather (she’s the strong, silent type), her day 1 started at 9 a.m., ended at 3 and included a leisurely lunch at Boston Pizza, paid for by the owner. Sounds a bit like Associate life at Pekarsky Stein. Joke! In truth, she was wiped. Interacting with strangers, learning all the SKU’s and lingo, working through the flyer, placing sale tags, identifying missing inventory, working on a PC, not a Mac (!?), on her feet all day. Suffice to say, it was lights out in our house by 8:30 p.m. (no idea what time she went to sleep).  Got up this morning, dropped her at work, and, seeing no new snow on the hill, headed back to the Fernie Office seeking inspiration for the newsletter. And then I got thinking.

In the blink of an eye, this entirely consequence-free three day internship under the friendly supervision of a wonderful neighour and his caring staff will soon give way to the real world of actual work; the stress of finding, securing and thriving in a job and, hopefully, a career.   Our firm prides itself on a few Golden Rules, one of which is “Thou shalt never stretch a candidate”.   It’s not our place to tell anyone, whether a young, new entrant to the workplace or a seasoned C-suite executive, what’s good for them; to cajole, persuade or otherwise entice them into a role they’re not sold on. I don’t think my daughter aspires to work in the automotive section of Canadian Tire forever but it’s a great dip of the toe into the nasty, competitive, hard-working world out there. And that world is steaming towards her at breakneck pace.


In early February I was invited to the U of C Faculty of Law to give a talk to first year law students about “Managing Their Personal Brand” in the context of heading into interview week with law firms about summer jobs.  No doubt many likely went to law school because they weren’t good at math, it was obvious from the start of my talk that the calculus they were doing was along the lines of x + y = z with x = summer job;  y = articling job and z = free and clear.  Or is that algebra? Though twice as old as my daughter, the obvious pressure these students were already feeling to succeed, perform, land a job and live happily ever after was palpable. When one young student questioned my advice that he best be ready for very difficult, even unfair, interview questions, pressuring me for real examples, I said “how about, ‘tell me about a time when you had an ethical dilemma and made a decision you weren’t proud of’ with the follow up ‘thanks for being candid; in light of your shaky moral compass, why should I hire you?’” Nervous laughter. And yet they keep inviting me back.

A couple of weeks later, in mid-February, I was speaking to the Haskayne School, Commerce Undergraduate Society Business Day Conference at the Hyatt and, again, sensing the unease about the economy into which these young grads are about to wade, I found myself sounding much less glib and much more old as I, along with my fellow panellists, tried to impart some helpful wisdom other than ‘live at home and stay in school as long as you possibly can.’

Is it coincidence, too, that over the past few weeks I’ve fielded several calls, many more than usual, from clients seeking my assistance, for their kids. Could I review a resume, have a coffee, give some advice. Naturally, the answer is always ‘yes’ and I do my best. As do we, as a firm. In fact, last week our Edmonton office participated as a host in the University of Alberta’s CAPS Job Shadow Program. We hosted Fujiao Lui, a soon-to-be graduate. Fujiao closely observed and questioned the daily activities of one of our Associates, Jane Voloboeva, who guided her through a day in the life of an executive recruiter. Fujiao mentioned that prior to meeting Jane “head hunters only existed in her imagination;” we were happy to make her daydreams a reality by providing her with an afternoon full of interactions between clients, candidates and friends of the firm.

And so, as my daughter works through day 2 of the rest of her life (today’s activities centred around the weekly flyer and unpacking rakes – did I mention the lack of snow?), I’m heartened that it’s only Grade 8 and that she and her little brothers, in grade 5 and 2, have what I hope will be many more years to goof around, ride bikes, play on the X Box and just be kids.    Yet, that real world pressure is very close at hand and all we can do as parents, and as employers, is instil great habits, superior work ethic and a commitment to doing the right thing.

As February also reminded us, not every kid enjoys the luxury of crushing real world pressure. As our morning manning the phones at the Alberta Children’s Hospital’s 12th annual Radiothon poignantly demonstrated, lots of kids would love to have that type of stress.  We do not take that for granted and hopefully the Karma Police offset my at times sarcastic and good-natured ribbing of terrified young commerce and law students with our ongoing commitment to doing good deeds not only for our clients and candidates but for our community, too.

Then there’s the other end of the spectrum entirely! Pekarsky Stein is proud to be participating for the 5th consecutive year in the Gordie Howe 2015 Alzheimer’s Calgary Pro-Am Hockey Tournament. Since 2010 our little firm has helped raise over $300,000 for this amazing cause. To support the Pekarsky Stein Pro Bonos’ fundraising efforts kindly donate generously by clicking here. Thus far we have raised $14,800 on our way to a very achievable goal of $25,000. Every bit helps so we appreciate your support.  Consider it a likely down-payment on your future care.

Radiothon Collage

Finally, we’ve been hit with several new searches in recent weeks as a subtle sense of optimism starts to creep back into our day-to-day (I even saw an expert on TV saying it wasn’t so bad out there so it must be true). Some of these new mandates are highlighted below.  We appreciate your ongoing support of our humble enterprise and welcome a chat about anything at anytime, including in which aisle you can find the sparkplugs at the Fernie Canadian Tire store (43).

Have a great March. Like the work world out there, may you enter it like a lion and leave like a lamb.