March 6, 2023

Grow your career conference is back

With 10 sessions, inspirational leadership discussions and opportunities to connect with peers and career experts, this conference offers something for everyone, no matter where you are on your career journey
Grow Your Career Conference is Back

If the average worker spends an estimated 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime, the importance of job satisfaction cannot be overstated. Satisfaction, direction, purpose, flexibility, clarity, burnout — today, worker power is flexing its might over these issues in myriad ways.

Indeed, some of these topics are likely to bubble up during the upcoming Grow Your Career Conference 2023. With pivots at all stages of career being the norm, it's important to have a solid understanding of your career development and the decisions that come along with that, says Andrea Christensen, BEd’99, alumni career development specialist and one of the key organizers behind the sixth annual UCalgary Alumni-hosted conference.

This year’s roster includes two online webinars (March 14 and 16) and eight in-person sessions on March 18 at UCalgary’s downtown campus. It's open to alumni, staff, faculty and community.

With the COVID-19 pandemic still reshaping workplaces, Dr. Tom O’Neill’s timely session, Happy, Healthy and Hybrid, will tackle issues from fears and work preferences to productivity and “intentional relationship building” — matters that are now front and centre in so many work environments.

As leader of the Individual and Team Performance Lab at UCalgary, O’Neill’s research looks at how employees can maximize efficiency, personal wellness and team health, especially in hybrid working environments.  

“Right now, some of the biggest workplace issues come down to flexibility, trust and mutual respect,” explains O’Neill, BA’05, PhD, while giving us a snapshot into his session. “This is in contrast with the purely transactional nature of many employment relationships. If we can lead from the lens of the former, it would mean designing the work, roles, tools and technology with an eye toward providing an outstanding employee experience.

“Essential factors are things like managing productivity, cohesion and well-being within a context that promotes flexibility, efficiency and health.”

Preventing job burnout

The flipside of a workplace that refuses to address some of these factors can be burnout — a condition affecting 35 per cent of adult Canadians, reports Mental Health Research Canada. Whether you’re among the 92 per cent of Canadians who identify being “at risk of burnout,” or, quite simply, want to avoid that state — Gemma Stone’s in-person workshop, Overcoming Overwhelm at Work, will give you the tools to dismantle stress from the inside out.

Don’t know if you’re suffering from job-related burnout? Here are the warning signs, says Stone, BA’04, who has also penned a book on leading a more meaningful and less stressful existence, Your Great Life.

“If you spend most of your day dreaming of living alone on an island only accessible by boat (but where SkipTheDishes can deliver you pizza and PJs), or feel like you're walking through the world, missing a layer of skin, on the windiest day of the year — you might be experiencing burnout,” suggests the psychology grad who facilitates wellness retreats in the Rockies and consults with international organizations on the topic of burnout. “The clinical symptoms include: exhaustion, isolation, escape fantasies, irritability, fatigue, forgetfulness, sleep issues, unhealthy coping strategies, difficulty coping with everyday stressors, motivation is gone, energy is depleted, helpless, hopeless, cynical, resentful, feeling unproductive and incompetent, no matter how hard you try. It’s feeling like you’re the battery of an old smartphone that never really changes to 100 per cent anymore, even overnight.” 

The power of mentorship

A longtime active alum and community builder, Ken Lima-Coelho, BA’94, president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Calgary and Area, will deliver the keynote on the power of mentorship. In Mentorship Magic, you’ll discover the vital role Winn Anderson played in Lima-Coelho’s young life. Anderson, who passed away in 2022, was the aquatics director at the former South Family YMCA who not only taught Lima-Coelho how to swim, but “also taught me the values of commitment and volunteerism, first as a teenage junior swim instructor, then, eventually, as a paid instructor and lifeguard,” says this Arts grad and former CBC journalist.

Known for his storytelling abilities and musical talent, Lima-Coelho, also a member of the a cappella group, The Heebee-jeebees, adds: “Winn also encouraged me to be responsible by showing up for shifts on time, giving my best each time. She helped me to effectively communicate on the pool deck, with the kids and their parents. Most importantly, she modelled how to serve others. I didn’t know it at the time, but Winn put me on a path that helped define my life and career. She was my first mentor.”

When asked to define the perfect mentor-mentee relationship, Lima-Coelho had this to say: “There isn’t one, because, as in any relationship, nothing’s perfect. All we need are mentors who are present and persistent. Mentees are still forming, so we ask them to be open to new opportunities and experiences and to be ready to be challenged in a healthy and respectful way. We ask a mentor to be safe, set appropriate boundaries and let the mentee lead. That’s a great recipe for both parties to grow.” 

But the real key to success? Work well with others.

Whether it’s a hybrid or an in-person environment, most people have to interact with teams and hierarchies, which is why sessions such as Becoming an Ally; Ask a Career Expert; Don’t Resign ... Redesign! and Navigating 4IR: The Fourth Industrial Revolution will, in part, cover workplace relationships. Of course, other topics such as advancement in tech, artificial intelligence, future work models, dismantling stress, regaining focus and reframing beliefs, also feature in many of these sessions and workshops.

Pivoting throughout her career as a communications expert, strategist Kristen Dyck, BA’07, will help define your personal brand, not a new phenomenon. Dyck explains that Dale Carnegie’s iconic 1936 book, How to Win Friends and Influence People is “arguably the first, and most famous, book about personal branding. It was written in response to a shift in society which resulted in increased competition for jobs. This competition required people to stand out, intentionally build trust with others and develop influence to be successful. In that regard, not much has changed!” 

Two takeaways that Dyck hopes all participants leave with are: (1) knowing what, exactly, is included in your personal brand, and (2) where and how to share your brand that will enable you to “pivot into your next great role.”

Ask O’Neill what he hopes people get from his session on hybrid work, happiness and future-proofing oneself, and he’ll say, “I hope people walk away with a stronger sense of how they can manage themselves within hybrid or remote work in order to increase their personal well-being and productivity. Maybe they will realize they are in the wrong job or wrong company ... and that’s OK. Careers are a long journey full of ups and downs. Self-awareness is key.”

Register for Grow Your Career Conference 2023

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