Blog

Unsolicited Advice…My Fear of Driving…And Why Words Matter

So, as I said in my last post, my husband had his first seizure two years back. At the time, we were extremely stressed and I was even more vulnerable than usual. I know a lot of people who hide these things from others for a variety of reasons. However, being the younger kid (I guess?), I always look for support from those around me. I tell everyone close to me if I’m going through a rough time, and look to them for support and for telling me that everything will be okay.

I derive my strength from my support system and I’m fortunate that I’m surrounded by the kindest, most caring of people (touchwood), who are always available for us. However, after my husband’s first seizure, I realized that outside of our support system, there were a lot of people ready with unsolicited advice that didn’t have anything to do with our concerns at the time.

Since then, I observed others’ and my own interactions with people, and I noticed that unsolicited advice is, more often than not, people’s (including me) spontaneous response to conversations about challenges. So, I have been trying my best, since then, to listen without interruptions to anyone sharing their worries with me, and respond to them with anything other than unsolicited advice. There have been slip-ups, yes, but I try to make up for them through follow-up conversations.

The main reason why unsolicited advice fails, according to me, is that it is based on the premise that others’ priorities are the same as ours. At the time of his first seizure, my husband was a commercial driver. So, our first concern was about the status of his job, since we knew his licence would be suspended after his seizure. Second, we were worried about the reason behind the seizure. We were still getting a lot of tests done, at that point, so we didn’t know if there was anything we needed to worry about. That being said, when some of our acquaintances found out about the seizure, their first worry was that I didn’t drive. They felt that this would add to my husband’s stress (one of the possible triggers for seizures) as we would have to walk to get groceries or take cabs for doctors’ appointments.

Although this unsolicited advice came from a good place (like all advice does), it was as thoughtless as the firefighter’s comment in my previous post. One, because it ignored our state of mind and all our concerns about the seizure. Two, because it made me feel like I was adding to my husband’s stress, which was even worse than the first.

Instead of giving advice, when someone is venting out their stress, we should let them get it all out of their system. Especially when someone has been through a challenging situation, we should quietly listen to them. When they’re done, we should probably say something like – ‘I’m sorry you have to go through this. Tell me what I can do to help.’ Some of the beautiful gestures shown by our loved ones after these episodes have been:

  • Coming over with food and watching our kids (not possible this time, due to Covid-19)
  • Leaving food, snacks and flowers outside our door (this year)
  • Getting groceries
  • Checking in on us from time to time
  • Helping out with hospital visits/stays

My husband had his third seizure earlier this month, and with the stress of Covid-19 and life, in general, a little sensitivity/kindness from people around goes a long way towards decreasing our stress and anxiety levels. I understand why driving seems so important, particularly in the current scenario, and I would love to learn how to drive…I have tried taking lessons twice, but perhaps because of a nasty accident we were in, when I was a child (I’m not completely sure why), I dread being behind the wheel. I know it is up to me to overcome my fear, and perhaps some day I will, but until I do, criticism from people hardly increases my drive to drive (sorry…word play runs through my veins). In fact, it bothered me so much that I wrote a poem about it, in typical writers’ fashion.

What are your thoughts about unsolicited advice? Do you think it is justified? Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation? Do let me know through comments or drop me a message here. Stay safe and well, everyone.

Here is my poem. It is a little dramatic, when you read it in context, but a poem is the perfect place for a little drama, don’t you think?

Behind the Wheel

They made me sit behind the wheel again.

“A woman must learn how to drive,”

they said, condescendingly,

“Learn how to be independent.”

I silently chuckled as they failed to comprehend

The inherent irony of their claims;

As they took me on a road I didn’t recognize,

To a destination I had no inkling of.

As I struggled to find my way

On the path they chose for me,

Their loud lamentations deafened my ears,

And their passionate protests clasped my mind.

“Women are such bad drivers,”

They derisively exclaimed,

“They have no sense of direction, I say!”

I listened to them silently,

Filled not with rage, but a surprising determination.

Oh, I will sit behind the wheel again;

I will learn how to drive.

I will learn how to drive when I’m guided

By the music of the clouds in the clear blue sky,

Not the jeers of my backseat drivers.

I will learn how to drive

When I choose my own path and destination,

Not when I have to follow another’s directions.

I will surely learn how to drive

When independence is a necessary link

In the chain of my existence,

Not a skill to be learned,

And definitely not a boon to be granted.

©️Pebble in the Ocean 2021

Blog

Applying for Writing Jobs – My Experience

I should probably have covered this before interview prep, but what’s done is done. So, here are a few things I do while applying for writing jobs.

For the last few months, I have been applying for 4-5 jobs every day, on an average. I take a break over weekends, as someone once told me that emails received over the weekends have a greater chance of getting lost in the recruiters’ mailbox.

I had mentioned in a previous post that I mostly use LinkedIn and ZipRecruiter for submitting job applications, as they have the option of easy/1-click apply, which I find quite useful. However, you have to make sure that your profile is up-to-date and thorough so that you can make the most of this option. It is a good idea to even ask your potential references to leave recommendations or reviews of your work (both platforms have this option), as that makes your application way more effective.

Tips for Filling Out Job Applications

  1. Resume – Pay attention to your resume. It is like your advertisement. Whether you get the chance to show them your potential in an interview or not, depends on this, to a certain extent. My resume includes these sections, in particular- A brief summary, highlights/achievements, strengths, relevant experience, education. The achievements should be relevant and, if possible, measurable. The strengths should include soft skills, as most recruiters in the interviews I sat for recently emphasized on this aspect. The resume should not be too long – mine is 2 pages long. The experience included should be relevant to the job – I usually take off some if they are not relevant to the job posting. I also have a bullet list of specific tasks performed in a particular role. Make sure the list is consistent – so, if one point starts with “Wrote copy…”, the next should say “Performed proofreading…” not “Performing proofreading…”
  2. Customization – I went to a career counselling service when I first started applying for jobs in Toronto. They told me that a lot of times, resumes go through software to help recruiters save time and choose applicants with experience matching the requirements of the job. So, every time I apply for a job, I change the wording on my resume to match the job descriptions. Please note that I do not cheat or add things I haven’t done before. I just use synonyms or different explanations for the same thing to make it closer to the posting.

    These days, I do not have a lot of time to do that (#mommyoftwo), so I make sure I apply to similar jobs (mostly copywriting jobs in Toronto), so I don’t have to spend a lot of time working on the resume.
  3. Creativity – Have an interesting “About me” prepared. For writing jobs, creativity is more important than anything else. So, I usually attach the poem I have written about my writing journey in that section. Some recruiters have told me that that’s what made my application stand out for them, and the reason why I got called for the interview.
  4. Online Writing Portfolio – A link to an online portfolio is something that a lot of recruiters have asked me for, at the first stage of the application process. You can create one for free using WordPress.
  5. Document for Common Questions – Sometimes, job postings require you to fill out a detailed application form. They usually need summary of experience, education, and other things included in your resume. They also usually have “a message for the recruiter.” I have all these listed on a Word document, so that I can just copy and paste it all. I started doing this recently, after I did something really silly.
    I was applying for a job after a rather long, exhausting day (Bad Idea!). So, I filled out all the sections, attached resume and cover letter. When I reached “message for the recruiter”, my mind was blank. I couldn’t think of anything to write. So, I just said, “Hello! Please hire me. Thanks.”

    It is embarrassing to even think about this, so I’ll end the subject here. So, since then, I have written a short message listing why I would make a good match for any copywriting job along with a generic closing line. I just copy and paste it if I face this question while filling out an application now.
  6. Proofreading – This step is so important for writing jobs. Grammatical errors, inconsistencies in your resume can instantly create the wrong impression, right, if proofreading is going to be an important part of your job. So proofread the resume and cover letter, or have someone else do it for you.
  7. Cover Letter – I also have a cover letter – complete, concise, clear and clean – that I send with every application.

Recently, I have also started making a list of all jobs I apply to, as I don’t want to keep applying for the same jobs over and over again. When I receive notice they have moved on to other candidates, I just cross it out, to keep a record of it.

With all the competition out there, I think it is imperative for us to be meticulous, especially at the first stage of the application process.

Let me know if you find these tips helpful, or if you feel like they are missing something. If you need resume writing or proofreading services, send me a message to discuss the assignment. If you’re looking for a job, good luck! Hope you find the perfect match soon.

©️Pebble in the Ocean 2021

Blog

My New Project – Words Matter

Hello! Happy Monday. I like Mondays. I like that I can leave the mistakes, moods and meltdowns of the previous week behind and make a fresh start every week. So, I feel like Monday is the perfect day to introduce you to my new project. It’s called Words Matter.

Why?

I started this project because every single day, I see warriors on Instagram and Facebook, and in “real life” too, if that distinction exists anymore. I see people who are facing, fighting and overcoming new challenges on an ongoing basis. I find them inspiring and I find the support and encouragement they receive overwhelming.

However, I am appalled by the hate that they receive, and they do receive quite a lot of it, for no apparent reason. I feel like this is one of the pitfalls of social media, isn’t it? With our screens as a cover, we set out to pile on our insecurities on people who have nothing to do with them, without responsibility, without accountability.

I’m afraid I cannot argue with anyone through chats – yes, I have shortcomings, too! So, I have to ignore any negativity I come across, especially on social media. At the same time, I have to do something about something. That’s what writers and thinkers do, right?

Since words are all I have, I use them to play my part in the larger scheme of things. Hence the project. It is my belief that words can heal as much as they can hurt. So, I send out uplifting scrolls with personalized poems to some of the warriors I come across. I send one or two scrolls every week. So far, I have sent 4 to cancer warriors who I met through Instagram.


What next?

If you know of a warrior who can benefit from this project, please follow pebbleintheocean2021 on Instagram, send me a message, and we can take it from there. If you would like to contribute to the project or help out, send me an email, and I’ll be happy to discuss the details with you.

Have a nice weekend, everyone.

©️Pebble in the Ocean 2021

Blog

How I Prepare For an Interview

Before I begin, let me tell you that I have received three calls for interview since I created my online writing portfolio using WordPress. That being said, the competition is fierce. Two of the interviewers told me that they received hundreds of applications for the position, out of which around 20 were called for interviews and out of those 20, they would select one candidate to fill the position.

So, I feel happy that despite a five-year gap on my resume, I made it to the interview stage, but I can never be too confident I would get the job. Still, you have to give your best to every opportunity you get, right? Here are a few things I do to prepare for an interview.

Personal Prep

My first task on the night before an interview is to put my kids to bed and clean my toddler’s artwork in crayon off at least one wall. This wall would make my background since most interviews are virtual these days. Since crayon is hard to get off, there are always a few spots left. I cover those up with scrolls from my Etsy shop. I always choose the brown or black and white ones, because I don’t want my background to be too colourful and distracting. If you don’t like anything on my Etsy shop (aren’t my marketing skills smooth? *wink wink), just type a quote or phrase on MS Word with a thin border, take a black and white print on an A4 sheet and tape that to the wall – if you are in a similar situation. It’s funny how I just presumed everyone has crayon-stained walls, isn’t it?

Next morning, right before the interview, I clean up my eyebrows – Toronto has been in lockdown way too long, so don’t blame me. I apply foundation to the dark circles around my eyes – #mommyoftwo! And I just work on my overall presentation. It is so important for me to dress up for virtual interviews, as one it gives me confidence and two – well, it just gives me confidence. So, I wear formals, apply light makeup, tidy up my hair, just little stuff like that. Just before my last interview, I even wore a mask! I’m so used to wearing it every time I dress up – it was hilarious. Thankfully, I remembered to remove it before the meeting started.

Professional Prep

Professionally, there are lots of things that I do, to prepare for an interview.

  1. I always check the meeting link before the meeting. Check and install any app that you need for the interview beforehand. This will avoid last-minute panic and delays.
  2. I always read the job description and jot down any examples from my previous experience that would make me succeed in the role that I have applied for. Since I apply to so many jobs every day, it also helps me recall which one I’m interviewing for and answer questions accordingly.
  3. I prepare a brief “about me” highlighting all relevant skills and experiences in under two minutes. I even practise it in front of the mirror a few times.
  4. I always research the company, visit their website, social media profiles, etc. This gives me an idea about what the company culture and values are, and gauge my own expectations with respect to those. I was recently called for an interview for a digital marketing role. I researched current trends and practices on Google and went through the company website, in detail. I found certain areas of improvement and wrote them down. On the morning of the interview, I received an email that they already found the perfect match and were cancelling the interview. I was quite disappointed, but I just emailed them and thanked them for letting me know. I wished the hired candidate luck and gave them the suggestions I had written down about their website as bullet points. They emailed me that evening saying they would like to schedule that interview again to listen to what I had to say. They had already hired someone, so obviously I wasn’t even hoping to get the job anymore, but it was nice to see that my point of view meant something and created an impression.
  5. I go through my resume thoroughly. Sometimes, I forget roles that I filled long back, where I may have developed skills necessary for this particular role. So, this is an important step for me as it is a kind of a revision of my experience.
  6. All the interviews that I have been in, these last few weeks, have posited these questions to me – Why do you want to work in our organization?
    What are your expectations from this role?
    What is your process like?
    I had never thought about these questions to be honest. I was just looking for a job that matched my skill set and experience. I never thought about why I want to join that particular company or what I expected to get from the role, other than more experience and a steady pay. So, research about the role and company come in handy when I am trying to answer these questions. It gives me a fair idea of what is out there and what my expectations are, and if the two can go hand in hand.
  7. After an interview, I always thank the interviewer via email. I keep the message short and sweet and if they need me to complete a task or an exercise (most writing roles require that), I submit it promptly, before the end of day, if possible. With my mommy brain at work, all the time, I don’t want to let it slip out of my mind and miss deadlines (unfortunately, that has happened, too).

If you are applying for copywriting jobs, there are a lot of free courses out there that can help you stay up to date with current trends and best practices and show employers you’re proactive in upgrading your skills and knowledge.

How do you prepare for an interview? Let me know through comments or my contact page. Good luck!

©️ Pebble in the Ocean 2021

Blog, Poetry

What I Mean When I say I’m a Writer by Birth

So, if you’ve read my bio, you know I’ve been writing since the age of 5. What exactly does that mean, though? Did I scribble a few words on the page? Or was it an actual poem? See for yourself:

A Rough Translation of the Poem I wrote at Age 5

I wrote these lines in Hindi on the last page of my notebook. I remember this distinctly. I’m still amazed I didn’t use rhyme for this, but it was probably because it seemed too hard at that age. The poem went something like this:

Once upon a time, in a village,

There was a king, who was like a step-king (Cinderella was my favourite story, at the time).

He was extravagant, but did not share anything with his people.

One day, the king died.

All his soldiers cried for him. (Deep and moving, don’t you think? My thoughts were always on the negative side, I guess.)

The queen said, “I should die, too.

My husband is no more, so I don’t have

Any purpose in life anymore.” (Hmmm, Patriarchal much!?)

Smile

This one is in English. I wrote it when I was in Grade 6. It is more positive, kid-friendly and…it rhymes!

A smile is something lovely,

It is indeed very cute,

It is as sweet as someone

Playing on a flute. (I was BIG on rhyme at the time, did I mention that?)

It looks very good

On children’s face,

When they have an adventure

To some exciting place. (I was big on adventure, too, it seems.)

Smile, smile, smile, (I still love repetition – excellent device)

It is a lovely word.

It is present on children’s face

All over the world. (how marvellous!)

Work of Life

I wrote this in Grade 8. It is in English, too, and it rhymes. This and Smile were published in a local newspaper- big achievement for me.

Mother says, Study all the time,

Book of math or book of rhyme,

Brother says, What’s the time?

Brother, Brother 2 o’clock.

Sister says, Give grains to cock!
(It seems like I just let my imagination run wild on this one. I have no brother and we had no poultry in the house, except what was in the fridge, so I have no idea what I’m talking about here. My mother was always asking me to study, though, so that part is accurate.)

Father says, Polish my shoes. (Papa used to polish my shoes, at this age, so imagination at work again.)

Food is ready for the goose. (Nope, no goose either.)

Mother, Father, Husband, Wife,

This is the only work of life. (My priorities were always set, I guess. Also, is it really deep or am I just conceited?)

The Carefree River

I wrote this one in middle school, too, but it was in Hindi. This is a rough translation.

I am a carefree river,

I flow and flow all day long,

Morning or evening,

Day or night.

Even when I see a beautiful sight,

I can’t stop to admire it.

I see everything, I absorb everything,

Then, I go and find my destination

In the deep blue ocean.

I narrate everything I’ve seen on the way to him.

He tries to make me understand,

That my life is nothing more than

Flowing endlessly. (When my family read this one, they knew I was going to be a writer.)

I love that my parents always encouraged me to realize and work on developing my passion for writing. They always took me to book fairs, got me pens, notebooks, cute stationery – to indulge in my love for writing. We were always reading literature, discussing it – and that really helped me grow as a writer and as a person. I’m proud of my journey and I’m proud of the role my family has played in that journey.

Would you like to tell me about your journey? Comment below or contact me through my Contact page. You can find prints of my poems on my Etsy shop, and a few downloads on the Free Downloads page.

Blog

Writer by Birth, Writer for Life

If you have read my About page, you know that I wrote my first poem at the age of 5, and I have been writing ever since. A lot of times, people ask me how I write, why I write and why I write about the things that I write about. Some even tell me to write happier pieces and to stop being so depressed. It is hard for me to answer any of these questions. It is harder for me to tell people that just because I write about “sad” things, it doesn’t mean that I’m not happy.

Why I Write?

I write because I like to write. Writing makes me happy. It gives me something to look forward to each day, other than my family and friends. It gives me the perfect getaway from some of the mundane realities of the everyday life. It gives me an avenue to express my thoughts and feelings and, at times, to vent out without yelling. Above everything, it gives my life a purpose. It makes me feel like I exist, that I mean something, and that, I, too, can leave a mark on this impermanent world.

As I observe social media these days, it makes me realize that sometimes, we forget the value of words. We forget that words matter, they mean something, and they shouldn’t just be thrown around without responsibility, without accountability, without thought. Being a writer, then, makes me feel humble and proud, at the same time, because I know that words matter, I value them and I give them the importance they deserve.

At anxiety-ridden times like these, it is easy to let pent-up emotions get the better of you. So, I pick up my pen or my tablet – and write. I write down my thoughts, my favourite line from a newspaper article, my favourite quote from a book, movie, TV show, or even a prayer. I write and I give my thoughts and emotions an avenue to get out. I give words a chance to show me how valuable, beautiful and meaningful they are. I just write and stay calm.

Why do you write? Tell me in the comments section, what draws you to the written word and what motivates you to write. I look forward to hearing from you.

$5 Posters for Writers from Pebble in the Ocean

If you would like any of these A4-sized posters displayed in this blog, they are available as .PDF, .jpeg and .png digital files for just CAD 5 (minimum order quantity: 2), especially for writers. Physical prints are available for CAD 10. Please message me for details or for clarifying any doubts or concerns.

**Please note that any product posted on this website is the property of Pebble in the Ocean, and is intended for personal use only. Please do not reproduce or resell.

©️ Pebble in the Ocean 2021