Golden Girl Finance
Donna Stevenson
Posts (5)

Ask the Expert

Q&A: How to create a winning resume

November 27th, 2011 by

After graduation, I worked as an intern for less than a year when I took ill. I have not been able to work since (approx. 10 years now), however I am beginning - at least I hope - to feel better and would love to believe that one day I could and would be able to work again, hopefully in my field of study (Fashion Design). Something temporary and home-based would be ideal. I recognize that Fashion Design is not your average career choice, but it was my passion since childhood and I was very good at it. I would like to know if you can offer any advice on where one might even begin to start on a CV? Any other guidance would be helpful too! I hate to say it, but I am desperate for advice. Thank you very much.

Asked by Anonymous, Montreal, QC


Bravo for beginning again - the best of us seem to be able to reinvent ourselves many times and have tremendous careers.

A CV (curriculum vitae) is your marketing tool - if you're not as good at writing as you are at design, enlist someone with writing experience and talent; it's a skill to distil information and invite the reader to want more. Forget about being off work for 10 years - that was just a hiatus and all good professionals take them. You could have been studying, on assignment, engaged as a full-time mom and/or business partner - no worries. Ten years on private assignment is a reasonable notion.

What your CV - and you - need to convey is the passion you speak about. What is it about design that makes you want to get up in the morning? How do you define "design"? What makes you different? Why would I hire you - i.e., what sets you apart?

If you have the energy, give your time and talents freely to build a reputation that's current. Non-profits are always crying for professional input and board members. You need to take steps to create a network that will champion you and your talents. Every successful person had a leg up somewhere along the line - no one has hesitation in helping someone who has the drive, passion, commitment and personality to create what's most important. Success can be defined as affording others opportunity.

To do this, you need to be healthy - daily exercise, real food, time alone with your spiritual self, time socially with people who are like-minded - these are the keys to wholesomeness and the absolute essentials to success.

I wish you the very best of success in your pursuit - write out your goals and list the steps to accomplish them. These goals may change over time, but start the process and watch how the power of the universe kicks in to help you. Good things happen when intentions are true.

Ask the Expert

Q&A: Suggestions for a career move that doesn't require much additional schooling

March 22nd, 2011 by

I have been separated from my husband since August 2007. We sold the house - didn't make too much money, but enough to pay off any debts. I have one child at home with me in our rental townhouse. I would like to go into a different career making more money. Right now, my yearly salary is $40K plus another $7K from my ex. What sort of career could I go back to school for that wouldn't take any longer than 6 months and would increase my salary by $20K? Thank you for any suggestions you can give me, as I'm at a loss.

Asked by Vicki, Pickering, ON


Don't jump ship yet! In fact, be ever thankful you're making a good buck and have child support as well (put that extra aside for junior's university...).

Money can't be your only motivation. If your current 'admin assistant' position doesn't have any management responsibility, I'm betting you can leave at the end of the day, don't work weekends, have paid benefits and paid vacation. There are several thousand women who would crawl up your back to have that and the freedom to go home at 5 o'clock. As a single working mother, that aspect alone is immensely important.

However, if you know you have other marketable talents and aptitude, and you're b-o-r-e-d, then begin to search out where you'd like to work, how and when. If making more money is your only motivator, you first have to find out what you're suited for. I'm guessing more money at the same job isn't your idea of everlasting joy, but if I'm wrong, my advice is to stay put and look at how you can make your current job more fulfilling.

"What Colour is your Parachute" is a timeless guidebook to take you on an awareness campaign - your awareness. It's a workbook, it's fun and it's enlightening. Another good source is your own mother: ask her what you most liked to do when you were 5 years old. There are some hints there. If the book is daunting, pay a psychologist to work with you and run some tests. Or consider professionals who usually work with Human Resources when companies are downsizing; they're worthwhile to consult. They can discover talents you didn't realize could be translated into a fulfilling, well paying, successful career.

Once you have real information, you can then map out how, when and where to find a fit. Again, don't jump ship until you've done some of this work, and then, only when you have an offer for something else. You don't want to be without a job, living on hope and/or putting your hand out to your ex.

Finally, don't walk around your current employment with attitude. The unspoken undercurrent, your body language, etc., will be noticed, however subtle you think you are, and it could mean being passed over for a promotion. You want rave reviews now, and in the future, wherever you are. Do the very best you can - maintain pride of work, own whatever it is you do, be cheerful and happy to be contributing (even if it's get-me/fetch-me). Your youngster is watching! Truth is, you can be taught and learn new skills so long as you have the right attitude - attitude cannot be taught.

Take 6 months for this project. Set your completion date and sit yourself down at night with your youngster so you can do homework together. If you start now, we can talk again in September!

Ask the Expert

Q&A: How to start a career in the finance industry

March 16th, 2011 by

I am 47 years old, having worked many years in customer service. I would like to start a career in the finance industry. Any advice? Or do you think it is a little bit too late for my age?

Asked by Iryna, Toronto, ON


It's never too late to reinvent yourself. And you're way ahead of the rest because you've worked years in customer service. God bless you. Service is key. Attitude is everything - you can learn a skill set but no one can teach you good attitude, and good customer service is good attitude!

The finance industry has its own language, rules, and routes, but after you do your homework (financial planning courses and designations), it all distils down to the business of trust - you creating it, promoting it, and people believing in you. The deepest human needs are also the simplest human needs.

In my opinion, one of the best books ever is "Serious Money: The Art of Mutual Fund Marketing" by Nick Murray. Although published in 1991, it will never go out of date. The book is about marketing, about the relationship of investment instruments and strategies, and about the most important component - people (see a theme going on here). Bottom line - what good is it if you know great asset allocation techniques, but can't get people to trust you? What value do you provide if you can't get people to make a decision?

Should "Smart Money" resonate with you, you're on to something. Meanwhile, do some interviewing: ask people in the industry for a 20-minute chat about their career - ask why, how, what if, would you ever...people love to talk about themselves! Go to money seminars and critique the presentations; I bet you'll find only a few good ones. Most overload the audience with statistics, charts and numbers (serving bad coffee, worse cookies), forgetting what's most important - people and their needs.

You're not even 50 yet - know that your 50s will be some of your best years. You're a big girl now, and you know how to get things done. A project manager, a woman of a certain age, attractive, smart and vibrant - pow. Go for it! If you don't venture, you'll wonder "what if" later. Remember, good health and fitness will go a long way to help with this transition. Change is stressful - your overall health has to be better than average to cushion the impact and guarantee success. (I have little faith/trust in a financial advisor out of shape...the message is that if she doesn't look after herself, how could I possibly have confidence that she will look after me?) Stay motivated and hang out with winners - people who are creating what's most important, contributing to others, and making a difference in their lives. Set a goal sheet: when do you want to do this; what do you have to do to get there; how will you know when you're there. Like a map, it will direct your travel; there may be side roads, no worries. It has to be specific, timely and realistic. Something like financial planning.

You could become a true golden girl! How great is that?!

Ask the Expert

Q&A: How can I ensure I am healthy & fit enough to enjoy my retirement?

October 26th, 2010 by

I just retired. How can I ensure I will be healthy and fit enough - both mentally and physically - to enjoy everything I've worked so hard for financially?

Asked by B., Charlottetown, PEI


Congratulations! Put your right hand over your left shoulder and pat yourself on the back. You can relax knowing you are financially comfortable.

Some questions to ask yourself to start yourself on the path of ACTIVE aging:

  • Are you healthy & fit now?
  • If not, what would you like to do about it?
  • How do you plan to make it happen?
  • What do you do now for fitness?
  • Is there something you've always wanted to do but didn't have time for because of work?
  • What would be different if you were more fit - and how would you know?

Goals have to be specific, time sensitive, measurable, reasonable.

For example...I'd like to wear a sleeveless dress - red taffeta, one size smaller - at Christmas dinner, showing off toned shoulders and arms. (Wouldn't we all?!)

Doesn't that sound more appealing than 'I want to lose 10 lbs because I know I should?!'

Some rules to live by in retirement

Get up, have brekkie, get dressed, brush your teeth, and get out in the morning, just like going to work. The danger zones are sleeping late; wearing pj's until noon; no make-up; turning the TV on in the day; eating frozen pizza more than once a month.

You likely have ideas about things you'd like to do - make a list and prioritize them. From there, you can have a plan.

People who live long happy lives all have a few things in common...

  • Exercise.
  • Wholesome food.
  • Social connection - getting together with folks of a like mind.
  • Learning new things - eldercollege, perhaps.
  • Giving - being connected and caring. Spending time in spiritual harmony with a higher power, as you define it.

Acting on your goals

Remember this, you're an intricate delicate package manifested in human form with dimensions likely unexplored in your job. Maybe now is the time for Tai Chi, meditation, or choir.

List those ideas on a sheet of paper and write out what you'd like to accomplish in each category above. Just write, don't analyze or edit or critique. Leave it for a day or two and then come back to it and see what words crop up often. Highlight them. Those words are clues as to how you can be active in each category in ways that make you feel fulfilled, and in ways that use your particular talents and expertise to your best advantage.

Two of my elder clients are busy in the week with gym work, Pilates, bridge, golf, symphony, tea, the playhouse, volunteering at the soup kitchen, and of course, grandkids' activities. They do Suduko and puzzles. They read story books to the grandchildren. They borrow old comedy movies for Saturday nights from the library.

Aging is inevitable, decay is not. Movement sparks growth, in your muscles and in your brain. Studies have proven this to be true.

You gotta hustle!

Personally, I walk - every day. It's wet in Vancouver in the wintertime, but still pleasant to walk. Hustle - walk like you're going to miss the bus. Walking is my choice because I like being outside, the scenery is always changing, and the path is not constant. That challenges my balance and proprioceptive awareness. Plus I'm nosey - I love looking at the beautiful homes in my neighbourhood. Don't walk the same flat route every day; sprinkle in some hills occasionally. Getting your heart rate up enough to be slightly breathless - and maintaining that for 30 minutes a day - is a super way to keep the machinery in good working order.

This winter, I'm trying snowshoeing: the gear is really spiffy, no special clothes needed, except good waterproof boots and gaiters! What a super way to spend an evening! (It sure beats watching news of fresh disasters on TV before bed. I, for one, want a peaceful and restful night's sleep.)

This is your time. Plan it. Get professional help where you need advice. You wouldn't let your best friend do your dental work, so don't jump into the gym or a new sport without training with someone certified to teach you properly.

And have fun! (Remember to giggle every day.) You earned it.

Ask the Expert

Q&A: What has been your personal reinvention journey?

October 26th, 2010 by

You're the expert on 'reinvention' for a number of reasons: you raised and supported two children as a single mom, reinvented your career numerous times, and now, in your mid-sixties, are an expert on active aging. As such, what has your journey been and how can your experience benefit others?

Asked by Golden Girl Finance


From the age of 35 years old, when I discovered I wasn't the only woman in my husband's life (yes, he cheated), I have been determined to make my own way, find my path, and connect with influential people who could help me on my journey and sustain my appetite for a good life.

Single mom, but no martyr-mom

This path was in no way easy, smooth or without compromise. What I would not compromise was my resolve to provide a good life for my children and to maintain a sense of prosperity, however simple. Like my grandmother said 'even if you are poor, you don't have to look poor.' Thankfully, I inherited my mother's sense of style and flair for putting something together that looks current and elegant, but not trendy or cheap. You don't think that's important - ha, it opens doors, sweetheart - literally. If you look good and you feel good, you forget about how you look and show your true personality, talent and strength - the day unfolds with ease and grace - and all manner of support shows up.

Many travails, setbacks and surprises tested my faith, determination and resolve. My family was not in the picture to help me, which meant focusing on survival, as well as how to thrive. The end result: no partying, clubbing or getting out of control for the sake of flirting with some guy. Forget it! There was breakfast to prepare in the morning, soccer matches to witness, homework to oversee. I did attract a few men, but honestly, at that time nothing ever did quite work, and it took too much energy away from what was most important in my kids.

All that said, being a martyr-Mom sabotages your own self-worth; the kids pick up on those emotions and everyone loses. The airlines have it right: administer the oxygen mask to yourself first - then you can take care of your children. Children learn by watching and mimicking. What this taught me is that there is no advantage to playing small. The universe did not create an awesome 'you' to play small. I aimed high.

From legal secretary to Expo start-up

When as a legal secretary, I heard there was an Expo planned in Vancouver for 1986, I walked into that office on my lunch hour to announce "I want to work here." (C'mon, I'm from Montreal and in 1967, we had a party to remember!) Vancouver had no idea what was coming down the pipe, but I did, and I knew I wanted to be a part of it, ahead of the rest. There were people to meet and things to do. I was hired.

It was intense work like nothing else I had experienced before and honestly, I would not want to work like that again. The pace couldn't be sustained for longer than a contract - a beginning and an end date. The good thing is...I'm really good with projects. Give me your cupboard to organize, give me your diet to map out - I'm your girl!

Expo'86 was a challenge, a thrill, a career builder, a connector, fun, exhausting, and a projectile to future paths. Expo'86 put Vancouver on the world map and it launched many careers in this city. There was no time to have extensive meetings and figure things out carefully - it had to be done now!

And here was the bonus...if we stayed to the end of the fair, a cash bonus was guaranteed. I bought a car. Our first wheels - a white Honda Civic = freedom. Without a car, your world is very compact; with a car, it's almost giddy. I can see someone shrugging 'what's the big deal?' Well in those days, a divorced woman had no credit opportunities - think about that for a minute.

More adventures

The next adventure was a clean transition with Li Ka-shing of Hong Kong who bid and won the opportunity to develop the Expo'86 lands. Same turf. Many former Expo personnel. Another project. Very, very exciting. I can remember myself and 20 architects staked out on the top floor of an empty office building, and then building a company around the plans that won the development bid.

When Concord Pacific became established, I needed another change. I became the Executive Assistant to Canada's top investment counsel and learned some things about raising money, handling money, and handling people who had a tremendous amount of money. As part of that role, I undertook financial planning exams, which really helped me personally and made me a valuable player. When that private firm was sold to HSBC, I decided to venture off into the role of entrepreneur and formed a promotional products company with a delightful man who would become my husband, in 1998.

(A word: never work with your husband - you end up talking about invoices in bed and making placemats out of packing slips - ugh.)

It was during the 2nd year of my new marriage that I hit menopause like a brick wall, discovered Pilates - which changed my relationship with my body - and eventually, propelled me into another career...what I do now. I own and operate a private Pilates studio. I also became a certified Personal Trainer.

Some trainers are really young (I have shoes older than most). That doesn't stop me. I have depth and life skills youth can only imagine or read about.

Life lessons learned

Point is, never stop being curious, and learning and growing in experience by challenging yourself. Meet people. Stretch your boundaries. When your intentions are true, good things happen. The consequences of life do not make us...they reveal us.

Oh...and the 1998 wedding...hmmm...we divorced after 5 years! BUT, we always vacationed together and now live next door to each other. Yes, I'm sleeping with the guy next door! Obviously, we're not finished - it just looks different from how we thought it would be.

And you know what, that's life.