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Career Services Informer

…brought to you by SFU Career Services

Archive for the 'Feature Stories' Category

Dave’s Diary: Investing in the Old Boys’ Club

Friday, October 28th, 2011


Academia is a strong brew, taken without milk or sugar, steeped in tradition, and drunk from ceremonial cups. Its roots extend at least as far back as Plato’s Academy and perhaps as long ago as 2257 BC in China.

We don’t often think of the tradition associated with higher education these days, especially as the institution of academia comes under heavy fire from all quarters, accused of not preparing graduates adequately for the job market, inflicting undue and irreparable amounts of student debt, and just plain not being worth the investment. With that kind of ammunition being levelled at you, it’s pretty easy to get caught up in simply trying to defend your current existence, let alone inspiring an appreciation for something you’ve been upholding for thousands of years.

In other words, tradition doesn’t mean squat to an unemployed graduate with the weight of tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars of  debt on their shoulders. (more…)

Indigenous Career Services & The Dance of Success

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011


My name is Mike and I am originally from Little Black Bear’s Band in the Treaty #4 area.  I am in my final year of a First Nations Studies degree here at SFU and currently I am working on a research project with the SFU Career Services team.  Our goal is to determine ways in which the Career Services team can better serve the indigenous student population.  Career Services noticed that a very small percentage of the indigenous students on campus take advantage of their services and, with a burgeoning population of almost 500 self-identified First Nations students attending SFU, decided identifying opportunities to connect with that demographic in a meaningful way was important.

When I first heard about the project, I was told that there needed to be an indigenization of Career Services programs in order to make them more culturally appropriate for indigenous students, in a way implying that there was something culturally inappropriate about the way in which Career Services currently offers programming.  With this in mind I began looking outward, away from SFU, to see what other institutions were doing.  I spoke to representatives from many different universities, directors at Aboriginal Friendship Centres, and the administrator of the successful AboriginalLynx career resources website.  These conversations provided valuable insight and helped to shape some of the recommendations I’ll be incorporating into the final draft of my project.

However, despite having some productive conversations with individuals from outside of the SFU family, I was hit with the realization that I was on the wrong path when the manager of Career Services sent the below ’success map’ out in an email.  It was one of the many emails that I had deleted that day, thinking I would never have any use for the image, but something about it kept dancing around in the back of my mind.


Networking Anxiety? Just Do It!

Monday, October 24th, 2011

I wouldn’t classify myself as one of those people who can walk into a room and meet people easily. Though I’ve been making an effort to push the boundaries of my comfort zone, I’ve always been an introvert by nature. Unfortunately, as a business student, networking seems like an important skill to learn.

When I recently won a ticket to a networking event through an information session at SFU, I told myself I had to go. Luckily, the event was a “mingle,” a smaller, more informal networking event. In contrast to a large and formal career fair which would involve elevator pitches and resumes, I figured this would be a good place to test the waters.

When the day came, and I dragged myself out and expected the worst. I swallowed hard and walked in, vaguely recognising a few other people from the information session. Were they as nervous as I was? A few minutes went by, and suddenly there I was, talking with someone I hadn’t known only a moment before. The surprising thing was that it actually wasn’t that bad. At first, there was a moment of panic when I realized I should have dressed in business casual rather than my casual black pants, nice tank top and cardigan (oops), but it could have been worse.

When I started talking to people, I realized they weren’t the kind of cold, reserved professionals that I had feared. They were just people like anyone else – quite friendly and easy to talk to. I also found some common ground with some of the other students there who were also at their first networking event.

Towards the end of the night, after I had gotten over my initial haze of nervousness, I had an epiphany. I wasn’t the only one who felt out of my comfort zone: a couple people hadn’t ventured out of the corner all evening, and a few others had mechanically talked to and exchanged cards with every person in the room. Luckily, I’d managed to behave very appropriately and confidently by avoiding these extremes.

Though I can still count on one hand the number of networking events I’ve attended, these experiences have driven home a few tips that I wish I’d known in advance:

  1. Bring business cards. It’s quite common to exchange business cards at the end of a conversation.
  2. Dress for the occasion. Depending on what event you attend, this may be a full on suit or business casual.
  3. There is no need to talk to every single person in the room. A few meaningful conversations are less exhausting and more manageable.
  4. It’s OK to take a breather and hide by the appetizers with the other students, but set a goal to not make this your entire evening.

Even though I haven’t talked to many people since those events, I’d say it was still worthwhile. The confidence I gained from recognising I am in fact capable of walking into a room full of strangers and striking up conversation has stayed with me and transferred over to other areas of my life as well.

If you’ve been procrastinating over whether or not to attend your first networking event, here’s my advice: just go. Not only could you eliminate (or at least reduce) your understandable anxiety and hesitancy, but you could even impact other areas of your life. Somehow, class presentations have become less nerve-racking. If this still isn’t enough of an incentive, keep in mind that you could encounter very good odds of winning a door prize.

Jennifer Gutzmann

Jennifer is a Career Peer Educator at SFU Career Services, and a fourth-year business student pursuing a career in Human Resources. She loves being with people, and wants to do something to help others.

Dave’s Diary: Ryan Kahn – Another Pretty Face, Or A Career Hero?

Friday, October 21st, 2011

Dr. Phil. Dr. Drew. Dr. Oz. Any of myriad other “celebrity experts” we seem to be so collectively entranced by. I’ve long had a distrust of these kinds of people, but never really felt like I had too much to say about them, aside from a brief, somewhat unintelligent rant. This week, though, I added a new name to that list, and felt it significant enough to break my silence on the issue.


HIRED!Ryan Kahn, self-proclaimed future “most nationally recognized career coach,” seems to be making a name for himself. He’s got a show on MTV, a book, and perhaps more importantly, a young, cool, attractive image.

I’ll be honest here and say that I’m fairly conflicted about Ryan’s sudden rise to popularity.

As with anything, there are positive and negative ways of looking at it. Allow me to start with a few of the reasons I am hesitant to accept Mr. Kahn as the major representation youth are receiving of the career development field.

I suppose my biggest concern has to do with Ryan’s credibility. Although I really don’t know much about the guy aside from some basic internet research, having looked at his website, and having watched some videos of him speaking at seminars, it seems like his credentials aren’t exactly what a practitioner in the career development field would be expected to have. According to wikipedia, he has a bachelor’s degree from California Polytechnic State University, and a “focus degree” in music business. It seems from there that he did a few internships with some big name firms, got a few speaking gigs at UCLA, and probably caught the attention of someone who thought he’d be a great TV personality.

Of course, there’s not really any regulation over the title “career coach,” so Ryan is perfectly justified in using that descriptor, and for all I know he might be a really great one. Nonetheless, there are plenty of actual career development experts out there with doctorate degrees, bringing decades of experience, ground-breaking publications, and high quality peer-reviewed research to the table, that I would sooner put my trust in as a representation of the field. Norm Amundson may not be as sexy as Ryan Kahn, but he’s definitely got the upper hand when it comes to credentials.

It’s not Ryan’s fault that he’s being portrayed as more of an image than an expert. The fact of the matter is that in order to carve out any degree of fame these days, you have to appeal to a certain audience. In Ryan’s case, that audience is youth – youth that are being told at every corner that there are no jobs, that the economy will never recover, that they have to get a whole bunch of experience now in order to be competitive in a sardine can job market. Youth that are probably desperate for someone to tell them what to do, how to succeed. Youth that watch a lot of TV.

Here’s the thing: you don’t have to be an expert in order to do good things. I’m reasonably sure that Ryan’s actually helped some students and recent graduates in their careers, most likely in the procurement of internships in his own background industry, the entertainment business. Additionally, despite the fact that Ryan’s perhaps not the ideal version of what I would call a career development expert, it’s nice to see the field being represented in some way on such a large stage, to such an important audience.

Make no mistake, we are on the verge of a major demographic shift in North America that could potentially create a labour market disaster if we don’t get youth engaged. Baby boomers are currently the largest segment of the population, and as they begin to exit the job market en masse (retirements, death, etc.), we’ll need skilled replacements from a smaller and more disillusioned Gen Y. The difficulty lies in the transition from now to then. It’s no secret that the job market for recent graduates is not the best it’s ever been. It’s also no secret that once people have been out of the job market for long enough, they tend to disengage from it.

So, we need to keep our youth from becoming unemployed or underemployed for long stretches of time if we’re to avoid a major economic catastrophe in the next couple of decades. We need to keep them engaged.

If Ryan Kahn is a step in that direction, I’m okay with it.

David Lindskoog is a career advisor with SFU Career Services, and Dave’s Diary is an ongoing series of journal entries touching on various aspects related to careers and well-being. Look for updates every Friday.

Want to hear my thoughts on a particular topic? Send me an email, and I’ll do my best to include it in my next post!

Dave’s Diary: Details Matter – In Defence of Grammar Police

Friday, October 14th, 2011

I “could care less” (watch the video for an explanation of what I really mean when I say that) about the grammar police.

Do they drive you up the wall? You wouldn’t be the only one. All you have to do is visit a discussion board wherein some unfortunate soul uses “there” in place of “they’re,” totally distracting from an otherwise coherent and possibly even convincing argument. The lightning-speed with which someone will point out their fatal grammatical flaw, utterly destroying any shred of credibility that poster may have otherwise had, is remarkable. It’s almost like a race to see who can point out the linguistic flaws in a post, particularly when a strong opinion is espoused. Such is the power of the Grammar Police.


Image via Wikipedia

Of course, there is usually a counter-reaction that takes place. One who points out another’s spelling or grammatical mistakes is often ostracized for doing so, especially if they come off as holier-than-thou or project an inordinate amount of lexical righteousness. Lord help them if they make their own spelling or grammar mistake whilst pointing out someone else’s – although delightfully ironic, the ensuing flame-fest can be a disappointing reminder of the depths we can sink to when given anonymity and a place to vent.

Grammar police can be annoying. Infuriating, even.

Yet, I can’t help but feel a small triumph whenever someone exposes themselves as actually caring about proper spelling and grammar. In this day and age, it’s becoming more and more rare to see people upholding the belief that these details matter. That how we communicate in writing has a great effect on how we are perceived (or not) as credible, intelligent, and worthy of respect. That to begin compromising on something so basic, so fundamental, is the first step towards the erosion of something much larger. (more…)

Dave’s Diary: Discipline Beats Time Management

Friday, October 7th, 2011

I’m from the prairies. I’ve always loved a big, open skyline and an endless horizon. Having moved to the west coast, one of the things I notice frequently is that the coastal mountains do a very effective job of blocking out the horizon and making the sky seem much smaller. As much as I love where I live, I often find myself longing for the freedom of those open prairie skies. It’s one of the first things I notice whenever I travel back home.

Conversely, my fiancée (who grew up on the coast) tells me that the mountains here give her a sort of sense of security. When we go back to Edmonton to visit, the flatter landscape and wide open spaces can make her feel sort of lost.

Last week’s post about the absurdity of the idea of time management saw me going off on a bit of a semantic rant (semantirant? serantic?). Probably because I’m not much of a planner or organizer (I’m a Myers-Briggs P), I have never really understood the value that many others ascribe to disciplined time management. (more…)

Dave’s Diary: Time Management is a Crock

Friday, September 30th, 2011

Have you ever thought about how absurd the phrase “time management” is?

I was just thinking about it and, as I am wont to do, was struck by the underlying semantic silliness of what is to my mind yet another example of the ongoing corporatization of our lives. So, allow me to spend some time talking about time management.

The word “management” carries a heavy load of hierarchical business-like connotations. When applied in an employment context, it makes sense. Businesses have employees, and it’s often in their best interests (that being those interests that facilitate profitability) to manage those employees to varying extents. Management in this sense implies hierarchy and a vertical distribution of power, with a disproportionately large amount of said power lying in the hands of those closest to the top.

As a verb, “manage” has a few meanings: to control; to succeed in accomplishing something; to dominate or influence. There is an implication of mastery, of optimizing returns. From a purely semantic standpoint, this is an adversarial way of looking at things – constructs are reduced into two fundamentally different and opposing groups: the managers and the managed. Management becomes something that the manager does to the managed.

In an employment scenario, this can either work really well, or incredibly poorly. So much depends on the few people doing the managing.

But does it make sense to go around thinking we can actually manage our time? That we can assert our own mastery onto it and expect to have any sense of control? (more…)

Dave’s Diary: How to Bask in the Sunlight of Your Career

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

I read a great article the other day by Jim Bright, co-author of the Chaos Theory of Careers. It’s a read that’s well worth your time, but for those who don’t have the will to check out the post in its entirety, I’ll share an excerpt below:

Curiously not everyone I meet is thrilled when I tell them the ending to a movie.  Oddly they prefer to be surprised, and let the movie unfold for them. However this attitude of going with the flow, seeing where it ends up, living with emergence rarely extends to our careers.  Here we are encouraged to plan thoroughly, to visualise or imagine how things will play out, to know in advance what our next steps, and indeed our foreseeable steps will be. So why this disconnect? Why is surprise ok in the movies, but less in careers?

The article goes on to explain what Jim calls the “emergent approach,” which is a sort of antithesis to the “plan and implement” approach to career development. There are a lot of misconceptions and hesitations regarding emergence as it applies to careers, not least of which revolve around the concept of action. (more…)

Guest Post: The Art of Studying

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

Studying: some like to start weeks in advance, some like to prepare days ahead, and some like to cram. Which one are you?

For students, study habits are often a discussion starter. My own peer groups vary from those that frequently talk about how much there is to prepare for exams, those that don’t talk about school at all, and those in which we discuss our mutual last-minute “preparations.” Does any method have the definitive advantage?

I don’t think so. Each person reacts differently towards each method. You may like the security of preparing weeks in advance while another may prefer the art of cramming because material stays fresh in their mind.

What is your studying method? Today, I had a discussion about studying with a friend, a first-year university student.  She will be having her first set of quizzes next week on top of countless pages of reading and preparation! When I asked how she was coping with the large amount of work, she told me she prepares by writing parts of the required reading, reading material aloud and highlighting the important points. Now there you have a dedicated student! (more…)

Dave’s Diary: On Moustaches & Professionalism

Friday, September 16th, 2011

Heard of Movember?

It’s a fundraising movement for prostate cancer research in which men (mo bros) and women (mo sistas) alike dedicate the month of November to growing a moustache. In other words, it’s pretty much the best thing ever. Over the last couple of years, Movember’s popularity has skyrocketed to the point where it’s no longer surprising to see more moustaches than clean-shaves during November. I would even hazard to say that this year’s Movember might be the biggest yet in Canada, given the death of politician Jack Layton, who always sported a great looking stache.

Those who know me well know that I quite enjoy growing the odd moustache, much to my fiancee’s discontent (she’s a good sport though). During my undergraduate days, especially during the summer months while I was out fighting forest fires in the bush, I didn’t really care if I looked a bit ridiculous for a few weeks. There was nothing lost and some good fun gained.

In the last few years, however, I have been hesitant to take the stache plunge. My rationalizations were understandable, I think. I was just starting my professional career, and was insecure enough about my ability to help people effectively without having to wonder if they could look past some strategically grown facial hair to take me seriously. There are some people in the world that you look at and just think, “wow, that guy was just meant to have a moustache.” Well, I’m not exactly one of those guys. The Dave-moustache tends to look out of place, and a little bit creepy.

But I’m writing this post today to commit to growing a Movember moustache this year. I am also making a commitment to actually do some fundraising for the campaign, something that I haven’t really done before.

So what’s changed? Why do I feel like I can safely sport a stache this year if I couldn’t in the last 2? (more…)

Dave’s Diary: The Graduate – Ode to A New Semester

Friday, September 9th, 2011

The students gather to and fro
A vibrant quivering mass
Their thoughts are laden, heavy things
Of textbooks, schedules, and a new U-Pass

Amid the crowds and chaos
A lowly figure sneers
“Hark!” He cries, commandingly
“I’ve a tale of warning for your ears”

But few will pay him heed, indeed -
Most near him turn away
Their busy lives having better things
With which to occupy their day

“Confound it!” Thinks he, frustratedly
“If only they knew my story
Perhaps my sad and woeful fate
Could be avoided! How I worry…”

This desperate, sunken, piteous man
Was here not long ago, you see
A student, with naught a care at all
Save for finishing his degree

The Graduate, he calls himself
With spite and scorn and tone
“I thought that getting this degree
Would pave my future on its own!”

“Such a fool I was, to believe such trash
That I hadn’t even tried
To  gain the skills and experience
I’d need for job’s to which I applied”

“If only I had volunteered,” he lamented
“Or at least worked somewhere part-time
Then maybe I’d be employable
And you wouldn’t be subject to my rhyme”

“Or maybe had I done a co-op
Or some other experiential education
Instead of pestering students today
I could be on a paid vacation”

But almost without his notice
An audience round him had drawn near
And suddenly The Graduate saw
Inside their hearts a quickly growing fear

“Alas!” He cried, “it’s not too late for ye
Don’t stop at courses, labs, and reading.
No, take your learning elsewhere
Take action! Do new things! Try leading!”

Soon, so many gathered near him
That he felt a strange new power
“I can help you, naive undergrads
In this, my finest hour”

He told them of his costly mistakes
And at the end, knew they had learned.
The Graduate stepped down, retreating
To the peaceful quiet he had earned

David Lindskoog is a career advisor with SFU Career Services, and Dave’s Diary is an ongoing series of journal entries touching on various aspects related to careers and well-being. Look for updates every Friday.

Want to hear my thoughts on a particular topic? Send me an email, and I’ll do my best to include it in my next post!

Dave’s Diary: Fears of the 1994 Employer

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

fearHave you ever tried cleaning out an office that had been used by several people before you (one of which I’m pretty sure filed everything he ever did) for a decade or so? It’s a lot of work. I mean, I understand the importance of hanging on to things when they’re important or sentimental, but do you really need the minutes from team meetings that are over 10 years old?

As you may have guessed, cleaning out my office is exactly what I started doing yesterday. Not because I’m leaving – in fact, it’s quite the opposite. My name’s been on this office for a year now, but it still doesn’t feel quite mine. A big part of that reason is that there’s so much junk in here from previous residents. So, in anticipation of the Fall semester, with so many new beginnings for so many students, I decided to clear the junk out, starting with the massive filing cabinet on the far wall.

While 99% of what I found in there ended up in the scrap paper pile or recycling bin, I did find one absolute gem of an article dating back to 1994. After showing it around jokingly to a couple of colleagues, one suggested that I write an article about it – so here it is (thanks, Penny)!

The article in question was written in 1994 by a gentleman named Philip Whitford. The title at the top of the page dictates in big, bold print:

Modern Job Concepts: TEN FEARS OF THE EMPLOYER (more…)

Dave’s Diary: Me Student! You Professor!

Friday, August 26th, 2011

I don’t much like talking to strangers.

Some people are better at it than others, but it’s something I’ve never really been good at or wanted to do much of. Come to think of it, I’m not even that great at talking to the people I know – such is the fate of us introverted internal processors. I have great conversations in my head with myself, but when it comes to vocalizing my brilliant, eloquent thoughts to other people, I often end up garbling the words into something near unintelligible.

I’ll use just about any excuse to get a Far Side cartoon in here and there. I can relate to Tarzan, though – he had such great intentions, but flustered in the pivotal moment. I can also relate to the many students I talk to who are intimidated – to say the least – at the prospect of talking to their professors. Heck, I was one of those students at one point in time. (more…)

Dave’s Diary: 3 Tips For Your Blog

Friday, August 19th, 2011
Medieval illustration of a Christian scribe wr...

Thou shalt know these three learnings for thy blogge (via Wikipedia)

As this blog’s editor, one of the many joys I get to experience is the annual inundation training of those of our wonderful volunteers who aspire to contribute to the blog. I get to discuss things like “what makes a good blog article” and a few of the basics of good, simple online writing. I don’t profess to be an expert, but as someone who reads quite a few blogs regularly and has written two articles a week for the past however many months (see some of my other work here), I’ve discovered a few things that make a blog entry a bit more interesting. There are three big ones that I’ll focus on independently in this post: Voice, Conciseness, and Opinion. (more…)

Dave’s Diary: Getting A Handle On Conflict

Friday, August 12th, 2011
Door handle.

Image via Wikipedia

Conflict is an inescapable and completely necessary part of life.

There’s no denying it – people see and understand the world differently, and it’s only a matter of time before perspectives clash, right and wrong get mixed up, and feelings get hurt.

But it’s pretty clear that different people handle conflict uniquely. Some seem to be completely unshaken in the face of conflict, while others go to great lengths to avoid it, knowing that they don’t handle it well at all. Then there are the people who seem to be great friends with all kinds of trouble – everyone knows at least one person who always seems to be in some kind of drama. They probably don’t really seem like happy people, but underneath it all, they thrive on all that discord. Without it, they wouldn’t know what to do with themselves. (more…)

The Change Lab: Experiential Education Meets Sustainability

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

Are you a student who wants…

  • experience in change management?
  • to apply your knowledge and transcend the classroom?
  • to expand your community at SFU?
  • to be part of tangible sustainability solutions at SFU?
  • to get credit for designing and implementing a sustainability initiative on campus?

If so, you might be interested in the Change Lab, a student-driven non-traditional program being offered through Sustainable SFU, in partnership with SFU Career Services, CityStudio, the Faculty of Environment, the Institute for Environmental Learning, and the Office of the Vice President Academic.

The Change Lab looks to be a very promising and innovative way for students to gain experience in the field of sustainability, all while gaining academic credit, and building on essential employability skills!

If you are interested in learning more about this unique, new experiential education opportunity, have a look at the student information package, or search for “The Change Lab” in Symplicity under educational opportunities.

The deadline to apply will be August 20th!

If you have any questions contact Deanna Rogers and Jenn McRae @  thechangelab.sfu@gmail.com

Image: http://www.thebridgemaker.com/do-you-really-need-to-change-or-are-you-just-a-change-junkie/

Dave’s Diary: Conflict – The Nature of The Beast

Saturday, August 6th, 2011
fight club

Image via Flickr

Conflict. Why oh why do you plague us so?

You are an inevitability – it’s just a matter of time before someone or something disagrees with someone else, and they’re suddenly in a position of deciding between actions towards resolution, mediation, antagonization, or blissful ignorance. They may have to swallow pride, “take one for the team,” lose face, or spend extra time doing something they didn’t plan on. They may have be assertive when they would be more comfortable not doing so. We may not like conflict, but conflict is there, waiting for us to make our choice.

I can certainly recall times in my life that would have been much more pleasant had just one little thing been different – if only I got along better with this person (or they got along better with me), things would have been easier. If only that setback hadn’t happened, things would have been so much more perfect. If only more people saw things my way, we could all be in agreement and live more peacefully. If only conflict didn’t exist, everyone would be happier. Right? (more…)

Dave’s Diary: Building Awareness of Self-Awareness

Friday, July 29th, 2011
Full Sword in scabbard

Image via Wikipedia

I spoke in my last post about comfort zones, strengths, and growth from within areas that we are already relatively comfortable.  It was a pretty straightforward account of how knowing what are strengths are can help us to build on and expand those strengths into new areas.  The problem, of course, is that this viewpoint presupposes that you actually do know what your strengths are.


There are a few issues worth considering here.  I suppose the first would be a consideration of what a strength actually is.  Some people would distinguish between a strength and a personality characteristic, for example.  In such a scenario, the former may be something more of a skill that can in some quasi-quantifiable way be improved over time (i.e. writing, planning, organizing), while the latter might be more of a stable, enduring quality or trait that is in some sense automatic (i.e. charisma, quick thinking, adaptability). (more…)

Dave’s Diary: Stay In Your Comfort Zone!

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

We’ve all heard the phrase “comfort zone.”  We’ve probably all been told at one point or another to get outside of it, too.

But what exactly does that mean?  We can make all sorts of fancy diagrams and models to illustrate the concept, but does that really do justice to lived experience?


Just Like Bunko – Part 5 of 6: Make Excellent Mistakes

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

What is your fear? Is it fear of…

-          Heights?

-          Taking risks?

-          Making mistakes?

-          Something else?

Answers will vary but one of my biggest fears is making mistakes. However, despite this fear of mistakes, throughout several Co-op work terms over the last couple of years, I have had my share of experience making them.

It’s rarely a pretty scene when you make a mistake. But one thing I learned is how to accept the fact that, in a new position or industry, mistakes are bound to happen. It’s not an excuse, but rather the reality of working in a new environment. Sometimes mistakes might be magnified depending on the situation; there will also be times mistakes are taken care of without much disruption. Something horrible might happen if you are at the wrong place at the wrong time and the whole company might know what you did wrong. If that has happened to you before, don’t despair. Like most people, I have done something horribly wrong before as well. (more…)