Yesterday I attended AMCHAM T&T’s discussion on the 2018 Economic Outlook for Trinidad & Tobago.

Keynote speakers included Ravi Tewari, CEO Guardian Group, Racquel Moses, Country Manager Microsoft, Marla Dukharan, Chief Economist, Bitt inc and Dr. Terrence Farrell, Former Chairman, Economic Development Advisory Board.

Their presentations were of the highest caliber, also the President of AMCHAM; Mitchell De Silva, gave a strong contribution during his opening remarks.

Some of the “take aways” include Mitchell De Silva’s comments on the need for regulatory visibility and enforcement. Ravi Tewari’s inference that T&T’s needs to fix structural problems and that private sector participation is required in the provision of infrastructure. Racquel Moses showed how T&T could become more efficient through digital transformation, citing Estonia’s success story.

Marla Dukharan gave insightful analysis on T&T’s high levels of financial leakage, low fiscal multiplier, coupled with weak institutions. She stated that if we don’t change our modus operandi T&T is likely to end up turning to the IMF by 2021 / 2022. Dr. Farrell echoed Ravi Tewari’s sentiment about the need for structural change, he also suggested that our Government should regularise their accounting standards by adopting IPSAS (International Public Sector Accounting Standards). Dr. Farrell commented on our population’s dependency syndrome and rent seeking behavior, he presented arguments in support of the need for change.

All the presenters shared a common perspective on the need to diversify our economy away from its dependency on the Oil and Gas sector.

 

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year. More importantly I hope you still have a job.

How many of you attended the office Christmas party and received a warning letter the next day? I presume not many. In an office party setting it is easy to forget appropriate behavior, especially when inebriated, and over step the bounds of political correctness. Perhaps one should not have gotten that intoxicated in the first place.

Is appropriate office behavior only required during official working hours? How should one operate outside of this? In the current digital media age it is important to remember that politically correct behavior doesn’t start at the office front door. Unfortunately the ease of access to our private lives via social media often means that lines are blurred.

Now a days we live in proverbial glass houses, as a result it is important to conduct all aspects of life in a manner that doesn’t bring one’s reputation or career into disrepute. Do you agree?

The only way is up! Actually this isn’t always the case. Sometimes you have to play the long game.

As a recruiter I speak to professionals about their career options on a daily basis. Many people say they will only consider another job if it’s a step up or if it presents a significant increase in salary. Sometimes these people are short sighted.

Consider this scenario; you are an Internal Auditor and would like your next job to be a Finance Manager. You apply for many Finance Manager jobs but are unable to get to the interview stage.

Perhaps you can pause and consider things from the hiring manager’s perspective, there are likely to be other candidates applying for the same job and many of them may already be Finance Managers.

What can you do differently to achieve the desired results? One option may be to look at internal options in your current place of work. Perhaps there is an opportunity to temporally cover for the Finance Manager when he / she is on vacation. In the short term it is in your interest to volunteer for a lateral assignment, or expand your workload, often without any increase in pay. The experience gained will position you one step closer to a Finance Manager role.

An alternative approach could be to apply for Financial Accountant roles instead of Finance Manager positions. After a couple years as a Financial Accountant you may have gained the desired experience to move into the Finance Manager position.

A third option could be to volunteer, in your spare time, as a Finance Manager for an NGO or Industry Committee that needs assistance in this area.

All three options provide the same result; relevant work experience. This will make your profile more desirable to hiring managers and assist in the career advancement that you seek.

On  November 8, CRS attended the Launch of Facebook Connect Americas at Hyatt Regency Trinidad. The IDB partnered with Facebook to  create a platform that facilitates business  for SME’s in the Americas.

The idea was to eliminate barriers for SMEs by doing these three things:

  • Providing access to trustworthy clients abroad
  • Access to practical info for international trade
  • Access to financing for SMEs

The entire platform is free, financed by the IDB.

CRS General Manager, Shinelle Padmore says, “Thanks to the IDB and Facebook for coming to Trinidad and Tobago to launch Connect Americas. It is an inexpensive way for Caribbean Resourcing Solutions to have Global reach. We will use this platform to facilitate trade, export, and the sharing of ideas”

Join here

https://connectamericas.com/

Have you recently been retrenched or made redundant? Are you considering your next career move? Is this your first time job hunting in over a decade?

Trinidad and Tobago is largely dependent on a sector that has been in global decline for approximately two years. The Oil and Gas industry is in the throes of ”Lower for Longer Prices”, in addition the T&T economy has  been adversely affected by a lack of diversification and economic stimulation. Under these circumstances it’s not surprising to observe that a percentage of the mature working population have found themselves in a position they never envisioned; jobless with families to feed and mortgages to pay.

My advice; do not become complacent or procrastinate about jumpstarting your job search, we are in a challenging job market that is far from candidate driven. The first step toward finding a new role involves writing or re-vamping your CV, the key is to ensure you create an achievement lead CV.

Next up, the job search. Ideally you want to have a planned systematic approach to job hunting. Keep your activity levels high and engage in job search activities on a daily basis. It helps to structure your day, perhaps you can put aside an hour or two for perusing the press and online job boards. Also liaise with a reputable Recruitment Agency. Ensure you don’t duplicate efforts or apply for the same job multiple times through various avenues. Apply for jobs that are relevant to your skill-set. Also keep an open mind; be prepared to take on contract assignments. The working world is changing, be open to changing with it. Gone are the days of “A job for life”. Consider contract or project based work.

Make sure to prepare adequately for the interview; understand the company and its culture. Also you should know your CV inside out and be ready to answer questions about everything you have listed.

When negotiating your remuneration have realistic salary expectations, remember that it’s better to gain employment and sustain a marginal reduction in salary. The alternative may involve remaining unemployed for six to nine months or even longer.

Best of luck with your job search!

Last Friday the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce in collaboration with Jamaica Money Market Brokers (JMMB) provided a forum for stakeholders to have a discussion on Economic Development in Trinidad and Tobago and the Region.

The format was an animated presentation given by Keith Duncan on the Jamaica experience and lessons learned, followed by a panel discussion lead by of Dr. Marlene Attzs (Moderator), Ronald Hinds (President of the T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce), Terrence Farrell (Chairman of T&T’s Economic Development Advisory Board), and Keith Duncan (Co-chairman of Jamaica’s Economic Programme Oversight Committee – EPOC).

Keith Duncan gave an overview of Jamaica’s economic woes explaining why they needed to turn to the IMF for funding. His presentation included a statistic driven account of the progress that Jamaica had made over the last year. Duncan highlighted their major priorities for economic growth, which included macro-economic stability, reduction in crime, a debt to GDP ratio of 60%, and maintaining comfortable NIR levels. Duncan indicated that Trinidad and Tobago’s economic position was salvageable; saying that our debt to GDP ratio was more favourable than Jamaica’s. He suggested that we should not wait until our backs were against the wall before choosing to act. Duncan explained that the key to Jamaica’s successful implementation of policies and fiscal measures was ongoing public consultation and community activity, this helped EPOC to gain buy-in from the population. Duncan also mentioned that there was public accountability and transparency for achieving pre-determined targets for economic progress, and the establishment of three independent oversight bodies aided with this – the Economic Growth Council (EGC), the Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC), and the Public Sector Transformation Oversight Committee (PSTOC).

During Dr. Marlene Attzs’ opening remarks she made reference to Trinidad and Tobago’s current state of Economic Stillness. The panel discussion revolved around overcoming this. Dr. Terrence Farrell gave some compelling arguments for diversifying away from the Oil and Gas Sector. Farrell commented that “Lower for Longer” oil and gas prices, depleting natural gas reserves, and Trinidad’s high oil production price were all signals that our Nation’s dependence on the Energy Sector was not sustainable. Ronald Hinds supported Dr Farrell’s perspective. The discussion continued around the need to adjust our foreign exchange rate and reduce Trinidad and Tobago’s reliance on imports while increasing exports from other sectors. Dr Farrell alluded to seven alternate sectors with seven enablers that could assist in boosting the economy.

Questions and comments were taken from participants across the floor including Marla Dukharan (Chief Economist at Bitt Inc. and former Group Economist at RBC Caribbean), Howard Dottin (Programme Director at the Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of Business), as well as a cross section of business leaders from various industries in the Private Sector. The majority of comments were in support of the panelists’ perspective. It is interesting to note that there were no decision makers from Government Ministries in attendance.

 

When searching for that first job Caribbean students are often trapped in an exasperating chicken and egg scenario. You need work experience to be considered for the position but employers are reluctant to give you that first job until you have work experience.

The secret to getting past this initial challenge is to work hard during your undergraduate years. Good grades always help but grades will only get you so far. How does one bridge that gap between University and work? The answer: look for internship opportunities and enroll to gain work experience during term breaks or apply for one of the few coveted “on campus jobs”. If you take an assignment every summer you are likely to gain six to nine months’ work experience while at university. Also don’t shy away from taking low level roles and working your way up. This is an excellent way to learn the ropes; many of the world’s strongest leaders started their careers this way.  The key to success is humbleness, once you get an opportunity be prepared to use your initiative, offer to assist with tasks, and maintain a high level of mental engagement so you learn quickly on the job.

Are you interested in changing jobs or casually looking at your options?

It’s important to note that most people don’t move for money. Motivation for career change often comes from a desire for career progression or a need to find a culture fit that’s more suitable.

With this in mind I advise candidates to take a practical approach to salary negotiations. A good rule of thumb is to expect an increase in salary of 10% or less. Also you should think of justifiable reasons why you deserve that 10% increase. Experienced professionals often move jobs because that are primarily focused on the role, remuneration is secondary.

To be through you may want to conduct research to understand what the current market rate is for similar jobs within your industry, bearing in mind that in Trinidad and Tobago the same job could have a vastly different salary range across different industries or different size businesses.

Also remember that good negotiations are based on give and take. If you are pushing for a higher salary be prepared to work long hours to deliver outstanding performance in return.

T&T’s inaugural Clean Energy Conference was well attended. The Energy Chamber did an excellent job of facilitating. Participants and presenters appeared to have aligned goals; to achieve a 15% reduction in T&T’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and to have 10% of our energy come from renewable sources by 2021. The impetus for these goals came from the Paris Agreement.

The major players that contribute to industrial emissions in T&T appear to be onboard with achieving the outlined objectives. Both NGC and T&TEC gave excellent presentations that signaled their commitment to the process.  Having said that, there was no clear indication from the Power Generators (Powergen, TGU and Trinity Power) regarding whether they would be open to switching all their generation units to the more efficient combined cycle option. At the moment TGU uses a combined cycle facility.

On a couple occasions it became glaringly obvious that two key things must happen before any action is taken; revisions must be made to the T&TEC Act and the Regulated Industries Act. Such revisions will allow individuals to feed their excess (renewable) energy on to the national grid.  In this regard we are relying on Government Ministries to jump-start the process, or to put it another way, to remove the legal obstacles.

Other areas for improvement include government or agency incentives for individuals wishing to switch their homes or cars over to green or renewable energy sources. The cost of solar panels and wind turbines is substantial. Infrastructure also needs to be put in place e.g. charging ports for electric or hybrid vehicles, or CNG stations for cars wishing to switch from traditional gas or diesel tanks to CNG.

Info on the conference:
http://energynow.tt/clean-energy-conference/

Susan’s Snippets
Christmas is in the air, carols and parang are on the radio, glitter is in the malls, and of course parties are inviting. For many businesses, this is their busiest time of the year. For recruiting companies, it’s probably the quietest as decisions on hires are often postponed until January So, for us it’s a time to catch our breaths, tidy our files, and strategise for the upcoming year. Then we are prepared for the recruitment rush in January. In the meantime, Merry Christmas and a prosperous and healthy New Year to all our subscribers.

Sign Before You Resign
You’ve aced the interviews, negotiated the best package, and now the great news – they want to hire you! You’re excited and can’t wait to tell your boss that you’re out of there. Of course you want to be fair and give your current employers as much notice as possible, so once the start date is agreed, you tell your company you’re leaving on that date. Only one thing bothers you: your new employers haven’t sent you the actual offer to sign yet. As time goes on, and you keep getting put off, or worse, no response to your phone calls and emails, the harsh reality sinks in. There is no offer and you have no job to go to.

Does this nightmare scenario sound familiar? Sadly, I have heard it many, many times. What happens to these job-offer victims? If they swallow their pride and ask for their old job back, they are marked as disloyal and a high risk to leave. Therefore, they will be overlooked for promotion and the better career opportunities and even training. Chances are they will leave within the year, quite humiliated.

They could take their chances on the job market which means risking a few months with no income. Again, this can be quite a blow to their self-esteem if they suffer rejections from other employers, and this can turn into a repeated cycle if their low-self-esteem and depression is the reason they don’t get the job offers.

I remember one case where the prospective employee resigned his current job so he could start researching the project he was to work on in his new job. He didn’t know that after his would-be employers told him that he got the job, the person who used to do that job approached them to work with them again. They didn’t tell this job-offer victim until the day before he was due to start work. He was devastated and felt cheated because he actually started doing the work.

Many years ago, a friend of mine accepted a dream job abroad. She gave up her rented accommodation and was at the airport waiting to board the plane when she was approached by a representative of the company to say that the job was no longer available. Can you imagine how she felt, with no place to live, no job, no income and carrying all her worldly possessions? She ended up staying by me as I lived close to the airport. It was months before she got another job and moved out.

I know of a recent case where the victim was a returning national, and on the basis of a verbal offer, he gave up his job, sold his house, sent his family back to Trinidad, and even turned down other offers. In fact, he uprooted his life on the expectation of this high-paying job. Eventually, the hiring company informed him that they felt it was imprudent to make such an expensive hire in these uncertain times.

One common thread in all these cases is that the hiring company that changes their minds about the hire, never tell the job-offer victim until the very last minute. They avoid all contact with the person, who ends up digging themselves deeper into trouble. In almost every case, the job-offer victim did not insist on signing a contract of employment before announcing their intention to leave. They want to accommodate their new employer as much as possible and the paper-work just seems to be a minor issue. And we’re not talking about fly-by-night companies either. Most of the time, the would-be employers are well-known and respected companies, even at a global level.

Please, please, always sign an employment contract before you resign. Even if this delays your new start date, it is better this way than you being left high and dry. You have been warned!

Tell Us What You Think
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