Working Wise | DrumhellerMail - Page #43
Last updateThu, 23 May 2024 12pm

Stepping Out of a Shadow


Dear Working Wise: 

I was recently hired to replace a long-term employee who left. I am constantly getting comments from my new co-workers like “Bob left some big shoes to fill.” I know Bob was good at his job, but how can I get out of his shadow?


Long-term employees carry a lot of organizational memory and have developed some quick “work-arounds” when problems arise. It’s not that Bob was better than you can be, he just knew the business better. Given time, you will learn the same information and tricks.


Start by shedding some light on that shadow and looking at what Bob did objectively. Bob probably was a very valuable team member, but no one is perfect. The point is you are only getting comments from people who are mourning Bob’s departure. You are not getting the entire history. Your first task is to start learning some of that history.


Talk to your boss and some of those key employees about how Bob did things and how you can do things your own way and blaze your own trail. Try to get specifics about what he did right and wrong. General comments about how great Bob was are not helpful. You need details about what he did, right and wrong.


Use this information to move forward and get everyone thinking you are your own person no haunted by some ghostly Bob.


Be Enterprising: Show initiative, demonstrate good judgment and ask questions. You will need to learn quickly. Ask your supervisor for regular feedback and be prepared to act on it. Take an active role in work activities and social events. Participate in meetings, volunteer for important committees and welcome delegated tasks. You need to show to everyone you are just as helpful as Bob.


Be Professional. Avoid the temptation of becoming a miracle worker by taking on too much, or working solo. Instead, develop strong working relationships with your boss and co-workers by being professional and responsible. Meet deadlines and keep your boss informed about accomplishments and problems. Don't commit to do things if you can’t do them. Try to keep up-to-date on developments in your industry and improve your skills through training. Strike a balance between work and family responsibilities.


Be Resourceful: You need to recognize that growth requires change and resourcefulness. Be creative, share ideas and develop problem-solving skills. It’s wise to always have a Plan B, in case Plan A doesn't work out. Flexibility should be one of your key assets, because you don’t know when things will go awry. Time management and networking are also critical. Knowing how to get things done, and who to rely on can save you countless hours of frustration. Supervisors look for self-motivated people.


Use what you learn from your coworkers and supervisor to increase your value—both perceived and real—and Bob’s shadow will haunt you no more.


Do you have a work-related question? Send your questions to Working Wise, at Charles Strachey is a regional manager with Alberta Employment and Immigration. This article is for general information only.


Salary Expectations


Dear Working Wise:

Some employment ads and websites ask for salary expectations, but I’m not really sure what to say or include. What should I do when this happens? Signed, Wondering about Wages


Dear Wondering:


It can be unnerving to name a salary figure for yourself. You don’t want to appear greedy and screen yourself out of the competition over a few dollars, but at the same time, you don’t want to sell yourself short either.


That’s why it’s so important to do your research.


Salary can depend on many factors, including location, industry, occupation, your experience level, and any special skills you have to offer.


Local market conditions often impact salary. You may be able to ask for more money if the position has been difficult to fill, if there has been a lot of turnover, if the local cost of living is higher than in other regions or if the occupation is in short supply.


If there are a large number of people competing for the same job, the employer might have an advantage and hire the best qualified person who asks for the lowest salary.


Do your research:

o   Look at the salary range of similar advertised positions;

o   Talk to people in similar positions and get their opinions;

o   Research the current labour market conditions (e.g., unemployment rate, turnover, etc.) to gauge demand by visiting;

o   Check professional associations or union websites for salary grids and salary survey results;

o   Check the 2009 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey available at: This comprehensive survey of almost 6,300 employers contains salary information for more than 400 occupations. 


Confidence in your salary expectations will come from your research. You may also impress the employer if you can explain where you got your number from.


Remember, compensation is more than just salary. It includes other benefits like: health benefits, insurance, pension plans, annual vacation, and professional development.


Although the employer is likely only asking for salary, you should keep these other items in mind in case you’re asked during the interview.


When you include that salary information in your application or cover letter, try to use it in a neutral statement. Emphasize the job opportunity as the most important part in your decision and that you would consider a reasonable offer.


Don’t bring up salary during the job interview—let the employer do that. In your discussion try to give a range and not a specific amount and let them know that you understand that compensation extends beyond salary.


Don't be too concerned if salary is not discussed. It is likely to come later and it’s best left until after the employer has decided to offer you the job. That way, you are on a more even playing field with the employer—you want the job and they want to hire you.


Good luck!


Do you have a work-related question? Send your questions to Working Wise, at Charles Strachey is a regional manager with Alberta Employment and Immigration. This column is provided for general information.

Young workers


Dear Working Wise:

I am looking to staff up my ice-cream shop for the summer season. I am considering hiring my 13-year-old niece, but I’m wondering if there are any issues related to hiring someone that young to work in my shop? Signed, Want The Scoop


Dear Want The Scoop:


Summer jobs are a great way for teens to save money for a car or their post-secondary education. Jobs also help kids learn critical employability skills, good work habits, and the true value of a dollar.


Young workers are covered by the same employment standards, e.g., holiday pay and minimum wage, as other workers, but there are some special rules employers should know when it comes to employing people under the age of 18.


Adolescent Albertans, aged 12-14, can work in the following approved jobs:

- office messenger or clerk;

- delivery person (e.g., flyers, flowers);

- retail store clerk (e.g., music store); and

- certain jobs in the restaurant and food-service industry


They may be able to take on other jobs, but the employer must first apply for a permit to employ an adolescent.


Your niece can not accept work that may harm her life, health, education or welfare. For these reasons, adolescents can not:

- sell liquor in licensed premises;

- work between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.;

- work during normal school hours;

- work in areas where smoking is permitted;

- work without continuous adult supervision;

- work for longer than two hours on a school day;

- work for longer than eight hours on a non-school day; or

- use or work near dangerous equipment such as deep fryers, grills or slicers.


Registered Apprenticeship Program (RAP) and other School Act work experience programs are exempt from the rules around working during school hours.


Employers and parents are responsible for ensuring that adolescent workers are competent and safe. Parents must give the employer written consent before employment begins.


Employers are required by the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Code to keep young workers safe by:

- completing a written hazard assessment;

- controlling or eliminating all safety hazards;

- ensuring the health and safety of the employee; and

- warning the adolescent about any hazards that may affect him or her.


Safety Checklists for Adolescents

Adolescents can work in restaurant and food-service businesses, like an ice-cream shop, as long as their employer completes a Safety Checklist. The Safety Checklist is available at:


Teens, aged 15 to 17, have fewer restrictions and are free to take on more types of jobs, but they are subject to special conditions as well.


If you have any more questions about employing younger workers, call the Alberta Employment Standards helpline at 1-877-427-3731 or visit and click on Safe and Fair Workplaces.


Good luck!


Do you have a work-related question? Send your questions to Working Wise, at Charles Strachey is a regional manager with Alberta Employment and Immigration. This column is provided for general information.

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