The Definitive Guide to Job Hunting

Advice, tips and tricks on how to engage with the UK jobs market in the 21st Century

Archive for the ‘Graduate jobs’ Category

A view from my new Apprentice

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SJ

To help me with all the admin and resourcing work generated by the Parts Alliance and my other brilliant clients, I really needed some help! I had a choice between finding an experienced person, or helping a young person into work.

I decided to go for the latter option, and I am very pleased that I did! Welcome on board Sarah-Jane Palazzo. I really look forward to working with you, and imparting at least some of the experience I have gained over the last quarter of a century.

I will let Sarah-Jane tell you herself how she is getting on. Hopefully, you will understand why I selected her to join me!

“On the 1st April I started working for CR Associates as a Recruitment Assistant. I was desperately unhappy in my previous employment, and was thrilled to receive a job offer from Cathy.

I do not have the most lucrative CV, nor the most experience in recruitment. However I was fortunate enough to meet Cathy, who saw what skills I do have and the potential I have to progress to a high level.

I’d applied for similar roles before and it’s taken me a while to finally land the job I want. The best factor in my new role is the potential to grow: In 3 months time I see myself in full apprenticeship training, hopefully placing candidates into motor factor branches, and being completely comfortable with all the tasks my role requires. In 1 year I see myself being a fully qualified Recruitment Consultant for CR Associates and creating the building blocks to leave my mark on the recruitment industry.

I have only just completed my first week at CRA and have already learnt so much: I have learnt what makes a good CV, the difference between a good candidate and a GREAT candidate, I have learnt that being kind and helpful goes such a long way and most importantly… How Cathy likes her tea!

Enjoying your job makes you feel good about yourself, it makes you feel important and needed. The difference I have noticed in myself is astonishing: I’m eating healthier, I’m taking more pride in my appearance, and apparently I’m ‘glowing’!

I have an amazing job, and an amazing boss. I am very aware that I have been incredibly lucky to be given this opportunity. However, I know that I would not have been given this opportunity if I was not confident, enthusiastic and determined. So I urge those reading this, if you don’t feel that way about your current job: Take a risk! Strive to be the best you can be! If I can do it, you can do it too!”

5 interview questions asked by great candidates

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Panel interviewI have organised thousands of job interviews for candidates during my career. If only I had a penny for each time a good candidate ruined a job interview by asking the wrong questions – or worse, not even asking any at all!

The problem is that most candidates don’t seem to prepare for the inevitable interview question: “Do you have anything to ask us?”

Great candidates ask questions because they’re evaluating the interviewer and the company– and whether they really want the job. How you ask these questions may make or break the outcome of your interview.

Here are five questions great candidates ask:

1. What do you expect me to accomplish in the first 60 to 90 days?

Great candidates want to hit the ground running. They don’t want to spend weeks or months “getting to know the organization.” They want to make a difference–right away. And they want to show the interviewer that they have thought about how they will achieve this.

2. What are the common attributes of your top performers?

Great candidates also want to be great long-term employees. Every organization is different, and so are the key qualities of top performers in those organizations. Maybe top performers work longer hours. Maybe creativity is more important than methodology. Maybe constantly landing new customers in new markets is more important than building long-term customer relationships. Maybe it’s a willingness to spend the same amount of time educating an entry-level customer as helping an enthusiast who wants high-end equipment.

Great candidates ask this because they want to know if they fit, and if they do fit, what will make them a top performer.

3. What are a few things that really drive results for the company?

Employees are investments, and every employee should generate a positive return on his or her salary. (Otherwise why are they on the payroll?) In every job some activities make a bigger difference than others. Great candidates want to know what truly makes a difference. They know that by helping the company succeed,  they succeed as well.

4. What do employees do in their spare time?

Happy employees like what they do, and they like the people they work with. This is a difficult question for an interviewer to answer. Unless the company is really small, all any interviewer can do is speak in generalities. But this candidate wants to make sure they have a reasonable chance of fitting in, and that is a very important quality.

5. How do you plan to deal with…?

Every business faces a major challenge: technological changes, competitors entering the market, shifting economic trends, etc. And well-informed candidates will be aware of all the risk factors. They hope for growth and advancement. If they do eventually leave, they want it to be on their terms and not because the company was forced out of business.

For example: I’m interviewing for a position at your bike shop. Another shop is opening less than a mile away: How do you plan to deal with the new competitor? Or you run a poultry farm: What will you do to deal with rising feed costs?

A great candidate doesn’t just want to know what the prospective employer thinks; they want to know what the prospective employer plans to do – and how they will fit into those plans.

Asking questions like these will help you stand out from the crowd, proving your real interest in the job and the company. Hopefully, the answers will also give you a pretty good idea of whether the role and company is right for you or not.

Introducing the new CR Associates!

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There is nothing quite like a new beginning!

I am delighted to announce the relaunch of Cathy Richardson Associates during January 2014.

With a new strapline of Resource, Recruit, Retain we will take steps beyond what is normally expected from Recruiters.

Resource: Away with Just-in-Time recruitment! Instead of waiting for recruitment needs to arise within our client companies before we react, we will pre-empt hiring needs. We will work with our clients to understand growth plans, recruitment strategies, medium and long-term business challenges, and any other elements that may impact on how our clients’ people strategies may change. We will build talent networks, generate market maps and identify key talent in our core markets so that we can advise pro-actively on market dynamics. We will help build employer branding and assist our employers of choice to develop the most attractive candidate attraction and recruitment strategies to maximise opportunities in the skills short jobs market.

Recruit: Away with outdated tactics! We will actively work with our clients to generate efficient, targeted recruitment campaigns based on a range of social and conventional methodologies to make sure we find the best possible candidate shortlists. We will engage actively with our candidates to make sure they enter into only the best-fit recruitment processes. We will manage these processes for and with our clients, using state-of-the-art psychometric and assessment centre technology to make sure that objective hiring decisions are made. We will work with all parties to make sure that the most positive contractual negotiations are achieved, and that referencing and due diligence takes place in all directions to ensure positive outcomes.

Retain: Away with one hit wonder recruitment! We want the candidates we place to stay with our clients. We want their jobs to turn into careers. We want our clients to build loyal, stable workforces where people are valued and developed. That is why we will work with our clients and their workforces to help with coaching, mentoring, honest broking, advising and ensuring that communication is outstanding. We will actively work with our clients to retain their people. This will help us build employer brands for returning to the resourcing cycle.

Core markets: We have built a reputation for recruiting successfully into the Sales, Service and Commercial arenas. As in the past, we will continue to focus on the manufacturing and techno-commercial distribution markets. This includes Manufacturing, Automotive and Distribution. We will work with Sales, Marketing and Commercial teams to bring the best possible teams of people together to ensure commercial success. This ranges from graduate or entry-level, through regional management and culminates in recruiting at MD, Director or Senior level.

2014 is set to be an exciting and challenging year. We are waiting for a revamped website, the Facebook page has received a face lift and the blog continues to get high levels of attention.

Certainly, new beginnings are full of risk but as the economy continues to improve and the skills shortage bites even more, we look forward to wonderful things!

Guide to Job Hunting – Is it time to revamp your CV?

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According to a study released by TheLadders, an online job-matching service, recruiters spend an average of only six seconds reviewing an individual CV before making a judgement on its suitability.

So when did you last spend a bit of time on getting your CV into perfect shape for your dream job? If a recruiter looks at it for a mere 6 seconds before making a decision on whether you have the skills they want or not, your CV has to be pretty good in today’s competitive jobs environment!

TheLadders used a scientific technique called “eye tracking” that analyzed how long 30 professional recruiters reviewed candidate profiles and resumes, and what those recruiters focused on.

“They’re looking for job hoppers, minimum education requirements and a candidate’s steady career progression,” says Will Evans, TheLadders’ head of user experience and the man behind the study. “It’s a snap decision.”

So if you’re a job-seeker, it’s incredibly important to make those few seconds count. Below are 5 tips from Evans for each precious second a recruiter spends with your CV.

1. Don’t be Creative

This is not the time to get fancy. You want potential employers to get the most information from your CV as quickly as possible. Your CV should follow a standard format that is simple and easy to read. “Recruiters develop this mental model that allows them to extract the most important bits,” says Evans. So make sure these six items are easily digestible: your name, your current title and company, your previous title and company, your previous position start and end dates, your current position start and end dates, and education.

2. Put Your Expertise and Skills at the Top

These are the things that you’ll ultimately be bringing to any new employer, so make sure they’re near the top where a recruiter can easily see them. Use action verbs when describing your accomplishments and back it up with quantitative data when you can. For example, say that you increased sales by 30%, or that decisions you made led to a 150% decrease in operational costs. This is the area where you should feel free to go in-depth.

3. Don’t Make it Too Long

Include as much as you can without making it seem cluttered. Telegram style and bullet points work – Focus on your most recent experience and the past 10 years, because that is most relevant. Put all the important bits on the first page. What follows later will only be read if the initial screening ticks all the boxes.

4. Ditch the Photos

“If you only have six seconds, you don’t want them distracted,” Evans says. So get rid of any photos you may have attached to your CV, and don’t try any video gimmicks. It’ll come off as, well, a gimmick. “You don’t want people focused on your face and not your skills,” he says.

5. Don’t Focus on Your Personal Achievements

It’s great that you’ve played the tuba since high school but don’t spend too much time playing up your more personal info. Unless its directly relevant to your job, it’s not important enough to be on your CV.


Guide to Job Hunting – New Year, New You, New Job?!

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New Year

At the start of every new year, we all make resolutions of those things we would like to do or change during the next year. It’s a bit like spring cleaning: Sweeping out the tired old year to allow the new year to bring in a fresh outlook, new challenges, and renewed energies.

Often, finding a new job is at the top of our list.

But is it wise to simply just cast yourself into the job market, without being aware of what exactly it is you want to change?

Without actually understanding and being clear on why you are looking to leave your current job, you may not recognise what it is what you are looking for in a new employer.

Does money matter?

Better compensation is very rarely the true reason for people to leave jobs.  In most cases, it is only a symptom of a more complex issue. We need to work in a place that is fair, trustworthy, and deserving of an individual’s best efforts in order to feel valued, respected and secure.  Through the recession, your employer may not have been able to provide the pay increases you were able to achieve in the past.But often, people will stay employed in jobs that are underpaid because the other elements are provided for sufficiently for money not to be an overwhelming issue.

Where is the crunch?

Before you decide to leave, consider the following statements about your job and employer:

  • I am able to grow and develop my skills on the job and through training.
  • I have opportunities for advancement or career progress leading to higher earnings.
  • My job makes good use of my talents and is challenging.
  • I receive the necessary training to do my job capably.
  • I can see the end results of my work.
  • I receive regular feedback on my performance.
  • Competition is constructive, and colleagues are not pitted against each other to perform.
  • The communication channels are clear and open. I know how to address problems, and I’m confident that they will be addressed fairly and objectively.
  • I’m confident that if I work hard, do my best, demonstrate commitment, and make meaningful contributions, I will be recognized and rewarded accordingly.

Yes or no?

The above details the most common reasons, through research by Forbes magazine, of why people leave their jobs. They should give you a pretty good idea of where your niggles lie. If you can’t argue with any of them, make sure you have a clear reason for moving. Possibly, your issue might be sorted out without taking that serious final step.

However, if you do find areas that you are not comfortable with, then make sure you research any potential new employer to make sure you don’t walk into exactly the same situation again.

Happy new year!

Once you have cleared this with yourself, and you understand your own expectations, good luck! The jobs market is dynamic at the moment, and hiring in 2014 is set to be competitive, especially for candidates in scarce skill areas. Find a good Recruitment Consultant who can give you industry and career advice, and who will support your endeavour.

Everyone deserves to be fulfilled in their working life. Go for it!

Happy Christmas everyone!

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Cath13If you haven’t noticed, its Christmas! 2013 has sped past in a blur and barely have we recovered from the events of last New Year’s Eve when Christmas seems to have crept up on us again.

At Christmas, I sometimes get a bit philosophical. Maybe it has to do with most of my family spending their Christmas on a hot beach in South Africa. Maybe it has to do with my own children growing up. This means that our Christmas is changing to accommodate different geographic locations, evolving relationships and generally, life and its changes. Maybe it has to do with all the yoga I do so regularly – Perhaps I am turning into a philosopher through head stands! All that blood in one’s head must have some eventual impact!

Whatever the reason for my philosophical turn: This year, I feel immensely grateful about Christmas. I am grateful for health, for people who love and care for me, and for finding out that life can be totally brilliant when you least expect it. I am grateful for so much that listing them here will be impossible.

Sometimes, we forget about the little things. Christmas can be so “BIG” that we overlook the really important little things while we try to live up to expectations. Those expectations are totally imposed on ourselves by ourselves. And then, when everything is over and the wrapping paper disposed of, we are left empty and disappointed because nothing can ever live up to those unrealistic expectations.

This year, I am taking Christmas easily. I am enjoying the twinkling of lights and the off-key sound of the choir at the carol concert. I am loving my Christmas jumper. I am enjoying the reactions of my loved ones to gifts that are, for a change, thougthful and useful, rather than expensive and impressive. I am taking time to taste the mulled wine, to feel “Jingle Bell Rock” tickling my toes, to enjoy every bite of rich celebration food. I will worry about the thousands of extra calories next year!

For this, I am most deeply grateful: Discovering that being mindful of the little things, make the big things so much easier.

And this is my Christmas wish for everyone I know: That you may be blessed with the time to enjoy, to be jolly, and to make the best of this festive season without judging or false expectations. Just have a simply wonderful, blessed and joyful Christmas!

Guide to job hunting: Get your Elevator Pitch sorted out!

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Image“Tell me about yourself ….” How often is this question asked in job interviews?!

It appears in most of the “Worst interview questions” lists. But simplistic, general and non-specific as it is, its is also a clever question used by the astute interviewer to assess a myriad of selection criteria. Especially when attention to detail, getting to the point quickly and focussing on what is important, appear high on the selection agenda.

This question is usually asked at the start of the interview. With this in mind, there are ways to prepare for it properly, so that you can get into the more detailed parts of the interview. Answering it well will make a good impression early on, but waffling and getting it wrong might shoot you in the foot totally, or set you back apace.

Getting an Elevator Pitch is a good way to approach this. Wikipedia defines an elevator pitch as a short summary used to quickly and simply define a product, service, or organization and its value proposition. The name “elevator pitch” reflects the idea that it should be possible to deliver the summary in the time span of an elevator ride, or approximately thirty seconds to two minutes. So you have now become your own product, with features and benefits relevant to the job specification!

There is also a strong likelihood that the follow-on questions will be based on the way you answer this question. So delivering a strong answer through your Elevator Pitch will certainly assist you in directing part of  the interview, or at least give you a chance to introduce yourself fully and mention some working strengths early on in the interview.

Where to go with this:

1. DO start with you:

Obviously! But keep it short. Don’t start way back when, just give very broad brush strokes about the personal stuff because this is a job interview, so you should focus on your working background. But it is good to give a warm introduction to yourself, to personalise the meeting and to display your well-rounded background.

2. Do talk about your education:

Where you studied, what, and why you chose those subjects in particular. Especially if you are an Engineer or if you are being interviewed for a technical job, this is highly relevant. Again, broad strokes are better than finite detail, just give them a flavour so that they can probe it later on.

3. Do mention your experience:

This is where you can direct the interview, to a point. This is really the detail that the interviewer is after and they might interject with questions. Invite questions by talking about your relevant skills or experience. Allow the first question to develop into the rest of the interview as it follow a natural conversational course.

What not to do:

1. Don’t talk about salary at this point. Wait for the question to be asked.

2. Don’t go into unnecessary detail. Value your interviewer’s time.

3. Don’t  waffle on. Use your elevator pitch and allow the interviewer to drive the conversation

Guide to Job Hunting: Getting the best from Recruitment Agencies

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PhoneRecently, I wrote a guest blog for Jobsite about how job applicants can get the best out of recruitment agency relationships. It attracted a whole lot of interest at the time, so I thought it might be useful to repost the content:

“When I started my recruitment career 24 years ago, I had a set of hanging files containing about 50 candidate records, I knew each one of them and it was my aim to place every single one. Now with the rise of internet based recruiting, agencies have thousands of candidates on their databases and this has contributed to a depersonalisation of the recruitment industry from the candidate’s perspective.

There are of course still many Recruitment Consultants out there who go the extra mile to build relationships and feel responsible for their candidates. However, there is always a lot of negative comment about the industry in this area. There seems to be a general mismatch between candidates’ expectations of the recruitment industry in general, and the reality of their day to day experience.

I hope the following points will assist with managing your expectations during your job search, and to give you more control:

1. Take responsibility for your own career

Agencies do not find people jobs, they search for potentially suitable candidates to fulfil their clients’ hiring expectations. The recruitment industry is hugely KPI and sales driven, so agencies are under pressure to perform. You will certainly still be able to find specialist consultants who are willing to give you personalised advice and assistance, but don’t set your expectations too high in terms of the success rates of your applications. Take charge of your own situation, give yourself the broadest possible exposure and don’t wait for them to call you – You will have to do most of the chasing!

2. Give yourself broad exposure

Register your CV with several agencies, and also post it onto the jobs boards like Jobsite. Make sure you have a lot of search words repeated in your CV as this will give you a higher ranking in the recruiter’s searches. You should also search for online jobs yourself, and if you see something you like send in your CV. Also Google the agency and give them a call to introduce yourself.  Recruitment really is a numbers game and you will be successful if you embrace this in your job search, whilst managing the frustrations of making many applications and only getting a small number of responses. Make it easy for agencies to reach you, with ALL your up to date contact information on your CV

3. Don’t apply for jobs that are not relevant

Read the job advertisement and if you don’t fulfil the criteria, don’t apply. If you just apply to every single job you see, you may eventually be seen as an unfocused candidate and could even be taken off the agency’s database. Keep track of the jobs you apply to via the web. Agencies often advertise the same role on different sites, so if you have already applied through one site, do not send your CV again through another. You will save yourself time, your expectations will be managed and you will not create the impression of being desperate.

4. Build relationships

Choose 3 or 4 agencies that operate in your specialist area, and make contact with an experienced consultant. It is better to deal with specialist agencies rather than generalists, as this reduces the level of risk in your application. Introduce yourself to the consultant, explain what you are looking for and ask their advice. Also check how frequently they want you to check in with them for updates, and then make it a habit to have a quick catch up without becoming a pest. Remember, they are targeted and don’t have time to speak with you unless there is a real reason. You want to make sure you are first in their thoughts and on their database for the right reasons!

5. Working in partnership gives you competitive advantage

If an agency calls you, make sure you call back quickly or answer immediately as timing is sometimes crucial. If they arrange an interview, confirm that you have received the details and call them back straight after the interview. Give them your feedback concisely and be specific about what happened in the interview. Give them time to contact the client for feedback before you chase too hard. This all helps to build a relationship with your recruiter and even if you don’t get offered the first role, if you do well in interviews they will certainly put you forward to the next suitable role. If you under perform at interview or commit some of the most common faux pas (E.g arriving late, not grooming appropriately, bad mouth your last employer) they will think hard before including you on a shortlist again.”

Guide to job hunting: How to shine at interviews Part 1

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fallen runnerIt’s crunch time – You have a job interview, so you are in the race! After weeks of sending CVs, following up, getting turned down, following up, speaking to people, leaving messages, following up, you finally have a date and time confirmed. The finish line is within sight and there, just on the other side, is the prize: That job you are after.

But have you ever watched a race, and see someone crash out just before they reach the finish line? What a disappointment!

Sadly, many interviewees fail at interview – Not because they don’t have the right skills or weak CVs, but because they don’t shine in the interview. A good CV can get you through the door, but if you don’t follow through in the interview you will fail. Like that runner in the race, who trained and worked hard to get there in the first place, the job isn’t done until after you cross the finish line.

Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to help yourself along and I will explore these in the next few blog posts.

1. Don’t get over excited!

Relax, think clearly and take some time to make sure exactly why you want this job, and why it’s worth fighting for. Desperation means going in half cocked. Instead, prepare thoroughly and make sure you are relaxed on the day, so that you can perform to your own best advantage. Nerves can be controlled. If you manage to keep yourself calm you are setting yourself up for a fabulous interview.

2. Be likable

Obvious? And critical. Making a great first impression and establishing a real connection is everything. Smile, make eye contact, be enthusiastic, sit forward in your chair, use the interviewer’s name…. Be yourself, but be the best version of yourself you possibly can. We all want to work with people we like and who like us. Use that basic fact to your advantage. Coming across as arrogant, conceited, difficult, or simply self-absorbed are likely to trip you up very quickly.
3. Don’t be desperate

Never start the interview by saying you want the job. Why? Because you simply don’t know yet. False commitment is, well, false. Instead…
4. Explore

Ask questions about what really matters to you. Focus on making sure the job is a good fit: Who you will work with, who you will report to, the scope of responsibilities, etc. Interviews should always be two-way, and interviewers respond positively to people as eager as they are to find the right fit. Plus there’s really no other way to know you want the job. And don’t be afraid to ask several questions. As long as you don’t take completely take over, the interviewer will enjoy and remember a nice change of pace. It’s a good idea to take a writing pad and pen, with pre-prepared questions but jot down new ones as you go along, and take notes for future reference.
5. Set a hook

A sad truth of interviewing is that later, the interviewer may not remember a tremendous amount about you — Especially if they’ve interviewed a number of candidates for the same job. Later you might be referred to as, “The guy with the shiny shoes,” or, “The woman with the funny accent,” or, “The chap who grew up in Wales.” These identifiers are known as hooks, and you can use them to your advantage. Hooks could be clothing (within reason), or outside interests, or unusual facts about your upbringing or career. Hooks make you memorable and create an anchor for interviewers to remember you by — and being memorable is everything. The best hooks are work related – For obvious reasons. If you can set something that will make you memorable and remind them of a particular skill, you will have gained a real advantage. An unusual or even humourous story that reflects on your strength areas, or a specific succesful outcome or achievement, will bring light relief to the interviewer and make you memorable for all the right reasons.

NEXT WEEK – Even more ideas about how to shine and be memorable at interview

I am not often at a loss for words … But is this a confllict of interest?

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conflict-of-interest

The recruitment industry in the UK is an interesting economic place. Totally unregulated, it is driven in the main by commercial demand and financial means, both by the corporate recruitment fraternity and the major large employers. The smaller agency players in the market have no choice but to go with the flow, if they want to remain competitive. And candidates have to try and find relationships with agencies they can trust if they want to progress their careers. Its a free market economy in the true sense of the word.

But there is one issue that wants me to leap onto my band wagon at the moment: Conflicts of interest in the business relationships recruitment agencies have with their clients.

I recently dived back into the automotive engineering recruitment pool, after spending some years on the periphery in the automotive aftermarket. What I am finding consistently as I begin to engage with past and potentially new clients, is a slightly disturbing situation that defies common sense in business.

The engineering industry in the UK is enjoying a resurgence after being severely hit by the recession, and the demand for scarce skilled candidates is at an all-time high. There is real competition for people with good qualifications, stable career paths and functional expertise in core technical and commodity areas. These candidates have a luxury of choice when it comes to job opportunities, and I have heard of bidding wars between competing potential employers to obtain and retain the most sought after engineering abilities.

You would think that, given the state of the economy and the skills shortage that has raged in this industry for years, employers who use agencies for recruitment would recognise the need to protect their resourcing and human capital strategies in the same way they would protect their technology or their intellectual property. After all, the people they employee are the keepers of these secrets.

They don’t.

And the reason I know they don’t, is that the same small handful of agencies seem to own Preferred Supplier Agreements with most of the major employers. Sometimes the same agency has PSA’s with directly competitive companies, in exactly the same geographical and technology  areas.

If I was an employer, this would worry me.

I am not an employer, and it worries me. How are these companies protecting the vested interest they have in their staff? Why are they allowing competition for their own staff through their current supply base? And why are they paying a (highly negotiated, remember its a PSA) fee for the pleasure?

Not much leaves me speechless. But I am certainly at a loss for more words regarding this subject. For now, that is!

 

 

 

 

 

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