Research People? Why Do That?

So you’re out of work and looking for a new job. Perhaps not out of work, but definitely in the market for a fresh start with a new employer. No wait, in your case you’re happy with the company you work for, just need a change in positions and departments. In any of the above, you’d best conduct a little research.

Now just as there are a large number of people who are looking for employment, there is a large variance in how those people go about job searching and conducting research. Let’s be honest shall we? Some people see a job posted, read the requirements and the, “How to apply” section and fire off their resume; that’s it. No research at all – can’t be bothered.

There are also those who conduct no research at all and also just fire off their resume to an employer, but the reason they don’t research is because they lack the skills and the know-how. These people might be convinced to do a little bit of research if shown how and why, but without that being imparted to them, they cannot be expected to just figure it out on their own.

Then of course you have the majority of people who know the importance of conducting research when job searching, but the message they have heard has been limited to looking into the company. So they browse websites and get the information the company wants casual researchers to hear and see. The messages are scripted, fine-tuned, marketed for maximum impact and your new knowledge is entirely what the company pushes out. So you’ll get their vision, ideology, goals, mission statements and the like.

One thing all companies share is they employee people; no matter its size, sector or location. Imagine you could have a conversation with one or more of the people who work for the company you are interested in applying to. Imagine too that the person you were chatting with is currently doing the work you yourself are interested in, or possibly supervises and hires the people doing the work you’d like to do.

What might you get out such a conversation? For starters, remove the content of the conversation. Surely you’d get a sense of the person’s happiness in their work, satisfaction with the company and from their body language you’d pick up on the stress they are under or the impact of the job and the atmosphere of the facility is having on them. Now add the content and details of what they share with you and you’ll be getting much more valuable information than you’d ever get out of just looking at a job posting on a computer screen or job board.

So here’s a question for you. Do you enjoy talking about your kids? Does that sense of pride come out? And if you don’t have children how about something else you are proud of? For many employers and employees, they too like to talk about the things they are proud of – the company they work for or own, the work they do. So it could be that while you are worrying about wasting someone’s time, those people might just be more than happy to talk about their jobs, the work they do, their accomplishments and yes even their challenges.

Now if you could have this kind of information prior to applying for a job or being interviewed, can you see the advantage you would have over another applicant who only read the information on the website or did zero research?

Some websites give you names and titles of their key employees that head up departments plus their personal contact information. Some social media platforms are great sources of information on the people that work there such as LinkedIn. On LinkedIn you can search a company and the people who work there. Filter your search by location and in a few simple clicks you’ve got your own directory of the people you might be wise to talk with to get some personal insights into the company and the position you are applying to.

Now surely they won’t talk to you the doubter in you says. After all, they can’t speak to 300 people who are applying for this job? You’re right of course. However of 300 applicants, most just apply without initiating any contact for a chat. Only a few actually take the initiative to do a little digging and have the assertiveness to call and request 15-20 minutes time to chat.

Now this isn’t anything new. Long before computers and technology there was the adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” People have always been advised to make contact, initiate a conversation (information gathering interview). With the rise of social media, tweeting, texting, chatting, emailing, skyping, posting, etc., the irony is that many of those same people lack the interpersonal skills to actually communicate with people using their voice and their ears!

What have you got to lose by initiating contact, asking to meet or talk for 15 minutes? If they say no, you thank them and try someone else. The potential return is you get someone who is happy to pass on their enthusiasm for their work and their employer and maybe the ups and downs of the job from their point of view.

When you apply or get interviewed, your research will show your real interest – or lack of it for the job you are applying to.




Enjoy The Team Meetings?

Do you work with other employees in a setting where team meetings are the norm? If you do, have you thought about their purpose and checked to see with the other participants if their understanding is similar or differs from your own?

Like many things in the workplace, you can often determine how someone weights the relevance of team meetings by the look on their face when they learn one is called. I’ve never worked with anyone who gleefully started clapping their hands and burst into chants of, “Yippee!” upon hearing of one being called. However, I have worked with people who did look forward to them and conversely those who did not.

Team meetings are very useful when attempting to pass on new information to the group as a whole; when Management wants to make sure that everyone hears an announcement simultaneously and it’s a good way to check on everyone’s comprehension of the message should clarification be needed by one or more people. Getting group buy-in is another important reason for meeting, where an entire group of people are told they will be counted on to make a unified change in procedures and practices.

A group meeting also provides employees who work together the opportunity to raise issues or problems that impede their ability to work at their best. Sometimes those issues center on external pressures such as a service delivery team needing more support from their IT staff and meeting together to voice their frustrations so they can make a list of items needed to present to their IT personnel afterward.

It can also be that a problem or issue is in-house where not everyone is pulling in the same direction and whether out of defiance or ignorance, one or more members of the team isn’t apparently on board with something previously agreed upon. While it’s not the place for ganging up on someone you have to work with later, it could be that a discussion of procedures brings to light different understandings of how some members on the team are conducting business. Perhaps a team airing of an issue is all it takes to inform and clarify bringing about that necessary change.

Closed door team meetings are also good brain-storming and strategy sharing forums. With some advanced notice of an item under discussion, people can think independently and then share those thoughts openly with their peers. Such get-togethers can energize the team, give people new ideas to mull over, see other team members in ways they previously didn’t. Someone might volunteer a thought or contribute an idea that no one else knew them capable of; and it just might be that the idea sparks new thought processes in other team members, and the group comes up with a better idea than any one person would have arrived at on their own.

Guest speakers that address a team are another thing some Managers do to infuse some change into the team meeting. The presence of someone outside the team might be a chance for the team to learn something new from another community member. It is often preferable that the guest not attend the entire meeting as the team may have other issues they want to discuss being more of a private nature, and this also respects the time of the guest.

Confrontation among group members is normal in some work environments at team meetings, and in other work environments team meetings is definitely not the place to call someone out who has a differing view or isn’t moving in the same direction as the ret of the team members. Ensuring that all group members understand and follow whatever the protocols are in your workplace is necessary and strongly advisable. When someone joins the team from outside the organization, people shouldn’t assume that the new team member knows the rules for engagement of the new place. They may have come from a very different environment.

Some staff don’t look forward to team meetings. Could be they view them as time taken away from the real work they have to get done. When someone else brings up a point or contributes an idea, they might roll their eyes, give a knowing look to another employee and show exasperation because as a seasoned worker they know that idea is flawed. Some staff also withdraw, sitting silently at team meetings not wanting to contribute much but just listening, while others monopolize the discussion, always have something to add or contribute.

A good practice much of the time is to ask those needing to attend if they have any items they feel appropriate to raise at the meeting, and then to share the agenda with people so they can see in advance what is planning on being discussed. If any items require presentations, data or information be brought along, members need to similarly be advised in order to come prepared at their best.

Meetings which are not helpful are the ones which are called for no other reason than to get together. There may be no agenda items of real importance, and the meeting is called in order to say a meeting took place. Meeting for the sake of meeting can have benefits, but a loose agenda with nothing to really meet and discuss can do more damage than good.

Get onboard and be positive about sitting down with your team members.




Finding A Job Is Like Finding A Spouse

One of my regular readers made the comment that she would be cautious about advising others to try a variety of jobs for fear of being branded a, “Job Hopper”. This was in response to my belief that trying out a variety of jobs when you are young is a good idea in order to get experience and find what you like and dislike.

It strikes me that there is a strong similarity between trying to find the job or career that is perfect for you and trying to find the perfect person to go through life with. While I agree that many people go through life happily single, most have dated or contemplated our perfect partner. Look at finding a job and a partner, and see if you too don’t see the similarities.

For starters, I imagine it’s rare these days for a teenager in the developed world to be advised to only date the person they will spend the rest of their life with. While that happens, more often than not people go through a number of relationships. When we hit our 20’s, we may be more careful, and even if we are still experimenting, we know those we date might be looking for longer term commitments – or a life-long commitment. You might have friends or family trying to help you find the right partner too. They’ll look for people who will meet your needs and be a good fit; the criteria for that being whatever they have learned is important to you in a partner.

So now is finding the perfect job much different? Well, it’s possible but hardly likely you will be advised that your first job as a young teenager is where you will work until you retire. You’d be wise to try different jobs, think about what makes you happy learn some skills, discover new jobs. Then as you get into your 20’s there comes a little more self-imposed pressure on some people to narrow down all the jobs in the world to a few, and eventually determine a career path.

You see defining a career path or field in which to work is hard unless you’ve done a little research, perhaps talked to others doing the jobs now, or possibly even tried the jobs as a coop student or intern. A job that seems like a fit might turn out to have aspects to it that don’t sit well with you after taking it, and you might quit that job and try another. Rather than job-hopping, this process helps you learn about yourself more than it does the jobs themselves. You’re gaining knowledge and perspective that future employers are going to benefit from.

In my own case, I was in my 40’s when I started being an Employment Counsellor. This job is an ideal fit for someone with my background. However, one reason I’m an effective Employment Counsellor is because of the path I took to get here. I’ve worked in Retail, Recreation, Social Services, Municipal and Provincial Government, been self-employed, worked in the not-for-profit and profit sectors too. All those experiences help me when speaking with others because I can look at things from a wider view – often the view of the person I’m helping.

Had I only come right from school in my early 20’s and taken the same job I have now, I may or may not be effective, but I’d have some growing to do as an individual to gain the perspective and insights I have now. I obtained those insights from doing other things.

And finding the perfect partner? You could get lucky like my wife and find your life-long spouse with the first person you date – it does happen. Or you could as in my case, date a few different people in your youth and then find the right person. Either way, don’t you hope that both your job and your partner bring you happiness, and that you find yourself invested in both?

Now some would carry this analogy further and say that you can lose interest in both a job and a partner and need a change. I suppose that’s true – however I’d counter that I’ve never agreed to stay together for better or worse with an employer forever! Fortunately, I’ve just celebrated 32 years of marriage in August, but 32 years in one job is something I’ll never accomplish.

My point here is really that zeroing in on the right job has some similarities to finding your partner. Is it exactly the same process? No. Should you fall in love with someone and go all goofy with your heart leaping with every phone call, your every waking moment thinking of them – that’s not likely to be your work experience. That being said, if you are waiting after being interviewed to get THE CALL, you can be just as excited and then jump around the room when you get offered the job. So maybe it is similar.

Consider auditioning different jobs as learning experiences. Sure you don’t want a reputation as a Job Hopper, but you don’t have to sit and wait for the perfect job to fall in your lap either. After all, employers want experience don’t they? How are you going to be ready with your experience if you don’t do other things in the meantime?

Position yourself to be ready when the right person and/or job, comes along!




How Do I Find The Right Job?

More and more unemployed people I listen to are telling me something similar. They are stuck looking for work because they are stuck trying to find that one job out of all the jobs in the world that they will absolutely love. As they haven’t felt any real passion for any one job to date, they are struggling trying to find the job that will bring this to them; in short, they’ve stalled.

Is there a mistake however in believing that for every person on the planet there is only one kind of work that is the perfect job? Do we all even need to have a, ‘perfect’ job in the first place? How about we notch it down a tad and have a very good job or even lower so we can feel we have a good job? Would you be okay with a good job? I bet many would settle on that.

This begs the question, “What is a good job?” To answer this, it’s necessary to understand that you’ll get a different answer depending on who you ask. Some (but not all) of the factors that make a job a good job might include: stability, security, short commute, supportive environment, benefits, safe working conditions, enough income to pay the bills and still have money for the fun things in life, opportunities for advancement. Any one of the above however will never be agreed upon by everyone you ask.

Truth be told it doesn’t matter if we come to an agreement or not on what makes a job a good job. What matters is what YOU think makes a job a good job if YOU are the person looking for one. In other words, were I working with you, I’d be making a poor assumption if I imposed my own idea of what makes up a desirable job on you.

While you might be the kind of person who values finding a permanent full-time job, of greater value to someone else is finding a job that is a one-year contract. They don’t like being tied down to a job forever. They like going from job to job, employer to employer, contract to contract. They enjoy meeting new people, the variety of work, being appreciated for filling in holes in an organization during maternity or paternity leaves. These kind of people perform better over the short-term and a year is the perfect length of a job before they move on. Temporary agencies are a welcomed source of employment for them and they love it.

I will say one mistake I think many people do make is choosing to stay unemployed until they become aware of that one job that will be perfect for them. If you are reasoning that it doesn’t make sense to work in a job you aren’t entirely passionate about because it will take away the time you could be spending looking for that one perfect job, that to me is an error.

The most obvious reason this is a mistake in judgement is that if you prolong your unemployment by choice, you will risk developing some poor behaviours and your lack of work history will not impress that employer you eventually want to work for. Any hope of developing transferable skills you could take from one job to your dream job can’t occur.

A lot of people only become aware of the many kinds of jobs out there through the contacts they make in their work. Most people in fact learn of the different kinds of jobs through someone who they meet at work. If you have co-workers, supervisors, meet people in other departments of a company while training, or network with staff of other companies, that’s a lot of people who might casually speak of other people in other jobs and one of those might be what you would really enjoy. But you have to be working to have this wealth of contacts. You won’t run into these people and learn of these other jobs isolating yourself from the workforce.

There is some merit in working at a variety of jobs. Take a job, determine what you like and don’t like about it. Take another job, do the same. Eventually you learn about yourself and what for you personally is attractive and what you want to avoid. You’ll also learn skills along the way in every job you take. These skills are going to make you more attractive to employers.

There are many jobs I believe that will make you happy and which you’ll enjoy doing, not just one. Instead of fretting over making a bad choice and becoming paralyzed, best to work at a job with a short-term vision, learn some new skills, brush up on your existing skills, meet and listen to the people there about what they do and learn of other jobs. You can still keep your eyes and ears open to other possibilities.

I only took my current job as an Employment Counsellor in my late 40’s. I didn’t even know such a job existed quite frankly until I was working for my current employer in another role. Had I not taken that job, I wouldn’t have discovered this job.

Don’t fret about what you want to do with the rest of your life; what do you want to do with the next year or two?





Isn’t It Time You Got Going?

I am confident that a number of you reading this have one or more things in your life that you know you should be doing, but you’ve been putting it off. In fact, some of you – some of us – have quite a few small things that have been relegated to the ‘someday I should get around to doing that’ file. The more little things you put off, the easier it is to put off the big things – the pattern being already established.

I was listening to a few people having a conversation recently, the topic centering on politics. There was a general agreement that politicians know what they should be doing but choose not to act, instead burying their heads and not making the tough decisions needed. That discussion had me wondering just how different; or how similar politicians are then to you and me. After all, don’t you put off making the tough decisions – the major ones, just saying what you need to say to others to satisfy them temporarily but taking no real action on some of the things you yourself know you should be doing?

Yes, I see this in myself and I see it in you, (you being the people I either speak to, observe or have online conversations with around the globe. People will either tell me they’ve putting off making real change in their lives for years when they know action was probably the one thing they needed to do but didn’t, or they tell me after they are well on their way that they knew they should have started sooner.

So why do we procrastinate? Isn’t it time you and I got going? For some it’s losing weight, finding a job, asking someone to marry us, starting that business, buying that first home etc. You can replace any of the above with whatever you’ve been putting off; making peace with your family, forgiving someone or applying for that promotion.

Here’s reality: your time is finite. No matter how many minutes, months, weeks or years you have left to live, whatever your life expectancy is, it’s becoming less with each passing day. So with each passing day, the time you have left to enjoy the benefits of whatever you’ve been putting off gets shorter, and the length of time you live wishing, wanting and regretting gets longer. Why live regretting when you could live celebrating?

So are you worth it? ‘It’ being the work it’s going to take of course. After all, if you’ve been putting off actually doing whatever it’s going to take to obtain your desired goal, it’s a safe assumption that the effort required is what’s been holding you back. Up to now you must have believed, (and maybe still do) that the goal while nice hasn’t been worth the effort and that your current circumstances are preferable to the effort it would take to change your life for the better.

So let’s look at a career or a job as an example. If you have a job or career that you believe would be satisfying and improve your current circumstances, sit and imagine yourself in that role. Do it now for a moment. See yourself in that job, and see yourself successful. See yourself accomplishing things; making others lives better, bringing in profits, improving your own life, whatever you wish. As you imagine this job or life, do you find yourself picturing yourself with a smile and being happy? Now are you generally smiling and happy in your present life as you are?

We do have the power to change our circumstances. It is knowing we have this power to choose and act on our choices that causes us to regret action not taken, while others are thankful they did.

The argument for getting moving is pretty simple. If you didn’t really want something, you wouldn’t be thinking of it constantly and it wouldn’t be causing you any worry or longing. You also wouldn’t be experiencing that mental conflict; wanting it but doing little or nothing every day to make ‘it’ happen, whatever ‘it’ is. If you acted and took steps to achieve this goal, the mental conflict and turmoil would diminish and some pride in doing something about your longing would replace it. Feeling good is better than feeling bad, and you’d feel good moving towards your goal and waking up each day knowing you were closer to it than yesterday.

What you want takes work and you’re going to have to motivate yourself to get going and keep going if what you really want is going to come about. No one is just going to show up at your home without some effort on your part and hand you your Degree, make 40 pounds disappear, hand you shiny house keys or give you an employment contract to sign without work on your part.

It boils down to this: you can choose the status quo and live your life as it is being content (which you aren’t) regretting not having done something. Or you can make a decision to shake off inactivity and DO THE THINGS that move you in the direction of what you want. You make a choice each day and while you get the chance each morning you rise to choose between the two, no one knows how many mornings you have left!

Isn’t it time to get going?

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False Starts, Decisions And Destiny

Remember back when you looked at the calendar and promised yourself, (and maybe others) that come September you’d start looking for a job seriously? Well its August 26th today and my question therefore is how much are the promises you make worth?

Maybe your rationale was that your children would be back in school come September and you’d have this big block of free time during the day to seriously look for work. Maybe you just thought that spending your summer doing your own thing was a priority. Is it possible however that you really just didn’t want to look for work and saying you’d start in September delayed the inevitable and now here you are no more motivated to look for work than you were before but September is looming?

Look, it’s time to stop making promises with your fingers crossed behind your back. The only person you’re fooling is yourself. The longer you wait and procrastinate on the decision to get serious and look for a job the harder it will be to get going. Stop being naïve. If you really aren’t motivated to even look for a job, how on earth do you think you’re going to hold down a job – ANY job? Jobs come with responsibilities and you’ll be depended upon to be at work on time day in and day out. Self-discipline my reader.

Now the good thing about being human is we have this wonderful power called decision-making. We make decisions every day and those decisions can either benefit us or cause us to wish we had made an alternative choice. Looking for a job or putting it off is one such decision and there are consequences either way. You could end up with work and the income, rise in self-esteem, sense of purpose it brings. Or you could end up looking at the clock before you go to bed and saying, “Maybe I’ll start tomorrow.”

While every single day is a fresh start, a chance to make something happen that we didn’t the day before, if you rack up too many days of inactivity and put off too many days without taking any action, it becomes increasingly difficult to change your routine with any real momentum which you’ll need to succeed. Most of us would agree that an unemployed person who hasn’t been seriously looking for work for some time is likely to go through what is referred to as false starts, despite their intent to now look hard for a job.

So what’s a false start? A false start is when someone makes early attempts to break a pattern of experienced behaviour. The person might say they are ready to start looking for work, but because that in itself is work, the person is highly likely to start with good intentions, then stop just as quick when it gets tough. So even making a resume might be so frustrating they start and pack it in after an hour. Then they start again and do a bit more than they did before but then quit a second time.

This, ‘start-stop-start again stop- start again” process is full of false starts. Each attempt however is an indication that the real authentic start is getting closer. Think of it like trying to start a motorcycle where it takes a few tries, or how likely it would be to start a car that’s been under wraps for a couple of years. Not likely it just purrs to live on the first turn of the key.

If you really want to make a change and get a job, it cannot happen unless you yourself want it bad enough that the wanting of the job is more than the desire to give up. So if you’d really rather be at home on the couch, playing with your young kids, a video game or doing nothing in particular, you’re chances of just switching on the, “Get a job” mentality are pretty low because you don’t want it bad enough. It just isn’t the priority for you that it is for other people.

Yesterday a 21 year-old woman came in all excited and told me she just got a job with a fast-food chain. Impressive? Perhaps not, until you stop and think about where she’s been, what her history was before getting that job. Someone overhearing her excitement told me when she left that he was mad just listening to her get so excited over a minimum wage job in fast-food. I suspected he was jealous of her innocence in being excited where he felt jaded, jealous of her employment but more than anything jealous of her optimism. She was on her way to work and eventual financial independence and he was sitting just watching it happen to someone other than himself.

So you have the gift of today to do something different from yesterday again. How fortunate for you! At the end of today, will you have done something that tomorrow you’ll be thankful you did, or will you start tomorrow kicking yourself for having wasted this day? You choose. Your destiny (sounds dramatic doesn’t it) is in no one’s hands other than your own – and every sports or super hero always dreams of having the turning point in their hands so they can change the outcome. Seize the day – TODAY – as your chance to get going.

Be The One

Have you had the benefit of someone in your past who really made a positive impression on you? Someone perhaps who you admired because of how they went about their life, the actions they took, the things they believed in? And furthermore is it possible that one of the things they believed in was you?

Some people you know never get that experience. They don’t have the benefit of nurturing parents who create a caring and loving home and pass along the early lessons which are the building blocks for positive growth. No instead of placing value on inclusion, giving back, leading by example, sharing and education, they teach looking out for number one, taking what you can get and the school of hard knocks.

To be fair, most parents do believe they love their kids. Some are overwhelmed with the responsibility, lack the skills required to really be positive role models because they never had the benefit of positive ones in their own upbringing. They pass on what they know because it’s all they know, and they lack the resources to learn anything different.

By the time many young people are conscious of themselves, society at large and where they fit in, they’ve already been largely identified as having potential or not, from good homes or not, and the labels for good or not are being affixed. The future for such a young person is largely influenced by which social class they are born into, their location of birth, the opportunities they are afforded and their genetics.

One key factor as well in affecting someone’s potential is the appearance in their lives of someone who truly cares enough to provide some ethical or moral guidance; often unlooked-for and unexpected. Now it could be a teacher, a big brother or sister, a neighbour, shopkeeper, social services agency worker or, well…maybe even you or I.

In the case of a formal arrangement, there are groups who pair up young children and teens who could use some positive role models with older adults. These groups hold events, encourage interaction on a regular basis and hope that just time together will influence for good the young developing child who could use the benefit of a nurturing guide.

Formal arrangements are fine for some. Often; more often actually, we are influenced by those around us who we interact with on a more random basis. The teacher whose class we find ourselves in might be such a person. Seeing something of interest and value in a child who can’t see it themselves yet, and providing that same child with the opportunity to explore and experiment with whatever talents they might have in small doses without trampling and squashing out that gift.

What though of you and I? After all, maybe in the work we do and the lives we interact with because of it, there are opportunities each day to connect with people and possibly lay some foundation for a relationship. Maybe it starts off with a few positive interactions, casual offers of help or even just being available. Some people who have had the benefit of a mentor or guide can think back very clearly to their very first encounter with the person, while the mentor has no recollection of that initial contact whatsoever.

This difference is largely attributed to the fact that many people are so use to being passed over, talked down to – if talked to at all or being ignored, that it is a memorable event when someone engages with them who doesn’t necessarily want something in return. How significant it is then to constantly be aware of the potential you and I have each day to influence for good or not, and to look for the opportunities of engagement.

Now I myself know the faces of those whom I’ve had the benefit of positive engagement with in the past. Often I wasn’t aware enough in the time I had with them to appreciate or thank them. As we grow and age, people come in and out of our lives, sometimes reappear and sometimes leave for good. It’s not essential or required that we hunt them down years later and thank them when we realize their impact on us. In fact, many of them know instinctively at the time they are influencers of good and that’s enough for them. That’s part of their make up.

You and I though? We don’t need a formal education or a fancy job title. We don’t have to have a big pay cheque or a shiny new car. To be an influence of good, to be thought of later as ‘the one’ who believed in me when nobody else did; who saw something in me I couldn’t see myself – to be that person, could you do that?

I believe we have these chance encounters on a daily basis. Maybe it’s sitting down distraction-free and really just listening to someone with your full attention. In a digital age with technology at our fingertips, that may be shocking to some people just to have someone give them 100% of their attention.

Maybe too it’s just saying, “Sure”, when someone says, “Have you got a few minutes?” or just going about your own work with a moral compass as your guide. Who knows? Listen to others this week and look for the opportunities. See if you don’t find yourself in a situation where yes, you in fact, might just be the one.