Get Out Of Your Way!

A lot of people are working hard to get ahead; whatever ‘get ahead’ means to the individual concerned. They have a goal, want something of better quality, bigger, more expensive, or they want time for example. All these people are as I say, working hard to eventually realize whatever it is they are striving to get. If and when they do get it, many will be content while others will want more yet again.

Wanting to get ahead isn’t a dirty thing; in fact, having goals to aspire to is a healthy enterprise to engage in. Goals keep us focused on what’s important to us and keep us from being distracted along the way to realizing our dreams. Yes, even the pursuit of more income isn’t necessarily a bad thing; after all wealth provides us with the means to live life more comfortably, to see things and see people that we may have become geographically distanced from. Wealth can also be used to make the lives of those around us better too, so don’t beat down the person seeking to accumulate wealth.

One of the things successful people do is to correctly identify the barriers to success for them as individuals, and then act in ways to eliminate those same barriers. When barriers are eliminated, progress happens. If you are the kind of person who has had the same dreams or goals for what seems like forever and you are no closer today to those goals of yours, it’s likely that you haven’t yet identified your own barriers or you have failed to act in ways that will put those barriers behind you.

The odd thing I have found is that when I listen to some people talk about their barriers, they tend to deflect the responsibility they have for holding onto those same barriers. Allow me to explain via an example. I know a fellow who has wanted a certain career for decades. It’s his life-long dream he says, and the irony is that from the day I met him, he’s been wanting the same dream but he’s no closer to it.

The big barrier he always laments is the cost of the education required to obtain the certification in order to work in the field. The problem I’ve explained isn’t the actual cost of the education at all but rather his reluctance to incur the financial costs of going to school and getting the education and the certificate that comes with it.

What he sees as debt, I see as a personal investment in himself. He is in fact, his own worst barrier to achieving his goal. Intellectually he knows what it requires to eliminate the barrier however, he’s just standing in his own way and for whatever reason will not assume the cost; which is costing him the realization of his goal.

Another example? Suppose you have a criminal record. That record is prohibiting employers from giving you a chance and hiring you. Your lack of success in the job search for meaningful employment is costing you much more everyday than the actual crime itself. With that criminal record, you’re losing out on a decent job that would increase your self-esteem, self-worth and financial income.

The solution is to take the steps necessary to obtain a criminal pardon, yet because the process takes years and several hundreds of dollars, it seems insurmountable. It’s just so frustrating a process, why even bother? The consequence of this thinking however is that 5 years down the road when the pardon would have been received had you acted today, you’ll still be lamenting the criminal record hanging over your head and the lost jobs you really want.

Look, the solution isn’t overly complicated but it does take resolve. You have to get out of your own way; take responsibility for making your own dreams and goals a reality. If you are sincerely oblivious to your barriers or the possible solutions to your barriers, find out. That gives you knowledge, and knowledge is power.

Armed with the knowledge of what needs to be done to work on and eliminate your personal barriers, the next step is to put plans into action that will result in the elimination of those barriers. The process of acting is empowering. When you actually act, you act with resolve and confidence. You can speak with your head up when people question what you are doing and explain how what you are doing right now is part of a larger plan you have for yourself.

Too many good people fail to act. They have dreams of course as do we all, but those dreams torment them as they stand as reminders of what will never be but could have been – had they only acted.

If education is your barrier, go back to school. If a driver’s licence is your barrier, get over your fear of driving and get your licence because your need for the licence has to outweigh your fears. If your barrier is being fired from your last job, get another one or volunteer so this job becomes your last job. Whatever your barriers, there are solutions.

It’s far too convenient and easy to look at things and claim your lack of success is because of the actions of others, your past, your limitations etc. Take ownership for your future and responsibility for making it happen; in short, get out of your own way!

Job Searching And Company Reserach

The curious thing about researching a potential employer is how poorly most of us do it. I’ve been as guilty of this in the past as I suspect you may have been yourself; but in today’s job market, it’s downright critical.

When it comes to applying for work with a company, there is a wide spectrum of methods people employ to find out what an employer is all about. Many people do absolutely no research whatsoever. I have witnessed these people go up to a job board, take a job down and dash off an email attaching their resume; replace the job posting back on the board and continue to scour the board looking for another job to repeat the process.

Such people do no research on the employer; they don’t even keep track of the jobs or the employers to which they’ve applied. I overheard the phone calls they occasionally get from some employers where the job seeker at some point has to ask the person at the other end what company they represent and what the job is they are referencing. Having to ask this of the person on the phone sure doesn’t establish a great impression.

I’ve noticed in some recent job postings that companies are including a short snapshot of themselves; perhaps a paragraph or two, and they include a hyperlink to their website where the job seeker can learn more. If an organization goes so far as to include this, “learn more about us” feature, applicants would be wise to start their research with a click of the mouse.

How you look at researching an employer says a lot about whether or not you see any value in it and the extent to which you attach value will determine how much or how little research you actually do. While some do no research at all, others do plan to do a little bit of research, but only after a company actually grants them an interview. After all they reason, why put a lot of precious energy into researching a company who may not even call me in? And so they justify not doing much if any research at the application stage. What happens though if the employer calls and there’s a micro-interview right on the phone? No time to do research at that point. A phone interview is under way; the result of which will determine if a face-to-face interview is granted.

Look, have you ever taken a job and after only a few days you realize something isn’t to your liking? All the excitement of having a new job is replaced with “what have I got myself into?” You usually end up either quitting or getting dismissed because the fit is a bad one; even though you have the skills and qualifications to do the work itself. You can avoid this waste of their time and yours by doing some research into the company. Why I’ve even seen people accept an interview and then not bother to show up for the interview at all because – surprise, surprise, the company is located too far away from where they live and they refuse to do a long commute. “I had no idea they were at the other end of the city!” and I’m just thinking, “Really? You didn’t know?”

So here are some things you should look into for every job you apply to:

  1. Where it’s located?
  2. How you’d get there?
  3. The hours of work
  4. Salary range
  5. What you’d actually do
  6. Product(s) or service(s) produced
  7. Who products and services are made for
  8. Company name and reputation

Now I’ve kept this list short so that those of you who frown at the idea of any research as a lot of effort don’t feel overwhelmed.  The 8 items above are usually easy to find out, and you can if you want make up a chart on paper or using MS Excel to capture this information for each job you apply to. This makes it easy to just add the information to pre-set columns instead of trying to remember each time what you should be finding out.

Knowing where you’d actually be expected to work could help you out big time. While the interview might be at the head office across the city, maybe the job itself is only a 10 minute walk from your front door. Looking into how you’d get to work might be impacted by your hours of work. Public transit doesn’t run 24/7 so if you rely on it, will you be able to get to and from work if the job is shift work? Oh and salary? You don’t want to take a job and learn you can’t live off the wages they pay.

Finding out what you’d actually do, instead presuming what you’d do could save you from feeling deceived or misled. Knowing the end-product or services, who their designed for and the company’s reputation is important so that you know what you’re getting into and with whom. If the company doesn’t pay employees on time or turnovers are frequent, you’ll appreciate knowing this so you can determine how much you’ll risk working for them.

If you don’t know how to go about doing research, ask the people who work where you find these job boards. They’ll either know or direct you to people who do.

Job Searching? Make Some Noise

So you’re looking for work. Aside from yourself and your immediate family, who knows you’re back on the job search hunt? Are you going about things keeping your search to yourself or have you let everyone know?

Think about companies that market a product. If no one hears about the product, they can’t look for it because they haven’t the awareness that it even exists. A good marketing campaign would make sure that product is highly visible, you’d be reminded of it whenever you watched television, picked up a newspaper or went online. You’d hear the buzz from co-workers, friends and family, and then you’d get interested and want to know what all the fuss is about. In short, you’d check it out.

The way you go about marketing yourself as looking for work isn’t really any different. Therefore you’ve got to go about looking for a job using an approach that may come as unnatural to you; telling people rather than concealing your job search.

The more people who know you’re looking; and the more they know what it is you’re looking for, the better. Until you get that big break – that inside information on the job you end up getting – you don’t know where its going to come from. It could be that someone you know is in a position to hire you of course, but it’s far more likely that someone you know, knows someone else who provides the lead or gives you an interview.

Now I don’t suggest you have your resume ready for the paper boy, you leave one with the gas station attendant or leave one with your tip at the local fast food restaurant. Those people might know somebody who could help you but the odds are they don’t. That kind of broadcasting doesn’t usually end up being productive and it takes a lot of energy.

As a first step, you should know what you’re after. You need to know in order to communicate clearly with others what opportunities you are open to. The next step is to start with the people you know best in the workforce. If the job you’re searching for is in your current industry, start leveraging your contacts. When you make your connections aware that you’re back on the market, at least some of them will keep you in mind when they hear about openings. Some will even go so far as to check their own internal postings to see if there are any opportunities you might be suited for.

Sharing your CV or resume with them as a tool of reference gives them a reminder of what you’ve done, what you’re looking for and what your qualifications are. Touching base with these people on a regular basis keeps you at the forefront of their mind and could be the difference between hearing about an opportunity before the deadline passes, or hearing about it 3 weeks later at a backyard BBQ because they forgot about you.

Maybe you’re a coy one though. You know, you’re already working and don’t want to broadcast your plans to leave for some other opportunity in case you lose the job you’ve already got. Okay, let’s not tell your immediate co-workers or boss about your plans just yet. Still, there are people you can market yourself to outside your office mates.

It depends of course on what you’re after. Are you wanting to leave the department but not the organization, or are you after a completely fresh start with a different organization altogether? You may not even be searching in the same field if you’re burnt out, seeking a physical change or maybe you’re going to make a geographical move to another city.

Just as a marketing department wants to create a buzz about their product, you want to create a buzz about you. The best way to do that is to market your benefits to those in a position to buy. Think about others needs; their challenges and their goals. What is they are trying to accomplish or what problem are they trying to resolve? Do your skills, experience and qualifications put you in a place to answer their needs?

Now you arrive at the pitch. On the radio or television it’s a pretty polished ad; designed to hit a target audience with a specific message: buy this product and you’ll benefit because it does this or that, saving you time, money etc. Your personal pitch should likewise be targeted to a specific audience. If you hire me, I’ve got the background in this and that which coupled with these skills will result in me solving this problem or addressing this need. In other words, hire me and you benefit. If you can’t figure out exactly what the benefit of hiring you would be, it’s highly probable they won’t figure it out either.

Some job seekers actually have a get-together at their home and make a splashy announcement about their job search. You could do this, but it’s more probable you’ll notify people using a more conservative approach. It’s up to you of course, but I think the worse thing you can do when you’re looking is keep your search 100% private. Ironically, many job seekers do exactly this.

Networking is the key to a successful job search; not mandatory, but it definitely spreads the work and gets others involved in your job search.


Job Interviews And Facial Expressions

When we flex our facial muscles in various combinations and degrees, we produce different expressions, and it’s these expressions that give those who see us clues as to our emotional state. Facial gestures and expressions can communicate our sense of well-being, our mood and personality.

It’s these facial expressions that make us approachable or send the message we’d rather be left alone. We can communicate happiness, excitement, fear, loathing, pride, acceptance, ignorance and any number of other feelings just by changing our facial expressions; sometimes with small subtle movements or conversely with wild animated exaggerations.

This much you probably know already. How aware are you however of your facial expression at any one time? Most of us are pretty good at putting on the right face at the right moment. We get some bad news for example but put on a courageous face when the kids enter the room because we don’t want them to pick up that something is wrong. Or we roll our eyes when someone is boring us with a story but the second they make contact with us again we snap back to a look that communicates deep interest.

You can look at any number of faces and more often than not approximate the right mood or message that person is communicating without them saying a single word. Whether its pain, sadness, despair, anger, joy, elation, surprise, gratitude or longing, we can identify the message because facial expressions are universal.

When you’re looking for work, it is as you know a pretty frustrating experience much of the time. The stress of applying and hearing nothing at all in return or being rejected over and over can start to take over our general mood more often than we’d like. If our unemployment period is extensive, there is a very real danger that the smiling face we used to present to the world becomes replaced with furrowed brows, stress lines and more often a neutral or negative norm.

So this is what we should be aware of and fight back against; the danger of losing our generally friendly disposition and smile. After all, when job searching, we want to encourage contact with people, we need those connections to increase our odds of being viewed favourably by others as a positive addition to their workforce. The last thing we want to come across as is brooding and oppressive just by the look on our face. That kind of message received by those around us would cause many to refrain from approaching or wanting to be around us; at a time of course when we need those very people to give us tips, leads and open doors to opportunities.

It is a real testament to the strength of a person who can go about their job search and sustain a positive attitude when it’s so easy and tempting to share the setbacks and disappointments. Keeping a positive outlook, and a look on our faces as we look for work that looks out on all who see us is a big plus. After all, if you can stay positive, look enthusiastic and communicate this with your face, you should be able to convince an interviewer that you’ll bring the same attitude to the workplace and work with the same positivity when things get tough there.

Throughout your interview, you’ve got a lot to consider and thinking on your feet as questions get asked of you can be challenging for some people. Your face will communicate many different messages to the employer. You will want to communicate pleasure in answering questions about the job because you’re fired up about it. You’ll also communicate being thoughtful as you consider questions and search your memories for the best way to answer. What you want to avoid is looking perplexed, out of your league, intimidated, confused or unsure.

Of course the first impression you make on the people you meet the day of the interview is critical. A genuine smile and giving people your full attention by looking directly at them will communicate strength, assertiveness, friendly and confident. All of these are desirable impressions to make on those you meet. Whatever you do, don’t give the Receptionist a bland or negative face and then instantly turn on the charm for the person who comes out to greet you for the interview. The Receptionist may be asked for their assessment of you, or they could in fact not be the Receptionist at all, but just covering for the Receptionist until they return, and you’re facing the Interviewer all along!

If you wish, a good exercise you can do in private is to size yourself up in front  of the mirror. Get dressed and stand there. Extend your hand as if you were shaking the hand of the interview and smile. In order to see the impact you’re having, you HAVE to look at yourself in the mirror and this will force you to look where you should be looking. If you’re typically shy and look down or off to the left etc. you’ll correct yourself without knowing it just to see yourself.

As an amateur actor, I have spent many a time in front of mirror looking sad, elated, crying, joyous etc. to see what I’m communicating.

Make sure the messages you send with your face are the ones you want to share!



You With The Chip On Your Shoulder

Hey you. (Sorry about that; I don’t know your name.) You with the chip on your shoulder that’s so large no one could fail to notice it. I bet you’ve had a lot of bad breaks over your life that keep adding to it. Maybe it was rough right from your birth into this world and it’s been that way ever since, or perhaps your early years were pretty decent and it was only as you grew up that your life and all the people you’ve met in it have made it a tough go.

Either way it doesn’t really matter right now does it? I mean let’s face it; you’re the kind of person who just wakes up to battle one day at a time. I don’t know you of course, (which is exactly what you’d tell me if I was standing in front of you); yeah you’d tell me not to think I know you either. But just like you, I’ve come to eyeball people and size them up pretty quickly. You do it to survive and get what you need while I do it to size up what they need. We both have to be pretty good at reading people in order to get on.

Anyhow, we’re agreed on one thing I hope; life isn’t anywhere near what you once thought, and it’s not getting better. On the outside you’ll tell anybody who will listen that you don’t need their help or their charity; you’ve got this image to protect of being the lone wolf after all – but every now and then you’d be more than open to some help from the right person. Don’t worry; I’m not going to tell you I’m that guy. I’m too far away from where you are anyhow, and if you saw me, you’d just peg me on sight as some old guy who thinks he’s got all the answers.

Well I don’t have all the answers – no one does. All of us though, have some of the answers; it just depends on the questions we’re being asked as to whether or not the answers we have fit. Take you for example. When it comes to fending for yourself, maybe you’re the go-to guy. You know people on a first-name basis who can get you what you need so you can survive. You get what you take; nobody gives you anything for free unless its stuff no one needs or wants.

I suppose if somebody followed you around unseen, they might from time-to-time actually see that chip on your shoulder ease up ever so slightly. You’ve been known to drop a few bills in some homeless persons coffee cup, stare down some punk who otherwise would have verbally or physically abused him or her on the street as they begged for change. Imagine that, you with your own demons protecting someone else from the taunts and jeers of the better off. You can be intimidating, and when it suits you, you notch it up and that feeds both your power and your view of the world as a cold place.

This much I get – no seriously I understand this much. But it’s draining isn’t it? I mean all this energy to live on the edge, keep up that scowl that looks out and down on just about everybody you meet. Even if you wanted to drop the chip on the shoulder; (and its long past being a chip anyhow isn’t it? It’s more like a boulder now), it’s hard to let people in and take a chance on them because so far anyway, it almost always backfires and ends in disappointment. You’ve tried in the past and been burned; people making promises of a better life if you only do this or that, and even when you give it a shot, they let you down. Things don’t change; people don’t change. You’re pegged as more trouble than you’re worth; a bad one, one to stay clear of, not redeemable.  And every time things go sour, you just add one more layer to your tough exterior in order to protect yourself; you’re a survivor after all and can’t rely on anyone but you.

Okay enough. At what point do you own up and decide that despite the raw deal you’ve had in the past, you are responsible for what happens in your future based on what you do in the here and now? Look at people older than you going through the world with this chip on their shoulders and you’ll see they almost always look older than they really are. They may have bodies that are lean and mean on the outside, but they’re also hollow and thin on substance on the inside. They chose to continue to live with the chip on their shoulders when they stood where you stand now.  You can choose to keep on living the way you are now of course; you’re call and yours alone; always has been and always will be.

Not everybody is against you; the world and what you experience is how you view it and what you allow in. So you’ve been burned before? That makes you normal. Give Life and people in it a chance and you might find you get the odd break; breaking down that chip just a little – making it easier to carry.

Team Player: How To Be One And Succeed At The Interview

Look closely at a lot of the job postings these days and you’ll see, ‘team player’ as one of the key requirements. Just because you’ve worked with a group of people under a Supervisor before does not however mean you’re a great team player; nor even a good one.

It’s important to know exactly what being a good team player requires, because once you do, you’ll be far better equipped to respond to an interviewer intelligently when they ask you to provide an example of your experience working on a team.

First and foremost, when you are required to work on a team, everything you do is less about you and more about the team. As a member of that team, you have an important role to play, but it’s more than just doing your piece in isolation and calling yourself a team member. Get used to the concept of inter-dependence; relying on each other to accomplish tasks, pulling your own weight on projects and offering your help when appropriate to those you work with. Inter-dependence works both ways too; you’ll find there are times when you should call on others to help you out too.

Depending on the job you are in and the work to be done, you may find that being a part of a team requires collaborating not only on producing goods and services but in the delivery to your customers and clientsc. Having a unified strategy in this regard ensures that the experience of your end-users is similar no matter who puts the product or service into their hands. So whether it’s service like home health care and childcare or products like electronics or clothes, how your target audience experiences the delivery should be similar no matter whom they deal with on your team. Allowing for differences in personality of course, I refer to information delivery such as following best practices, company policies, information sharing etc.

One of the best things you can do for your teammates in order to be respected starts with showing up for work. When you are part of a team and you’re not present, you’re lack of attendance requires that others cover in your absence the work you would normally do. People can be absent for any number of reasons; personal illness, family commitments, special projects, vacations, committee meetings, training etc. The bottom line is that your absence on the team means others are doing your work, or your work is adjusted so that less is expected of you – and that means your production drops in the short-term. It’s one thing for a team member to be off on vacation – because every member will also enjoy their vacation time – but it’s another to be off frequently for personal reasons. The last thing you want is to create in the minds of your co-workers that you can’t be relied upon.

One key element of working cooperatively and productively as a team player is to give when its least expected. If you know someone needs to dash out for an appointment right at the end of the day, maybe you offer to be on the sales floor and stay the few extra minutes if a customer is shopping just past closing time. That extra 5 minutes you give will please the customer, could result in income for the store, and will garner some appreciation for you as a co-worker with the person you permit to leave on time instead of being held up. While you don’t do it for personal gain, you hope that the goodwill you’ve shown comes back to you in the future sometime when the situation is reversed.

Good teammates look out for each other. When a colleague is slightly under the weather, distracted by a personal matter, just not at their best, teammates pull together; offering whatever support and help they can depending on the workplace.

You’ll find that really good teammates give credit where credit is due too. Whether it’s an idea, a specialized skill, personal attributes etc. each member brings things to the team that make the team stronger and add to the service or products you produce. A good teammate will ensure that individual members get credit when they are responsible for some creativity, innovation, performing extra work or solving a problem that allowed the group to succeed.

Some people have famously said that there is no ‘I’ in ‘team’, but I believe within each successful team there are several individuals without whom the team wouldn’t exist at all. If each team member is to feel proud of their accomplishments as a team, they must feel personal pride in what they’ve contributed as an individual.

You can predict the likelihood of being asked the teamwork question in an interview by researching both the job posting and the nature of the work to be done. If the job posting has teamwork as a key job requirement, expect the question.

It’s important to share an example of your teamwork where you played an important part, yet be sure not to take all the credit in your answer. What had to be done, what challenge arose and what did you do that contributed to the overall success of the team? Share some specific example, not a vague generalization. Highlight the part you played however, as you’re the one applying for the job not your entire team.

What Do You Want For Yourself?

From the time we are old enough to communicate we get asked questions. In fact, as an experiment, see how many times you find yourself asked a question today or tomorrow. Most of those questions are pretty simplistic, such as what you want for breakfast, when you want to take your break at work, what you want to watch on television this evening etc.

Most of the questions you will be asked come innocently enough, and you’ve probably got the necessary information accumulated in order to answer intelligently. So you know what you want for breakfast, you know when you’re ready for a break at work, and you know what you’re in the mood for in the evening as you sit down to watch the television. How exciting!

What of the bigger questions you ask of yourself? I don’t mean what to wear on a certain day, whether or not to take the umbrella or who to sit with at lunch at work. I mean the BIG questions.

When was the last time you really thought about your life and what you want to do with yours? Let’s face it, most of us go about our day without really thinking about the BIG questions. We’re so focused on what we have on our daily agendas, what we’re having for dinner, what work has to get done, who will be off today at the office, remembering what bills to pay, we don’t often stop and consider what we want for ourselves.

I suspect that many people just get on the treadmill of life and live their lives in a predictable, socially acceptable manner. We go to school, graduate, get a job, have relationships, then settle on a strong relationship with someone, end up with several jobs or careers over a lifetime, retire and hope to enjoy it, then die. It’s predictable, we’re remembered by those we leave behind who knew us, and then depending on your belief system, you go to Heaven, get reincarnated, are reborn etc.

The after-life debate aside, how often do you really give yourself the benefit of time to reflect on what you want to do based on what’s important to you? How does the way you live your life reflect what you once wanted?

Some people do what’s expected on them by others; they go to school, join and then later run the family business, and pass it on. Some are told in school they’ve “only” got the potential to work in the trades (and the trades in the way it is voiced is somehow undervalued vs. a University degree), and therefore they take on an apprenticeship and work in the trades without challenging that view.

How often does someone in their late teens have the foresight to imagine themselves as retired looking back at their work life saying, “That was a life worth living! I’m glad I (fill in the blanks).

Every time we find ourselves out of work or wanting a change in work we get closer to thinking of the big picture. Questions like, “What now?” do come into our minds, but too often don’t we just scramble for a job that approximated our previous one; or choose one that while different in responsibility is really just maintaining our lifestyle. So a labourer finds another labour job, a Healthcare Worker finds another job in the Health sector?

What of you? Have you got dreams – or did you once have dreams you’ve let go of? Maybe you had some vision of what you would love to have done, but before you could launch that dream, you were too far down the predictable path of everyday life? You got into a relationship that made following your dream difficult if not impossible in your view. Now with rent or mortgage payments, kids, r-e-s-p-o-n-s-i-b-i-l-i-t-i-e-s… well, you know; you’ve kissed those dreams goodbye.

Now if you’re happy it doesn’t matter when it comes to dreams and hopes you once had. Truly happy people should carry on. I’d say it’s not only about being happy as you look back nearing your end, but it’s about being happy all through the stages of your life. Are you doing what you want with the time you’ve got?

What if the answer is you’re not happy? Well, what would make you happy? What do you want for yourself? It might well be some wild experience; a life filled with travel, adventure, chaos and physical challenges. It may also be a job in the city sharing your life with someone who loves you as much as you love them.

Whatever you wish for yourself, if it’s not your reality, or you’re not seeing it getting any closer, what would it take to make that dream happen? Does it require more effort, a change in locale, some self-confidence or hard work? Does it take some courage to chuck it all and start again?

If you’ve been waiting for something to get you doing more than just thinking, think of this; time is passing. Take a leap. Do one thing this week other than just thinking; in other words take some action. Have a conversation, download the brochure, book the trip, contact the company; whatever small step you can think of, do it.

Life is too precious and time too short to delay. What do YOU want for yourself?

Make it happen.