Know Someone Out Of Work?

If you know someone out of work, may I ask how long it’s been since you dialed them up and said, “How’s it going? Anything I can do to help you out?”

You know, as an Employment Counsellor, I often remind those with whom I am working of the importance of staying in touch with former co-workers, Supervisors, friends etc. The key reason for this is of course to possibly get a lead on a job. However, it is also important to stay connected on a human level. Unemployment can be very isolating, and social contact helps keep up the old self-worth.

The interesting thing that gets reported back to me though, is that the people who are contacted by the unemployed often seem distant, and conversations get ended abruptly, and it is obvious the person who has been contacted really doesn’t welcome further contact and usually ends by making some hollow promise to stay in touch. So why is this? Well some people believe that if you were a good co-worker with someone who the company fired or laid off, if you are seen to still be associating with that person, you yourself might be let go. Really? What have they got? Some medical condition that’s contagious called Unemployeditis?

It’s not likely you are passing company secret documents to your former co-worker is it? You know, there is so much pressure on the unemployed to be positive, upbeat, staying on top of everything, and keeping up those networking contacts is just one more thing on a long list of things to do. Would it be so very inconvenient for you yourself to pick up the phone or dash off an email that provides a little contact and shows some humanity?

It might be as easy as, “Hey John it’s Greg. Wondering if you’d like to get together say at Tim Horton’s for lunch tomorrow?” Okay so during lunch you just ask how it’s going. It’s a coffee shop and lunch will set you both back about $5 or $6 dollars. So you ask what’s up and show some interest in this person you used to speak to frequently. Whether or not the person accepts your invitation is not up to you but up to them. You don’t have to map out the whole conversation or worry about what to say. Talk about the job search, sports, the weather, relationships – whatever is natural and normal. Normal conversations are just what unemployed people need. You don’t have to pretend you have a job lead or some amazing opportunity.

I will bet that the unemployed person will welcome your call and your offer. If not, maybe they just aren’t in the right place mentally at this time to accept for fear of being seen as a failure somehow and they don’t want you to see them like they are. If that’s the case, it’s only because they value your opinion of them and want you to think of them as being better than they are at present. Be big and tell them it isn’t an issue between you and MEAN IT.

Of course this is a two way deal. If you are the unemployed person being called up and now having a luncheon meeting, don’t dump every little thing on your mate. This isn’t a free therapy session. Gather up yourself, get dressed, look upbeat and go for it. Can’t afford it? Buy yourself a drink and consider that $2.00 an investment in a relationship. That has to be a valuable purchase for $2!

Reaching out to others in a meaningful way shows some compassion, humanity, and empathy. Hey, good on you!

How Do You Get Dressed?

I’m going to paint a picture for you to imagine. You’ve awoke, showered, and are standing stark naked in front of your open closet or dresser wondering once yet again to yourself, “What will I wear today?” Now instead of clothes hanging on those hangers, or lying nicely folded, I want you imagine words. There’s a number of things to choose from: Insecurity, Confidence, Fun, Romantic, Silly, Professional, Uncertain, Positive, Shy, Loud, Obnoxious, and oooh I wondered where my Attractive had gone!

Wouldn’t it be nice to just reach in and put on something that would communicate to everyone who saw us exactly what we wanted to convey? If we were normally shy and withdrawn how nice it would be to just slip into that Assertive outfit for that big interview! It does feel wonderful AND it still fits! In some respect, we do go through this in real life. We put something on and wonder if it makes us look fat, or maybe that short dress makes us look like we are still trying to look 26 but our birthdays say we’re 46. So maybe we can’t pull that one off anymore. Let’s put Playful Tease back on the hanger and maybe donate that to charity!

Our clothes are only part of how we arm ouselves for the day. In addition to our physical wardrobe choices, we do our hair, makeup, shave, cover or expose tattoos, remove or not our piercings, pick out our footwear, maybe grab an umbrella or suntan lotion and head out the door. All of these choices we make are part of how we wish to be perceived by others and there are just some clothes that make us feel, well, pretty, handsome, confident, assertive, professional, casual, etc.

What if way back in the closet, under a pile of your usual stuff, you found a seldom used Invincible. Remember how it looked in the store when you first saw that? You thought you could rule the world in that outfit. You haven’t had that on in some time. Or maybe it’s still in the original package and you haven’t ever wore it. Get it out, slip it on and see how great it feels? It’s like your second skin! Why haven’t you been wearing this more often? It’s got you written all over it!

I’d like to remind you of one very important observation. When you are out looking for work, or going for that interview, the people you are meeting don’t know you at all. All they will know about you is what you choose to display to them and this is ENTIRELY within your control. So what kind of impression do you want to convey? For example if you are a bit reserved, your self-esteem has been battered around lately, and you’re not as confident as you used to be, YOU ARE THE ONLY ONE WHO KNOWS THIS. There is nothing that says you have to share this information with everyone you meet.

Just as an actor takes some time to get into a character by thinking about how the character they are portraying would walk, talk, dress, act, and carry themself, you too should think about how you will walk, talk, dress, act and carry yourself. Walk with your head down, and don’t look people in the eye, and you’ll be seen as timid and unsure. Walk with a slightly longer stride, head up, smiling and looking people in the eye, and you’ll be viewed as someone who has somewhere to be, is confident and assertive.

You probably would agree that music has the power to affect your mood. Put on some ACDC and you’ll be in a completely different frame of mind 3 minutes later. Click over to your dusty Barry Manilow CD (LOL!) and just see if you don’t mellow out! Oh and don’t let anybody catch you doing this experiment! Just as music has the capacity to evoke emotions and that translates to behaviour, so too do our other choices in clothing and attitude.

So tomorrow when you stand naked to the world in your bedroom closet, choose how to arm yourself with thought and care. When you walk out your front door, what image will you bring to the world? Oh and by the way, you really do look marvelous in that Invincible!

When To Quit

In 2012, the reality is that there is an increasing number of people who are working, or looking for work. In addition to these people, there are always some who have tired of looking for work but are going to jump back in to the job hunt when they think there is a good chance of landing a job. So how dangerous is it to quit a job you have now, and hope you can get another without going for too long without one?

To answer this question, you have to know the answer to a few questions. How competitive the market is in YOUR field. When was the last time you saw a posting for the job you want now? If you can’t remember the last time you saw a position advertised that you would like to apply for, odds are because the people in that field are not moving, the field itself is downsizing, the position is becoming redundant, the demand for people is shrinking, and possibly of course, those in the job now are happy as can be and don’t want to leave.

If you are at the point where it’s time to move on, you’d be well advised to do several things BEFORE you quit your current job. Here’s some of those reasons to consider:

1) Update your resume. Don’t wait until you are actually out of work and feeling the pressure to get a job. You should update your resume everytime you attend new training, get a certificate, take on new responsibilities etc. If you have an HR department, ask for a copy of YOUR latest job posting.

2) Network the References. You’ll be needing the support of people like present Supervisors, co-workers, colleagues you work on projects and assignments with. Now is the time to go out of your way to demonstrate all those great qualities that you want them to say you have. Be co-operative and friendly, smile and work hard.

3) Put Out Feelers. Start using those contacts you’ve been building up and let people know you are interested in looking at growth opportunities. If you’re leaving the field entirely, the feelers you put out will be with those outside your industry perhaps, and if you are seeking a move to the competition, arrange a luncheon or two and in a subtle way, work into the conversation the status of the company; are they hriing?

4) Tell the Boss. Whoa! What! Are you kidding?! Only in some situations might you share your plans with your Supervisor and this is really dependent on the relationship you have with him or her. In the worst situations, you might find yourself let go but in the best situation, your boss willl appreciate the notice, and may even be in a position to allow you time to go to interviews, lessen your workload etc. Sure would be nice to go to an interview with your boss knowing instead of pretending you’ve (cough) come down with something.

Quitting is best done of course when you have another job to go to. This way you can actually plan a break of a week or two and mentally shift from one job to another. Answering the question, “What are you currently doing?” is easier if you have a job rather than stumbling over your unemployment. Saying you are between jobs, out of work, on Social Assistance or you took sometime to get in touch with your real inner self never sounds as good as, “I”m currently at (position)  in the capacity of a (position) and while it pays the bills, I have realized I would much rather use my skills working as a (position) and your company offers an opportunity to work with an established, stable organization whose goals, values and beliefs closely match those of my own.”

Now the one time you should walk away from an employer is when you are being harrassed physically, sexually or mentally. However, you should always address this problem with the employer and see what they are prepared to do about it. It may be something that the employer can remedy and you find yourself wanting to stay. No one should ever have to endure abusive behaviour. If you walk and the employer did nothing, report the situation to the Labour Board in your area if you have one.

When you decide to quit, THINK DOWN THE ROAD. You’ll have to have a solid answer to the question, “Why did you leave your last position?” You’ll want to answer the question truthfully but at the same time not paint the employer in a negative light, because the interviewer won’t really know if the employer was the problem or perhaps it was you. They aren’t there to see your situation so they don’t know if they can totally believe you or not now can they?

If you are one of those lucky people who tends to get hired whenever you go for an interview, be enlightened; those days are fading. Many people I personally work with tell me they always got hired if they got interviews but today they aren’t getting jobs and that’s a new experience for them. It’s a tough market out there.

Oh and if you are going to quit, first think the decision through at least overnight and preferably much longer. Don’t make a kneejerk decision and regret it. Start slowly but methodically taking your personal things home over time. Whatever you do, don’t steal from the employer! Your reputation is at stake.

The one thing about quitting is that it is empowering. For whatever reason, being able to say, “I’m quitting” can feel good. It feels even better of course if you can tell co-workers and your employer that you are not just quitting your current job, but you are going TO another position and be honest. If you’re lucky, they’ll have a potluck or maybe take you to lunch and wish you well. Now wouldn’t that be nice! ORDER THE STEAK IF YOU’RE NOT PAYING!

Energy Conservation

So you are working like a dog to get your next job and getting nowhere fast. Dropping off resumes, knocking on doors, making phone calls, reading up on employers, researching companies, networking with anyone and everyone, following the advice of people you come across, practicing your interview skills, revising your resume, making cover letters, getting your police check done, trying to work out a little, contacting your references, going to workshops, checking the job bank, speaking to headhunters, checking out Monster, Linkedin, registering with temporary agenceis and sleeping fitfully at night. No wonder you’re exhausted!

Not only would ANYBODY be frustrated with a lack of results if they were doing all of the above, but eventually, even the healthiest would start to find their energy for maintaining a full-time job search would become depleted. Throwing yourself into a mad all-consuming job search may not actually be the best way to land the right job. Hear me out.

Think of your body like a doctor or scientist would, as a machine. Like any machine, it requires nutrients to replace the energy that is consumed and used by the body on a daily basis. The more the body loses energy, the more it needs to find ways to replenish this energy. Aside from eating well balanced meals and indulging in moderation, there is a toll on the mental energy and this is much harder to gauge because of course it’s not readily visible. The signs of mental fatigue might be stress on the face, feeling run down and exhausted more often than normal. Maybe even an inability to sleep even when you are clearly tired, and waking up feeling tired. Both your physical and mental batteries need to recharge from time to time.

It is for this reason that it’s important in a job search that you prioritize where and how you will expend your energy in order to maximize results and get some production from the time you invest. Rather than running here and there and trying to do everything (and by consequence doing very few things well), take the time to plan out your job search. Planning your job search might mean first taking stock of your resources and assets before you do anything. I’m not talking about making a list of your CD’s and Books either. Make a list of your skills, your likes and dislikes, your values as they pertain to work, your preference for working with people, things or information, working with others or alone.

Once you have this inventory completed, determine if you even want a job alike the one you most recently had, or are you interested in seeking a whole new direction? If so, begin your job search by investing some time with a professional who can guide you through this process. What jobs for example are out there that would be a good fit for someone with your skills and interests? Only once you have a sense of the direction in which you wish to head does it make sense to even start looking at jobs and revamp the old resume. After all, why start revising your resume and then realize the new resume won’t get a sniff at jobs you really want because it doesn’t fit what those employers are looking for?

As stated in previous blogs, you’ll get answers to what to put on your resume from examining job postings. All the things the employer wants are there – and check out the website of the employer to craft your resume too.

This systemic approach to job searching means while others are out there running around working hard at getting their next job, you’ll be taking your time working SMARTER to get your next job. It may appear that you are slower off the mark and not working as hard to get employed. Don’t worry about what the other guy is doing. Plan your jobsearch and take control of it, instead of allowing the job search to control your behaviour. When you realize you are in control, your mental state improves; you’re proactive instead of reactive.

You get to decide how much energy you put into your jobsearch, and where that energy goes. Everyone only has so much energy, and while it varies from person to person, for EACH person, energy is finite and limited. Eat well, sleep well, do some things that you find enjoyable, put honest effort into your jobsearch and you’ll find your mental and physical health will support you while you jobsearch. By conserving the energy you have, directing it where it will yield the best returns and replenishing it, you’ll be employed in the RIGHT job sooner!

Eye Contact And Make Up

Over and over again you’ve been told about making solid eye contact when you go for an interview. What’s up with that?
From the moment you walk in to an office or a job site, consider the interview has begun. Every person you meet will be sizing you up and looking you over in quick subtle looks. Opinions are being formed and impressions are being made; good or bad.
Direct eye contact is a sign of confidence and self-assertiveness. If you can meet peoples gaze, hold it, and talk with them while you are looking directly at them, you are projecting an image of strength and implied ability. You’ll come across as honest and forthright – someone who can be trusted to get the job done. Yep, all that from good old solid eye contact. Consider too that if you are holding someone’s gaze by looking directly at their eyes, it stands to reason that their eyes will not be wandering all over the rest of your body to take in the details of your outfit etc.
Now on the other hand, if you don’t do well at making and keeping steady eye contact, you are still sending a message nonetheless, and it may be a message you don’t want to convey. Did you know that some psychologists believe that if you break eye contact, look down and to the left while talking, that you send a message that you are actually lying about what you are talking about? Maybe this is why mothers and fathers are always saying, “Look me in the eye and tell me again”.  Not looking people in the eye also conveys weakness, lack of confidence, diminished interpersonal skills, dishonesty and that you might not be someone to trust.
Now hold on. Don’t go to the extreme where you bore holes in the head of everyone you meet with wide-eyed hypnotic staring. You’re just going to be freaking people out if you do that! If you have a solid but not bonecrushing handshake, a smile, and make direct eye contact with people with whom you meet, you’re well on your way to getting the interview off to a good start.
Do you best not to look up to the ceiling left or right all the time either. Doing this or rolling your eyes can suggest exasperation with the person you are talking to, or praying for divine inspiration as you make something up. Come across as genuine and believeable by holding the persons interest and attention with your eyes.
If you wear eye shadow and make up, a good rule of thumb is to be subtle rather than heavy and appear painted which also suggests you are literally and figuratively hiding something or covering up. You don’t want the interviewer to look at you while you are answering a question and be overly distracted with your facepaint. You may be giving the interviewer reasons to dismiss you actually. If the atmosphere is professional, and employees tend to all have a uniform appearance, you might be the radical one that just won’t fit the corporate image. This is especially true if you are in some kind of administrative role and may be the face of the organization whom the public first sees when they enter the building.
If you are noticing red eyes, get some sleep. Eyes dry? Blink and keep them lubricated. Bags under the eyes? Get on down to any large store and into the cosmetics department. You know those people who invite you sit down and let them apply some products to show you their products? Try it out. Why not? Go in with no make up on and walk right up and ask for something to conceal those bags. These are makeup professionals. Listen to them. Of course, they are salespeople too so be cautious. If you don’t want to spend 1/2 hour in the morning in front of a mirror putting on your face, let them know that too. They can help you even out blotches on your skin, recommend products that will be easy to put on and take off.
Think the interview is a battle ground? I don’t personally, but if you do, get armed beforehand and put on your battle paint!

Don’t Force Yourself On Others

I always find it entirely amazing that some people who don’t know the first thing about writing a resume seem to think that nonetheless they are an expert in this area. It floors me that they disregard any critical advice if it doesn’t align with their own point of view.

A few days back, a woman approached me and asked if she could be shown how to use the photocopier. (She can’t use a photocopier but is an expert in resume writing mind). The document she wanted copied was a two page resume. I asked if she was planning on making a single copy or if she wanted more. She said 10 would be good enough. Okay so from my perspective, without even seeing the resume we’re about to waste 20 sheets of paper. I asked if I could see the resume first and her reply was, “Whatever”.

A quick glance of the resume showed me at least 10 outright mistakes and several other things that while I wouldn’t personally recommend, I know other people in my line of work would agree with. I pointed out for example, that there were some spelling errors, and asked if she would first like to make some changes or improvements. What I got was an exasperated huff, and then this statement: “I don’t want to listen to anything, I’ve worked really hard on this and I just want the copies. Just show me how to copy.” Who knows how long or how hard it was for this woman to make this resume? Has she done it all alone or did someone already give her help?

I could have stood there and tried to reason with her, however I also might have just kept annoying her to the point where she would make a scene or leave etc. I decided to photocopy the 10 resumes she had – mistakes and all – and told her that if she was interested in making any changes I’d be happy to help in the future. What I got was some obvious distain and lack of appreciation for providing advice when none was asked for. I asked if she would like an envelope to put all those resumes in and got a very terse, “No just leave me alone”.

I really think her reaction was a realization that her resume wasn’t as strong as she thought or hoped it would be, and being out of work, she might have put a lot of hope into getting a job with it that was now being questioned. I mean, fanning out the same resume everywhere used to work didn’t it? Sure, about 10 years ago. Now resumes need to be tailored or targeted to a single posting, then revised and targeted to the next job, even when the job you are applying for is the same one but at two different places.

I truly wish I could have helped that woman better; and maybe in days to come I will be able to. Not that day however. Maybe she’ll come to see the offer of help as just that. After all, I’m no expert when it comes to electrical work, automotive repairs or farming, but I sure know a thing or two about resumes and job searching.

Important too for me to learn from that encounter, not just the client. It’s knowing when to back off, to extend the offer of help and withdraw sometimes that allows the client the opportunity to return and seek out help and not have to lose face in the process. Sometimes not pushing other peoples buttons is critical. After all, it’s not such a disaster to allow someone to leave with a resume that is weak. It would have been preferable to have had a receptive ear to the advice I could have provided, but forcing any advice on someone who isn’t open to receiving it seems a waste of energy.

So as you go about your work, whatever your job entails, bear in mind that although you may have the specific knowledge that would help someone else, it may or may not be welcomed. All any of us can do in the end is make an offer of help, and determine if the offer is received positively or not. Know when to leave things be, and sometimes when people fail they might return for help if they can still save face. There is the possibility that they’ll succeed – however unlikely with what they have. Who knows? That woman may have already fanned out those resumes and have a interview lined up!


Are You Interested In Training Offered By Employers?

If you are fortunate enough to have an employer who offers ongoing traiining, you’ve probably noticed there are some co-workers who seem to always sign up and are happy to get all the training they can. So too, you’ll probably see that there are others who do all they can to avoid the training and when they do attend, they never really open themselves up to the experience. So why is this so?

Well there are a number of potential reasons for both attitudes. First of all, those who like training opportunities see the following benefits:

* I get out of the usual routine     * I meet people from other locations    * I learn new skills     * I get to network myself

* If I want to get ahead, I increase my resume    * If the company is paying, why not?     * I might enjoy it!

Conversely, those who dread going to training have a variety of reasons of their own that they use to justify passing training up or only attending if made to. Their reasons while varied, might include:

* I’ve been doing the job for years – I know it      * I’ve got better things to do     * I don’t want to network

* I’m going to have lots of things to catch up on after being away for a day    * It’s just inconvenient  

Okay, so there are a lot more reasons for both positions. Too often though, I’ve run across people who are always wondering why some co-worker isn’t attending training. Quite frankly, the decision on whether or not to attend training is really in the realm of only two people; the individual and the Supervisor. If the training is personal development, it’s not going to affect you if a co-worker  doesn’t attend. It WILL affect you however, if the training involves new procedures, new policies and there is a lot of inter-dependency in your daily work. Then it is essential that everyone attend.

One of the most frustrating things about training however, is when you have to work with others who go to the same training as you, and then when it’s over, they simply say something like, ” Well, that was a waste of time, I’m not in agreement with that new procedure or policy so I’m just going to do things the way I’ve been doing them.” Now YOU are put in a position of perhaps having to have to interact and work with someone whose not pulling in the same direction. Do you speak to them? Speak with the boss and risk being the rat? Do your best to implement the new ideas on your own and let things play out knowing the final product might be flawed and your involvement means your performance is affected as well as maybe your reputation. Tough call.

My advice for what it’s worth is to take advantage of all the training you can. Why? Well certainly it will be something that will keep your brain active, you’ll learn new techniques, be open to new ways of doing things, maybe learn something that will make your job easier to do, and you’ll be thought of as open to change should your age start to catch up with you and someone otherwise think it might be time to cut you loose. Too often older workers are discriminated against because someone in authority feels they aren’t open to learning new ways of doing things. “She’s too set in her ways – you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. Heard these things before?

Training also provides a break from the routine. Embrace training. You might even get increased salary and increase your value to the company because of it.