Email For The Job Searcher

When you are looking for a job today, most people would agree that a certain amount of time is going to be spent sitting in front of a computer and using email to apply for positions on-line. Having said that, it stands to reason that you are going to be getting some pretty important emails which literally could change your financial position, and without too much drama, could therefore change your life.

I am constantly amazed therefore at the number of people I am working with to gain employment, whose email Inbox is cluttered up with spam and junk mail, dating websites, promises of immediate wealth and emails from friends saying nothing terribly relevant or important. What if you are job searching, checking your email everyday for a response to a job you really want, and you actually miss it because of all the junk you’ve got in your inbox? This actually happened with a client of mine.

I was asked one day to look over an email that he was just about to send and while there, I was immediately struck by the fact that he had over 1300 emails in his inbox. “Oh I never get rid of anything”, he said, “I might need those one day if what if I deleted them?” What indeed I thought. We looked at his emails together with his permission, and there were some sent daily giving him his horoscope, some more from a dating website promising him the match of his life, a few about contests, more about working from home and making thousands a day, and some from a friend with atroucious bad grammar and foul language in it that was all about girl who had turned him down some weekend – a year ago! What was the point in keeping any of these?

Here’s a recommendation for you the job seeker. If you are intent on getting the volume and kind of mail that I described above, that’s really your choice of course. It’s not for everybody, but if that’s what’s important to you, then keep those emails. However, in addition to this email address, please oh please create a second email address that you keep exclusively for your job search. Use this address only to apply for jobs, networking with people about employment possibilities and use the email you’ve always had exclusively for EVERYTHING else.

Quite honestly, if you are getting help from some professional, your emails show the person helping you where your time and energy is really spent. If you aren’t taking your job search seriously, why should anyone else? I would also suggest to any Employment Counsellor or Career Adviser who works with the unemployed to take a look at your clients email inbox and see what’s going on to avoid missed opportunities.

Some people honestly don’t know how to stop the garbage from arriving in their email. First of all, when you first get junk, don’t open it if you recognize it for junk. Delete it without opening it. If you do open it, the sender knows they have a real person to send their junk to. Secondly, if you do open your junk mail, go right to the bottom of the email and you’ll probably see the word, “Unsubscribe”. Clicking on this will remove you from the list and the sender will stop sending you their junk. Of course another way to avoid junk is chuck the entire email address, advise your family and friends of the change and be more discreet about what you agree to in the first place arriving in your inbox.

Get your email under control and don’t let email control you!

Mirror Mirror On The Wall

The other day I was standing on the 2nd floor of a mall overlooking the concourse below. There is a wall of mirrors in one area that many people routinely pass as they exit or enter the mall and I observed with interest the people who did or did not look at themself as they passed by. Observing people’s behaviour is something I’ve always found interesting, and it helps me understand non-verbal body language and what’s being communicated – intential or otherwise.

Somewhat predictably, the people who appeared to be pleased with their outward appearance took the most time to have a look. The most exaggerated stop was by a woman who fixed her hair, checked her legs, put on some lipstick, adjusted her shorts and blouse, examined her back as best she could and then just for effect, tossed her long blonde hair. It was like watching, “Project Runway”. All this while her partner stood there talking to her with an impatience about the time she was taking.

Others who passed and had a look in the mirror ranged from a peek to those who spent a few seconds to reassure themselves. Initially, I  suspected the woman I first referred to generally liked what she saw and therefore was comfortable in the presence of others in a public space in front of the mirror. And then, as I stood there, I wondered if in fact her self-esteem was actually so fragile, that she needed the reassurance of making sure everything was just so, in order to outwardly display an artificial confidence. I’ll never know of course, but I wondered.

That’s one thing I find interesting about the job seeker as they approach the interview. The job interview is often seen as where we expose ourselves to another person and set ourself up to be judged. How we shake hands, how we are groomed, the clothes we wear, the make up we do or don’t wear, the tatoo’s we do or don’t show, the way we walk, the words we say, etc. You as the job seeker get to craft all of this, and present an image to the interviewer that is the everyday you, or someone you want the interviewer to believe you are.

What all interviewers appreciate is a real effort on the part of the person applying for the job to put some effort into this presentation. Without going to an extreme and coming across as phony, I think it unfortunate that those job seekers who lack self-confidence and don’t feel as attractive as some other people on the outside, don’t realize the pressure those ‘good looking’ people often experience to measure up to their own expectations. If you were to poke and prod the image of the so-called attractive people out there, you’d still find regular people with the same problems of self-confidence and self-image just beneath the surface in many cases.

Ever seen a couple walking arm in arm and you think to yourself, “What does he see in her” or vice versa? Well that’s pretty shallow thinking. It could just be that the person who on the outside isn’t a god or goddess is actually someone who appreciates the attractive person for their thoughts, fears, insecurities and their inner self when all the glitz is stripped away.

When you prepare for an interview, do your best to make an effort with your outward appearance, and wear clothes that are comfortable and give you confidence. Whatever you believe is the dress code at the place of work you are going to, it’s best to dress likewise, or perhaps step it up one notch above that, just to demonstrate that you would be a good fit. Everybody can tone things down a bit, but not everyone can effectively step it up and that’s why we do it – to show some respect for the interviewer, show us at our best, and demonstrate we are a good fit.

I think one of the best qualities of humanity that separate us from all the other species on the planet, is our ability to look beyond the exterior of people and appreciate peoples opinions, sensitivities, thoughts, feelings, and inner worth.

As always, the very best to you in your job search today!

Getting A Reference When You Left On Bad Terms

So you are out there job searching and you feel entirely confident that you have an excellent resume, cover letter and your interview skills are second-to-none. However, what irks you to no end is that you have just left a job where you were fired or left on really poor terms, and now every new employer wants a reference from your most recent Employer. You just feel so ticked off because you know this is where your weakness lies.

The reason most people with poor past business relationships fear giving a reference is because of the loss of control. You can control your cover letter and resume that get you the interview., and you can control what you share and how you share it at the interview but what a reference will say about you is beyond your control.

Here’s some ideas of what you can do on a concrete basis to counter anything bad a reference might say about you.

1) Have a big bite of humble pie and pick up the phone or speak in person with your past Supervisor. If this is the person you fear will bad mouth you, let the person know you are just trying to move on and land another job. Ask them politely if they would perhaps just verify your employment dates and nothing more. There is a chance they may laugh at you and decide to stick it to you good, but what have you lost? Nothing. If they were going to give you a bad reference, they still are, and now you know for sure rather than assume they will. You can minimize the impact of this person at an interview if you are honest and up front and just tell the interviewer that you left on poor terms, have learned from the experience, and articulate how you will really appreciate the opportunity to work hard to justify the new employers confidence in you.

2) Find out if your previous companies policy re. reference is to perhaps just verify employment periods. If this is the case, your past employer won’t say anything good or poor. This is because some employers in the past have been held legally accountable for what they said as a reference by companies who made hiring decisions based in part on their recommendations. You may be worrrying for no reason.

3) Consider that if the new employer wants a reference from your past employer, it’s still up to you as to WHO you provide. Maybe you could provide the name of another Supervisor who you often dealt with in a positive way, rather than your own who you didn’t get on with. There’s always the option of giving your HR department as well, or a co-worker.

4) If the job you left on poor terms was of an extremely short nature, don’t even put it on the resume and the new employer won’t know about it at all.

5) Consider getting a job – ANY job, so that when the new employer asks for your latest professional reference, you can confidently give the name of the current employer rather than the one two jobs ago that you are worried about.

References are needed by employers to back up the information you have provided in the job interview. It’s important to think about your references not after you have left a job, but actually while you are still working successfully. Nuture and build a relationship if possible with your immediate Supervisor that is positive and healthy. This doesn’t have to mean you both join a bowling league and hang out after work. It does mean that you show the respect that is due someone in a senior position to yourself, and work hard to demonstrate your skills.

I’ve known people who are highly stressed about what their former employers are going to say about them to the point where they cease to job search because they ‘know’ that the whole thing will end badly when references are checked. Interestingly enough, I’ve called some of the businesses and asked for a reference to see what is being said, and it is no where near the disaster the job seeker was under the impression would be shared. If you don’t have the luxury of a good reference, do what you can now to repair the relationship and minimize the damage.

In the worst case, if you have proof that your previous employer is slamming your performance and has no reason to do so, you should consult with a lawyer to take action if your character is being challenged and demeaned.

How Hard To Push?

Anyone whose job it is to help other people gain employment will probably tell you that the best results can be obtained with someone who has the self-motivation and ability to both grasp new ideas and the energy and willingness to put them into action. What do you do however, when you come up against someone who has for any number of reasons isn’t doing enough of what YOU think they are capable of?

All job seekers have one thing in common which is that looking for new employment isn’t the only thing goin on in their lives. For some, there’s relationship issues, for others it’s housing or perhaps addiction issues. Still others might be dealing with the loss of someone important, health issues, money problems or court-related matters. Very seldom do job seekers have the luxury of focusing 100% on their job search. This is an important element to working with job seekers if you are an Employment Counsellor, Job Coach or Career Advisor.

If you don’t take the time to get the whole picture, and determine what issues or barriers a client is dealing with, both of you may end up frustrated. The client may feel undue pressure to get a job!, get a job!, get a job!, and the person helping might be wondering why the client doesn’t seem all that committed to getting a job. Dialogue, conversation, communication call it what you want, is essential to ensuring everyone is fully aware of how much effort can be expected to be poured into a job search.

So how hard do you push yourself if you are the client, and how hard do you push the client if you’re the person assisting them to become employed? I’d suggest that before you get down to resumes, interview techniques and using Social Media, you have a quick conversation to determine what’s going on. This shouldn’t be a therapy session, and it should be limited to a small portion of the time you spend together, but without a chat, you could both be pouring a lot of your energies into a process that’s doomed to fail at this time.

For example, a job seeker who has to get a shot of Methadone daily at 9:00a.m. and is in danger of losing their apartment due to a loss of income, is going to be late for interviews and appointments first thing in the morning, and is going to be split in their concentration as they are worried about where to live at the end of the month. Perhaps the best thing to do is actually defer the job searching help, get a stable place to live, and then resume the job search help. A secondary goal might be to get the treatment under control to the point where the client gets carries instead of having to visit the Meth clinic. That’s just an option.

Sometimes people need pushing outside of their comfort zone granted. Challenging someone to apply for a certain number of jobs per day might be useful in terms of providing them with a goal, but the number has to be realistic, achievable and relevant to the client or the results won’t come. Basically then, have a chat with whoever you deal with in providing/receiving job search help. Share or ask what’s going on, “out there” so there is a common understanding of the situation. If you are providing the help, ask how much your client wants to be pushed, challenged and make sure to set an atmosphere where they are comfortable telling you if things change, be it for better or worse.

You might be working with someone who has a wonderful attitude, skills, experience, presents well, and still can’t get a job. You yourself might be wondering if there isn’t something else going on you are missing. Maybe a chat about life events would save you both a great deal of time and ultimately get the client moving forward, even if it isn’t as quickly as we’d like. Sometimes there are other things going on that really should be stabilized before launching full speed ahead into a concentrated job search.

An Egg Among The Fossils

Yesterday my blog was about an aging worker competing for a job with a company of young guns. What if the opposite is your situation however? You walk into the building for your interview and it seems like you’ve warped back in time; Old Yeller is lying on the floor next to a desk where a Benjamin Franklin clone is toiling away. Further on you spot a Bob Cratchit-like fellow pouring over the books and to your left Mrs. Havisham is talking on the phone. You almost expect to see someone using a black rotary dial up phone as the place looks frozen in time.

You wonder if they’ll look at you like an egg who just doesn’t fit in; you’ll be judged to be a young pup, barely out of your diapers and nappies, and you’ll rock the boat. What’s a person to do in a situation like this?

If you get the impression that you are not being taken seriously, and as I mentioned yesterday, the interview is moving along a little too quickly suggesting they’ve already made up their mind not to hire you, you still have a chance to save the interview by risking it all and getting the age thing out on the table.

One of the things I suggest to young job seekers is to look at what employers see as the liabilities of hiring young people, especially those with little or no experience whatsoever. Usually that list includes things like: your in your child raising years, lack of experience, maturity, stability, dependability, an appreciation for those with more experience, self-centered attitude etc. While these things might not describe you, the employer interviewing you doesn’t know you do they? You need to state and demonstrate your maturity, your appreciation for those from whom you can learn, a positive attitude that recognizes the employer, your commitment to work and if you have children, that you have reliable childcare in place with a back up so the employer doesn’t think you’ll take time off at the first sign of the sniffles with wee Johnny at home.

So try this on for size. “Any questions for me at this point?” the interviewer asks preparing to rise and show you the door.

“Well to be honest, I noticed upon entering the building and then your office that I might be the youngest person on your staff if hired. That certainly would give me a chance to learn a great deal from my co-workers who have much more experience than I do at this time. I know however, that having just completed my education, I can help in return by helping with new technology – I’m a whiz with computers and electronics. Everybody needs to start somewhere and I can’t think of a better place than with your company because of it’s excellent reputation. I’m energetic, have no bad habits to unlearn, and I know it’s important to you that whomever you hire makes a commitment to the company so you get a return on your investment. You can count on me.”

Perhaps as you’ve been talking, Moses on the other side of the desk has been considering that new project the none of the staff seemed quite competent to take on because of the high degree of technology involved. Maybe it is time to upgrade those Commodore 64’s after all and just maybe this young whippersnapper can decipher what that message someone sent meant – all those BFF’s and LOL’s. If only folks would use the Queen’s English eh?

If you are young, look at the pros and cons of youth as seen by employers. Stress your pros and respond to what you think might be the employers concerns. Normally of course you don’t divulge information about children, your age, living arrangements etc. but if you have no children, or you have children but have childcare in place, you have stable housing and won’t be moving frequently etc. it’s possible that by being upfront and sharing this information you might save a interview going all wrong.

So whether you are the Egg or the Fossil, take the best of your age groups Pros and share them. Take the negatives of your age group and respond to them.

Everybody starts somewhere and sometimes it’s best to just be upfront and state that while you have very little experience, that makes you a sponge ready to learn everything you can and that makes you mouldable. In other words, employers can train you to do work the way they want it done and you’ll do it that way because you don’t know alternative ways yet. Young dogs can learn new tricks faster and have a longer life span for their new owners! 

Father Time and Your Job Search

Old dudes. Fossils. The Over-The-Hill gang. The mature worker. Hitting too close to home? Some  job seekers today who are aging are starting to feel discriminated against because of their age in some instances. So let’s look at this topic head on with honesty.

Say you’re mid 50’s and you walk in for your interview only to be sitting across from some young kid in his early 20’s who still has acne from puberty but he’s got this name badge that identifies him as the Manager. You can spy the Guitar Hero drum set behind the curtains, and in all the photos on the corkboard behind him, you can’t spot a person in their 30’s let alone their 50’s. It strikes you too that in walking in the office, you passed by 15 people all of whom could be your daughters age. Ouch. You sense things aren’t going well when you realize the interview is racing along and you get the idea you aren’t being taken seriously at all. What chance have you got?

One option is to lay things on the line. This flies in the face of conventional wisdom about hiding your age. Let’s face it though, the kid who is interviewing you has exceptional eyesight and has already noticed the grey hair, the lines, the receding hair lines etc. So how much are you REALLY revealing by plunking the issue of age on the table and getting it out in the open? If the interviewer is prejudiced against hiring older workers, you’ve got a shot to educate them and make your case. If you fail, so what? You weren’t going to get the job anyhow. If you succeed in changing his way of thinking though…ah ha. A job. So how do you do this?

Try this approach..

“Do you have any questions you’d like to ask me?” the interviewer says wrapping up early.

“Not so much a question actually as a point I’d like to make. I noticed as I walked in to your office that I passed many of your staff, all of whom appear to be younger than myself. While some people might see me as an older worker with liabilities, I’d like you to know that I bring life experience, maturity, experience and reliability to this position. I’m not interested in searching for other jobs if you hire me as I’m looking to make a commitment to my next employer. I have no childcare issues, I’m independent, settled, but still have the enthusiasm and energy to throw myself into my job. I’m open to learning new ways of doing things rather than being stuck in my ways, and while I can learn a lot from other employees here, I can also add diversity to your workforce, appeal to some of your clients in my demographic, and share my own expertise with others. Some employers might dismiss me as soon as I walk in to an interview based on their own preconceived notions about aging workers. I’m betting your not one of them”.

Wow. Talk about boldly getting it out there! Maybe as you’ve been talking, that pimply faced kid with a whole 4 years of work experience has been thinking about Penny who is off on maternity leave, Eric who recently left to work somewhere else for an extra $1.00 per hour, Jenna who is putting in for promotions as often as some people shower. Hmmm…this old dude is making some good points. Maybe, just maybe, you’re doing such a good job of asserting your strong points, that you actually get him thinking about things he hadn’t considered before.

This is only one strategy of course and won’t work all the time. However, if you sense an interview is going by too quickly, and the interviewer is more concerned about getting you out of the office, maybe it’s an age thing you’re picking up on. If you sense this to be the situation, really what do you have to lose? If you say nothing, you’re still out of a job. If you lay things on the line and stress the pro’s of hiring an older worker, you have a chance at landing the job. Downplay the negatives of older workers which include; fears of declining health, stubborness, unwilling to learn new things, not fitting in with the chemistry of the workplace, attendance issues, energy, enthusiasm, attitude.

Older workers can be highly valuable to have in an organization. However, before you can convince anyone of the value of hiring you as an older worker, you have to believe it yourself! So, do what it takes to make yourself feel positive. Without going overboard and wearing a mini-skirt at 57, get yourself into clothing that is in line with the times and the company you want to work for. Consider things like colouring your hair if you want to hide some grey, change the bifocals so you’re not raising your head to read everything and flaring your nostrils at the same time! Trim the nose and ear hairs while you think of it! Walk with confidence and put some firmness into the handshake. Sometimes it’s the little things that collectively change perception.

All the very best!

The Master Resume

Today I am sharing a tip that may help you when it comes to saving your resume electronically and making those necessary adjustments to future resumes without the danger of losing the original.

For the purposes of illustration let’s say you were applying to a job as a Roofer. Okay so you make up your resume for this job posting and now it’s time to save it. What to call it. Don’t call your resume something like resume 1, thinking that future resumes will just be numbered. You’ve got to look ahead and imagine that you’ll have 20 or more out there and all different in some way. Are you really going to be able to open the right resume first time when you need it? Call the resume by a combination of the job title and the company. So we’ll call this resume, “Roofer The Big Shingle”.

Now that you have saved this resume, I’m going to suggest that you make a copy of it and rename the copy, “Master Resume”. Here’s why.

Let’s suppose you find another position that you are interested in applying for, and this time it’s as a Drywaller. Without the master resume, you’ll probably open up the Roofer one and tweak it until you like the result and then want to save the new one for the Drywaller job. If you mistakenly just hit, “Save”, what will happen is that the Drywaller resume will be saved, but under the name of the original resume which was, “Roofer The Big Shingle”. If you send this resume to the employer, they will first see the name of the document (which will not make any sense to them) and then if they open it they get the Drywaller resume. This will tell them you a) don’t have attention to detail, b) are not computer savy c) are applying for roofing jobs as well as drywaller jobs d) don’t want to work for them anymore than other employers. None of that is vey flattering is it? You should have clicked on, “Save As” and given the resume a whole new name to avoid this problem.

So rather than fiddle with your first resume at all, I’m suggesting that you always start your editing on what is referred to as, “Master Resume”. This way your first resume is not in any danger of being lost and over written. If you get in this habit and remember to always click on, “Save As” when you want to save, you will always have resume names and the actual content match up. However if you mess up and hit, “Save” only, you will only have messed up the Master Resume which can easily be created at any time.

This procedure safeguards your resume’s. Remember that employers will see the name of the attached document before they open it. What name do you want them to see at this point? What will be professional and make a good impression? This is why the name of the job and the company are a natural fit. It shows the employer you made one single resume specifically for the company and the position and they aren’t just a number on your job hunt.

The Master Resume is named after you copy a document and then by right clicking the file you will open up a menu which has RENAME as an option. Left click on RENAME and type, “Master Resume”. Click off the field you typed in and it’s renamed. Simple. Sometimes it’s the little things that help most. If you have other ideas share them! If you like this idea, share it with those around you and let’s all help each other out.

All the best in your job search!

The Importance Of Vacation

  • Last week, I enjoyed a week at home with my wife as we were both on vacation. You’ll notice I did NOT say, I enjoyed a week away from work. Huge difference in those two statements.

Had I said I enjoyed a week away from work, it would certainly indicate in some way that the experience of being away from what I do for a living is enjoyable, and may have been misconstrued by some as more enjoyable than the experience of work. Instead, I stated that I enjoyed a week with my wife. This simply stated is an affirmation of the enjoyment of quality time with her and no inference of  work whatsoever.

Time at home for a period of time can be very useful for those who are employed, to not only recharge their batteries, but to also provide perspective on the whole career/work experience. Now, I personally did not go through any significant cathartic experience where I have returned to work ready to quit and start something new. Quite the opposite really, in that I listened to no radio, watched few news stories on T.V., and spent my time relaxing and gardening – work for some, but a pleasurable experience for me.

Those that are employed and less than fulfilled in their work, may see a week off as a chance to apply for work, update resumes, go to interviews, read some books relevant to their field, do some research etc. I applaud those efforts but at the same time strongly encourage some relaxation and recreation for everyone. Vacation time is built into every job to allow people time away to pursue the things that make them happy. You might argue we have this whole work/vacation thing backwards in terms of allocation of time, but it is what it is!

If you have some time upcoming to yourself away from work, think about how you want to spend it before it arrives. Plan out whether it will be a trip, time at home, visiting friends and family, time alone, reading, sleeping, sightseeing, movies, exercise, career-related pursuits, etc. Then when your time off comes, everybody who can influence what you do with your time off will be in synchronization with your plans. You’ll only be frustrated otherwise if you plan a quiet afternoon of reading on the front porch swing only to have your Aunt drive up for the afternoon because, after all, you’re not doing anything!

If you are looking at changing jobs, ensure you schedule some time off between your current job and the next one. This mental break is important time to shift mental focus. If you are seeking another job, mix your vacation up with doing things that you enjoy and devoting a percentage of your time to rest and relaxation.

Make the most of your vacation!