Unemployed? Don’t Rob The Kids


When you first become unemployed, there’s a period of intense shock much of the time that hits and hits hard. No matter how softly the boss speaks when they tell you you’re being fired, laid-off, let go, etc. there’s still that slap to the face that says your financial stability is no longer assured.

Many people who receive such news are suddenly faced with who, how and when to tell people about their unemployment. For many, the hardest people to tell are those closest to them; their spouses, parents, and children. This is in most cases, because part of the identity built up as the bread-winner, the person with the buying power, the responsible one who pays the bills, the one to go to and say, “Can I have $10 to buy something?”  The thought of letting those who depend on us the most down is devastating. So it’s understandable that some people actually conceal their unemployment, trying to protect themselves from this shame, and also trying to avoid dumping their problems on the  shoulders of children.

Kids these days are under a great deal of pressure to fit in with their peers; to look a certain way, go to the raves, hang out with their friends at the right places, and have the latest electronic gear. Remember when you just had to buy an Intellivision Computer System? How about that Scientific Calculator for school? Or were you in the group of kids at school  that had to have money for the school trip to some foreign country? For your children, the pressure to fit in with their friends hasn’t changed much, but the cost of those gadgets, clothing and anything else they want has risen substantially.

The sooner you get a job and restore your income the better for bringing stability back to this situation. That being said, it’s good advice to share you news of unemployment immediately as it occurs. One thing you can do immediately too, is look ahead to things that may be important to your family that require money, and see if there is time to budget between now and then in order to avoid robbing both you and your kids of the experience. For example, let’s say you and the kids are big fans of, “The Lord Of The Rings” books and movies. If so, you’d know that in a month or two, the movie called, “The Hobbit” is coming to the big screen. It will set you back maybe $20 – $30 depending upon how many people in the family you have that will go, and what you’ll buy when you are there. As it’s the end of October as I look at the calendar, you’ve got  to budget now in order to all go. Going is important if you’ve been planning on it.

Setting aside some money to attend a movie may not sound like a big deal to someone who is employed, but it’s a big deal to others. It’s important to go because it’s an event you can attend with a mass of everyday people and you need to be connected to normal everyday events in order to feel connected. Watching a movie also gives you somewhere to escape for a few hours, something to think about instead of your own situation, and it creates memories.  Who knows, your kids may look back one day and say, “You know times were tough when my mom or dad lost their job, but she/he worked hard to make sure that we still did stuff together that was fun. That meant a lot to me.”

Don’t rob your kids of their needs to be up on some of the latest events and trends. I’m not advocating that you should foolishly lay out hundreds or thousands of dollars for a 3-D television, or buckle to every request for cash. There is a line you have to balance of course between denying all requests for money, and just opening the vault. That’s why you’re the parent and the one who is counted on to take the bulk of the responsibility for your family’s financial stability.

Like I’ve said in past posts, depending on the age of your children, sharing the appropriate amount of information with them with respect to your unemployment can be very beneficial. It can show them you trust them, you can teach by example how to deal with adversity, you can learn from them too and be proud of how supportive they are to you by helping out more around the house – doing what they can. It may well be too that something unexpected happens for the good, such as your daughter talking to her friends and one of those friends parents knows of a job opening you’d be qualified to apply for. You just don’t know where your next job might come from!

All the best as you make the transition back to financial independence! Check out more advice at https://myjobadvice.wordpress.com/

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A Risky Resume


For years I’ve heard resume experts tell their clients to put their resume on letter-sized white paper with a black Ariel or Times New Roman font. There are plenty of good reasons for this of course, some obvious and some less so.

To fully appreciate the importance of this, you must look at it from the viewpoint of the employer. While you are submitting a single resume, the employer is receiving many resumes for that single position you applied for; sometimes numbering in the hundreds. With all those resumes to look over, they are going to use one of two methods; either look at each one using electronic devices, or by scanning each one with their eyes.

So if the firm uses an electronic aid, the process immediately strips away things like borders, italics, underlining and searches for key words resulting in a grade assigned to the resume in a matter of seconds, defining how closely the resume matches the stated needs of the employer. Such machines generally are programmed to only match Ariel or Times New Roman fonts. In other words, you could be entirely qualified for a position but not get an interview because the machine can’t ‘read’ your resume and it gets rejected.

The other possibility of course is that  your resume is looked at by a person, and this generally occurs in smaller companies and small businesses that don’t have the funds to purchase resume scanning software. In these cases, you can imagine a person wanting to be able to read your resume with simple, easy-to-read font. Write your resume in anything creative like say, an Old English font, and you’re just asking to be rejected because the strain on the brain to read it and make sense of it is too much effort. Might be different if it was the only one received of course, but it isn’t very likely that you are the only one applying.

Ah but what about sticking your resume in a cherry red envelope to stand out from all those boring white ones? Then using some perfume on the paper you write your resume on? Maybe including a photo of yourself at the top? These ideas are definitely going to draw your resume to the attention of the person who is sifting through a pile of resumes. From the interviewers point of view, this will be for one of two reasons only; “What kind of nut sent this in?” or “Full marks for getting my attention, now  let me see if they are qualified”. However, be aware of the stated requirements for submitting resumes. Some companies tell you on their websites exactly how to submit a resume, on what kind of paper, with a certain font, etc.

I know of a person who was so frustrated with submitting standard resumes that got very little responses. What they did was create a resume that pretty much went against everything resume experts would suggest. The paper was a marbled yellow and grey combination, the word, “I” was used often on the resume, and it was started with a snappy statement designed to be funny and get the reader to laugh. Yes it started with a joke. Then it stated what the applicant was after and why in a paragraph form but in way similar to a casual conversation. Even when listing jobs previously held, the person talked about the accomplishments and responsibilities in a very off-hand manner and with lots of humour. Turns out the resume won an interview, and then the person sold themself well and got the job.

Now, I still don’t advocate using this format or something departing much from standard wisdom. The person above was applying for a job where creativity was valued, and so was an element of risk. If you choose to lightly spray your resume with perfume for example, you might just make the reader physically ill, and your resume will be scrapped. Not a good way to get someone to call you in other than to tell you off. Really bizarre resumes will either just be rejected outright, or they may call you in just to see who has the nerve to actually show up but they have no intention of actually hiring you whatsoever. Companies are busy though and time is money, so even this doesn’t happen much anymore.

Having said all of this, realize that the advice you might get from a resume expert is designed to give you the maximum opportunity of getting an interview with most employers. While an off-beat resume might work here and there, there is a far higher percentage that a resume on white paper with easy-top-read font in black will get you more interviews. Remember though, you are the one ultimately in charge of your own resume and you should call the shots in the end. If you are paying or using the services of a resume-writing expert, listen to all their advice and their suggestions. There is a really good chance that they are using their experience with employers to help you land a job interview. If you decide to apply to the odd job with a unique resume that uses unusual techniques such as coloured paper etc., do so sparingly.

And please don’t read this blog as validating your quirkiness and begin a campaign to submit all future resumes on lavender paper with paisley watermarks and Broadway font! There’s a reason the boring old traditional, widely accepted standards are used – they usually are the ones that move an applicant into the chair across from the interviewer!

Knowing Your Pain Threshold


So what is your pain threshold? In other words, how much pain can you work through without throwing in the towel and staying home or going home during a work day?

Last week, I woke up with a throbbing headache. Initially, I made a cup of tea and took a shower; two things that typically help me personally deal with any head pain when it arises which isn’t very often thankfully. I found however that the nagging throbbing pain just hung around during my drive to work. Arriving at work, things seemed unchanged.

A very nice colleague of mine offered me some medication but I opted instead for an orange juice and another cup of tea. By the midmorning, I gave in and asked for and received the offered pain medication and hoped that would do the trick. It seemed that the building pressure outside in the atmosphere, the interior flourescent lighting, and the everyday noises of many people around me were all having an adverse affect on me. At one point I even gave my boss a heads-up that I was in pain and was thinking of leaving early if possible.

Just before noon I wrapped up a 1:1 resume session with a woman I had just met. She had zero work experience, zero volunteer experience, lacked grade 12, and didn’t know what kind of job she was after. I got invested in her situation because I could see the need in her face for some help. She was in a room of five other clients who all had existing resumes that needed improvement, and they all had solid ideas on what jobs they were after.

In the span of an hour, she and I came up with a plan. We through the resume idea out the window. We devised a plan that involved going back to school to attain maturity credits; because at 30 years of age, she’d only need to pick up four credits to achieve her grade 12 standing. She also chose to get her WHMIS and SMARTSERVE certificates to get some 2012 certifications on her resume. When she talked about having three children, the youngest of which has a medical condition which she manages as a single parent, we also talked about the skills she has which previous to our discussion, she didn’t see any true value in. We also talked about the fact that were she to start off with an entry-level job in a retail store, she could perhaps point out to a potential employer that she brings no bad habits from other employers that she would have to un-learn, and how she would be extremely grateful for the break and therefore far more likely to work to earn that trust.

By the time she left, two things had happened. For starters, that headache that I started this blog off with (and you’ve been wondering, “I thought this article was about pain and his headache?”) diminished because I focused on something other than the pain. The second thing that happened is that the client left with a raised sense of self-esteem. She had felt, (in her words), stupid and dumb sitting in that group and very much a loser. She left with choices and the power to decide where to go with new information. I did provide her with a cover letter which unconventionally laid it all on the line for a new employer. It spoke to some of her characteristics but was upfront about her total lack of experience but her self-motivation to work. Will it work? I don’t really know yet but we’ll see.

So know your pain threshold and sometimes try to work through it. If you wake up and find yourself with aches and pains, go through your morning ritual of breakfast, shower, shave and getting dressed. Ask yourself if you really need to stay at home and recover for a day – which may be the best advice so you are still able to get through the rest of the week. If however, you find yourself at the office, do your best to push yourself just a little to get through your day. Whatever you do, realize that everybody from time to time gets run down and gets a headache. While it’s good to work through small aches and pains, don’t make the mistake of making sure everybody you work with hears about it all day long.

All the best you this day!

https://myjobadvice.wordpress.com/

The Dreaded RUT


It happens to just about everybody at some point; the dreaded rut. You seem to be mired in doing the same thing over and over, or you can’t find a way to make any progress on a project or even possibly your career. Sometimes it’s even as little as having to take the same route to and from work twice a day and it just seems you don’t even appreciate what’s around you anymore because you simply know it too well.

Finding yourself in a rut about the route you take to work can be something that is relatively easily overcome. You drive a different way, you walk to another bus stop and take a different bus, or you get off the train and walk a few blocks in a different direction and then head to your workplace. However, what if the rut you find yourself in is a loss in enthusiasm for even going to work in the first place?

Over time, many things we do seem to lose their lustre, and we settle in for routine. Some people thrive on routine and order of course. These people like knowing what their day will look like while they are brushing their teeth at home. They take strength from knowing who they will chat with because it’s the same group of staff, and they know exactly what they have to accomplish. For others, this predictability is nothing short of a mundane trap of ritual behaviour. Inside those people, there’s a conflict raging between keeping a job and doing the status quo, and breaking free to look for new challenges and stimulation.

So first of all, what makes you happiest? You might be constrained by having responsibilities including a partner, a mortgage, a loan, people to support etc. but, what would you be happiest doing on a daily basis if your income was assured? If the answer to that question is ANYTHING different from what you are currently doing, well, you’ve identified your source of turmoil and inner conflict. It may be that by staying put and playing it safe, you even grow to resent not only the job, but the responsibilities that keep you from pursuing your interests. Yes that could mean growing to resent your partner, your house, and whatever seems to trap you in your current work.

To get out of a rut, you’ve got to first realize you are in one. Identifying what it is that you are feeling this way about is crucial, otherwise you can’t move forward by addressing it. Now it may not be that you need an entire career or job change at all. It could simply be that when you started your current job, it was exciting because you had so much to learn. That buzz you got from learning is what is missing now, and maybe it’s some further training that is needed. If that’s the case, look into what training would fit with where you want to head with your career within or beyond your current position in a company. You might be lucky enough to have an employer that will even help you financially or with time to take the training you want.

If the source of your unhappiness or lack of fulfillment is something else, such as loving your job but not being able to move forward with a project, then perhaps what’s needed is some brainstorming. Limit yourself to what makes sense and you aren’t really brainstorming. Get all ideas on the table from the predictable all the way to the goofiest idea. Sometimes releasing the boundaries of what might work creates an atmosphere in which alternative solutions come out that otherwise would be suppressed. If this stimulates new ideas and moves the project along, you might find yourself looking back at the rut instead of still being trapped by it.

Apply this same kind of thinking to other ruts you may find yourself in. Don’t like your office set-up? Okay then imagine the funiture in a different configuration. Changing the direction of your view from the desk might be what it takes. Would a transfer to a different team in the office change the dynamics of your relationships and productivity? Would that be positive for you?

And if it turns out that your career, once so energized and budding is now fading and stale, consider the choice you always have to do something else. You may argue that all those responsibilities keep you from doing something else but that’s just passing the buck and nothing but an excuse. Find something to really kickstart your enthusiasm again. If something inside is screaming for change, it might be well time to explore what it is that’s urging you to pay attention. Maybe it’s drastic like re-inventing yourself.

Think of a car driving literally in a rut. It’s a muddy track that is sunk lower than the rest of the road and you’re driving in it. You only have two choices; drive in the rut until you eventually emerge, or turn the wheel and rise out of the rut. When you turn the wheel you get out of the rut much quicker than continually driving in the rut where you may actually get stuck and become immobile.

Best of luck to you today who read this if you find yourself in a rut, or if you know someone who is just spinning their wheels, considering passing this on in an effort to help.

All the best!

Divided Attention = Less Results


Whether you are a job seeker, or you have ongoing responsibilities at the present in the job you hold, it’s not always easy to give 100% of your attention to what needs to be done.

Think of all the things you should be doing today. If you’ve told yourself that it’s about time you got serious about your job search, then you’ll probably agree that you should actually be applying for jobs. Additionally, you should be networking, picking up the phone and talking to people, updating and constantly revising resumes and cover letters etc. If you’re employed, there are the duties and responsibilities that you do on a regular basis to consider. Okay got the picture?

Now factor into all of this the ‘stuff’ that goes on around you on a daily basis that you normally have to deal with, such as dropping off and picking up children, planning meals, grocery shopping, upcoming birthdays, holidays, cleaning the house etc. Most of us, employed or not, consider all these things as things that must be done as part of our normal routines. However toss in a few unexpected events, such as a call from the school that your child is absent when they left for school over an hour ago. Maybe it’s a sick spouse who can’t go to work and needs your attention to help them get better. Or, maybe you have to evacuate the house because some workers down the street hit a gas line. Well, sure they are unexpected and beyond your control, but do they add stress? By all means, the stress rises.

In addition to added stress from unexpected events, such normal activities like laundry and shopping all do one thing in common, and that’s divert your attention and energy from the actual job of looking for work. Those same distractions for the job seeker, can also play a significant role in explaining why a normally competent co-worker is slipping in their performance, and not pulling their weight on projects.

Dividing your attention from whatever you know you should be doing ultimately means you can’t perform at the level you expect of yourself. In other words, something has to give. The result of this is often disappointment in your shortcomings; and the feeling that you should be able to juggle all these things at once and can’t ony adds to your eroding self-image. So what to do?

Well, as a start remember that unexpected things happen to everyone. Not everyone is capable of dealing with sudden change, bad news or things requiring their attention in the same way, just as we all don’t have the same sense of humour, or likes and dislikes. One of the best things, and somewhat hardest to do at the moment you receive news that’s going to impact your attention, is to determine the urgency of the situation. Not all news is of the 5 alarm type. Don’t totally abandon what you were doing just prior to the event that may require your attention. Maybe you don’t need to do anything until later in the day, after work, or perhaps if you do give the interruption your full attention now, you can quickly resume whatever you were planning to do originally. Depends on the situation.

For example, I know of a person who was looking for work with real vigor. They got a call from a friend who lives in the same building saying they had just bought a brand new best-selling video game. The friend was asking them to come over and play it together. This game would require about 75 hours of playing time to go from start to finish. Now while the person I know is out of work, this other guy apparently took vacation days to play the game! You guessed it. The out-of-work person was distracted with the escape-aspect of the game, and it diverted his attention for a week in which he did zero job searching.

I’m not even going to argue with the decision this person made. I am pointing out that the decision the person made diverted their attention to their job search, and therefore the results they can expect such as an interview for a job diminish greatly. Could they have compromised in some way to maintain some job search momentum? Unfortunately their attention to the job search ceased, and who knows what they might have missed?

Life happens to everyone. The decisions you make might be different from the decisions someone else makes. Without arguing whose right or wrong,  just be aware that you have to live with your decisions whatever they may be, and the resulting consequences of dividing your attention. Big crisis, small distraction it doesn’t matter. If it isn’t a friend who has a video game, it might be a death in the family, an ill pet, putting up Christmas lights – anything.

By all means take some time in a stressful job search to recharge by engaging in things you enjoy. Do so responsibly however. Rewarding your hard work with a treat is one thing, overindulging and feeling guilty later because you went to extremes will only break-down your diminishing self-esteem. If you see yourself distracted today by things outside of what you should be doing, consider re-focusing on your job whatever it is, and dealing with the distraction after hours.

What’s your priority today?

How Are You?


Ever been asked this question and despite the fact you feel down, you answer, “Fine. How about you?” I bet you have because like you, many people have automatic replies prepared to deliver. Now there’s a number of reasons as to why people give these automatic replies; to save time, because it’s quicker, it’s expected, the person asking doesn’t really want to know etc.

However, I would like to suggest to you that you are perhaps throwing away a wonderful opportunity to engage someone in a meaningful dialogue that could prove very beneficial. So for example if you are feeling frustrated with your job search, you may be tempted to just answer, “Fine” when asked how you feel, but by doing so, you haven’t really shared how you’re feeling disappointed with the lack of a response to your job applications. Maybe, just maybe, the person you are speaking with might have an idea you haven’t tried, a contact you don’t know about, or a job lead that you might be interested in. If you’re fine, it doesn’t encourage them to stop and think how they might help you.

Now don’t go to the other extreme. I’m not suggesting you unburden yourself on to someone and pin them to the wall for twenty-five minutes describing the lowly depths to which you’ve sunk, and how you feel mired in a cesspool of indifference. Nobody wants to leave a conversation with you feeling depressed, down and dumped on. If you do this, you might find that instead of looking out for opportunities to help you, they might just be looking out for you so they can ignore you!

Honesty is the way to go but with a respect for someone else. So you might say something like this:

Q. “How are you?”

A. “Well, to be honest, I’m finding my job search very frustrating and even a bit depressing. I’m doing my best though to try to stay positive and connected. It’s kind of you to ask.”

With this kind of response, you’re honest, and you give the person you are speaking with a further opportunity to extend the conversation and maybe even provide an offer to help. By complimenting their thoughtfulness, you turn the focus back onto them and when complimenting others, they may be more inclined to keep you in their thoughts and try to help you out.  Remember Eeyore from Winnie The Pooh? In real life he wouldn’t be all that popular, and in many cases would be the kind of person that a great number of people would avoid because he tends to focus on the negative. Cute as a Donkey in a storybook, not so appealing in the flesh.

Make a conscious effort to keep your network of friends and colleagues up during your unemployment. Rather than retreat into a shell and keep your unemployment hidden as long as you can, go out of your way to communicate and share your status. Ask people to think of you if they hear of opportunities you might be interested in. When you speak to people try to be pleasant and upbeat even if you mention the down days that go with unemployment. Keep your references to the negative short and your talk of the future positive. Change inherently is neither good nor bad, but it is inevitable. How you react to change is what will define you.

Again I will stress the importance of keeping a routine as mentioned in other blog entries I’ve made. Eat a good breakfast, stay connected, get up and get going at your day at the same time you would normally and do so with enthusiasm in your job search. You’ll have bad days – so do people with jobs. You’ll have good days; days with progress, calls for interviews and job leads!

I hope in your personal job search, you can take the opportunity that many employed people cannot, and that is to really take the time to take a personal inventory of your skills, interests, values, strengths and what you want in your next job. This luxury of time is a gift not to be squandered, and while I wouldn’t wish unemployment on anyone, if and when it comes, make the most of the time given to you to find out who you really are at this point in your life and what would make you the most happy in your next job. Don’t worry about mapping out the next 14 years or so. What would make you happy with respect to the next couple of years? Think about training, schooling, upgrading, taking a course, joining a networking group, improving your resume, speaking with a Career Advisor. Get your physical done with your Dr. that you know you’ve put off. Go get your glasses or dental work taken care of.

In closing, a note to you who have a job but know someone who is out of work. It can be devastating to lose not only your job, but the identity that went with it. When you speak with that person, help them out with two things they’ll really appreciate; genuine concern and empathy. Got a lead? Share it. Meet for lunch; just because someone is unemployed doesn’t mean they don’t eat anymore! Reach out.

How To Get Rich


Presumably you’d like to be rich or you wouldn’t be attracted to the blog title. Sorry to disappoint you but the point of this blog won’t focus much on money. That’s more the by-product of what follows and may or may not come your way in the end.

Okay for those of you who are still reading, I’m talking about another kind of wealth altogether; wisdom. Ah, the accumulation of experience, trials and failures, learning opportunities and developed relationships. In a nutshell, excel at all of these and you are rich indeed.

Recently I came across a quote, and while there seems to be an overabundance of them on the internet these days if you go searching, this one stood out above the rest for me. It ran like this:

If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.

I’ve thought about that over the last couple of days, letting it roll around in my brain and how I could incorporate it into the facilitating I do. Every so often I come across someone in my workshops is strongly opinionated, who doesn’t value the opinions of others as much as their own and is closed to growing as a result. I think what I’ll try is actually having a couple of apples, and the word, “Idea” on a piece of laminated construction paper. Then I’ll play out that situation in the class to drive home the point; not even necessarily with the person who I’m trying to reach. That way it avoids embarrassing them and isolating them even further.

The idea of sharing ideas with someone else is a great concrete example of where you exchange an item with another person and still come out ahead by having the original plus a second opinion or idea. Hence, you grow in richness by a factor of one. Do this with two people and you give away one idea of your own and end up with three; yours and both of theirs. Your richness is growing.

You’ve probably heard that two heads are better than one. That old saying has stood the test of time because of course it implies that a second person can contribute ideas and thoughts and that together, the resulting course of action whatever it is, has been influenced by two people’s reason, past experiences, thoughts on possible implications, and the result is a better idea than either may have come up with alone.

Some people like to hold onto their idea like it was gold. Their idea is so unique, so different from what anyone has ever thought of before that they don’t want to share it with anyone until they devise a way to profit from it monetarily. These people are often called Entrepreneurs. They call press conferences, launch their ideas to through the media, and set themselves apart from the rest of us by saying, “Look what I’ve thought of – it’s revolutionary”. When we as a consumer go out and by that product, we are really financially compensating that person for their idea. Of course that person has almost always turned to other people to get help making their idea a reality; ie. they needed financial backing, research, technological expertise or some kind of specialized help to take the idea from a concept to production and distribution.

You may not have a million dollar idea that will catapult you to international recognition however, you can still benefit from using the same principle. Sharing ideas, listening with active interest to others and contributing to discussions can help you build relationships, network more effectively, be sought out for your experience and input. In short, you and your wisdom become a valuable commodity for others, and as a result, you get invited to contribute in projects and groups that otherwise you would be left out of. You might even find yourself saying, “What on earth am I doing here? Why did they ask me?” You might be sitting in on a discussion about something you know very little about, but that’s why there are experts in other areas present. Your expertise is in lateral thinking perhaps, or commercial applications, or problem-solving. Your sitting there because someone values your ideas.

So, you want to be rich? Re-define richness from an accumulation of money and the almighty dollar to a richness of contacts, networks, ideas, experiences and dialogues. Those that pursue currency only end up with numbers on a statement at the end of the month. Those that pursue a re-defined richness end up with a lifetime of experiences, connections, networks, friends, colleagues, and a reputation for making contributions rather than financial deposits.

This richness is within the realm of everyone to achieve.