Friday To A Job Seeker

Interesting how so many working people look forward to Friday. It’s the last day of the traditional work week and signals the start of the weekend. Depending on your attitude, it’s the signal to begin party-time, time with family, time for a rest, time to kick back and relax or time to put your plans into action with friends. No matter how you spend it, it’s a break from your Monday to Friday routine of work.

For someone seeking a job, it can be quite a different response as Friday at 5:00 o’clock rolls around. It can sometimes mean another week with no response to job applications, and another weekend of not being able to do things with friends because your short on money. In other words, that high that employed people feel is actually another low for someone out of work. If you recognize your own response to Friday here, maybe I can give you another way to look at things.

Look at Friday around 5 o’clock as the start of a small rewarding rest period from your intensive job search week. If you are job searching on a full-time basis, it can be equally or more mentally draining than having a job. I mean when you have a job all of your 5 day energy is going in the same direction. As an unemployed person, you don’t know who your next employer will be, so instead of learning the ins and outs of one company, the unemployed person is researching many companies, trying to understand multiple job descriptions, and envisioning working in many organizations. Give yourself the traditional Saturday and Sunday break to enjoy as best you can doing things other than job searching, and getting mentally and physically ready for the following week.

Friday is also a really good day to take stock of your activities for the week. If you’ve had a successful week in terms of number of jobs applied to, congratulate yourself on your efforts. If it was a poor week in which you really accomplished very little, then make this past week the exception rather than the rule. If you can, commit to making next week a better one, and determine to start out on Monday with renewed effort. Not much use feeling sorry for yourself over a lost week in which you did nothing. Sure it might have been better if you had done more but you can’t change the past. Move on. It’s your response to what is your current situation that is important.

I’d suggest if I may that you connect with family or friends, doing something that is low-cost or free. Use the internet to look up free things to do in your community, drop into your local Chamber of Commerce and see if they have an event listing, or listen to your local radio station. Local radio stations frequently broadcast local events. Rather than isolating yourself from people, this is a time more than ever when staying connected to others is essential, and not just to get a job lead. When you stay or get involved, you’ll stop focusing every waking second on your situation, you’ll laugh more, you’ll talk about things other than yourself, and if someone sincerely asks how it’s going, yes maybe you can share some of your frustrations and unburden just a little. This is healthy.

Consider too that a traditionally employed person sometimes starts dreading Monday on a Sunday evening. You should on the other hand look forward to your Monday. It’s a chance to build on last weeks momentum, or a fresh start to really kick your job search into a higher gear. Rather than wondering what new disappointments await you this week, remind yourself that this coming week may mean new job postings, new chances to network, maybe even an interview is in the cards. That unknown positive event might present itself on Wednesday or Thursday, who knows?

Look objectively at your past week on a Friday if you want, and try to determine where you had success, what you did that really felt good with respect to your job search. Was it applying for a job you really hope you get? Maybe it was getting up the nerve to actually pick up the telephone and make a cold call to an employer. If it turned out to be a good call then great. If on the other hand it got you nowhere, give yourself credit for at least picking up the phone. Cold calls are hard to do for some folks. Friday is also a good day to figure out in advance what job applications you want to follow-up on next week.

Today many people work on Saturday and Sunday on a regular basis. Their days off might be Tuesdays and Wednesdays or some other combination. Many trades people and those in Retail are working extended hours. That idea you have that everybody in the world is frolicking around at party central on the weekend while you’re the only one in the world who isn’t invited is just not reality. Cheer yourself up with a good read, play with your children, get out for a walk or a run, go window-shopping downtown, or do some writing, some painting; whatever it is that will be enjoyable for you. You’ve earned a mental break. Saturday and Sunday were meant for you too to enjoy.

When You’re Fishing, Check Your Bait

Okay so fishing is just a metaphor in this blog which is really about job searching and career advancement. Did the headline ‘hook’ you though? Sorry for the bass pun there.

Think however about the person who gets up early and heads out onto the lake to catch some fish. Getting going early is always a good thing because the early fisherman gets a jump on others who won’t come out until later and by then things are warming up too much, there’s additional traffic on the lake and your odds are better when you’ve got one of the few lines in the lake.

If there’s no luck however, many experienced anglers know that there are three options: 1) change nothing and hope for a change in the behaviour of the fish, 2) move to another location and try your luck there, or 3) change your bait. Okay enough about fishing. Let’s use the analogy though and get back to the job search or advancing your career.

In option 1 above, you could just keep towing the line with the same resume, the same cover letter, and keep going through the same methods you’ve been using to get ahead or to get an interview. How is that strategy working for you so far? If you aren’t getting the results you want, this strategy usually doesn’t generate results as it relies on some change in the employers needs matching your submission, rather than the other way around.

Look at option 2 in a previous paragraph. You might decide to change your location by moving to another community if you feel the job you want just isn’t in the area, or perhaps the opportunity you really want is in another company on the other side of the street…just out of your grasp. If this is the case, then by all means, pack up your bags and head out on the road or the friendly skies to another part of the country or world and try your luck in another market.

Option 3 involves changing your bait. You know, shaking up that resume and cover letter each and every time to match the job you are applying for, adding skills and training to your resume over time that you continue to acquire, meeting and networking with new contacts, and increasing your visibility in different ways as part of your personal marketing and branding strategy.

Not all employers are interested in resumes that all look the same, but some are. How would you know? Well check their website and look for some section giving you guidelines on how to submit your application. Every now and then go ahead and throw your nice, neat white paper with your resume on it into a royal blue envelope to stand out from all the other ones they’ll receive. Use Linkedin to contact someone in the company and suggest you meet over lunch to get to know one another. Come with your personal agenda, questions to ask, and make the most of the time. Seize opportunities where others don’t.

When you ‘land’ that interview, there’s a lot of information going back and forth, just like giving that whopper of a fish some play but then reeling it in until it gets tired and is scooped up in your net. Do you very best to impress your potential employer with your range of skills and personal attributes that mesh with the culture and chemistry of the people the employer generally attracts.

Getting out early and often obviously will increase your chances at landing a job interview. It is critical that you have both a quality resume, cover letter and interview skills, but you absolutely must in a tight economy maximize the positions you apply for. Search for these plum jobs you want using traditional job banks, newspapers, word-of-mouth, social media sites, company websites, Recruiters, Job Search Services -in fact, use just about every possible source you can think of to learn of job opportunities. Then, when you’ve exhausted your ideas, ask others for additional ones you may not have considered.

Whether you are into fishing or not, appreciate the analogy because it works. Why was I thinking of fishing this morning on the way to work as a tie-in to my blog about job advice? I have no idea. However, I challenge myself sometimes to think of something and then see if I can link it back to job searching advice. So where fishing came from is anyone’s guess. I don’t even fish myself. The exercise itself though is something I share with you as an activity to stretch the little grey cells in the brain matter.

And remember, just because the cold winds blow over the winter in many countries, avid fishermen still cut holes in the ice and fish all year-long. With less competition in those times, their yield is greater. So don’t let the bitter winds and snow deter you from casting out your resume and cover letter to hook your next interview and land that big job. And if you don’t get hired after an interview? Well, that’s the one that got away! Don’t give up, replace your bait and get your line back in the water!


The UNDERemployed Pros and Cons

Some people I speak with aren’t all that familiar with the term underemployed, but if it applies to you personally, I’m betting you know all too well the positive and negatives of this unique situation. Essentially, it can mean one of two things; you are working in the field you want but not as much as you need or want, or secondly you are working in a job that isn’t at all what you were trained or want to do.  Does this apply to you or someone you know?

Well on the positive side, at least you have a job and as a result some income. You’ll have up-to-date information on your resume, and if you are at least in the field you want to be employed in on a full-time basis, you’re in a position to network and keep your ears and eyes open for the right opportunity. That’s got to be worth something. In addition, you might be able to attend some relevant training courses, absorb the culture of an organization and position yourself to apply for those coveted internally posted jobs.

If you are working, but not in the field you went to school for, or not in the field you want  your next job to be in, again you can take some comfort in the fact you are at least employed. Maybe that’s not all that comforting to you, but a good number of people who are unemployed would be envious. Get some perspective.  Of course, you too will have current employment on your resume, which will suggest you are doing something to pay the bills and of course if you perform well, you’ll have current references too when the time calls for them.

On the down side, working outside the field you want to be in makes it harder to be noticed, to stay connected to those working in that field, and your job-specific skills may become dated the longer you remain outside the industry. You should consider anything you can do to remain competitive, such as taking night school classes. When you are working outside the field you want to enter, I’d suggest you come up with a solid well-thought-out answer to the question, “Why would I hire you as your most recent experience is outside the industry you are applying for?” You may want say something like, “Yes, I’ve anticipated this question. Actually I took my current position in order to support myself financially and responsibly however, you will note that my education and past training is relevant, I have solid transferable skills, have continued to invest in myself through night school, and have worked diligently to develop and nurture a network of associates and professionals in this field, all of which prepares me well to join your organization.”

If you are working part-time or on a contract basis in the field you want to eventually work in full-time, I’d suggest you book an appointment in the very near future with people in HR, your current Supervisor, and the person who is a Supervisor or Manager in the area you want to be working in eventually. Tap into their knowledge and find out what you can do or have to do, in order to be ready to apply with certainty for that plum job you covet. If nothing else, you stay on their radar screen. You won’t perhaps get any preferential treatment in the hiring process or the job just handed to you, but when you compete for a position, you won’t be entirely unknown either.

A woman I know in another organization took a job as a Receptionist in an office where she wanted to eventually work the capacity of a Social Services Worker. She worked during the day and then worked even harder in the evenings taking courses to fulfill the requirements of a Social Services Worker Diploma. While it took her two years, she stayed focused on the goal at hand and performed her role as a Receptionist with happiness and confidence because she knew what she wanted and what she was doing was all moving her in the right direction. She conducted herself daily as if everyone was watching her perform, so perform well she did. She had a two-year plan and today is in the job she wants. Working internally as the Receptionist allowed her to compete for that job she really wanted. Of course the job provided a salary, some benefits, networking opportunities, she picked up the culture, kept relevant to Supervisors and Management, and while taking those classes, all the course material became more relevant as she was working in the field.

If you are underemployed, get a plan in writing and commit to it. How are you going to move from where you are to where you want to be? It won’t likely happen by sheer luck. If your plan takes two years as in the example above, here’s what I’d say to you if that seems discouraging: Presumably you’ll still be living. So two years from now do you want to be actually working in the job you want now, or will you regret not having done something two years ago that keeps you on the outside?

Think about it, but more importantly choose to DO something about it. NOW.

Coming Back To Normal

Think over your day-to-day existence, and all the things you do on a regular basis. Whether you lead a hectic life or something more sedate and quiet, whatever your normal behaviour is has become your personal ‘normal’. A big part of that normal behaviour may include going to work and spending a considerably large chunk of your day surrounded by co-workers, and then coming home at the end of the working part of your day. When you cease to work, that normal part of your day throws your life out of sync, and you’ve got a large block of time to fill on a daily basis.

Consider someone for example who retires after a long, prosperous working life. For decades the person has gone to work on a daily basis and now  looks forward to  days of less structured time, pursuing other interests. For some of those retirees, things work out well and they quickly substitute work life with golfing, gardening, reading, trips, time with grandkids etc. For others, it isn’t a smooth transition, and they miss the routine of work so much that they start volunteering with organizations to stay busy, or they can experience a mental breakdown because they’ve lost part of their identity and don’t know what to do with their time to feel valuable and fulfilled.

For you the job seeker, it is likely that some of the anxiety you are experiencing comes largely from this loss of identity and purpose. Waking up, you’ve got nowhere to be, no one to produce work for, and you aren’t identified by others in the same way most other people you will meet are; as a working person for some employer. Get a job, and you’ll find that you are once again in sync, much of your day has purpose, and your identity is restored. In short, you’ve swung the pendulum back to a regular rhythm and things are more ordered.

Until that day comes when you are once again employed, there are a number of things you can do that will help with the anxiety you may be experiencing. First of all, try to maintain a somewhat regular schedule of waking up at the same time, and doing a regular routine of hygiene (shower, shave, hair) followed by a healthy breakfast. Give yourself a task list for the day, primarily containing job search activities. This would include applying for jobs, looking at new postings, making phone calls, adjusting resumes and cover letters, updating your social media sites, networking, and following up on past applications.

Somewhere in your day, you might also pay some attention to anything you need to do around the home. Now while I don’t want to seem to contradict earlier blogs where I’ve suggested focusing 100% on your job search, spending a fraction of a day doing some things around the house can make you feel good about getting things done that you’ve been putting off. It can also demonstrate to a spouse who leaves for work that you are paying attention to their needs and wants. Just make sure that you give your job search first priority and don’t get to a point where your job search suffers because of household projects.

A good practice is to make up your list of things needing done around the house and then tackle some of those things in a set block of time, say an afternoon in the middle of the week. This way you don’t get the guilty feeling, things get done, and if for example a job interview is arranged, you defer the household projects until another day.

Being out of work is an emotional rollercoaster, with highs and lows. When there is no regular routine that you can count on your day lacks direction and purpose. Ironically, being out of sync at this point is normal; but not a normal you want to experience any longer than absolutely necessary. This same feeling can happen by the way if you feel trapped in a job you don’t want, doing things you weren’t trained to do, and not living the life you had expected. There is an inner turmoil going on inside with part of you needing whatever job you are doing, and another part that is struggling to point your compass in another direction altogether, and get back in harmony with whatever job you would find most fulfilling. For example if you went to school and got a job in your field of training in another country and then came to Canada only to drive a cab, you would experience this anxiety.

Sometimes what can help is getting out a piece of paper and plotting where you are and where you want/need to eventually be. Now write down what has to be done to move you in that direction. Do you need more schooling, training or volunteer work in that area? Is a physical move required to get closer to the employers you want to work for? What’s blocking your way and setting you back? A pardon? Stable housing? Figure it out and write it down. Now what has to be done to remove those barriers? Of course in the end you have to take action to remove those barriers to the job you really want.

Getting back to whatever is normal for you personally is extremely important. During this time, you might seek the help of a professional who can assist you in plotting out your possible plan of action. If this isn’t your area of expertise and you don’t know how to get started, book an appointment with a Career Advisor or Employment Counsellor. Whether their services are free or you pay them for their time, it will be time well spent because you’ll see a point in your future where your personal balance is restored. That in turn, can give you something to hold on to at a time in your life when you are floundering and have no apparent direction and purpose.

All the very best.



A Final Push

It’s November 26 today as I write this and the airways are full of people talking about Christmas sales, end-of-year sales, and notice of New Year’s Eve celebrations and parties. Already? It’s true.

For people looking for employment, hearing about end-of-the year activities, mixed in with Christmas and all of its pressures plus the stress of being unemployed – well, it can be overwhelming. The days are grey, the sun sometimes is gone for days on end, and temperatures drop. Of course in other parts of the world, the reverse is true.

That’s the ying-yang concept in action isn’t it? Somewhere things are the opposite of whatever is going on where you are. That however, is a post for another day; have to remember that one! My point in today’s blog is to remind the job seeker that this time of the year represents a fabulous opportunity for someone looking for employment. The reason? Much of your competition has packed it in emotionally for the rest of November and all of December. Oh sure some people will keep job searching, but many will ease up the throttle on their job search and scale back to just reading newspapers and the odd glance at computer screens and job boards. Minimal effort on their part might be just what you need to get that job.

Here’s something to think about. Retailers had a hiring push way back in early October. If anything, there might be only a small bit of hiring going on in that industry, replacing Christmas help here and there right? Wrong. New stores, new franchises and new jobs are always coming up. Here in Canada for example, Target is coming up from the U.S. and opening new stores across Canada in 2013. They are accepting applications now for positions. Knowing they are coming, other established retailer’s such as The Bay are understandably getting a little nervous. Their response? Well they want to ensure they have the right people engaged in connecting with customers and are busy positioning the store to remain highly competitive. That could smell like employment to the right person if you are smart enough to realize the opportunity!

Look at construction and renovation. Last year, many of my clients who were roofers, tradespeople such as plumbers, framers, drywallers etc. eased up expecting snow, cold weather and those in the industry being laid off. Surprise! It was a mild winter and many in that field worked throughout the winter right into the Spring. This year, I’ve already heard some rumblings from people citing upcoming bad weather as their excuse for easing up on the job search.

Comments like, “nobody is hiring” and “I’ll never get a job” are the kind of comments that factual of course are not true. If nobody was hiring for example, there would be zero jobs advertised in papers, job banks, the internet and lots of Recruiters and Headhunters would be out of work. Their ranks however, are growing. When you hear someone else saying, “I’ll never get a job”, tell yourself that while that’s sad they feel that way, you’ve just got one less person to compete with for a job out there yourself.

If anything, gear up your job search. Connect with people and see if you can’t extend your networking. Some people with jobs actually get a little sentimental at this time of year more than any other, and may be actually open to meeting with you and giving you some support and/or job leads just because they are more in tune with doing something good for their fellow-man. (Must be watching all those Christmas specials about to hit the airwaves with their kids.)

You might find that some Employment Counsellors actually have more time than usual if others are cancelling appointments and deferring meetings until the new year. People cancelling appointments will always find some reason to put of their job search. If you can’t get in to meet an Employment Advsior, ask to be put on some kind of last minute cancellation list if possible. I bet you get a call. Squeaky wheels get greased – even in the winter! No matter who you are getting help from, that person probably is helping many people. You want to be at the top of the list when they hear of a job and start calling clients.

Keep your resume fresh and up-to-date. When you make a revision to your resume or add a skill, take the opportunity to dash off a short letter and updated resume and get it into the hands of people you are networking with. Those people will mentally move you up of their mental list and they will keep aware of you and therefore keep on the lookout for opportunities you may be suited for. This also applies if you contract or expand your list of potential jobs.


Why Would You Share That?

Imagine you are at an interview for a job that you are really interested in. Five or six questions in to the process, things are going well and you’ve done a really admirable job of answering everything that’s been put to you. At that point, how logical and career enhancing would it be for a friend to walk in to the interview in progress, and pull out a can of beer, open it up, give it to you and for you to take a long pull? Or maybe you just decide to utter a few choice curse words in a conversation with that friend because, well, you want to?

Nobody really does that right? Actually they do in a manner of speaking. The result is predictable in that you probably aren’t going to get much further in that interview for that position. Now here’s the really strange part. The interviewer(s) know that the behaviour they just witnessed is entirely inappropriate, but the interviewee often actually believes it’s really no big deal and the interviewer is over-reacting. Now what if I said that the interviewee was YOU? 

Ah, that word, ‘friend’ I mentioned. Where do you find, ‘friends’ these days? Well on the internet of course and one app, namely Facebook is where, ‘friends’ get together. When friends get together at a distance, sitting in their cosy little apartments, condos, internet cafe’s etc. it’s easy to forget that you might as well have future employers standing right behind you, looking over your shoulder…just watching what develops. Just yesterday I saw a picture on Facebook of someone I know in a very unflattering moment, drink in hand, appearing intoxicated, and looking pretty rough. To be fair, the picture was taken months ago, in which the person was surrounded by a small group of friends who were just having some fun one weekend. Guards were down, it was all just fun and games…until now.

What’s happening today is that employers really are checking into Social Media – Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter to name a few. Their searching your name, looking for photo’s articles, comments, etc. all in an attempt to see you for who you really are. What they hope of course is that the person you appeared to be in the interview is the person that they see outside of the interview. You’re going to be an ambassador for the company if employed there, and when you are not at work, what image will you by association create for the company?

I was so disappointed that I saw the picture there. And once it’s on the internet, it’s not so easy to remove as you might think. Perhaps someone else picks it up and moves or copies it on to their page, or uses it in some other capacity. Then it’s out of your control. You might even be in a situation where a friend and you have a problem that develops into a split in the relationship and now that picture is viral and potentially a huge problem.

Before you post a picture of someone, ask yourself if you would want a picture of YOU posted on the internet doing something the same. Would it affect your career? That is of course the last thing people are thinking. “I’ll just share it with my friends”, people say. Well what if the friends you share it with have different privacy settings and it spreads? You can’t just lamely say, “Oh I never thought about that, but I didn’t share it did I?” Actually you did.

Maybe nothing happens other than friends having a good chuckle or laugh. That would be a best-case scenario. On the other hand, maybe somebody gets reprimanded at work, fired outright, hours cut back to the point they have to quit, re-assigned to another location meaning they have to resign in essence, or maybe you just get passed over at that interview when otherwise the job was yours. These are worse-case scenario’s.

Maybe you think these things don’t happen at all, or they only happen to other people. Wrong. You’re number just hasn’t come up yet…and somewhere, sometime, you’ll have your name searched and then this article might ring true. If you are immature, too young to know better, or not smart enough to think this happens, not much I can really do for you other than to ask you to at least consider the possibilities. If you are maturing, a little wiser, clean up your mess now. Get stuff that you wouldn’t want your employer to see off your pages. Take a picture with a camera, give the picture to a friend to hold and take it back. Only you have it. Put it on Facebook and it’s there forever, potentially killing career advancement.

I don’t ever want to say, “I warned you” or “I told you so.” If you’ve got a son or daughter who is actively using social media, I’d suggest you share this blog with them. Force them to read it if you have to. Sit down and say, “So what do you think”? Get talking. If YOU have pictures of YOUR friends on YOUR page that fall into this category, delete them out of true friendship. You might be damaging a friends working life without even knowing it.

Something to think about yes, but more importantly….DO something about it!


Take The Responsibility

Okay so you’re unemployed; what are YOU doing about it?

I was speaking recently with a woman who is currently unemployed and in order to get an idea of her background and current situation, I asked her to share her work history. Well she started to tell me about her last job and mentioned she had been fired, but quickly explained that away by saying she wasn’t very happy there anyway so it was no big deal. Prior to that, she had worked for a company for about 2 years, and coincidently she was fired from there too but the boss was a jerk so it was actually a good thing. The job before that was only a month-long, and it didn’t work out. “Why?” I asked. “They wanted me to wear a hairnet and I wouldn’t do it so they fired me”. Idiots.”

Do you see the same pattern I do? The person I was trying to help couldn’t or wouldn’t take any responsibility for her own actions, which ultimately resulted in her being fired from all three jobs. You’ll have to trust me when I tell you that the details she provided on all three came down to being asked to do reasonable things that she objected to, and therefore left the employer with no options but to terminate her employment.

It is not only a good idea, but absolutely critical that you – yes you the reader – take responsibility for your actions, your words, your thoughts and your decisions. That goes for me too by the way. It goes for anyone and everyone. Everyday we make all kinds of choices; some of those choices are relatively small and some huge. Should we have toast or cereal? Should I wear my hair up or down? Brown casual socks or brown dress socks? Pretty minor decisions without ramifications down the road.

Then too there are the big decisions. Go to work today or goof off? Keep calm with an irate customer or give him a piece of my mind too? Show up on time or show up when it’s convenient for me? It comes down to picking your battles, making decisions that will positively affect your career, choosing to do the things required to keep a job or not. It’s not even about what is common sense. Unfortunately there are all kinds of people out there who grew up with poor role models from which to learn from, and what seems like common sense to them isn’t mainstream common sense. For example I had a guy once tell me that he punched his boss in the face because the boss told him to go home earlier than he had expected; there just wasn’t enough work to keep him for the rest of the day. Seemed like the right thing to do for him but it wasn’t.

All the decisions you make have consequences. Some of those consequences might have a long-lasting impact on your life. Deciding to do something illegal and getting busted will potentially cost you job opportunities for years. How many years? I know of at least a dozen people who are totally qualified to accept employment in various jobs who cannot be hired due to a 25 year or more DUI charge. They get annoyed and say it was something every teenager does, so why should I pay for it now? Again, not taking responsibility for the offence, and quite frankly not taking the responsibility to do something about it over the course of 25 years or more.

So you are out of work. Fine. How motivated are YOU to DO something about it? Take some responsibility for your current situation and get going. Update your resume, practice your interview skills, take a course, start the pardon process, call somebody you are on bad terms with and start mending the relationship, apply for a job, write a cover letter. Maybe you might want to see an Employment Counsellor, a Mental Health Counsellor, an Addicitions Counsellor, a Literacy Tutor, get your grade 12, update your First Aid / CPR certificate, your WHMIS certificate, your computer skills.

An interviewer might look at your resume and ask what you’ve been doing since you were last employed. Think about that question NOW and ask yourself the same question. What am I doing about things NOW? Sitting at home on the couch, feeling sorry for yourself and mopping around criticizing the world and blaming everybody else for your situation isn’t healthy and it sure isn’t going to land you a job. Obviously not all unemployed people fall into this category. Most in fact, take responsibility for their actions and are actively involved in doing what they can to gain employment.

If you haven’t been taking responsibility for your situation of late, pause and think about that. Sure some things are beyond your control. Being laid off because of a shortage of work, being terminated because the company closed up altogether are two examples of things no individual employee can control. Fine. However, there’s a difference in the out-of-work employee who rolls up his or her sleeves and throws themself into a job search, and the employee who wallows day-to-day lamenting being fired by idiots. Responsibility vs. Lack of Responsibility.

By the way, you may have the makings of an exceptionally unique and effective interview answer if you get going and own up to a few things. Consider this reply to the question,

“So what have you been doing in the two years since you last worked?”

“I’m happy to relate that briefly. Initially I was angry, resentful and blamed everybody but myself for losing job after job. Then I decided to take some personal responsibility for my situation and that decision has led to some pretty significant changes. I’ve recently completed the last remaining course I needed to achieve my Legal Administration Diploma. I’ve also been volunteering on a regular basis for the past six months with a Community Legal Clinic, and have updated my First Aid/CPR Certificate. More importantly, I’ve adjusted my attitude, and improved my self-respect and self-confidence. I am now ready to work, take direction and demonstrate my appreciation to an employer who is willing to invest in me and give me the opportunity to support myself financially.”

All the best to you today!

Give Me One Piece Of Advice

Here’s an interesting little assignment. Ask someone today for a piece of advice. Set it up properly and you’ll have something valuable.

Okay so here’s what’s behind the assignment. If you are seeking to move ahead in your job, or you are job searching and looking to get further ahead quicker, you could benefit from the thoughts, advice and experiences of those around you.  Are you prepared to listen to someone else’s advice? More importantly, are you prepared to strongly consider that advice and then do something about it to put it into action? Depends what they say is your answer I’m betting.

There is a great deal of sense in asking for advice from people you trust and respect, and of course, people who have known you for some time. However, you can also gain some pretty solid insight into people you know very little, but this advice will usually be generalized, the kind of advice they’d give anyone in your role as a job seeker, or employee.

When you ask for advice, set it up by telling the person you value their opinion on something and it would mean a great deal if they would give you some advice. However, you need to add some focus to the advice you are seeking, otherwise you might get a reply like, “Sure, it’s always good advice to put down weed-and-feed in the Spring to keep dandelions away from your lawn”. Well that may be true, but not at all relevant to job searching. Much more effective than to say, “I’m looking for a job as you know, and would really appreciate your advice on one thing I should be doing to get more interviews”.

When you ask someone for their opinion, or their advice, be prepared to listen and then make sure you thank them. You can ask for clarification of course if you don’t quite grasp the advice, but whatever you do, don’t get defensive or combative. Be sincere in your thanks and perhaps tell them you’ll consider their advice. If the person knows you well, you might go so far as to give them permission to tell you what they really think, even if that advice might sting. A personality flaw, hygiene issue or attitude are difficult things to be given advice about because they hit so close to home, but this could be some valuable information you receive.

If the person you ask is some random person off the street, the advice you get will be more general in nature, and advice they feel anyone could benefit from. Sitting on a bus, you could turn to the person next to you and say, “I wonder if I could ask you something? what advice would you give someone who wants to get ahead in a company?” The way the question is phrased leads to a more general answer, and quite frankly that person isn’t qualified to give you yourself any advice because they don’t know you. You still might find that information useful. It might also be something that gets a conversation going, and voila, you’ve started networking.

One thing to add in order to get the best answers to this exercise should you choose to do it; don’t jump all over someone who gives you advice or in any way criticize the person. If you do, not only do you offend someone who is doing exactly what you asked them too originally, but now they might go and tell other people in your workplace. So when you approach someone else, they may not tell you anything of real value because they don’t want a repeat of your reaction, and so they’ll tell you nothing at all and decline to answer you, or they’ll say something you want to hear just to get past the question. That advice isn’t going to be helpful. Unless of course the advice you get from this person is, “You hurt so-and-so’s feelings and need to apologize to them for jumping all over them!” Come to think of it, that advice in that situation would be the best kind!

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The Not-So-Graceful Washroom Interview

Ever had a job interview in a public washroom? Maybe you have and you don’t even know it! (Oh great…one more thing to be thinking about as you prepare for upcoming interviews!)

Some time ago, I was in a large office building and made my way to the mens room. As I walked in, let me describe what I witnessed. Oh and ladies just to be fair, I’ve got a story from the women’s washroom to balance things out, but we’ll start in the men’s room. So I walk in and see this topless man, his massive back covered with black hair and most of it dripping with sweat. The guy’s shirt is draped over an operating hand dryer, billowing out in some attempt to dry the shirt. His pants are undone, presumably because he’s going to tuck in his shirt once he’s got it on. Some kind of novelty boxers are more than clearly visible, but I’m not looking long enough to identify him in a police line up later on.

This poor guy is using coarse paper towels and soap from the hand dispenser in an effort to wash his armpits, sloshing water on the floor around him and the soapy residue is raining down his sides endangering his pants and underwear from getting wet. His hair is just as wet as if he’s come right from the pool, and I can only surmise from the mass of wet paper towels on the counter that he’s somehow wet his head under the tap. Now to add to this scene, I hear him inducing a series of coughs followed by spitting, as the poor guy is doing his best cat imitation and trying to cough up a hairball. As I wash my hands beside him, he says, “Big Interview today.” My last part in this scene is to notice the huge scar on his chest, presumably from some surgery.

Okay ladies, your turn. A story from a few years back. A colleague of mine came back from the women’s washroom in shock and gathered a couple of us co-workers around to tell us what was so hilarious. She said there was this woman in the washroom who had taken up half the counter in the women’s washroom with a hair blower, makeup, hairbrush etc. and was getting ready for an interview. The woman was cursing and swearing out loud obviously upset with stuff she had thought she brought with her only to find that she hadn’t. However the verbal tirade of profanity was unrelenting and it contrasted with the image the woman was putting together. My co-worker said that she had heard people swear before, but this woman took the cake.

Now the irony here is that the woman was now in OUR reception room professionally dressed and groomed to perfection. When she was observed to get up and greet the interviewer a short time later, she had transformed into a very polite, well-mannered applicant who obvious was projecting a good first impression – at least she believed it was her first impression. That colleague of mine was one of the interviewers. She told us later that the woman looked very uncomfortable a minute into the interviewer when it dawned on her where she had seen my colleague a short time ago.

The poor guy in the washroom? Well I never did hear anything further about him. However the point to be made here is essentially the same; he had no idea who may have walked in on him and what information he was unknowingly sharing. Sure he was making a frantic effort to make a good impression on an interviewer, but he revealed a medical condition, and the grossly exaggerated coughing to bring up that wad of phlegm was less than appealing. Any interviewer who witnessed or overheard that would have a hard time ignoring that at an interview.

I do applaud both people for recognizing the need to take necessary steps and improve their appearance, which should by co-relation improve their self-confidence. Neither one of them would have thought however that had the person standing next to them might turn out to be the interviewer they were about to meet. So if you needed to make use of a washroom to do a substantial makeover, what should you do?

Well for one thing, consider using a washroom in an adjoining building, where there is a remote chance you might be seen, then walk across the parking lot or road to the office where the interview is being held. You might also go to an entirely different floor then your interview is on, reducing the chance of being observed by a potential interviewer, but it’s no guarantee. Always conduct yourself with some class and character.

From the moment you arrive at an address, act as if someone is watching you. Maybe somebody looks out the window of the building innocently, just as you blow your nose – without a tissue. Maybe the person you aggressively cut off in the underground parking to get to a free spot is your potential boss. Could be that the person you close the elevator door on while chuckling about it isn’t your interviewer, but the person beside you on the elevator is. No way for you to know.

So even when you are totally qualified on paper, and seem to answer all the questions well during the interview, it could be that your true nature, and the real you reveals yourself for who you are, and the interview was really conducted in the washroom prior to the interview. You were dead in the water before you rose and flashed that well crafted smile with those perfectly glossed lips and whitened teeth.

Ever Wanted To Go Back?

Over this past weekend, I had a conversation with a friend of mine that reminded me of the importance of always leaving an employer on good terms.

Seems that some time ago, this woman had a position with a company that she enjoyed and performed well at, but as happens from time to time, the opportunity presented itself to take some additional education. Additional learning is always a good thing, because not only does it keep the little grey cells amused and vibrant, but it also can prepare you for new career moves. Such was the case here, where upon completion of her education, she moved from one line of work into another; to doing work that she was now recently qualified to do.

So, she gave notice, left on good terms and started the job. However, as it turns out, she told me that the new job also came with some unexpected disappoints that she did not foresee. For one thing, she moved from a line of work with a great deal of social interaction into another where she could literally go for a couple of days without others seeking her out, and her social interaction dropped immensely. Imagine going from a job where you interacted with people a great deal to say, a job where you crunched numbers in a fairly isolating cubicle. Now add to that the reality that even if you wanted to get up and chat with others, every single other employee seemed to actually enjoy the focused number crunching and they didn’t really see value in chatting or like you, want to engage in it.

Well, a growing realization then happened in this case; that being that on the old happiness meter, she realized that with no real passion or interest in the numbers game, she had been better off in the previous job. With this awareness, it became more and more evident that a return to her previous employer would result in a greater work satisfaction, and that in turn would be greater satisfaction in general. With a supportive spouse supporting her decision, she applied to a vacancy posting, and today goes back to the previous employer.

The wisdom to leave on good terms in this case, means that the option to return is always there. When she left originally, had she burned her bridges and slammed the employer or worse her colleagues, going back may not have been an option. Whether its courage or humility or even just a dose of reality, sometimes we realize that what we had is better than what we have, and there isn’t any shame in going back. In fact, returning to an employer may make you appreciate a job more.

Imagine the resume with a job you’ve held, then another job, and then you’re sitting down with an interviewer who works for your original company. You should anticipate being asked why you want to return after leaving. What a chance to speak about your growing appreciation for the work you did, the value of it now grown in your view, and that you may bring additional insight to the work that you previously didn’t. If you left on good terms, your additional experience or education as in this case, may be an asset that makes you more valuable.

Can you go back to a job where you’ve burned a bridge? While technically the answer is yes, you might find you have to wait a long time until people you badmouthed  leave themselves. Re-building a bridge takes a lot of time and effort; and will never work if those on the other side aren’t building on their side to meet you half way.

If you are considering leaving your employer, why not ask in confidence what the company’s policy is with respect to re-hires? Would you be welcomed back (assuming your performance is good)? Would you start at the bottom or where you had progressed to? Would seniority be given up? Are there any other people working there who have left and returned? If not, that could mean the grass is really greener elsewhere, or it could mean that the company frowns on hiring former employees. Find out first!