A Christmas Tree / Resume Analogy

The Christmas tree in the Mitchell household has always been of the real variety, and this year was no exception. My wife and I went out hunting for one a few weeks prior to Christmas day and in one location we only found two left and each, well, either would have been at peace in the home of Charlie Brown. Every year I say, “I think our tree is the best one ever”, after it’s up and we stand back and look at it. That was later though.

We ended up at our Garden Centre; I say our Garden Centre because we’ve given them much of our income in the last few years that we’re now on a first name basis with Larry who works there. Now trees can be compared to each other in a tree lot, and we generally try for one of the taller ones. What’s magical about a real tree? Well inevitably, they seem to grow in size when in the car on the way home and when erected in the living room, they are huge. This year eleven feet of Fraser Fir stood majestically in the living room. We loved it so much we put it up twice.

Yes twice. The first time we decorated it fully and when all done I went outside to put a few remaining red bows on the small pine in our front yard. Only gone for a few precious moments, it was then I heard the plaintive cry of my wife screaming my name as if in the middle of labour. Upon entering the home, there she was; all four feet ten inches of her with arms fully extended around the top foot of the tree, and it lying parallel to the floor. The tree had fallen over as she sat admiring it on the couch. We put it up a second time, and this time tied off the top of the tree with fishing line to the upstairs railing. Some of the ornaments carefully packaged from year to year will not again array themselves on the boughs of trees in years to come. Their shattered remnants were scooped up, lamented and tossed in the trash.

Day by day, night after night, the tree stood in all its splendour; a spectacle next to the fireplace and brought immense warmth, charm, happiness and joy to the house. Last Friday evening the tree was carefully stripped of its ornaments and lights, and carried out to the end of the driveway, bleeding its needles in a mournful attempt to remain in such a coveted corner.

The next day, I took the handsaw and removed every bough and branch, exposing an eleven foot trunk which I cut into pieces. Transporting the tree trunk and boughs to the local landfill is so much easier and cleaner this way and the tree will soon be chipped into mulch and adorn the floor of a conservation area, and thus fulfill its final obligation in the spirit of true recycling.

Now the resume is much the same it seemed to me this morning in the wee hours as I sat in the living room with that warm comforting cup of tea. The resume is carefully constructed with thought put in to what will and will not go on it, just as in the case of the ornaments. When the resume is finally completed, how many times do we stop and give it a look, only to make final adjustments and improvements?

We hope when we submit the resume that the receiver looks it over and feels the same sense of satisfaction and feels it’s worth a detailed look. Much like friends and family members look carefully to spot the hidden nutcrackers hanging in and on the tree, or counting the number of glass angels adorning it. I found two ornaments on the tree which had been missed the night before and spent the long cold night at the end of my drive, just like a couple of errors in a resume go undetected but are hopefully caught before it’s posted.

And of course when a new job is found to apply to, that resume once so beautiful is edited, re-written, changed and tailored to meet the newer posting better, much as next years tree is sure to be decorated perhaps with similar decorations but in different locations, maybe with a few newer ornaments and strands of cranberries.

Next year is sure to mean we will procure the best tree ever, and that image of my four foot ten inch wife holding up an eleven foot fully-decorated Christmas tree while screaming my name is one scene that is likely not to be repeated. Much like of course realizing just before the deadline to submit an application you discern that your carefully constructed and much laboured resume didn’t actually get sent to the right email address and you’ve only got minutes to get it right!


Job Hunting And Sundays

If you have been reading past blogs, you’ll know that I’m quite interested in helping job-seekers and those attempting to get better jobs and promotions. Many of my blogs are written with a theme of getting on with the job search on a full-time basis. Some others are gentler, trying to comfort and support those who find it harder to get going at all.

Today though, I’d like to address what you could or might do on Sundays. Typically few employers do anything at all on this day of the week. While retail stores are open for business, there isn’t a great deal of hiring going, job offers being extended, or resumes being perused. Many senior Managers and HR people are off for the day entirely. Now while this means you’ve only 5 and possibly 6 days of the 7 to get a call about an interview, there is an upside.

The upside of course is that you yourself can relax, do things outside of the job search that bring you happiness, spend time with the family, do some chores around the house. In short, you have a day to recharge your internal batteries in order to keep yourself energized so you can throw yourself into the job search tomorrow on Monday in high gear. Maybe Sunday is the day you hit the gym before the rest of the family even wakes up, or you shuttle the kids around to hockey rinks, or go for a nice long walk in the snow all by yourself. What you do isn’t as important as making sure whatever it is brings you some physical or mental health break.

Doing anything all the time without a mental break is exhausting, and while it may be that you believe it’s what you should be doing when you are unemployed, taking this one day to do something different is beneficial in the long run. Now there’s something important to note here though. If you have a spouse, that person is naturally hoping you get a job sooner rather than later, and if they are employed, they may not see how hard you are working from Monday to Friday. Consequently, you might feel some pressure to look busy on Sunday and demonstrate your job searching effort.

Best to have a sit-down conversation with your spouse periodically and bring him or her up-to-date on how things are going, applications you’ve made, rejection letters you’ve received, and interviews you have lined up. By sharing this information on a regular basis, you keep your partner in the loop, and you’re less likely to feel additional pressure to look busy. What you want to avoid at all costs is finally unwinding on a Sunday to play a game with the kids and then have your partner yell at you to, “get busy and get a job!”. Where’d that come from?

Well you aren’t the only one under pressure. If you keep your job-searching private and don’t share what you do from day-to-day, your partner will only know what they see. That outburst may just be a release valve in their mental factory that just blew off some steam because they feel the pressure too; especially with Christmas bills about to arrive.

Your spouse, your kids, and most importantly you yourself all deserve a day where you can do things together that brings relief and unity to your family. If these are the lean times, look for free stuff you can do in your community. Public ice-skating on outdoor rinks, public swimming time sponsored by Tim Horton’s, building snowmen in the yard, walking the dog in the park, playing some board games around the table. All free things you can do and there are many more of course.

Even if you are single, take this day to do things that bring you personal happiness. When you are busy looking for work in the middle of the week, you’ve got a day to look forward to that’s coming up being Sunday. If you plan a little now, you might even find that something as simple as having a Sunday to look forward to gives you energy when you are feeling overwhelmed with the job search pressures. Looking forward to things can get you through the present.

Should you spend some time looking up a job bank or updating a resume on a Sunday, do so because you actually want to, not because you feel guilty. It may be that doing a bit on a Sunday actually is more enjoyable because you’ve got less pressure to perform, and you see yourself as doing something when other job-seekers are out relaxing; so this is your edge. Perhaps.

Just visualize one thing today: a tall glass filled with water that is tipped and emptying of the liquid. Unless it gets replenished, eventually all that water drains out, and the glass is empty. Now see that glass as a metaphor for your energy and enthusiasm for job searching. You’ve got to replenish your own reserves with things that bring you happiness and mental stability.

All the best today and every Sunday!

Christmas Morning, Dinner, And A Job Interview

Do you have one of those kids who beats you out of bed on Christmas morning? If you do, you’re missing one of my favourite scenes, and it repeats itself once every year. The scene of course is where I’m sitting in the living room with the tree lit and as I hear my daughters feet thump to the floor telling me she’s awake, I stop whatever I’m doing and look to where she’ll make her first appearance so I can see her reaction to the presents, and that first magical moment of Christmas morning.

I will have gone to bed last the evening before, and there will be numerous presents arranged under and around the tree that she is not aware of; some wrapped, some visible, and much thought gone into placing each in such a way that the eyes can take in the spectacle.

By the time dinner rolls around, equal care will have been taken not only in the cooking of the Christmas turkey, but also in the presentation of the entire meal and table. The best linen is out, the table settings are carefully arranged around a centerpiece, the Christmas crackers on each plate, the trivets arranged and spaced evenly so hot dishes can be available to everyone at the start of the feast, and the ordinary salt and pepper shakers replaced with the festive pair brought out at this time of year. Nothing is left to chance.

Now all this advanced planning and preparation, right from the composition of the shopping list to the last taste of minced pie and ice cream, has been carefully constructed. Putting that plan into action usually results in a less stressful day, more merriment for the host and hostess, and all who are present derive the best from what is on offer.

Turning to your job search or your role at work in an existing job, isn’t it equally important that you take the necessary time and care to craft your own image, your own brand, and in so doing, reduce your own stress? Of course it is. In supposing you are preparing for an interview, you should take the time to plan your strategy, how you want to be perceived, anticipate certain questions and devise possible answers to each. Winging it might be better left for your competition.

Get out your interview clothes and look them over a day or two before you’ll put them on. Is everything clean? Maybe your shoes could use a little polish, especially if the salt at this time of the year has caused salt stains to appear. Think about ironing that shirt, your skirt or pants, and think about the accessories too; your jewellery, watch and any purse or portfolio you might bring. Keep jewellery to a minimum.

That first moment when you walk in to meet the interviewer is just like that first moment I see the reaction on my daughter’s face on Christmas morning as she checks out the tree. I’m sizing up her reaction and get great pleasure from that few seconds, and an interviewer is sizing up you in a couple of seconds as well.

The interview itself is just like Christmas dinner. You get called in, you sit down, you exchange some pleasantries and you hope the initial presentation is excellent. Then each dish is just like a question at an interview with one main difference; you can’t pass on something you don’t like. If you are fortunate, after the interview, the interviewer feels they have enough and can make a decision based on what they’ve heard. Sometimes, you get called back for a second interview, just like you might get passed the turkey and mashed potatoes for a second go round. Negotiating your salary or start date is like telling the host the size of the piece of pie you’d like, and whether or not you want ice cream on the side, or which of the three desserts you’d like to sample.

Oh and you’d be best to remember to thank the interviewer for the interview akin to thanking your host for the wonderful meal. Good manners go well in each setting.

Think carefully now about your image you wish to convey. Set aside perhaps some clothes that you reserve for interviews to ensure they are ready when you need them. In addition to clothing, consider your personal grooming; your hair, for men your facial hair or lack thereof. As you put any Christmas gifts of clothing away, do so with care and hang things up properly so they don’t come out all wrinkled on the day you need them.

Here’s a glass raised to you and good wishes for a prosperous and successful new position in 2013 shortly to come!

Expecting Vs. Hoping

I’m fortunate in that behind my home, there is a field that is operated by a farmer who rotates between soy and corn crops. Our home is but three years old, and I’ve been told by my wife that there is to be no development in that area for a minimum of twenty years. Apparently the reason why is that with the existing development in Lindsay where I live, the existing planned areas for homes must be completed prior to any additional building sites. Nice.

Since we moved to our home three years ago, we have been fortunate to spot deer, wild turkeys and coyotes in the field from time to time. During the winter months, the spotting of wildlife is easier against the white background of the snow instead of the Spring and Fall when things are neutral in colour and the animals camouflage themselves better. Not much point in looking in the summer as the height of any crops pretty much makes spotting shorter animals an impossibility.

I’m always looking however and hoping to spot wildlife. During the Christmas break however, I’ve decided to stop hoping to spot life and started to expect to spot it. Oddly enough, today I spotted 36 wild turkeys and one coyote in the early hours at 4:30a.m.! Now just because I expected to see wildlife doesn’t mean they all got together in the other end of the field and bush and came out just for my benefit. To think differently would be peculiar as if I had some magical control over the fate of animals to make the rounds for my sake.

However, because I expect to see wildlife, I’ve made more of an effort to look out the window, and when I’ve looked, I’ve looked with more intensity and for longer periods. Then I got to thinking, isn’t there a parallel between this activity and the art of job searching? You bet there is.

What a difference between just hoping to get a job and actually expecting to get a job. The difference in this case, much like my decision to look more intently for wildlife, is to put more effort into the job search because the results are expected. This involves a shift in mental energy and sets up personal expectations for favourable results that I believe I have the power in influencing. Put in a concentrated effort with some enthusiasm and energy, and the likelihood of a positive result is heightened rather than just hoping to get a job.

Doesn’t it even sound more assertive and confident to say, “I expect to be hired shortly” instead of, “I hope to be hired shortly”? Of course if you don’t ACT with confidence and do the required work, just saying you expect to be hired won’t work any better than rubbing a lamp and hoping for a magical Genie to appear and grant you three wishes. (By the way, if this actually DOES work, I’ve never heard of anyone wasting their three wishes by wishing to have a job!).

When you are talking with other people, for example an Employment Counsellor like myself, using this kind of assertive language is like a breath of fresh air. Tell me you expect to be hired shortly and I’m more motivated to put forth some effort to match your positive attitude, and even this is multiplied if you Demonstrate via your behaviour that you are doing what it takes to land interviews and succeed in doing them well.   

I worked helping a woman this past year who hoped to get hired. She had skills, attitude, looks, but needed help crafting her resume and cover letter. She had pretty decent interview skills too, but there were two questions she answered with anxiety and it showed. Now once she opened herself up to accepting help and we pinpointed where she could improve her overall image, she walked into the room one morning and you know what she said? No kidding, she said, “I expect to get an interview today, I’m done with just hoping”.

Now in her case it took another two months before she landed the interview and as I suspected, once she actually got the interview, she landed the job the following day. Hers was a competitive field where not too many jobs are actually advertised so it may not take as long in your case depending on what you are going after, but the point is her attitude shifted, and the results followed.

Do you hope to get hired in 2013 or do you expect to get hired in 2013? If you answered that you hope to get hired, think about making this slight change in wording and then act differently the way someone would if they actually expected it. If you answered that you expect to be hired in 2013, you’ve got to now start working harder to get your applications out on a more consistent daily basis and with better presentation.

Do your homework and research companies, network more, set up meetings, apply for jobs daily, do a single resume for every single job you apply to, and make a cover letter that is powerful as your marketing tools should be. Get out and badger an Employment Counsellor. Set up a meeting with an Employment Counsellor, walk in and introduce yourself with confidence, head held up, hand extended for a firm handshake and say, “Hi, my name is ______________ _____________, I’m expecting your very best today, and you in turn can count on me to do whatever you suggest to improve my job searching. I expect to be hired in the near future with your assistance!”

Locking Yourself Up

During your job search, you’re going to experience some highs and lows. You’ll do things that make you proud of yourself, even though on a big scale, they may be pretty small. For example, sitting alone at home in front of your computer, you type up your resume and throw in a load of laundry at the same time. Major accomplishment? Hardly,but if you’ve had several days of lounging around and not accomplishing anything at all over the holidays, you should look on getting your resume together as a big deal and congratulate yourself for doing it.

Now there are times when you may not be busy doing much of anything and your mind just won’t allow you a moment’s peace. Maybe it’s replaying over and over some scenario where you said or did something you now regret that led to your termination, or you didn’t volunteer for some project and the guy that did just got that big promotion you were gunning for and now you’re wondering what might have happened if you did.

To be honest with you, the past is well…the past. Playing the blame game with yourself is going to leave you stuck in neutral and spinning your tires getting nowhere fast. Oddly enough, some people actually allow and encourage these negative thoughts and feel they deserve to be ‘punished’ by their thoughts because they are a bad person and do bad things. Personally I think that’s nonsense.

It’s not that I’m insensitive or aren’t aware that people need to work through their issues at their own pace. I believe that people; all people, make errors in judgement from time to time, and those errors in judgement sometimes result in consequences that are more significant for some than others. So if you’ve made a poor decision in the past, recognize first that it is in fact, in the past! Your present situation, feelings and unemployment do not have to be only affected by what you have done, but can be influenced by what you NOW choose to do or not to do. Can you change the past? No. Can you change the present and influence the future? Yes. So what are you going to do about things?

What you do today and in the next few days, will have an impact on your future and the length and depth of the sorrow, depression and anxiety you feel right now. It may not be as straight forward as picking yourself up and dusting yourself off, but it does begin with you. Every person who achieved anything, no matter how great, started out making a single decision to do something. That first step – the very first step mind – may have been very, very small indeed. Oh sure we only know about the end result, and sometimes we get a brief speech by the person telling us how they got to where they are today. Way back in time however, they were probably faced with tough times, and the reason they ended up successful was a decision they made to act.

Now other people who do not accomplish great things, and struggle just to get by, well, they too make decisions. The decision some of them make is to do nothing for fear of making a bad decision. Realize however, that the decision to sit in limbo and not make a decision is in fact a decision itself. The big danger here is that on top of all the other problems they may have had, now they have a further problem which is called paralysis. Paralyzed by indecision, they lock themselves in a prison and fail to use the key they have in their own hands to unlock the prison door and step outside. This is a perplexing conundrum to those on the outside looking in. We know people have the ability and skill to free themselves, and yet there they sit.

Now let’s look at your present reality. You’re out of work or you’re underemployed. You know you aren’t happy with your unemployment or your present job because you feel you could be doing so much more. So far so good. Now I’d suggest you objectively inventory your skills, strengths, liabilities, problem-solving ability, interpersonal and communication abilities, assets and resources. Who do you know who believes in you. Set up a meeting with these people or this person. You need some building up my friend. When you don’t believe in yourself, put yourself in the hands of someone you genuinely trust and ask them to do something for you. Ask this person or these people, to tell you what they like in you, what strengths you have, your best qualities. Don’t be modest about this, and don’t discount anything they say. Don’t interrupt them, or deny what they say. L I S T E N .

If you are talking with more than one person, think about qualities and strengths you hear repeated. That’s a big clue. Write these things down – all of them and underline or circle anything said more than once. These are your biggest assets. When you’ve got this list written down, start thinking about the jobs you’ve had in the past and more importantly the jobs you might want in the future. How do the qualities you’ve listed get valued in the jobs you’ve had vs. the jobs you want? Maybe you’re not the problem at all, but your best qualities and attributes aren’t valued in the jobs you’ve held. Find a better fit, and you’ll excel, you’ll be happy, and you’ll be hired!

The hardest prison to break out of is not a physical walled in structure, nor lined with iron bars or bricks and mortar. The toughest, most secure prison in the world is the one built in your own imagination, and if you believe that, you must by default also believe that you can equally imagine the key, the unlocking, the stepping out, and then looking back from a distance to see how you had been held captive not by a jailer, but by yourself.



Turning To God For A Job

Yesterday was Christmas Day; did any of you open a box or bag and find an employment contract? Nonetheless, I’d be willing to bet that in the wee small hours of the waning evening the night before Christmas, some job seekers out there did in fact get down on their knees and beside their bed, pray to God for a job.

If you believe in God, then your belief is in part based on faith; faith that He exists, and in praying, you demonstrate a hope and belief that your prayers are heard and hopefully answered. It provides comfort to know feel that God in all his magnificence and power has enough time and concern to listen to one single creature on the planet Earth and find our prayer of need for a job important enough to give us a positive reply.

Now if you don’t believe in God, perhaps you believe in something that is bigger than yourself and give that entity another name, and it is to that Being that you send out your deepest personal expression and hope to have some kind of blessing as you search for employment. For the non-believers, the ones who see nothing in this universe more powerful or deserving of their faith and reverence than themselves, perhaps you have thought about the wishes that people all over the world are putting forth at this time of the year, and are hoping for a job yourself in the early stages of 2013.

However, since this is Christmas and a celebration of the Christ child, let’s turn things over here to the Christians, and give them their moment without debate. While I’m not an expert in how God expects and requires prayer in order to answer, I do believe that in order to have ones prayer for employment answered, the prayer is only the beginning. You still need to apply for jobs yourself, and you still need to research the job and the company to put yourself in a position to have your prayers answered. I don’t really believe that praying alone is good enough. I mean after all, if that was the case, then it would be quite reasonable to expect a knock on your door, a telephone call from an employer you didn’t apply to, or a box under the tree with a job offer that from a company you’ve never heard of. Doesn’t happen I think.

So putting forth a concerted effort to look for employment and doing all the things that job searching entails, puts you in a position for God to actually do His thing. There are some people too that believe with all the pain and suffering in the world, there is an arrogance in asking God for anything for ourselves as mundane as a job. Who are they to know what God will or will not want to hear about? Doesn’t God take an interest in all the people on the planet and isn’t He capable of answering and listening to everybody?

So if you sent out that prayer asking for God to bless your job search with an offer of a job in the near future, you have to do your part by putting yourself in a position to have that prayer answered. This might mean you now have to work harder than you did in the past and go about looking for a job in a different way than you have been up to now.

So here is where the services provided by Employment Counsellors, Career Advisors, Job Coaches and Job Developers comes in. You have to be the one to initiate contact with one of these professionals. Now this isn’t a shameless ad for people in these professions. I’m just pointing out that if you are praying to God for a job at this time of the year, (and at any other time of the year by the way), you might do well to consider that God in answering your prayer is bringing your attention to the services they provide. Think of it like Him answering you through those people, whether they themselves are Believers.

In a few short days, 2013 will have arrived and people everywhere will be hoping for a better 2013 than 2012. Why shouldn’t we hope and believe that with a flip in the calendar, we can turn over a new chapter in our work lives too? More than any other single factor in your job search, your personal attitude will likely determine your success or failure. You yourself have to put forth the enthusiasm for the job search and then get help and advice on how you are going about it. When you seek that advice, simply get the thoughts from people who do it on a regular basis….maybe they themselves prayed to God to put them in a position to help others in this world, and they are just waiting for you to call them or knock on their door!

Good luck in your job search; if you prayed to God for a job this Christmas, and if you believe in His ability to guide you, then you’ve got your work cut out for you! Get going!

What Qualifies You For This Job?

When you go into an interview for a job, you should be thinking not so much about why YOU want the job but rather, what do you have to offer the interviewer that separates you from all the other applicants.

You’ve got to look at things from the view of the person who is sitting across from you. After all, you want the job or presumably you wouldn’t have applied. However, what isn’t any guarantee is that they want you. So, while you may have looked good on paper enough to land the interview, you have to raise your game at this point to stand out from the others who also looked good enough on paper to get the interview. That awesome resume got you a seat in the interview. Now is the time for your interpersonal skills, assertiveness, quick-thinking and communication skills to shine.

In the interview, remember that you can lay out some of your paperwork in front of you. You should have a good grasp of the posting and the job requirements. By this time, you should also have done your homework and know more about the company and it’s culture. So armed with this information, you would it is assumed, be able to intelligently answer the question about how your qualifications match the ones the company requires. Keep in mind of course that other applicants who have made it this far also must be equally qualified. So what’s a company looking for? Well something in addition to what they got on the resume.

Okay sure the company interviewer has to verify your qualifications by probing. Once done with this though, the interviewer will be more impressed; and an impression left on them, if you can identify additional qualities that put you in the forefront of the job competition. Your research or advanced networking with other employees in the organization may be your ace that you can play at this point. What have you learned from folks on the inside in terms of identifying problems and do you have a solution to provide?

Don’t make the reveal you have fifteen years experience doing a job if the company clearly stated they wanted someone with 6 months to 1 year only. In this case you now have to convince the interviewer that you’ll be happy doing this when they might assume you’ll only do the job until a promotional opportunity arises. Or you’ll have to waste valuable interview time now explaining that you are indeed trainable and take direction well. I’d assume, as will an interviewer, that you will have difficulty taking direction from someone with less experience, and conflict is inevitable. You may think revealing all that experience is your edge, when in fact the only edge is the guillotine as you remove yourself from the list of suitable applicants.

What should qualify you is your enthusiasm, your zest for the work required, your can-do attitude, your ability to work productively and co-operatively with others – perhaps. As good as these qualities are, they can’t be automatically assumed to be what the employer wants. Did you do your homework? Then working co-operatively might not be what’s required if you will be working independently most of the time. Get the idea

Draw upon your past experience and training that puts you in a position today to succeed. If you have what it takes, take what you have and market it to its best in the job interview! 


The Upside Of Hitting A New Low

Over the last couple of days, I have had no less than 3 people tell me that they have never been so down in their lives before. These new lows are hitting them hard and the emotions that are surfacing and coming out aren’t the way they want to be or ever imagined they could be.

In all three situations the most current event, the one thing that connects all these individual stories, is the loss of a job and the resulting loss of income and the pressure and stress of needing to shore things up immediately. So it may be well and good to pause today and rather than blog about another matter I had in mind, to address some of the issues surrounding the job loss phenomenon.

When those words come to you that you’ve been fired, it hits like a brick in the face. The shock and immediate mental terror that has you in disbelief can’t really be effectively dealt with at this initial stage; you are in shock after all. Something unwanted has just slammed into your life and things are changing too fast to find anything you can really cling to. What to do? One suggestion might be to remove yourself as soon as possible from the source of the shock and in whatever space you call your home, take stock of things. Stabilize your situation mentally and go over what just happened.

In the short-term, apply for any financial benefits such as Employment Insurance and do it the same day you lose your position if you can. Get all the necessary paperwork later, like your Record of Employment. Any benefits you are entitled to will go back to the day you applied, not the day you lost your job. If there is a penalty of some kind for being terminated with cause, write out your take on the situation and in some cases this might get you reduced benefits instead of none at all. You’re going to need this income shortly and it takes time to process your claim.

For some people, curling up in a fetal position behind drawn shades for days on end and hiding from the world and the people in it is going to be tempting. Don’t do this please. This is the very time you need to sit down and update that resume. You’ll find it more useful too if you can identify your strengths, beliefs, values, skills and positive attributes. You have a lot to offer to an employer, you just need the right fit. While it would probably be wrong to beg for your job back, it might be useful to re-connect with your former employer and at least sort out what kind of reference they might be willing to provide. If you tell them that you are moving forward and would appreciate at bare minimum that they just confirm your employment dates with any perspective reference check, you might be in luck. The employer might breathe a sigh of relief that you aren’t going to sue for wrongful dismissal or cause a verbal scene and they’ll be happy to do this for you just to get you on to some other job so you are out of their life.

At the worst, if they say they’ll tell employers looking for a reference on you the truth about your termination, you can use this information to mitigate damage at the end of future interviews. When asked for references after a good interview, you may choose to share what the former employer may say, and the new employer will appreciate your honesty, especially if you can demonstrate you’ve learned something through the experience and it won’t be repeated.

You’re going to be angry; angry with that stupid boss, those idiot co-workers, and maybe, ye maybe yourself for doing or saying something that got you the sack. Don’t beat yourself up over it because that’s just wasted energy and you haven’t got a lot to spare at this stage in the process. Anger is raw emotion that if unleashed could just multiply your short-term unemployment through some poorly thought-out decisions you make now. Short-term satisfaction and long-term regret….like pouring sugar in the gas tank of your bosses car and being videotaped doing it.

While you consider getting your next career move going, consider at least the option of getting a short-term job outside of your chosen career field. This short-term job might be one that gives you some immediate cash, builds up your self-esteem a little, and is one you can then quit without damaging your reputation when you land the right long-term job you really want. This is a Band-Aid solution remember, not a long-term strategy.

Get connected with contacts and tell EVERYBODY you are looking for work and tell them what you are looking for. Don’t just say, “Let me know if you hear of anything.” What is it you want? Be clear. Go to some networking events, get involved in discussion groups, dress each day with pride and focus on your positive qualities. The sting you feel from that bad experience is just waiting for a crack in your self-confidence to remind you how dumb you are, how bad off you are, how in trouble you are. You’re smart enough to know that’s just a dark place you should avoid because there’s nothing healthy to be found there. That wallowing pool of self-remorse, that pool of pity is best left for someone else to drown in. You’ve got no time for that.

Get yourself in to an Employment Counsellor and get your resume looked at and for sure come up with an answer to the question, “So why did you leave your last job?” You’re going to need to deliver an answer without visibly falling apart or having your face betray your anger and resentment. When you find a strong answer that you can use and feel good about, you’re going to feel like you can flick that demon off your shoulder. 

This new low point in your life does have an upside. While it isn’t apparent now, you will find that in the future when you look back, you’ll have a better appreciation for your current situation and your new employer. You’ll hopefully have grown and learned from what went wrong and maybe even realize that surprise, surprise, losing that job actually moved you forward in a direction you would not otherwise have taken on your own. If you are at a new low, doesn’t that mean you probably have a future that’s better than the present? Probably.

You might need or want to speak with your bank and creditor’s, explain your situation and get them off your back. Consolidating debt can stop phone calls from collection agencies, and please remember that most people – yes most people – are themselves people who have changed careers, been laid-off at some point, possibly fired, quit etc. in their past. The stigma of being sacked isn’t quite as bad as it once was. That’s little comfort right now, I know.

You will move forward, things will improve, and it’s a question of time. It may be a short time, but probably longer than you’d like if you need a job immediately. Target your resume and cover letters; circulate, get applying for jobs and back in the game. You deserve an opportunity and perhaps an employer who is willing to give you a shot with a dose of support and understanding thrown in.

All the best in dealing with the immediate stuff. It’s a lot perhaps to deal with, but I suspect you’re strong enough to ride it out and emerge employed, empowered, and better.   

How They Form That First Impression Of You

You’re up for that big promotion and you get wind that they’re flying in the big boys from Corporate to meet you in order to check you out; oh and they’ll be wanting to meet the wife of course. Not to worry, it’ll just be an intimate dinner with the two of you and the three of them. Or more likely, you’ve landed an interview and you’re going to be meeting someone, or some people from the company who are going to be conducting the interview.

In both scenario’s you are going to be on display and those people are going to be checking you out. So in order to prepare you, let’s look at HOW they’ll go about that. Remember that this process makes sense. Why? Well, they’ll be using all five senses to help them in shaping their opinion of you, and ultimately their judgement pronounced upon you!

Feel, smell, taste, see, hear  + their past experiences = the impression they form. The good news is you can influence the impression they form by breaking down the five senses. The handshake is one of the first things strangers may do when first walking up to you. That extended hand in your direction is one way they’ll use to then make a leap to what your handshake conveys. Is it limp, firm, bone-crushing, and does that in turn convey weakness, assertiveness maybe aggressiveness?

The eyes of course will be used to see what you look like. Are you dressed appropriately for the interview or not? Was that a brown sock and a black sock I just saw? Your clothes will tell them whether you might fit in or not, whether you take the interview seriously or not, and the clothes you’re wearing might be the best you’ve got in some situations.

Oh and these new people will use their nose to smell you as odd as that sounds. It will be subtle, but whether or not you’re wearing a strong perfume or cologne, or whether you have a strong body odour will influence their opinion. In a heat wave you might be concerned about sweating and the resulting smell, or perhaps you subtle fragrance reminds someone of a past spouse, and if that ended badly, well, too bad for you.

Using their ears to listen to your words, their tone, your vocabulary, your answers (weak or strong), your use of humour, your monotone voice; all will again influence that opinion.

Lastly we come to taste. Now of course they aren’t going to literally nibble on your ear or lick your cheek, but you’ll find they may say to themselves after you have left, “Leaves a bad taste in my mouth” or “What stories and humour! He left me thirsty for more”.

Now all of the five senses that an interviewer may employ are certainly things you can influence for the good or the bad. The one thing in that equation above that you have limited power to control is past experiences. So if all the panel members across from you are new to you, there is no personal past history to have influenced. In this case, they will be nonetheless comparing you to other people from their past and judging you based on whether those past relationships worked or not. For example, maybe you are way too young in their opinion and remind them of Anwar who was so full of himself and thought he was better than his co-workers. Maybe a prejudice of theirs rises when your strong body odour from years of cooking with spices hits their nostrils and they are instantly reminded of a very bad experience they had while on vacation in a foreign county. How are they going to deal with you on a daily basis? Not fair of course, but maybe reality playing out in their head too.

Now in the case of a promotion, you may know every person on the interview panel. The sum total of all their dealings with you up to this point in time will of course influence their decision and their opinion of you as they try to imagine you in a different role. Can they see you as a Supervisor with respect from your peers? That incident in the staff kitchen with the whipped cream might have been funny back then, but at this new level could never be tolerated.

Think carefully about how you craft your image both as you prepare for the interview over a few days and in whatever situation you find yourself in here and now. In your current job, you may not be pushing for any promotion. However, realize that others are taking notice of you unconsciously on a daily basis. They’ll put the sum total of those experiences together like a puzzle if and when you decide at some future date to move forward and apply for a promotion. If you don’t realize and act on this reality, you’ll perhaps wish that you had.

Feel, smell, taste, see, hear  + their past experiences = the impression they form.

A nice, neat simple formula that wraps up how we form opinions and pass judgements on those around us, and equally important, how they form opinions and pass judgement on us!

Things I Have To Believe In

I feel the urge to share some of the things and people I believe in today and I’ll tell you why. I was standing in line speaking with someone yesterday when a young woman walked by chatting with a co-worker and we both overheard her speaking with a lot of passion and hope for some client of hers. The person I was talking to rolled their eyes as they passed and out of the side of their mouth quietly said, “Ugh, give her a few years to grow up and she’ll soon change her tune”.

Well the cynicism of those words and the mocking tone in which they were uttered made me feel sad for the person who spoke them rather than the person they were speaking about. I hope I never get to the point where I stop believing in the people I’m working with, and lose hope in them. And that chance comment overheard while standing in a checkout line had me thinking yesterday and again this morning about people and things I believe in.

I certainly believe in the power people have to change their lives; the desire to change direction and the courage to move forward. People around me are constantly looking at new jobs, careers, going back to school, re-training and re-tooling their skills and pursuing their interests. It’s a privilege to be a small part in that huge change that’s going on in their lives.

I’ve got to believe in my co-workers abilities, trusting in them to do their work with enthusiasm and professionalism, to show up regularly and back me up when I’m in some kind of need. I work with people I’ve come to respect and have confidence in their capacity to deliver as we work with the same clientele and the message we all bring has to be consistent.

I believe in the sincerity of the people I’ve never met who email me for help and advice with some job search issue, or request for my opinion with a problem in their work-related life. I’ve never met nor do I expect to meet some of these people in person, but I must believe in the sincerity of their requests and try to empathize with their situation in order to offer any meaningful suggestion for resolution. If someone out there is in need and asks for my thoughts, what a deep honour it is to feel that in some very small way I might have words of comfort and support.

I believe in the big guy. Last week I donned the red and white outfit myself and took on the guise of Santa himself for my co-workers fun day with his young dads group and their children. What a joy and responsibility which I truly appreciated. As I drove to and from the venue, I waved at other motorists and pedestrians, smiled and winked at kids in cars, brought smiles and laughter to the faces of adults who seconds before seeing me were sour and serious. Oh yeah, I believe in Santa and his power to bring joy into the hearts of others.

I have to believe in you my colleagues who work in similar roles as I do in other organizations, in other cities, in other countries. If we share new ideas, our experiences, if we get in discussions with each other and support each other, can’t we by associating better our own skills and abilities? I have to believe that like me, you yourself strive to work with passion and commitment in your own job. Ours is a job that can’t be faked for long without becoming obvious to others that it’s time we moved on. So I believe in you.

I have to believe in the most fantastic of stories I hear on a daily basis from the mouths of the clients whom I serve. While time will often reveal to me that a client lied or embellished the truth in order to get me to release a cheque for example, I’ve got to believe in every single fantastic story because not to believe is the poorer option. If a client experiences my trust in something as mundane to me as getting a cheque to pay rent and buy food, I’ve got to realize that in believing in them, I may have helped them avert disaster and maybe down the road they’ll trust me with the truth and I’ll truly be better able to help them with bigger issues. Sure I’ll get burned every now and then; I like my chances.

I’ve got to believe in my Supervisor at work; that she has my best interests at heart and my well-being and that in doing so, she puts me in the best chance to succeed with my clients. I’ve never worked with such a wonderful person, and I truly appreciate her daily and tell her so. One day she and I will part which is natural and I don’t want to wait until one of us is having that goodbye luncheon before I tell her how I feel. She may need to hear those words now.

I’ve got both a colleague and a relative who are both going through the experience of being left by their spouses for another woman. I’ve got to believe that both are beautiful people deserving of support and someone in their lives that they can fully trust and feel appreciated by. That guy might come along for them but neither are really at the point where that’s an issue – yet. They’ll both get there in their own time. Both are stronger than they know and will ride this out and that’s what I believe.

I find that believing in other people, and their capacity to do good works for me. From time to time it is only natural that I find myself saddened but I’ll gladly take those few times. You see I’ve run into co-workers over the years that don’t believe in their clients, that everybody is scamming some system, that no one should be trusted, that people somehow have to earn their trust and respect. Who made them so almighty that they are on some pinnacle that others must bow down to with respect just upon meeting them for the first time?

Those individuals who have grown cynical and distrustful I find have had personal experiences in their past where they have been let down and deceived too often. To them I say that you can never go wrong in giving others the benefit of the doubt and believing in others who may have far too many people in their own lives who have given up on them. Many of the people, usually women, I speak with have been told for years by their very own parents, teachers and people of influence that they will never amount to anything. So why should I expect that in a few short meetings, I’m going to undo years and years of psychological abuse? But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t start laying some seeds for giving someone some hope that here is one person I might be able to trust.

Catch yourself if you can in your meetings this day with others and ask yourself if perhaps you might want to tell somebody you believe in them and their ability to move forward. You have an amazing responsibility and opportunity to give hope to others, to inspire, to lead by example, and to act with compassion, care and empathy.

And all you have to do is believe.