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!