Modify Your Dream, Or Magnify Your Skills

Got a dream? Not just any old dream; a dream about yourself in the future where you are successfully employed or self-employed? Fantastic. It is likely that the you of your future is different in a number of ways from the present you. So how are you going to achieve that dream?

I’m willing to bet that the you of your future has enhanced skills; some newly acquired skills that put you in a position to take advantage of opportunities as they arise. Without the new qualifications or enhanced skill set, it is unlikely that the vision you have for yourself will materialize, otherwise why couldn’t you walk out the door today and into that dream occupation?

By way of illustration, suppose your dream job is to be a Rodeo Clown. They can laugh all they want, but that’s your dream and you are entitled to it. If the extent of your exposure to horses and bulls is seeing them on television, or going on a trail ride once a year, it is unlikely you will be offered a job at the next Wild West show. In this case, you’re going to need more exposure to riding, learn the tricks of the trade, how to protect bull riders when they are rejected by the bull, and of course how to protect yourself. Without this additional learning and experience, you must scale down or drop your dream of being a Rodeo Clown because it’s just never going to happen.

Modifying your dream in the above illustration doesn’t necessarily mean you have to completely remove yourself from the proximity of it however. So instead of resigning yourself to working in a dingy office with your Business and Economics degree, perhaps you could find a way to get employed working for a Wild West company as their Business Manager, Accountant, etc. In other words, among the occupations that have a Rodeo Clown at the centre of a circle, are there jobs you could apply for that would in some way offer fulfillment for you. So you either modify your dream (Rodeo Clown no more, Rodeo Clown’s Business Manager moving forward), or you magnify your skills (Rodeo Clown school sign me up).

The major difficulty for many is they hold on to their original dream but fail to take the training, education, and gain the experience necessary to one day realize their career dream. Looking from the outside in, maybe you and I can see it’s never going to happen unless something changes in the person, but the person fails to see things objectively.

Perhaps the reason for holding on to a dream but doing nothing to bring it about is fear. After all, if you actually went and got required education, you couldn’t use that as an excuse anymore could you? Of if you took the time to try to get the education and failed, you’d have to admit your dream is over, and some people just want to have a dream to hold onto.

By the way, did you scoff at the example of a Rodeo Clown? Why didn’t I make it more believable, common place or realistic you ask? Well too often, a person is truly reluctant to share their dream because they fear ridicule and being dismissed. A person has the right to dream of being and doing whatever they find joy and happiness in. Just because that occupation may seem remote to you, or unattainable, I think it serves us well to give a person a chance to talk about what would really make them happiest. When they do, you might see passion, excitement and energy that has been lacking as they talked about jobs and occupations that were what they thought you wanted to hear from them but that they have little interest in. If you are in a position to help them succeed, or help them do the necessary research they need to get going, that’s the help you should provide.

The encouragement you offer another may be to listen, to ask questions, find out why that is appealing, how long that dream has been had, and challenge them to do a few things to find out more about making that dream a few steps closer. If in the research, the person realizes that the dream is actually unrealistic, such as in the case of needing 7 years of school to become a Dentist, that may help them move forward in another direction. On the other hand, if your words help them realize that their dream job is within their ability to make come true, you may have been the one person in their life that actually helped move them along. One day, they might retire from being a Rodeo Clown and at their retirement dinner, speak your name as the one person who encouraged them and helped make their dream come true.

Signs That You Need A Change

For some people, the word, “Change” stirs up thoughts like uncertainty, flux, chaos, and those words bring about feelings of anxiety and negative stress. At the other end of the spectrum, change can mean a fresh start, new challenges, stimulation and unknown possibilities. How do you view change?

Now if you are observant and self-aware, you’ll tune in to the cues all around you that might suggest you are due for a change when it comes to your job or career. Some folks are very sensitive to these signs, recognize them for what they are and take the necessary steps to bring about the change for themselves. However, there are some people who are so resistant to change, that they choose rather to ignore those cues and forge on, and rather unhappily, rather than embrace change.

Today’s blog however, is really intended for another whole group of people who fail to see and interpret the signs and cues around them that are screaming for change. Without an awareness of these signs, it can lead to a lack of fulfillment, happiness, and create a dark place for future sadness and malaise to creep in.

To start with, check your physical health. If you’ve noticed an increase in the number of days you experience headaches, you ache but nowhere in particular, and your absences are increasing, it could be that you’re having a physical aversion to going to, or being at your workplace. While it may be normal to want to stay home every now and then when you look out and it’s cold or rainy, if you find you’re not wanting to go to work more and more, maybe you should pay attention to why you feel this way.

Call it passion, call it joy, call it job satisfaction; do you continue to feel enthusiastic about the work you do and the rewards it offers? I’m not suggesting everyone should be doing cartwheels around the office or factory floor, but because you’ll spend 7 or 8 hours or more at a job every day, shouldn’t it bring you happiness and don’t you have a right to feel good about whatever it is you do all that time. If your work is, well, just work, think about that.

Have you become stagnant? While some jobs are much more repetitive than others, if you have a job that allows you to be creative, propose new ways of doing things or work with a variety of people, and at the same time you are resisting this creativity and doing things the way they’ve always been done more and more, that’s a definite sign you need to shake things up. While you might not need a career change, maybe you do need some stimulation by embracing a new project, mentoring a new employee if you’ve never done that before, or making a lateral move to a new department.

Growing irritability with others, and displeasure in the apparent happiness and social behaviour of your co-workers is a sign you may actually be envious of those connections and relationships, especially if others see you as retreating more and more away from workplace social activities.

Think now about your commute and how you get to work. Whether you drive, carpool, rely on transit or walk, you might be finding that you just don’t enjoy that time as much as you once did. If road rage is becoming frequent for you, if you are repelled more and more by the conversations you overhear on a bus, or you just don’t like the constant chatter in your carpool any more, it could be that this is all tied in with where you are going; namely your workplace.

Maybe you’re starting to do the BIG THINK. You know, the “Is this all there is?” stuff. “What’s my purpose?” or “I’ve gotta do something on this Earth before I leave!” Well these kind of thoughts really translate into feelings of current inadequacy. You just aren’t getting anything out of your work beyond money, and that’s losing it’s lustre too. In other words, the meaning of what you do is becoming more important than the actual compensation for doing it.

IF you feel the need for change is coming, or indeed is upon you, you do have some choices to make. Try and look at change as a positive. You and you alone have the capacity to change your job, career, maybe propose revisions to your current job description that Management would embrace. You also have the choice perhaps to walk away from your current job and explore a hobby, travel, spend time with family, restore your health, take on some additional training and education etc.

There are many young people who take a year off in their mid-twenties and travel to other countries and do a variety of jobs in those countries to pay their way, living modestly while they experience new cultures and new possibilities. Why can’t you do that in your 40’s or 50’s? Sure you might have mortgages, responsibilities, car loans etc. It’s not possible for everyone; or rather it is possible for everyone, but most will use words like, “can’t, impossible” and “unable” when convincing themselves that they have to stay and take home the money to pay the bills.

There are some people out there however who DO make these life changes – they feel their health and happiness is paramount and over rules shuffling papers all day long, and meeting their quota of assembling parts etc. The choice they make may not be yours, but people do make those choices. When they return, some go back to their jobs they’ve taken a year’s leave from. Others look for new work and maybe took a buyout package or early retirement funds.

Change can be embraced rather than feared.

Your Name Is Part Of Your Brand

My daily commute is an hour to work and by default an hour home. During those two hours I’m often listening to news and conversation on the radio, and every so often it is punctuated with some music from some emerging artist across a wide spectrum of genre’s. I admit to having a reaction every time someone is introduced by some pseudonym.

It’s a good thing in my humble opinion that these names people give themselves don’t translate to the real world of interviewing and daily work life. Can you imagine being taken seriously as you wait in the hall with other applicants and an interviewer pops her head out the door and asks, “Fat boy? I’m looking for Fat boy?” Or how about working away on the plant floor when you hear a building-wide page that goes, “Wannabee Risen”, or “Ritalin”. That last one is the actual name of a man who reads his poetry once a week on the radio.

Now many people in the music industry have gone with name changes: Ringo Starr is Richard Starkey, Bob Dylan is Robert Allen Zimmerman and Sting is Steve Borden. Now if Sting decided that Steve was just too plain for the stage, why would Robert opt for plain old Bob? Individual choice. Some of us go by our middle names, some by our first names, some by initials or a combination of the bunch. Some of us use nicknames too; just look at all the, “Junior’s”, “Chucky’s”, and “Bubba’s” out there.

And when you get married, in many cultures one of the two people may decide to take the name of the other, most often in North America and other locales where the woman takes the surname of the man she marries. Of course a trend in the last couple of decades or so has been to hyphenate the two last names for some women, which begs the question of what to do if and when a woman should marry two or three men over her lifetime. “Hello I’m Janice Smith-Davidson-Thompson.” You’ll need a bigger business card or smaller font!

Your name is your brand. Some women opt to retain their maiden name because they have established professional contacts, their name is the name of their business when self-employed, or their partner’s last name doesn’t flow well with their first name. Just imagine if a woman named Kelly White married Franklin Kelly. Is she to be Kelly Kelly? It might sound more like a stuttering problem.

Of course in our modern societies, we should also recognize that this practice of taking on a partner’s name no longer only applies to the female sex. Gay and lesbian marriages do exist quite legally in some jurisdictions, and in those situations, one of the two partners may change their name to take on that of their partner.

In deciding what to do in the case of your surname when you enter into a relationship, the choice is very much a personal one. For that reason, the subject isn’t one where I personally prescribe any standard advice because it does depend on so many factors as outlined above. However, consider that whatever name you opt for, it does not necessarily mean you are subservient to your partner, but perhaps a sign of your traditional values or your signal to your partner that you are giving yourself over to them. Hopefully you and your partner give yourselves over to each other on a daily basis and the relationship thrives.

Of course if things don’t work out, there is the issue of retaining an ex-spouses name, or reverting back to your maiden name or birth name. Will this confuse your clients, or is this your way of announcing you are unattached again without having to discuss the breakup with every person you talk to?

When applying for jobs, it is still a safe bet to give your first and last name on an application or resume. It’s not advisable to hand in a resume with names like, “James D.” or “R.I. Patterson” although a middle initial, as in the case of “Craig. A. Fairbanks” is very formal but acceptable. Consider how you want to be identified and called. There are exceptions to every suggestion and I recognize that, but if you walk in with a resume you’ve previously submitted as, “Craig A. Fairbanks”, and you say, “but you can call me “Slim Pickens”, your chances of making a strong positive first impression just might be.

Employer’s again and again say they want to see the genuine candidate emerge in an interview. For that reason, they ask probing questions that get at your attitude, your behaviour, your past experience and they are trying to visualize you as part of their workforce. They want to see the real you in other words. For this reason above all others, sticking with your given name limiting yourself to commonly accepted variations only, as in the case of “William” to “Bill”, or “Elizabeth” to “Beth” or “Liz” is good advice indeed.


Questions To Ask Of Yourself

One of the key ways people learn is by asking questions. Children are asking questions all the time, not so much to be annoying, but rather to learn and define their own world. Following this idea, it’s important to re-visit some questions you may have asked yourself at some point along your career path, or if you are just setting out, consider some questions posed here to get you going. No matter the point of your career, I invite you to ponder your own response to the following:

“What do I want to do with the rest of my life?”

Unless the rest of your life is a year or two, or you own a crystal ball, throw this question out. Too many times it’s the wrong question to ask. It suggests you can foresee future events and thus set yourself on a career path that will bring you everything you want. Events along your life path will spring up and provide forks in the road. How dull if your entire life was mapped out at 19 so avoid the stress of this question by refusing to get trapped in having to have an answer.

“What would make me happy in the next couple of years?”

Great question to ask yourself. If you think just a couple of years – three at the very most – down the road, you might find the answer is re-training, education, a job rather than a career, or even time to raise a family. Feeling good about yourself, enjoying life and enjoying things that later on will give you experience or further your education will set you up for future career possibilities.

“Better to have many jobs or just one career?”

You’ll get a different answer to this depending on who you are and who you ask if you ask someone else for an opinion. There is tremendous benefit later on in your career if you have diversity of experience. It will give you perspective that only doing one thing your entire career will not; and that will be your strength. On the other hand, doing only one thing much of your life will make you the Specialist, and you’ll have unique insights and wisdom that others with less experience in your field will admire.

“How do I know what career will be right for me?”

Truth is you don’t. Realize that this is a blessing not a curse. Try things out by volunteering, talking with people in those jobs now, do career research, look at the characteristics of people who succeed, and just as important, those who are miserable. Learn from all this, and if you take a job that makes you unhappy, you’re in control of your life and can change your career path at any time.

“Should I stay for the benefits or make a career change now?”

The trap that way too many people fall into is becoming financially dependent on jobs and careers they no longer find interesting and fulfilling. The commitment to mortgages, families, car loans and the like get people thinking their happiness at work is forfeit moving forward when they no longer are happy at work. So talk with your spouse, keep your car longer after the payments are made, downsize the house etc.; it’s all on the table if your priorities are your happiness. Do you own your house, or does your house own you?

“How can I justify the debt of more education?”

Isn’t it ironic that people will sooner go into a bank and borrow $300,000.00 and buy a house, but the thought of going into debt for say, $20,000.00 and improving their education that will last them a lifetime worries them more financially? You are THE only person you can guarantee you will be with at all times while on this planet. Others will enter and exit your life daily. Why not improve your imagination, your knowledge, your experience and expose yourself to thinkers and other learners?

“How long should I stay in one job or field?”

The answer is really as long as you continue to enjoy it. Some jobs I caution take time to fully appreciate and too many are looking for immediate gratification. Be prepared to work hard, struggle a little to get a hang of a career or job, but always evaluate your overall happiness. Few people rise in companies because they were handed everything. Appreciate the determination and work that others put in to get where they are.

“How do I get ahead?”

Define success and happiness for you on a personal level. If your answer is a promotion, sit down with HR or you Supervisor and talk about the skills you have and the skills you need to acquire to be considered for upward progression or lateral movement. Find out what you need to learn and start today while you love the job you have instead of waiting until it grows stagnant or you come to resent your current job. Look at the turnover rate of those above you and find out how often those jobs come open; this is positioning yourself.

“Is there something wrong with me if I don’t want to change careers?”

NO! You might find work that provides life-long satisfaction. Why should it matter if others change jobs from time-to-time and wonder how you can do the same thing day after day? If your work brings you contentment, challenge, happiness and is financially rewarding enough to house and feed you, then good for you. There is no one-size-fits-all career or job path that works for everyone!

Facebook In An Employment Resource Centre

Daily I encounter people who are browsing away on Facebook at the Employment Resource Centre where I work. When I walk by and observe what it is that some people are using Facebook for, I notice they aren’t involved in any job searching activity whatsoever, so why allow Facebook in an Employment Resource Centre in the first place?

Well first of all, it’s important that I mention that Facebook was indeed, ‘banned’ about a year and a half ago from the computers where I work for our clients. Essentially it was believed that too much time would be spent ‘wasting’ away a morning or afternoon by our clients just chatting and looking at pictures etc. What happened however is that some of our clients had technology skills beyond the staff, and they could manipulate things and bring up Facebook, forcing us to call in IT and restore the block. After awhile, I and others recommended to Management that we just remove the restriction and unblock it in the first place.

The result is now that many clients do use Facebook on a daily basis. Now being an Employment Resource Centre for clients on Social Assistance only, it is true that some never do any job searching and only come in daily to check email and Facebook and then leave. These people are at least coming to a Resource Centre, and it is possible that for some of them, the opportunity is there to make a connection in person with one of us, and encourage them to look for work using the computer. And honestly, when you are down and out, defeated, isolated, dealing with depression, anxiety, mental health issues and it’s cold and lonely outside, coming to the Resource Centre and just being in a room with other people and someone with some empathy is a healing time.

Now we have 20 computers that are available on a first-come, first-available basis. When we’ve got people who need a computer to job search or look for housing, etc., those fiddling away on Facebook may be the first we approach to give up their computer. Or too like this past Wednesday, if someone is just looking at some obscene material on Facebook that someone has posted, we shut that activity down pronto and remind them they are in an Employment Resource Centre. I’ve no tolerance for somebody who thinks looking at pictures of barely clad women is a perfectly acceptable activity; so I educate these people quickly.

Facebook can connect people, if even only using a keyboard. The opportunity is there though to build a relationship in-person with some clients however who would otherwise not utter a word but surf. Over time, conversations can turn to housing, food banks, transportation, money and yes, employment. How much time depends on a person’s personal situation and our willingness as a staff person to initiate dialogue.

Facebook can also be a good source of networking and broadcasting an appeal for work. For those who are self-employed, it can also be a platform for marketing a business. LinkedIn is so much more effective for personal marketing and professional networking. However, LinkedIn is still very much a mystery to those who are job searching that I deal with. Even those who I introduce it to sometimes do little more than set up the initial account and then it sits there doing next to nothing for them because they don’t know how to really make LinkedIn effective. Facebook tends to fulfill a social need rather than a career or job need, and LinkedIn doesn’t even hit their radar screen or when it does it doesn’t result in voluntary participation.

This is where education and encouragement are paramount. I’ve been around enough to know that sitting down with anyone and lecturing them on all of LinkedIn’s capabilities isn’t going to be welcomed. However, a dose here and there wets the appetite in some to learn more, especially if results can be seen. That’s why Facebook is popular. In a few minutes, you’re connected to friends and family; and friends and family are what are important to people on Social Assistance quite often; more than employment. LinkedIn in contrast is a longer term reward. If you are looking for employment, you have to make a profile, network, join discussion groups, initiate conversations, and for many, that’s intimidating.

So both Facebook and LinkedIn have meaning to those who use them. Anyone who says one is better than the other usually speaks from their own personal need. Where you are may be a different place from where someone else is, and putting yourself in that person’s place may help you best determine what they would most benefit from in the here and now. Eventually their needs might change, and when they do, be willing to show them this thing called LinkedIn, and they’ll thank you for it!


Are you someone who others in your workplace can count on? Whether it’s your contribution to a project, showing up on time for meetings or your attendance, all your collective actions build your reputation, and how you are perceived by others.

Being dependable is something your co-workers are going to admire about you. Think of times from your past or present job, where you’ve had a co-worker absent. In many instances, a Supervisor has to approach someone from the workplace and ask someone to fill-in for the person so that at the end of the day, the overall production is affected as little as possible. Not everyone actually thinks about what an inconvenience this in for all involved because they only consider the personal impact.

First and foremost the Supervisor is usually the one who gets notified directly when an employee is absent. Now that Supervisor must immediately respond to the absence, check the scheduled work that the missing employee was to have done that day, and decide on how to cover for that person with the least amount of disruption to other workers. Next the Supervisor has to contact another employee, or a team of employees, announce the absence and relay the direction decided upon to have someone else cover the responsibilities of the missing employee.

If the Supervisor is fortunate, the person or team of people who receive the news cover willingly and respond favourably, because on another day it may be any one of them who is absent and needs coverage. On the other hand, if the news is met with annoyance and seen as disruptive and unwelcome, it will affect the spirit of those who must do someone else’s work, and the Supervisor has a grumpy group to lead for a day.

Now why would co-workers not willingly pitch-in? Several answers come to mind. First, it may be that the absence of this person is infrequent, in which case most other workers are very understanding and concerned. On the other hand, if the person is frequently away, or there is a pattern such as being ‘ill’ on most Monday’s because the person brags about boozing it up on weekends, there is likely to be some resentment that builds up. Another reason of course is that most people like to arrive at work with a fair idea of what they will be doing on a given day, and the disruption is unwelcome change. If you don’t do well with sudden changes in your workplace, this is something you might identify as an area to work on.

Supervisors really appreciate employees who have a positive attitude when it comes to dealing with change. You’re going to get paid for the days work no matter what job you are doing, and it’s going to look good on you if you size things up pretty quickly and send the message to the boss that you can be counted on to adapt and take on some additional responsibility given short notice. What you are really doing is reducing the stress level of the person who supervises you, completes your evaluations, and may recommend you for promotions and raises. So if it helps, thin of this like helping yourself.

Now if it’s YOU that’s often absent, think about the impact on your own career. Do you eventually want to be promoted? It may not mean much to you now, but one day you might tire of the job you love today, and you may want the extra income and challenge of a more senior position. Management is not going to look kindly on the track record of any employee who is known to miss work much of the time. After all, given a choice between someone who is frequently away and disrupts work distribution, vs. an employee with a good attendance record, the choice is clear and easy.

For this reason, many workplaces try to find ways to encourage and record excellent attendance. In my own workplace, at the end of every month, all the employees with perfect attendance have there names put forth and three are randomly drawn and recognized by a department-wide email and they get a $10 gift card. Not much you say? No it isn’t. The effect however is that everybody opens that email quickly when it comes hoping to see their name. Then congratulations emails zip around cyberspace for a few minutes, and somewhere, three people are going, “Yippee!” I’ve got a co-worker who really wants to win and be cited for this and tries every month to get into the pool. So for $30, Management has hundreds of people working hard to get that perfect attendance.

Being dependable also means there is a consistent level of performance that can be expected both by Management and co-workers as well as clients and customers. For this reason, certain clients will only deal with certain employees, because they know the care, expertise and service they will receive. If an employee is moody, up and down, unpredictable or inconsistent, customers may not approach that person for help, or if they must, be wary of the product or schedule they have been promised.

It is always surprising when a known worker who is not dependable seems astonished to face discipline or can’t understand the attitude of others on their team who don’t appreciate their lack of commitment. If you happen to be the person who is often absent, ask yourself if you are really deriving satisfaction out of your work in the first place. Perhaps it’s actually in your own best interests to find a job you’d like better, or a place where you’d be a better fit. If this is the case, you’ll notice more of a commitment on your own part to showing up all the time because you want to be there. Leaving a place you don’t enjoy, or getting away from work you don’t find interesting or rewarding may be just the thing that improves your future attendance and attitude.

And should you have arrived at work to find this post printed off and anonymously lying on your desk or work area, don’t get all angry and ticked off with somebody who put it there. Somebody is trying to suggest perhaps that your own dependability is affecting others, and they are giving you a chance to think about it, without confronting you directly. Rather than go around accusing others of harassment, let the words here sink in and just take a day or two to think about your own attendance and dependability. Maybe the message somebody sent you is justified and the best thing that could actually have happened.

All the best!

Mesmerize Your Interview Answers

Quite often when I’m facilitating a workshop on preparing for upcoming job interviews, people get the idea that they are supposed to have all their interview answers memorized. This causes them undue stress naturally because of two things; one they can’t predict the questions that will be asked and two, they can’t memorize things very well.

So my advice to these people is not to memorize answers but rather to mesmerize your answers. I really would find it difficult to believe that anyone would actually go into an interview with all their answers rehearsed to the point where they would actually memorize their answers the way an actor memorizes their lines. In a play that runs night after night, the director will expect the actor or actress to move exactly the same way when speaking a line, have the same expression, the same tone of voice and the same words night after night. Not so in an interview. Trying to do this repeatedly at all your job interviews would be hugely stressful and well, just wrong. Your answers should appear fresh, unrehearsed and natural.

So how do you mesmerize your interviewers? Well, like the actor, you do want your interview to be memorable in a positive way. The importance of doing some research ahead of your interview is critical. Looking at the job description, you’ll see the qualifications the job requires, and you may see words that describe the working conditions such as, “fast-paced”, or perhaps, “client-focused”. These give you strong clues to what the employer values. If you are going to thrive in a fast-paced environment, then you should be sure to let the employer know that you like being busy, can handle multiple tasks simultaneously, and feed off of working in high energy settings. Your describing the fast-paced workplace that interviewer works in, and you fit well with what he or she experiences daily to the point where they can see you working there.

Even rookie interviewers can tell when someone is just spitting out rehearsed answers, and I’ll bet you yourself can do this too. The person is concentrating, looking for the exact phrase they memorized, and their eyes look away as they wrack their brain for the right words. Wrong. To really wow an interviewer, think first about the question you’ve been asked to make sure the answer you are about to give actually answers the question. Next, you’re going to want to use some concrete example from your past, (preferably a work-related example) that demonstrates the skill or actions that show the interviewer you have the skill or qualifications they are inquiring about.

Should an interviewer ask about your problem-solving skills for example, you might begin by first repeating back the question such as, “Sure, I’m happy to describe my problem-solving ability”. This ensures you’ve heard the question right, and allows your brain to sort through its mental filing system and remember a time or two in your past when you solved a problem without the awkwardness of dead air while you think. Now paint a visual picture for the interviewer so they see you in that other workplace, and tell them what you were trying to accomplish and then explain the problem that came up, or the challenge that you faced. Next explain what you actually did to resolve the problem and finish by telling them the positive result that occurred based on your actions. Now wrap the whole thing up by getting back to the job you are applying for today. Basically it’s to show that if you can do it elsewhere, you can certainly do it again in this new position under similar circumstances. Draw everything out for the interviewer and assume nothing.

Of course to really mesmerize the interviewer, say one thing they wouldn’t expect. I was asked once why I wanted to work for a company. My answer began, “I don’t actually want to work for _____________ (and I named the company). I waited about 3 seconds and watched the stunned faces of the interview panel register. Then I said, “I want to be employed by the company but I want to work for your clients”. Then I went on to talk about the concept of Servant Leadership, and how it was my philosophy that I work directly for customers and clients and had never worked for any company but had been employed by several over my life time. That was a memorable answer and I used my acting skills to pull it off with just the right amount of pause for dramatic effect. Oh I mesmerized them and they told me so after the interview. “Not sure where we were going to go with the whole interview until you continued. Certainly a new take on that question I can tell you” said the lead interviewer later.

Be careful though. Don’t stand out in an odd way that leans toward the negative. Inappropriate clothing, peculiar haircuts or over-the-top makeup application will definitely make you stand out, but only because you won’t fit in. You may be out of the process early and wonder why the interview was so brief. Be knowledgeable about the company and the role you may play in it, be friendly, confident and show some honest enthusiasm for the job, and certainly use your good manners.

Mesmerize your answers and certainly I wish you all the best as you prepare for future interviews.

Heading Off To Your Interview As Cinderella

Do you recall that Disney movie Cinderella? You know where poor, abused Cinderella is visited by her magical fairy godmother who transforms her into a beautifully dressed woman who then wins the heart of the Prince with her deception and leaves her glass slipper behind which he uses to find his love? If you do you’ll remember too that good triumphs over evil, that she gets her man, he gets his love, and all is right with the world.

Your next job interview you might want to benefit from this iconic tale. How on earth I hear you saying does one have to do with the other? Well think about it for a moment; not only did the fairy godmother dress her up and arrange for transportation, she also schooled the child in how to behave at the ball, and gave her strict instructions of when to leave and get back home. Other than that, she left it up to Cinderella to conduct herself with good manners etc.

So when you preparing for your interview, I’m sure you get similar advice from Employment Counsellor’s like myself on how to dress your best, get there on time, what to say in response to questions, and how to end an interview and follow-up. (You know what I just realized? I’m a Fairy Godmother!) Seriously, the job interview represents an opportunity for you to demonstrate to a potential employer that you would be a good fit. Part of being that good fit involves looking the part. As you sit across from the interviewer, he or she will be sizing up your appearance and whether or not you put much thought and effort into it. I’m not suggesting you have to wear a three-piece suit, or in the case of the ladies a fashionable dress right off the runway, but it’s got to be clean, in good repair and look business-like.

I’ve run across too many people who are heading off to interviews wearing frayed khaki’s, t-shirts and clothing that smells of smoke. The impression immediately made upon the interviewer is that this is the best of what you have, and you don’t really understand the importance of making a good first impression and therefore you’re not really of interest to them. Companies work hard to craft their image and that company belongs to somebody; someone who is proud of it and the staff that they employ. Therefore, that employer is looking to add other people to the organization who likewise will appreciate the company and maintain or improve the image. Your appearance might send the message that you don’t care, and it may actually be over for you as soon as you walk in the door but they give you a quick interview just to go through the motions.

As for coaching and the answers to those interview questions, well you should think seriously about the kind of work that the position involves that you’ll be interviewing for. If it’s a job working with people or on behalf of people, then it’s likely that you’d better demonstrate your people skills, your interpersonal and communication skills, along with empathy, listening and comprehension skills. A job that is primarily working with things instead of people, like on an assembly line, might mean you need to emphasize your ability to do repetitive tasks without fatigue, your stamina, your attention to detail, your ability to meet targets and deadlines, but you’ll still need to show that you get it when it comes to understanding how your small role goes into building a finished product worked on by many.

Just as Cinderella left her slipper behind, you too should leave several things behind; no not your wallet! You certainly want to leave a good impression so a solid handshake, good eye contact, a smile and a statement that indicates you really want the job is a good finish. However strong answers, thoughtful questions from you, and showing enthusiasm throughout the interview are going to win over the interviewer.

Now unlike Cinderella, you shouldn’t make the employer go door-to-door with your resume looking for you. Unfortunately your story isn’t as unique as hers was. There are too many other applicants believing they are Cinderella out there who, like you, are attending the same ball hoping to woo the prince…er…employer. So you’ve got to be prepared to leave behind some excellent references of which three should be professional (employers, co-workers, past Supervisors) and one should be a personal reference. You also have a duty to contact that employer in a few days and follow-up. Did you know that some employers actually wait to see which applicants contact them over the next couple of days? Those that do are demonstrating by their actions that they are really interested in THIS job, and are prepared to be assertive enough to go after it. Those that sit at home hoping the phone will ring who don’t want to be pushy or who lack the confidence to follow-up on the interview often lose out.

So take some advice, even if I’m not the Fairy Godmother you’d imagined. (Sorry about that). Do your homework and research the company and the job you are applying for. Dress for success. Be friendly and smile, make good eye contact, and mind your manners. Show some enthusiasm for the job and make a good first and closing impression. Follow up on your interview.

Whatever you do, don’t just go home and wait for Prince Charming to knock on your door and ask if the resume in his hand belongs to you! Have some faith…if a nice girl who gets dressed by birds, talks with mice and rides around in a modified pumpkin can get a job, you certainly can.

To Sir, With Love

On the weekend, I was sitting inside watching the snow and wind howl around the house outside and resolved not to take a single step out the front door. Winds were gusting up to 95km and the little snow that actually fell was moving sideways by the window. So what to do?

One thing I did was flip on the television in the mid-afternoon and one of my favourite movies was playing. Sidney Portier starring in, “To Sir With Love” which also starred Lulu, a singer from the sixties who had a hit with the song of the same name. If you’ve not seen it, or it’s been awhile, you might want to check it out. It’s the kind of movie I’ve even contemplated showing in some of my three-week workshops to discuss after showing.

Essentially it’s about a black man teaching in a school in England and going through the experience of trying to educate some of his soon-to-be graduating students about the world they are soon to enter. He has to fight past a lot of attitude, anger, prejudice, ridicule and eventually wins over the class and the students; so much so that when offered a job and a new start that he’s been hoping for, he chucks it and remains at the school to teach.

For it’s time, it was edgy; a teacher tossing out text books and talking with students about anything they wanted; marriage, sex, life. Many issues from the film are very much alive today as issues that students are going through too. Of course one of the themes that plays a huge part in the film is preparing for the world of employment. To prepare for this, he admonishes the entire class for the lack of pride they take in their appearance, their language, their treatment of each other and th self-respect they have for themselves.

Self-respect; how you feel about yourself. What is your opinion or yourself? What do you like? What strengths do you have? In what areas do you wish to improve and what are you doing about them? A mirror can reflect back to you a fairly accurate image of your exterior but what is beneath that exterior is harder to see. You can bet that whether it’s on-the-job, at the interview, or during the job search itself, your self-perception will go a long way to determining your success.

So how do you improve your self-respect if it’s low? For starters, realize that having a healthy respect for yourself doesn’t necessarily mean that you are self-centered and full of conceit. Someone that just loves their outward appearance and is constantly looking at themself in mirrors as often as they can may actually have very poor self-respect and constantly need the reassurance that their outward appearance is perfect because their inner image is rather poor.

Think about your actions, your thoughts, your effort. So let’s say you are out of work, but you are really putting forth a top-notch effort to get a job. Every so often, you falter and get down on yourself when you catch yourself slacking off. It’s hard to maintain that 100% effort no matter who you are, so rather than allow yourself to take the view that you are some kind of loser, think rather of the effort you’ve been putting in. If you sought out some professional help, that’s not the sign of weakness that some suppose, but rather a sign of wisdom on your part to get some help. Good for you!

Back to the movie. There’s a scene in a stairwell with only the Teacher and the most challenging and unruly of the lot. Instead of berating the youth, the teacher asks him if he’d like a job coaching next year’s students on self-defence and boxing. This is something the student can’t initially understand because all he’s done is try to make the teacher’s life miserable. It’s a teachable moment however, in that the teacher builds up his self-esteem by complimenting his skills.

As you move forward today, if your own self-esteem and self-image are low, see if you can jot down on paper three things you really like about yourself – anything. Maybe it’s your hair, your posture, your attitude, your adding skills. If this is an easy exercise, go further and look at doing one thing; a single thing that you could do over the course of THIS day to feel proud of by 5:00p.m. This might be anything from doing some chore around the house, checking out the job bank, applying for a job, calling someone you’ve been putting off calling etc.

When you have accomplished this one single thing, congratulate yourself for having done it. Now that you’ve accomplished and feel good about doing something, repeat this tomorrow. Perhaps tomorrow you’ll only do one thing again, or maybe you’ll add two things to your list. When you actually accomplish things, and you can see things getting done in black and white, you’ll start seeing movement in your life instead of stagnation. As a result, your self-image, self-respect is likely to rise and you’ll start feeling better about who you are and give yourself some credit for what you could accomplish in the future.

Have a wonderful day.

Again I Say, “Target That Resume!”

Without exaggeration, I can honestly say that at least once per day, I am approached by a client who isn’t familiar with the concept of targeting their resume to a single job opportunity. The scene is repeated over and over again where a person either comes up to me, or I start the conversation myself as I see them working on their resume in the Resource Centre I work in.

Usually I’ll go right up to someone I don’t know and start off a conversation with a comment like, “Ah working on the dreaded resume I see”. Using a sympathetic phrase like this often gets a response like, “Yeah, what do you think?” Perfect. Now that I’ve been asked, I start in with the feedback. If it’s not bad at all or I sense very little room for criticism, I’ll pick one or two of the most glaring mistakes and point out alternatives and the reason behind them. Fortunately, most people really want the feedback, and I’ll rip the whole thing…I mean of course…I’ll make extensive revisions, explaining each to the point where the client can fully understand WHY the recommendations improve their chances of landing an interview. My goal in providing this help isn’t to provide a better resume only, but rather to give the knowledge to the client so they can modify future resumes on their own, and have a consistently better resume each and every time.

So at the risk of repeating tips and ideas for resumes I’ve covered before, I offer up some ideas. Whether these are new to you or you are seeing them again for review, I hope these are helpful. Take what you want or not as is your choice.

Don’t actually start with the resume, please start by getting a job posting you want to apply to beforehand. Look at all those skills, educational requirements, description of work setting, qualifications etc. Get out your highlighter and highlight every single one. Employers are telling you in black and white, “THIS IS WHAT I’M LOOKING FOR!”. So if your resume uses the same words, and has most of those same things on it, you’ll match up well and increase your chance of getting an interview. So if a posting say, “Must be able to lift 50 pounds”, you might type, “Capable of lifting 50 pounds or more without physical strain on a repetitive basis”. You match up perfectly and basically say to the employer that you are in good shape and can do this not once, but again and again.

Consider what you make BOLD on your resume. I’d suggest these things be bold: your name, the job title you are competing for, your past job titles, any volunteer titles, your degrees, diploma’s and actual names of courses you’ve taken. Don’t in my opinion, bold names of employers – this is after all your personal marketing tool, not free advertising for them. AN employer is considering you, so what was your job, not who did you work for. Include the employer for sure, but in regular font. With respect to the Headings themselves, they are just generic headings after all, why bold them? You’ve got 8 to 20 seconds to make a strong first impression. What do want a fresh pair of eyes to pick up in that time?

If you have a section near the top called, ‘Qualifications’, this is where you should cram in the things that qualify you for the job you are applying for. How do you know what to write? Look at what you highlighted earlier. Under “Work History” or a similar title, use bullets under each job you’ve had to say what you did or accomplished. As you write these down, make sure you’re thinking about the job you are applying for, not just the jobs you’ve had. Draw the connections for the employer and make no assumptions. A Waitress at a fine dining restaurant has a completely different set of responsibilities than a Waitress at a fast-food diner. Spell out what you did. For example the fast-food Waitress doesn’t have to recommend which wine would compliment steak or seafood.

Throw in numbers as often as you can that quantify your level of expertise. Don’t just say, “Managed a caseload of clients” when you could say, “Productively managed a caseload of 350 accounts using sound organizational skills”. If you don’t state it otherwise, the employer could assume your caseload was any number; maybe only 10 or 20!

Another suggestion is to remove months from the dates of employment on your resume. Months make a job look shorter on first glance. So for example, instead of, “February 2009 – May 2011”, just say, “2009 – 2011”. You may need this information at an interview…BUT YOU GOT THE INTERVIEW RIGHT? Otherwise, in the example it may look like you were in the job for 4 months instead of 2 years and 4 months. And by the way, don’t bold the dates; dates are just numbers. Do ensure the dates all line up under each other for easy reference and stick them as far to the right on the page as they’ll go.

I’m going to advise you that these suggestions are just MY suggestions. If you are sitting down with an Employment Counsellor or Resume Professional, generally speaking take their advice if it appears to conflict with what you read here. This is because they have an advantage in knowing what you are looking for, you frequency of jobs, the skills you have to offer and what an employer is looking for based on a posting. In short, take the advice of the professional you are sitting down with. Sure you can take along this blog and see if some of my thoughts would be helpful; but trust in the person helping you and give them credit.

When you get conflicting resume advice, who do you believe? Good logical question. There is no single way to make the perfect resume and should anyone tell you, “Do it my way or you’ll never get an interview”, well, that’s the one person to thank for their time and walk away. All us other professionals generally agree that while we have preferences on resume formats, there are choices out there. We’ll always suggest what we think will work best for you personally based on what we see working for others.

Targeting your resume to a single specific job instead of photocopying 20 and handing them out all over will generally be more productive; see if your Resume Professional agrees on that much!