What Really Happens When We Reach Out

One of the great privileges in the field of Employment Counselling is being in a position to help out others. Perhaps in your role, you too have this honour and responsibility. How often do you then really think consciously about what is really going on when you reach out or reach down to help others? Or should you be on the other end of that help, do you think much about the help you may have received?

Well first imagine coming across someone who has been knocked down on the ground. In order to help that person to their feet, you may reach out with one hand to assist but before you do that, you’ll find you instinctively did a few things first. For starters you made a decision to help. Secondly, you gauged whether or not you alone had the ability to help them up, and perhaps most important of all, you probably assumed a position with your feet that anchored yourself against the forthcoming pull in the other direction. As you extend your arm and hand downward, you both grasp hold of each other and while you are pulling up, you’ll either lift up dead weight, or you might even feel the strain as the person pulls their body off the ground and up toward you.

Now in your daily work, you probably come across all kinds of people who you identify as being down and selectively have to choose who you are in a position to help up. Sometimes you may go about extending that help alone, and often you’ll recognize that the help the person really needs isn’t something you have the strength or power to do on your own; hence you’ll bring in specialists who have skills in areas you don’t to help out, like an Addictions or Mental Health Counsellor.

Anchoring against that forthcoming strain is best done by tapping into our past experience, education and energy reserves. That help you are about to provide may take more out of you than you realize, which is why those in the helping professions are in danger of mental exhaustion, and if there isn’t a way or time to replenish that energy, there’s a danger of compassion fatigue; giving and giving and still more giving without taking the time to refuel and reposition against the strain. It’s like coming across 6 people on a cliff dangling within reach of your hand. You’ve got enough energy to help out the first 2, but there’s 4 more, and the muscle strain may not allow you to help those remaining as easily as you’d like, but their desperation is what you may have taken on as your responsibility to save. You cannot physically save them all but will remember those you leave dangling rather than those you helped lift out of danger.

Now imagine this scene. You walk into a large room; say a gymnasium. As you look around you see many other people on the floor. Some are trying to get to their feet and make it on their own. Others are trying to stand up but their legs aren’t strong enough to support them and they keep stumbling down. Oddly enough, others are just sitting there, some kicking up a ruckus crying for help but not doing anything apparently to help themselves. Isn’t it true that seeing people in this situation, there are people who would just say, “Get up if you want to on your own!” Some can and don’t, and some have tried and feel they can’t anymore.

Now if you yourself are one of those people on the floor in that gymnasium who needs or wants a helping hand, do you have a responsibility to reach up and accept the offer of help being extended? And if you do reach back up, wouldn’t it be easier on you both if you used your free hand and your legs to help yourself and reduce the energy needed by the helper to stand up? The mechanics say you’ll get up faster if you help yourself, and when you work together to do what you may have found difficult or impossible on your own.

In the real world, we may find that the people we help up today are back on the floor tomorrow. That’s going to be frustrating because once up, we hope they have the ability to move forward on their own without going back to the ground. It is often the case that day after day we enter that gymnasium and find the same people on the floor needing our help. To our credit, and I hope I may count you among us, we extend ourselves day in and day out to extend those offers of help without reservation. Oh sure we get our expectations up only to get disappointed but isn’t it better to believe that this may be the time they stand on their own? If you are burned-out, you might not extend any arm and hand to help because your expectation is failure so why bother? Ouch.

Here’s a beautiful thing; some of those people with abundant energy who are going around from person-to-person pulling people up to their feet were only a short time ago on the ground themselves reaching up to grasp the hand and accept the help of someone who extend down their hand to help. And like a hamburger from Harvey’s, it’s a beautiful thing.

Turning Down A Job CAN Be A Good Thing

With a tight economy, many people out of work and fewer jobs out there, why on earth would anyone actually turn down a job offer when they are unemployed? I’m guessing that you can come up with several scenarios on your own, but some include: low wages, unforeseen travel requirements, lack of child care options, a poor fit, pride etc.

Imagine though you haven’t been out of work for very long and you’ve got lots of enthusiasm for the job search, your attitude is positive and you’re looking to get something close to what you’ve just been doing at approximately the same salary. Being offered a job outside your desired profession, or at a substantially lower wage might not be in your best interests to accept. Of course if you are surrounded by others who have been out of work for an extended period of time, they’ll be telling you that you’re crazy.

So here’s the thing; when you are taking action that runs counter to what others are collectively doing or telling you to do, it can be empowering or unwise and it’s up to you to know the difference. If for example your last job paid $35.00 per hour, and you’ve just been offered a job at $15.00 per hour, you might rationalize that the $20.00 per hour drop in wages isn’t something you are prepared to take. Now if it’s only your pride standing in the way but you’d love the job itself and you could get by on $15.00 per hour, some would argue you should take the job because you’d be happy in the work and you could pay all your bills etc.

However, if you really believe that by taking that $15.00 job, you’ll constantly be beating yourself up over it and you’ll walk around with a huge chip on your shoulder on the job, you should decline it gracefully. All that’s likely to happen is you damage your self-perception, you hurt your image, you obtain poor references if any at all, and you may actually hurt your chances at getting a better salary the next job you apply to when they ask, “What did you make in your last job?”, and you answer $15.00 instead of $35.00 per hour.

Everything becomes relative. Much of what is right to do or not will depend on how long you’ve been out of work, your financial responsibilities and commitments, whether you are single or have a second family income, what the job itself would entail, your strength of character and more. And of critical importance is whether you have some long-term commitment or goal in mind related to your career. Many people just go along in life moving from job to job without ever having career goals, and some are exceedingly happy in this choice; they worry about other things you may not.

Turning down a job offer may actually lead to a counter offer made by the employer to attract you to accept; perhaps not more money, but other incentives that may woo you move. In order for this to even be contemplated by the employer, they must have full and accurate awareness of why you are declining their offer. In other words, what barrier exists that keeps you from accepting? There are instances where applicants negotiate moving expenses to go across the country or leave the country altogether. There are perks like hours of work, working part-time from home etc. that may not actually cost the company any money, but mean the difference between signing you on or having you work elsewhere.

Passing up a job offer can also just boost your self-esteem. You may have been frustrated being rejected by employers and lo and behold here you are turning down one of them! Of course this euphoria should be tempered because of course you are still unemployed and shouldn’t break out the champagne yet if you are still on a budget. A job just might be beneath you, or just a really bad fit for your skills. You might look down on a job that pays way below what you’ve been used to, but the people in those jobs are still people of value doing needed work. If you find yourself looking down on a job; never look down on the people performing it. Until you know their background histories, and why they are where they are, you should hold you tongue and reconsider any thought of spouting off your unsolicited opinions.

You know another reason to turn down a job offer? You research a company, and what you read on their website is not what you experience at the interview. You see people who are rude, unhappy, isolated or just plainly ineffective. The interviewer isn’t engaged, or seems desperate. Sometimes the cues you pick up on visiting the company and going through the interview tell you that you won’t enjoy your time there, or your reputation might be tarnished by working for a company.

Have you ever noticed that after going a long time with no offers, you suddenly get not one but two or three? This is yet another reason why you might turn down an offer of employment. Turning down an offer may mean your circumstances are turning around.

Something to think about.

Find A Shared Experience And Make A Connection

Ever had the experience where you’re explaining a concept that is well-known to you but as you talk you look out on a sea of blank faces nodding their heads up and down politely? They don’t really understand your message but don’t want to appear thick and they don’t have the assertiveness to ask you to explain it further? I’ve had that experience myself and want to share with you what’s going on so you can become more effective.

By way of illustration, one of the workshops that I regularly lead is called, ‘Resume Writing”, and to no surprise, it’s for people who want to leave with a strong resume that they can use to better compete for employment with. The message I want to communicate is that targeting your resume to a specific job that matches the employers stated needs stands a better chance of landing you an interview than a generic resume that is to be copied 20 times and fanned out to many employers.

I know therefore that taking the time to align my resume each and every time for a job – even a job with an identical title, is time well spent in the end, resulting in fewer applications. However, I could often see that some people had doubt on their faces, and here was the crux of their argument. They had words like, “hard-working, honest, dependable” and “reliable” on their resumes. To them, these were universal qualities that all employers wanted so why not leave them on every resume? My challenge then, was to find a way of explaining to them in a way they could comprehend, the benefit of what I was suggesting. The answer was really in finding a shared experience that proved my point.

So right in the middle of my visual presentation on the subject of targeting your resume, seemingly from out of nowhere, comes a picture of a thick slice of homemade apple pie. Yep, apple pie. And here’s what I say to those in that workshop. “Suppose mom wants to make an apple pie, so she sends you down to the store with the money to buy some apples. However, you come home with the most fabulous peaches anyone has ever seen. Although they are great peaches, mom wanted apples, and there’s no apple pie tonight”. And all of a sudden it clicks, and people say, “Oh I see, okay I get it”. And they do. They get it so much that now they look at their stated qualifications on their resume say, “Peaches”, to “hard-working, honest, dependable” and “reliable”. These are great qualities, but not the ones the employer stated on the posting that they are looking for.

The ‘Shared Experience tool’ is really all about searching for some past experience that you and another person both share, and by finding this in the past, you can both move forward with a new concept or understanding building off that experience. In the case of a resume, the apples wanted are the stated qualifications in the posting, and the apples delivered are the qualifications you choose to include on your resume. It’ all about matching up.

Now this isn’t only about resume building. That’s only one example of where this concept might be applicable. Finding a shared past experience may also help someone grasp any new concept. Unfortunately I’ve seen situations in the past where someone asked for clarification only to have the other person repeat exactly what they just said, only louder. The problem isn’t that the person is deaf who is trying to understand, the problem is that the person initiating the message hasn’t found a way to communicate it in a meaningful way to the receiver. So the person receiving the message does their best to grasp what they are being told, but it may not be what was intended and the result is miscommunication.

If you want to communicate effectively, you have to do more than present information in a way you alone understand it. It becomes critical to try a variety of angles, use analogies that are meaningful and shared by your audience. Sometimes you’ll hit it spot on, and other times you’ll miss. When you miss, best to pause and together find a shared past experience that you can take as your starting point and building on that, move to an understanding of the current understanding to achieve a desired result.

In my own case, yesterday I blogged about what you might take from a professional athlete in helping you with your own job search. If you can identify with the preparation that athletes take to do their jobs well, this shared understanding can help you relate to your own job search efforts. If you don’t have a shared understanding with athletes, the analogy doesn’t work for you, and another past experience would be a better fit. The challenge is therefore not with the person who is receiving the message but with me the person initiating a thought and passing on advice. And it’s my job therefore to use a broad number of experiences that connect with readers.

Consider too that in a job interview, the goal of the interviewee is to communicate in a meaningful way to the interviewer, how their past experience is relevant to the job at hand. Best to take along some apples to that interview.

Something to think about as you move forward and interact with others today and everyday.

What You Might Learn From Professional Athletes

Do you have a favourite sports team or individual athlete that you admire? I know I do. I’ve been following the same two professional sports teams and their players since the 1960’s, and over that time there’s been a great deal of changes in how athletes both prepare themselves for matches and the preparation they go through on off days and the off-season.

To this day though, it is interesting to compare how a young athlete arrives in an organization and listen to what he or she says. Most of the time, I have found that the comments they make are basically the same; usually touting their appreciation for making the club, wanting to do whatever it takes to succeed, and saying how much the fans mean to them. Now personalize that. When you yourself get a job, don’t you express your appreciation for being selected to join the company? Don’t you say you’re prepared to work hard to be a valuable member? And of course you might even thank your own personal fans; your family, friends, references for their support and tell them how much you appreciate their support during that period of unemployment.

However, watch a professional athlete, and he or she will not relax when they make it to an elite level, but rather they will now start to actually work harder. They are very aware that the competition at this higher level is tougher, bigger, more skilled, and if they are going to succeed, they have to become more dedicated to training, eating better, exercising more, etc. Way back in the 70’s and 80’s, not all professional athletes really worked all that hard during the off-seasons. In fact, most did little at all except kick back with their families and relax. The thinking was back then that you only needed to get back into a routine as your sport came back into its seasonal schedule. And because just about all the rest of the players were doing the same, the field was equal.

Think about your own job and those around you. Ask yourself how important it is for you to either get ahead or stay in the position you are now. Unlike those professional athletes who by a certain age are done with their sport and retire, you are conceivably working well into your 60’s until you retire, so you’ve got a significant number of years to invest in the world of employment. It’s not a bad idea to look at those around you who are being accelerated in their chosen career paths. What if anything, could you learn from them in terms of how to get promoted or recognized? Remember that while today you might be content in your current role, there may well come a time when you want advancement within the organization, and then you could very well wish you had done more over the last several years.

Do the little things first of all that won’t cost you any money or tremendous effort; like be punctual, network and develop your people skills. Read up on training manuals, stay up on current trends in your industry, get a hold of the job description of the job ahead of you on the company ladder and see what is different from what you do now. What new skills and responsibilities would you have to have if you decided to compete in the future for this job? You might even want to sit down with someone in HR, or perhaps your own Supervisor and talk about getting help in mapping out where you’d need to improve if you decided to apply for a position.

There’s a difference between professional athletes and elite athletes. Professional athletes are good enough to perform at the highest level in their sport, but elite athletes push themselves to higher standards, work harder, train harder, study their game more, study the competition more, and all while under a microscope. While it appears some are cocky, arrogant and self-serving, they have probably made a decision at some point in a very calculated way to advance their career and act a certain way to project that image. So you get the “bad boy”, the “spoiled brat”, or the “loose cannon”. These persona’s are not going to do you well in your job however.

Look back on your own career and see what you did or didn’t do when you advanced or were passed over. If you can discern what steps are required to position yourself for advancement, then you are always in a position to act with confidence in choosing to engage in activities that will be consistent with your desire to move ahead. Positioning yourself now for future advancement is always good advice rather than getting burnt out, disappointed you always get passed over, and regretting the years you didn’t do anything extra to take advantage of the time you had.

Now wouldn’t it be nice to get those professional salaries too?

Healthy Job Search Diversions

I’ve said it before and so has just about everyone who has ever had to look for a job; job searching can be very tiring both physically and mentally. And doesn’t it seem that if you do a full-time job search without much to show for it in the way of interviews that you get discouraged or run down? And if you don’t go at it full-time for some reason, doesn’t the time you decide to get going on it make the time you’ve lost seem unproductive?

Okay so it can be exhausting to expel all this energy in a job search. Whether you use the metaphor of recharging your batteries, or filling up a depleted container, the bottom line here is that in order to move forward with real momentum and energy, you have to ensure your physically and mentally up for whatever lies ahead.

I want to share then some ideas for recharging your batteries while still spending your time productively and finding enjoyment in the process. And here’s some good news; in addition to having some fun, doing a few things that are not usually part of a standard job search policy, you can still derive some real benefit to the actual job search.

For starters, think about going to a local Home and Cottage show, RV or Boat Show, or Interior Design show. All those exhibitors are just people like you pitching their products, talking up the benefits of their skills etc. In short, those are all applicants hoping to work for you – a potential employer. Look and listen to who makes a strong impact on you. Think about how they are dressed, the words they use, the message they communicate. Consider who is effective and who isn’t when it comes to selling themself. Then think about yourself and what would work for you that works for them? Another benefit of checking out these shows is that you may eye an item that becomes a long-term goal. How much money would you need to acquire it? How will you budget? etc. This may motivate you, and if nothing else, you get out of the house.

Get out in the sunshine no matter the time of year and soak up some Vitamin D in the process. Ever heard of those happy people who are referred to as having a ‘sunny disposition’? Getting out for a stroll or run is physically healthy, free and maybe you get to know your neighbours, see what’s going up in a new development or maybe even spy a new, “Help Wanted” sign in a window. But your real reason in getting out is to get some fresh air, clear your head, connect with the world around you and counter your isolation.

Even though you can watch movies on television from the comfort of your sofa, budget if you can a trip to a local theatre and watch a movie on the big screen. For at least a couple of hours, you’ll mentally escape your doldrums and have some emotional connection or reaction that’s good for your imagination. Comedies are especially good for the release of stress and movies with quests are good analogies for overcoming odds and being inspired.

Grab a few slices of stale bread, put them in a bag and head on over to a park or pond area and feed some ducks or birds. While it may not mean your ready to join a Wildlife Society, you’ll be outside taking in that sun and fresh air, and again might divert some time just feeding the ducks but come back to your home with some new energy or maybe having worked through a problem or barrier and can now move forward. The mind does that every so often; you have a mental block, take a break and then what you couldn’t remember or see past suddenly is behind you as you think of a solution.

If you can afford it, buy a ticket and see a live band, comedian, orchestra, dance company or stage performer. You’ll be part of the audience, and being part of something is what unemployed people crave. At intermission look around you and feel the energy, clap or sing along to songs you know and love, throw up your hand to be the magicians volunteer assistant and feel your adrenalin rush as you smash out of your comfort zone. Your building a memory to look back on and laugh about.

Head on down to a museum, an art gallery, have lunch on an outdoor patio even if it is a salad and a glass of water, take out a free book at the library, volunteer once a week at a food bank, look for days in your community when there are free swims or skating at the local Community Centre. And if you are hooked on your computer, do something slightly different from just 100% job searching stuff. Set aside half an hour a day to request a song on the radio station you love, maybe even phone in and win a prize to some contest. Go to YouTube and watch some video’s of comedies, get advice on job searching, interviewing, speaking in public, dealing with stress, career direction; be more productive in other words than playing an on-line card game for hours with nothing to show for it.

Diverting some of your energy actually may re-energize you and allow you to focus better on things.

Know Your Disability When Job Seeking

A short time ago I was speaking with a man who had a disability. He was sitting down with me and we got chatting away about things innocently enough and gradually the conversation took a turn to his situation. Seems he has had his physical disability all his life, and all kinds of people in his past have pretty much told him consistently that he’d never really be able to work.

“Don’t get me wrong”, he said, “I want to work, but you know with my handicap, I’m on disability forever”. Now I’m not a Doctor, and I don’t pretend to know a person’s physical capabilities or limitations without that expert training and a full medical examination. However, I do know a thing or two about personal motivation and when someone is truly motivated or just making excuses. So was he using his disability as a crutch and making excuses for not working, or was his disability so disabling that there truly is no job on the planet that this fellow could do with some effort on his part? That’s what I aimed to find out.

Now please don’t get me wrong. I am sensitive to the needs of someone who presents with a disability, but I am equally aware and empathetic to the fact that all people carry around with them some vulnerability, some weakness, something that limits them from perhaps achieving their ultimate goals, and not all those things can be seen with the naked eye.

This man told me that he went to the Doctor and got the Doctor to confirm his disability, then he provided written verification of this disability to his Caseworker, who in turn told him that he was not required to job search, and would receive financial assistance in the form of Social Assistance (currently $606 a month Canadian). He was also told to apply for Disability assistance which if granted, would be issued instead. “So that’s it then”, he said. “I’m disabled”.

So I mulled things over in my mind quickly and here’s what I did. I told him that I was sorry to hear about both his disabilities. “Both?” he replied. That’s when I acknowledged his physical disability and made reference to his other less visible disability – his personal motivation. This is the part of my blog where some of you can’t believe I could be so insensitive. Others have a good idea where I’m going.

Many disabled people tell those of us who are not, that they don’t want to be treated differently. They want to be challenged, be accepted, be useful, be employed, and don’t need our sympathy but do need and want us to treat them with dignity and give them a chance o prove themselves. I hear perfectly able-bodied clients telling me that they’ve stopped looking for employment because of the economy, their frustration, a death in the family, lack of education; external stuff. So was this fellow the same in that respect?

I had picked up on an earlier statement he made which was, “Don’t get me wrong, I want to work”. So I asked him if he truly wanted to work, how much thought had he put into what he was capable of doing instead of what he was physically incapable of doing? “But my Doctor says I’m disabled”, was his reply. That’s when I knew I was on to something. He didn’t answer the question but used an external source to validate his current situation instead of taking personal responsibility and answering the question. I suspected he wanted one more person to validate his lack of effort, not his physical disability, which by the way no one would question.

So I suggested he go back to that Doctor and instead of making an appointment to just get his disability confirmed, have a discussion about what he physically is capable of. In other words, could he take on some job, perhaps on a part-time basis to start, where he could use his brain, his arms and hands, be productively working to raise his spirits and feelings of self-worth, or was he truly entirely unemployable. “You’re the first person who thinks I could work”, he said. I told him that his physical disability was not in fact his biggest disability, the larger disability was in fact his attitude. Not in a, “You’ve got a terrible attitude” way, but in a self-limiting mindset way.

If that Doctor confirms there isn’t a job on the planet this fellow can do, then I’ll be glad to agree that although he wants to work he can’t. However, I suspect that there are a wide number of jobs that with the proper training and accommodation, this fellow would be more than capable of doing. Due to the nature of where I work, I may or may not even see this fellow again. I hope I do because then I can follow-up and see if he followed through on this suggestion.

Before you can get others to see past your disabilities, you often have to truly believe in your capabilities yourself.

Check out this video on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TmVdfFKiaLU or just type, “They were wrong” into the Youtube search engine.

Career Research Activity To Try

In my work as an Employment Counsellor, I’m called upon to help others explore career options from time-to-time, and most often this activity is preceded by an examination of the person’s skills, interests, assets, age, values, beliefs, strengths and liabilities etc. Some of the people I work with are after a career, some are after a job, and well, quite frankly some don’t even know the difference between the two so they don’t know what they want.

However that aside for the moment, there is a very simple but useful exercise that I do when facilitating a workshop on career exploration that gets a lot of laughs, and is fun to do. If you think that this is an activity that your class or group might find useful, you have my blessings to likewise try it out and maybe even morph it into an activity with your own twist.

For starters you’ll need two envelopes, (11 x 14) for each person in the group. In each envelope I insert a picture off the internet of an occupation with the career or job title prominently typed below the picture. Now in my case I have taken the time to make 40 pictures printed off a colour printer, and then I have laminated the pictures so I can use them again and again with numerous groups. Some of the pictures depict jobs people see everyday like a Cashier, Caretaker, Parking Lot Attendant. Other pictures include a Soldier, Dog Walker, Writer, Arborist, Pharmaceutical Technician, Crossing Guard etc. In other words, some pictures are representative of occupations that my clients may see on a daily basis, some are entry-level, some are high-risk, some peculiar, some just plain not even obvious from the name or the picture as to what they do.

Two days before I plan to use the envelopes, I have the class walk in to the room only to find all 40 envelopes on the walls around the room. Some are just off the floor, some near the ceiling, some clustered in groups, some all by themselves, some near where people sit, others far away. All I tell the group is not to look in any of the envelopes. I let the curiosity build until the day I want to use them. So when the time comes, I ask them one at a time to pick an envelope off the wall. Then the person opens their envelope, pulls out the picture and shows their new job to the group. Get a ‘Rock Star’ and you might be cool, pick a ‘Street Cleaner’ and maybe not so much, but pick the Pest Exterminator depicted by a guy in an attic with large dead rats and you’ll get a reaction!

When everyone has picked their new career or job, I distribute one page with some questions on it for each person to complete. Some of the questions are:

What skills would this job require? What would be your annual salary? What would you both like and not enjoy about this job? What education would this job require? What would be the benefits of this job? What’s the worst thing that could go wrong in this job? What personality traits or attributes might you share with someone in this job? Why is this job important?

Each person then completes the sheet and we discuss some of the answers. Maybe someone picked a career they have no idea about whatsoever. Then a discussion ensues about how you would go about finding the information you need. There are lots of jobs and careers that initially people know nothing about, and they have to complete some research to find out – just like in real life. So why put the envelopes all over the room? First ask the class why they chose the envelope they did. Some will choose one really close to their chair so they don’t draw attention to themselves, others will choose that one they really had to reach high for (and don’t we have to stretch ourselves to obtain some careers?). Others choose ones at the far end of the room, (some occupations do seem rather far away) and some want that one you put all by itself (because maybe it is special?). Why and how they made their decision of can be related back to how people really go about picking jobs in their world.

After discussion has run its course, I take back all the pictures and envelopes and tell some of the group that they have been laid off. Others I tell got a promotion, others wanted a career change, and some are going through a mid-life crisis. Bottom line is everybody ‘loses’ their job and has to pick a second one and repeat the exercise with a new sheet to complete on the second career. It’s random, and shouldn’t be done more than twice or it gets boring and the point is made. The point being that there are many careers and jobs out there that may be appealing and possible if you look beyond your initial reaction and where you see that job on a value scale. In other words, is the Dog Washer any less fulfilling or valued than the Radio Announcer? Is the Fire Fighter more prestigious than the Butcher? If so, why?

Get thinking; get talking; get going.

Why YOU Need To Get Moving NOW!

Imagine if you will a circle in the middle of a large piece of paper. In the center of that circle, you print your name to represent yourself at this point in time, March 19, 2013. Now draw on that paper, extended out in relative equal proximity, 4 or 5 boxes with each representing possible career or job opportunities that you are interested in. It will not matter if they are in the same field or sector, and in fact the point might be better made if they were diverse in nature, so don’t feel constricted in your choice.

Now standing back from that paper, look at the image before you for a moment. There you are in the middle with a few options before you that you have an interest in pursuing. One of the first things you need to realize and accept is that because you yourself put a job or career in each of those 4 or 5 boxes that you would find rewarding and fulfilling, any single one of them would bring you a measure of happiness and satisfaction. This must be clearly internalized and accepted, because you chose the job titles yourself rather than having someone else impose them on you. If you only put something down because others expect it of you but it’s not something you want really, go back and erase it and substitute it with a job or career that really would bring you a measure of happiness.

Okay now, choose one of those boxes and draw a line out from the center circle towards it. Along that line, place 7 or 8 shorter perpendicular lines. Each one of these intersecting shorter lines represents a barrier that must be overcome; a step that must be achieved in order to continue to move toward your goal. Now some of these barriers and steps are relatively easily achieved as in the case of targeting your resume to that position. However others are more time-consuming, such as in the instance where you must attend some University, College or training program to acquire the necessary credentials to compete for that job or career.

Of critical importance in this exercise is the objectivity it takes to plot things out honestly. So if a return to school to take a 3 or 4 year program isn’t something you are willing to undertake, but is necessary in order to eventually compete and be interviewed/hired for a career or job, you have to accept then that you will not obtain that ultimate goal represented in the box you are heading toward. If this is what you experienced, draw a second line to another of your boxes with a different job or career from your circle in the center of the page. Plot out the same lines and repeat the process. You may find that one job or career is more easily obtainable with acceptable steps which will remove the barriers, and have you arrive at your chosen career or job.

But here is why YOU really need to get going NOW. You see that circle in which you printed your name? Well that’s you today being the 19th day of March 2013. How long has it been since you had paid employment? How current are your references? How up-to-date are your technical skills and academic knowledge? The longer you stay in this center area, without focused movement toward one of your chosen career or job goals, the more your experience will become distant, your references less relevant, your technical or academic skills outdated.

Now the loss of those assets are of immense concern on their own. However, what is less immediately obvious, is that further problems and barriers will appear along all of the lines you have drawn extending out from your center. The longer you remain without movement in any direction, you will notice perhaps Fear, Depression, Anxiety, Self-Doubt, and Isolation appearing. While the appearance of one or two is difficult to overcome, the presence of all of these accumulated together can be debilitating and paralyzing.

Now some might find this whole process demoralizing and frustrating. If this is your reality however, seeing things for the way they are is the first step to making change. You DO have the power to make change in your own life and no one is as impacted by whatever decision you make from this day going forward as you yourself. You have the capacity to continue in the center, blaming a past employer, an illness, a disability, a failed relationship or any other of a number of things, including poor past decisions you have made. Or, you have the power and ability to take a step, (large or small) in one direction, and by doing so, shorten the distance between where you are and where you want to be.

If you find that plotting out your barriers was easy although distressing, but plotting out the steps to remove those barriers is the challenge, enlist the aid of an Employment Counsellor or Career Coach. It may be that they recommend other professionals, such as a Mental Health Counsellor, or a Physiotherapist or a Guidance Counsellor. Who ever you consult and work with becomes part of your ‘team’. Take this step and you can pride yourself on movement and reduce the negative effect of Isolation.

This is only one tool designed to help get you moving but like any tool, it is only useful if you pick it up and use it.

How Fast Is Fast-Paced?

Oh my goodness there are a lot of job postings out there that all seem to want workers who can work at a fast pace. I often wonder though if they all want workers who work at a fast pace, doesn’t fast become the new norm? I mean, wouldn’t you have to see postings requiring people to work at a slow or average pace in order for others to be fast?

Suppose you told an employer your last job required you to work at a fast pace but when you started a new job, the new employer wondered about your ability to work fast. Could fast at one job be not fast enough at another? So what exactly is fast anyhow?

That’s a question that no one can answer except the employer who is represented by the interviewer; and it’s a question you might want to consider asking at the actually interview itself. However, in the actual asking of the question, be sure to communicate that you are inquiring simply to know what the standard of required speed is that you will be measured against. Perhaps in your new job you and your team have to churn out 175 items on an assembly line every hour. If you realize after the first hour on the job that you’ve only produced 135, you’ve got to increase your overall speed, and that should come with familiarity of your responsibilities and your learning curve.

How though do you measure your speed if you are in a job without clearly defined targets? How exactly would your speed be measured? Of course speed is one thing, accuracy another. In that previous example from the last paragraph, suppose you upped your production to 175 units produced in an hour, but 69 of them had defects, imperfections or required adjustments. Just because you worked at a fast pace in that instance wouldn’t be productive for the company as they would have wasted products and you’d actually be costing the company money to re-make or repair your items produced.

One thing to clarify when you are at the early stage of employment is to determine what the expectations are for new hires vs. longer term employees. And additionally, what is the expected learning curve, the rate of improved production and accuracy you should be meeting, and what if anything is attached to your performance. In other words, if you aren’t meeting targets by a certain date, is your job in jeopardy or if you exceed or meet those targets, are there performance bonuses or raises? Or is the expectation that you meet those targets and your wage is not affected at all, because after all, you agreed to perform the job for a set hourly or annual wage.

I knew a fellow once who for a time, managed to appear to be very busy all the time at work. Whenever he walked around, he moved quickly and took slightly longer strides. People saw him a determined, moving with purpose, and assumed he was always doing something important and was highly productive. However, what came to light was that it was really an illusion and he had accomplished no more than anyone else at the end of a day. He just walked differently. When someone was approaching him, it was always them who moved to one side because he seemed in a hurry, doing something important, going somewhere.

So there’s a good question for you to pose to an interviewer about the expected rate of productivity you should both be expected to be at in the early days of work, and after a few months. However, one piece of advice is to avoid the word, “minimum”; as in “Could you tell me what is the minimum expectation you would have for me in the early days of working here?” That sounds an awful lot like you are aiming as high as the worst employer. Now on the other hand if you said, “Could you tell me what expectations you have for the most productive employee doing what I’ll be doing?”, you’d be setting yourself up to be among the best the company has. Employers would appreciate your zeal and high personal standards.


Authenticity vs. Misrepresentation

The inspiration for today’s blog and start of discussion actually comes from a Housing Sales office I have been watching workman erect on my daily commute to and from work. It’s now complete and it looks great. The facade looks grand and rich, all the stonework, the bricked pathway is in place, the evergreens lining the walkway are in place as are the lights to guide your walkway up to the welcoming front doors. However, I know from watching that it’s all for show and not permanent. Four months ago, the same building facade was on the other side of the road less than a mile away. Movers came and transported the basic structure, uprooted all those stones and tiles, and reassembled that temporary sales pavilion and one day it will disappear only to be resurrected somewhere else. It’s all illusion designed to sell a lifestyle, a concept, and make the builder money.

I truly believe that every Resume Expert or Employment Counsellor has at some time thought or even struggled with the fine line between helping a client look good on their resume, and going over the top and misrepresenting them somewhere. In the end, does that resume make the person out to be someone they just aren’t like that sales office building?

Maybe this is one of those skills that over time and with greater insight and wisdom we learn to do better; bringing out and highlighting someone’s abilities so they feel good about themself on paper, but at the same time not setting them up for unrealistic expectations down the road.

I know when I’m helping craft a resume – and it is a craft like any other, I need to understand what the person is genuinely capable of based on their demonstrated experience and education, and then complement this with the requirements of the position being applied to. A knowledge of the employer, their required format for resume submissions, key values, mission etc. is needed too. When the resume is completed, I really want the client to feel that they are well portrayed on that piece of paper, that it shows them off in a positive light, highlights their skills and attributes well, but that it is also genuine.

If you are misrepresenting yourself on your resume, you may find that yes you get an interview, or even worse actually get hired, but then you fall apart when the time comes to actually demonstrate your knowledge during the interview or on the job. In other words, misrepresenting yourself on paper does not serve you well, sets you up for failure, and ultimately affects your confidence, your dignity and your future employability. In short, it’s not worth it.

What you can expect from a Resume Expert or an Employment Counsellor is assistance in targeting your resume to a specific opportunity, perhaps some key words or phrases that capture what you yourself want to communicate but lack the vocabulary to do so, and a layout that hopefully peaks an interest in meeting you in person.

There is nothing worse than sitting down with an employer and going through an interview and then being asked or questioned about something on your resume that you yourself cannot explain. “Uh, I’m not sure…I had some help doing my resume”, isn’t going to impress anyone. You as the applicant need to fully understand every word and phrase on your document and be able to respond to and defend yourself. Employers already presume and rightly so, that you are on your best behaviour, dressed the best you can, speaking at your best etc. If they discover your resume is essentially misrepresenting the person in front of them, they may feel so betrayed that they end the interview immediately and your application is dead in the water. They really want to see and speak with the authentic you; be yourself.

If you don’t know HOW to professionally communicate what you want to say, then say it in your own words, and I’m sure the person assisting you as a Resume Expert can help phrase on paper what you want down. They may make an alternative suggestion which you should consider. However, remember you are the person whose name appears at the top of the document and as such, you should ultimately decide what’s included and what isn’t. If you don’t understand a word, ask what it means and leave it in or substitute it with another; no shame in that.

Remember too that after hearing you speak in an interview for a minute or two, the interviewer can pretty much determine if the language on the paper matches the language from your lips. Keeping it real means they can trust you in ways that go beyond that resume.