What It All Boils Down To Is ONE Thing

The side of the desk on which you find yourself, whether it’s as an employee or someone looking for work, really boils down to one very simple thing in the end, and I think it is absolutely indisputable. Now that’s an extremely challenging kind of statement to make; that whether you are unemployed or employed it all boils down to just one thing? I really believe that. So what is it?

The one thing is D E C I S I O N S ; decisions you’ve made in the past, being made in the present and the ones you have yet to make in your future. Add up the decisions along the way and you’ll find that those who are out of work made decisions which although they may have seemed logical and right at the time, history has bourne out proof that those decisions were poorly made, be they to drop out of school, graduate in a program with little employability, turn down an offer of employment and take a summer to ‘find yourself’, or quit a job to try your hand at self-employment. While such decisions might be right for some people, in your own particular case, they were poor decisions for you personally.

Conversely, you’re employed and happy, and you can trace your present job back to a decision you made to continue with your studies, stay at a job you didn’t like because you could see a path to a better job, worked in many different entry-level jobs to get a broad range of experience, hey maybe even married the right person.

Now already I can sense some readers are fuming, already contemplating the rebuttals, the ‘how dare you blame me for my trouble, you don’t even know me’s’, etc. Hold on and read on. Some of those decisions you made that didn’t pan out in the end were actually the right decisions – at the time. However, suppose you had made a decision to work at a job that had a promising future, but the company shut down because the owner made some poor decisions and went bankrupt. Hardly your bad decision that led to your unemployment. Okay so this past decision to work there didn’t work out but now it’s the present, and what are you doing in the here and now? What decisions are you contemplating today to improve your situation and what ACTION are you taking today based on those decisions?

I’ve made decisions that didn’t pan out like anyone else. Sometimes it’s useful to review past decisions to review what alternatives you passed on so you can learn from the error and not repeat it by making similar bad decisions. However, looking in the rear view mirror of your life is only helpful if you do it for short periods of time. After all, if your car is moving forward, glancing occasionally in rear view mirror is a wise practice so you can see what’s coming up behind you, but try driving any distance when you are spending 80% of your time looking in the rear view mirror; you’ll either drive so slowly you won’t get far fast, or you’ll leave the road and head on down some path you didn’t intend. Same thing in life.

This week and next I’m facilitating an intensive job searching class, meant to result in interviews and job interviews for the unemployed. A small group of twelve were all contacted individually and confirmed their attendance. Yesterday being the first day, nine showed up. Two called with very lame excuses, and one never bothered to show up or call to explain. The decision they made, and the decision made by the nine who did show up is but one decision but could have significant impact on their individual employability.

Going hand-in-hand with decisions you make is the responsibility for those decisions. Take that responsibility instead of blaming others. When your decisions don’t work out, take the blame if that’s appropriate, and when they do, take all the credit too; that’s only fair. Anyone who gets a job with my help usually thanks me, and I turn around and say they deserve all the credit because they made a decision to seek help, made a decision to listen and accept constructive criticism, and made a decision to implement some of the ideas, (if not all) that were given to them. Some people aren’t used to giving themselves praise after being discouraged and losing their self-esteem for so long via unemployment. Take it when it comes, you deserve it!

Think carefully about the decisions you make, and if those decisions run counter to advice or suggestions you get from others who are successfully employed, consider a re-think. If you continue to make the kind of decisions you have made in the past, there is a great possibility that your future will remain unchanged. Shake it up, and make some changes in what you base your decisions on.

Something to consider.

Young People, Old Problems

The problem that some young people are having in getting meaningful work isn’t really new. For years, students coming out of University and Colleges have had the advantage of recent education, youth and exuberance on their sides, but there are some nagging issues facing this age group that if you look back in time, you’ll find are the same issues and barriers that generations have had to deal with in years past.

To start off with, there is the issue of maturity. While young people are trying to convince employers that they are emotionally stable and mentally balanced, committed to employers and can be relied upon, in some cases it was only a short time ago; as little as a few months, when those same young people sitting in front of an interviewer seemingly the picture of maturity beyond their years, were partying four nights or more a week, skipping classes and generally letting loose. What Facebook, MY Space, Instant messaging etc. and other social media have done however is make much of that public sharing of their lives public and unwittingly available to employers. The images they find on-line are believed to be a truer representation of the person than the real-life version sitting in front of them. The reason? At the interview you are portraying for a short period your best behaviour. On Facebook etc., you are at your natural best (or worse).

Another issue that young people face is the sudden demand for them to be up and productively at work at 8:00a.m. or 9:00a.m. Monday to Friday, and to repeat this process again and again. Teens and young people tend to be more night owls by nature and therefore sleep in later in the day. This process fights the world of work that traditionally gets people working early and then hitting the sack at a regular time throughout a week in order to function at work. Then when the weekends hit, there’s also a demand on young people to curtail somewhat that wild life of recent University and College in order that they don’t bring the reputation of their companies to the bars with them.

Now is it fair that the way you act on your own time should somehow reflect on your employer and therefore you be asked to be mindful of this and tone down your party lifestyle? Maybe and maybe not; that’s an ethical question that you can weigh in on. However, the bottom line is that if you want to continue to move up in a company, your advancement will be tied to your reputation for any number of things – and your off-the-clock behaviour DOES impact on your career. Don’t plan on turning the bad behaviour off when it suits you because it can follow you and stick to you and takes a very long time to change your image once you’ve established it.

Now these comments I made are broad-sweeping; they paint an entire age group with the same brush and, well, that’s just not fair or accurate. Sure, I know that, and you should know it too. Neither is every 60-year-old job seeker over the hill and have nothing to offer. But the stereotype is something you may have to overcome with some employers. Good advice is to take a little thought to what might be important to you in a couple of years, and start thinking about what you could do in the here and now to get yourself in a position to take advantage of opportunities you’ll want later.

One problem that comes up with young people entering the world of work is how to get a job with little experience while getting the experience you need to land a job! This valuable experience can be gained by volunteering, joining clubs and groups, developing their networking skills, getting out in the community and learning new skills. All these kind of skills can be supplemented with entry-level work in factories, fast-food restaurants, book stores, clothing stores, discount stores, summer camps for kids, etc. All this allows for those experiences to be the basis for your answers in future interview questions.

Getting experience is what it’s all about. Get what you can, where you can instead of just planning on going from no job to the job of your dreams. That entitlement is a problem that older workers stereotypically have a problem with when dealing with younger people. Knowing that now, might just help you out moving forward.


How Long To Grieve Before Resuming Your Job(Search)

Yesterday I was speaking with a co-worker and we discussed a client of hers who indicated they couldn’t resume their job search because their mother had passed away. Always a dicey one when dealing with job seekers and death, but it needs addressing one way or another. So how long has it been since the mother passed away? Two years.

Another client she mentioned was dealing with not being able to move on to a structured job search and the reason this time was because the ex-spouse was losing custody of his child and he found this upsetting. The child it turns out hasn’t been seen by the client for 8 years, nor spoken to.

Are these excuses to get out of a job search, meant to garner sympathy or are they really that grievous that they justify extended unemployment with no job search requirements? Or is the answer some intensive one-to-one counselling in order to move forward with professionals that deal in this area?

For those of us who deal matter-of-factly with death as a part of life, the period of mourning may be very short; and others might classify these folks as cold and unfeeling. But is that any fairer than those who get over death quickly as referring to those who don’t as wimps or pansies? Neither reaction is necessarily right and the name-calling isn’t going to help either.

When working, an employer has almost always got set out an established plan that sets out the time off a person is allowed before being required to return to their job. Any further time might be allowed if taken as holidays, unpaid leave or sick leave if medically supported. It is important to realize though that even if you get six days off for the death of a parent, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be given a little space at work upon your return. If your work is like an extended family, co-workers will be sensitive to your situation and respect how you handle your return and whether you want to talk about it or not.

But consider that if you are already out of work and looking for a job, without a definitive deadline for getting back to the job search, there is a real danger of your sadness from the loss piggy-backing on the depression of unemployment and also the rejection from employer after employer. You could end up wallowing in silence day after day, week after week, and maybe even month after month without an external demand to get back into the world of the living and carry on. This same grief can be triggered after a job loss, a family or friends passing, the loss of a treasured pet, a home, etc.

Not everyone experiences loss the same way, and therefore going to an Employment Counsellor and saying, “I can’t job search because I’m dealing with the loss of my sister and it’s been eight months” will not get the automatic understanding and approval for your lack of job searching necessarily. Quite the opposite could happen where someone says to themselves, “Well that is sad, BUT deal with it and move on.” It’s not meant to be insensitive, and I’d hope no one would say the words in exactly that way. Some people DO need encouragement though to realize the time to move on is now.

Not everyone is prepared or able to deal with telling someone with kindness that the time for mourning should wrap up – which doesn’t mean you don’t care anymore, it’s just time to also focus back on employment. The grieving doesn’t end because it says so on a calendar, but HOW you grieve changes.


When A Job Search Should NOT Be A Priority

Contrary to what you might think, not all unemployed people should be chastised for not looking for work, and in fact the best way to help them to move forward with their lives is actually to give them the permission and approval to explicitly forget it entirely. Huh? Not the kind of advice taxpayers typically want to read about.

Consider however that for many job seekers, a lack of employment is only one of several issues or barriers that they are typically dealing with. For quite a few people, the loss of a job may be the result of getting fired or let go, and WHY they got let go could be for anger on the job inappropriately expressed and manifested in a fight. Or perhaps drug or alcohol use discovered on-the-job. And a third example may be coming to work looking rough, maybe in the same wrinkled clothing, unshaven and with increasing body odour. So what’s going on? To find out, you’ve got to ask some questions.

In the above examples, you’ve got people with anger management issues that don’t know how to vent in socially acceptable ways, an addiction issue and a stable housing issue. Running out to get that next job immediately will only result in a series of jobs with poor performance and repeated failure. A better strategy to effectively move forward may just be to forget the job search for a month and get some stable housing; even if it’s below the standard the person has been used to based on what they can now afford. With stable housing in place, which could take the better part of a month or two to find, that person can focus better on the job search without the distraction of not even having a roof over their head.

An addict may or may not be able to hold down a job, but one of the things that’s going to be critical is ongoing support from some Addictions Counsellor, and possible meetings, be they in groups or 1:1. The person with anger issues might look great on paper and do well in the interview, but have no tolerance for what they consider to be stupid co-workers or Supervisors. Hence they lose patience extremely quickly and react with physical violence, swearing, and don’t know how to deal with their pent-up anger causing them to explode. A walking time bomb on the job if you will is not going to be able to retain a job without some counselling.

If you are dealing with people in these situations, or you recognize yourself, it may be the best advice you can receive to hold off on resuming a job search until you can get these issues and others like them under control. Any phone book, social service agency, medical professional, or an internet search will help you turn up possible sources of help. Remember that seeking out help from others is not a weakness but rather a realization that you have to make some changes; and that’s a strength. Rather than waste precious time trying to keep your not-so-secret problem to yourself, reduce the time it will take to deal with your issues by getting professional help as soon as possible.

Once you’ve got a handle on some of your issues, then you can turn with greater confidence to finding a job and you may be in a better position to actually keep it longer. The end result is a stable job, a steady income, increased self-esteem and greater confidence.

All the best!
Read more at https://myjobadvice.wordpress.com/

Applying For Work Using Email

How far we have come in such a short period of time. How few years ago was it that if you were applying for a job you got dressed appropriately and traveled to the job site or the company and spoke to the person in charge if you could, and either gave them your resume or even said, “Put me to work” in the hope you could demonstrate your skills and be hired. Well I wish licorice pipes were two cents too but they aren’t and they aren’t likely to be again in my lifetime.

So when you apply or inquire about a job opening using email, one of your first decisions has to be that you actually use an email that doesn’t get you rejected just because it sounds ridiculous or gives your age away. I’m talking about jaredsmith1988@…., fluffybunnykins@….., studguy69@…. or juliewhite39@… Oh and just in case you think I’ve invented these, fluffybunnykins@ was the email a client of mine had been using up to the point of our meeting; her mom made it for her when she was 12 years old. Enough said.

When you apply, the subject line of your email should be the job title followed by the word, ‘vacancy’ or ‘position’ as in, “General Manufacturing position”, or “Financial Investment Officer vacancy”. Did you know that it is critical that you actually capitalize the first letter of the job title itself just as you would the first letter in your own first and last name? Because that is the standard measure of how to print or write a proper noun, you give away your lack of education or professionalism if you use lower case letters for each word. In other words, your words send a message that screams, “I don’t know basic grammar!” or, “I couldn’t care less even though I know how to do it properly”, or possibly, “I’ve been texting so long like a teenager myself I didn’t think anybody cared anymore!”. Hmmmm….they do.

In the body of the email, it is equally critical that you include a brief paragraph stating that you are applying for the job matching the subject line, that you are qualified, highly interested, have attached your resume and/or cover letter, and want an interview and provide your contact information. These couple of lines or a single paragraph show the reader of your email that you can string together a few sentences using proper grammar, spelling and punctuation. This reveals your level of literacy and will exude professionalism or smell of illiteracy. Proofreading this prior to sending your email is critically important therefore and you might get another pair of eyes to look it other before you hit, ‘send’.

Some people don’t think it necessary to actually include a phone number or email address in the body of the text, but if they can’t open your attachment, (or heaven forbid you actually forget to attach it at all!), they will have a number accessible to contact you. I would hope you aren’t applying for an IT position if you fail to include the attachment, but some careers/jobs that don’t require a high level of computer expertise are a tad more forgiving but best make sure you double-check that you’ve attached it to look competent. Failing to attach something as important as your resume, especially when you say you have, will reveal your lack of attention to detail, your ship-shod, sloppy way of doing things that are important, and probably rule you out from other moving forward.

If you include a cover letter, you have a choice to make. You can do one of three things really; 1) make the body of the email itself your cover letter, 2) have a single attachment being your cover letter and your resume further down as you scroll, or 3) have two attachments, a cover letter and your resume. So what’s best? Well first of all not all employers want to read a cover letter, so while you may get different takes on this advice, I’d avoid option #2. Because you don’t know the level of computer expertise the person has who is opening your email and how much time they will devote to it, they may actually not scroll down your cover letter to find the resume, and may assume incorrectly you included the cover letter only when you said you had attached the cover letter and resume. This would be their error, but your email gets deleted and they’ve moved on to other applicants.

The option of two attachments gives the receiver the choice of going right to the resume and ignoring the cover letter altogether, or opening both separately and reading them. As you don’t know when you apply if the employer appreciates a cover letter all the time, at least they can quickly open what they want and go from there. Should you opt to use the body of the email as your cover letter and have a single attachment being your resume only, it’s good advice to write a shorter cover letter that gets right to it and motivates them to move on and open your resume. A long cover letter may just be tiresome to read, overly wordy, and actually put them off.

Please use spellcheck features and proofread your document. Some people just rely on the computer to point out errors like incorrect spelling, but it will miss your use of an improper word that you have spelled correctly often. Because you will have the tendency to see the same mistake and miss it again and again, another pair of trained eyes is always a good bet.

“That’s Not Advice I Want To Hear”

Of late I have been noticing the frequency of one subject coming up in both the various groups I am part of through Linkedin, and indeed in my own dealing with people I am working with to gain employment, and that is the subject of asking for and receiving advice. More to the point, it involves people asking for genuine advice and then not actually taking the advice they’ve been given.

There are of course, a few varying points of view from which to approach this subject. For starters, just because someone asks for advice doesn’t mean they are under any obligation to actually take it and follow through on the advice given. This is especially true when the advice would appear to contradict other well-intentioned advice received as in the case of two people giving a client advice on how to make the best resume possible. One says do it this way, and the other says do it another way. In the end, the person has the choice of taking one person’s advice completely, a hybrid of the two, or rejecting both altogether.

Then too there is advice that somehow comes across as more of a lecture really; an imposing of one persons view onto another. How many times for example does the stereotypical teenager get portrayed as sitting down to somebody saying, “Let me give you some good advice. Why when I was your age…” Not likely that kind of approach has much of a chance of sinking in and taking hold because the approach is all wrong.

However, what is vital to understand is that if you seek out someone’s advice, and they provide it to you willingly and with the intent to help, you may not get further advice if you’ve rejected out of hand the advice previously given. Why would someone continue to provide suggestions and helpful advice if past advice and helpful suggestions go apparently untried and ignored? Well surprisingly, there are a great number of people who will continue to provide such advice again and again when asked, even though the person asking has done that very thing and ignore or reject previous advice. So why is this?

Essentially those that are experienced, helpful, and truly wish others to succeed do so because they know that sooner or later, the person asking advice may be in the right place and time to actually be receptive to hearing the message and internalizing it. After all, if everybody took all the advice they were giving the first time, just think of the results: why there would be hardly any drunk drivers, teen pregnancies, people getting fired, students needing to re-evaluate their career decisions and course loads etc. However, pretty much free choice and learning by personal experience would go out the window too. Would you really want your child or a good friend living their life solely based on the advice you’ve given them? What about the advice they’d get from others along the way – would you not want them to be smart enough to weigh the advice they’ve received and make their own decision as to whether or not to take it?

Giving advice is often best done in a very subtle way; getting another person to come to the position you’d like them to be at but arriving there with their own realization, their own discovery but guided and influenced perhaps by our actions, our conversation, our experience.

We all know there are some people who ask for our advice and because it involves hard work and a change in behaviour, it is rejected out of hand as too hard, too impractical, and this may indeed be the case. But sometimes, it’s really a defensive mechanism the other person is using because they lack the skill to follow that advice, and rather than admit that shortcoming, it protects their ego to say, “That’s not the advice I want to hear”, or “That wouldn’t work for me”.

In cases like the above, giving advice isn’t really practical unless the time is invested to demonstrate and teach the necessary skills so the person can then put that advice into action. Someone being told they should target every resume rather than make twenty copies of one and fan it out all over may reject this because without being shown HOW, they just imagine starting from scratch each time they do a resume. If their existing skill base tells them it took them two and a half hours to do a single resume, they probably won’t be receptive to the idea if in their brain it translates as 2.5 hours x 20 = FRUSTRATION!

Timing is key to advice whether you are receiving it or giving it. I’ve known as many have, women who return to abusive relationships numerous times before they make that final and decisive decision to remove themselves completely from the abuser. Don’t you suppose all kinds of people have been giving these women advice to get out and stay out? Sure they have. However, until they themselves were in the right place and time to have that advice sink in and resonate, it was just words.

So don’t be so hard on those who don’t follow your advice; but then again, didn’t I just give you some of my own?

What Is Inherent Value And It’s Relevance To You?

Suppose for a moment that every single job on this planet paid the same salary. It wouldn’t matter whether you were a Sanitation Worker picking up litter after a parade, or you were the Mayor of the City, drove an ambulance or worked in a steel mill; everyone received the identical compensation. With money and the status it brings out-of-the-way and a non-factor, what would you want to do as an occupation?

Think about it and stretch your imagination for a moment; if all jobs had equal compensation attached to them, you could no longer be denied – or afford as the case may be – that red-hot sports car you may have always wanted. IF the compensation was the same, no house would be more out of reach for you than anyone else you knew. What it would really come down to then was what do you want to spend your money on?

The job you would choose to pursue, and the things you would choose to acquire; you’d pursue and acquire because they hold some value to them that you attach. So not everyone would want that log cabin by the lake with the gravel and sand country road leading to it at the end of the day. Nor by contrast would others choose a condominium on the 28th floor of a densely populated metropolis. Some might choose to still rent, while others would choose to own outright. Behind those choices there are values and ideals being expressed by those that make those decisions.

So pertaining to work, why would some choose to operate an ice-cream truck while others would choose to go after a job teaching? The answer lies in that individual again attaching perceived value in the work being done. So while the Ice-Cream Operator might value the autonomy, the popularity, and making children happy while working independently, a person choosing teaching might value the imparting of wisdom and seeing children grow. The Teacher might also feel they have a knack for delivery, and the ability to connect with students that gives him or her satisfaction.

Inherent Value therefore is some measure of importance we assign as individuals to work being done, and by association, the people doing it. This is why when we meet someone new, we will within the first few questions ask, “So what do you do for a living?”. Based on our own values and those of our society, if the person responds with a trade, job or career that we attach a strong value too, then our estimation of the person rises. By contrast, if the person responds with a trade, job or career that we and our society at large attach less value to, we often by association, see the person doing the work as somehow of less value.

Now whether you personally care about what others think of you and what you do for a living or not, that really isn’t the point of discussion here. What is of significance however is what is it that you yourself find value in doing? What do you take comfort in, happiness in, satisfaction in doing? You may find you can answer this question with a several occupations, jobs or trades. The next thing to do is to look at your own skills, qualifications, motivation and interests and determine what is the distance between where you stand today and how near or far those occupations are from you.

So if I find the work of a Truck Driver of value to me and I have the qualifications to drive a rig, it may be an occupation that I could achieve relatively quickly, and derive satisfaction from doing. Conversely, I might also see the value in the work of an Astronaut, and by doing some research learn that the job of just training to make the shortlist of candidates would take more years than I want to devote to that endeavour. In this case, I can admire and respect those in the field, but I personally might choose to get on with other things and not really divert any energy to really moving toward that goal. My best shot might be then to buy my way onto a space trip as a tourist. (Yes you really can start to do this).

Knowing what you value with respect to work is one key to overall happiness with your chosen occupation. So when someone down the road says, “Good job”, it validates our own belief that we are valued and performing at a desired level by our peers. And when a customer or client expresses their satisfaction with our performance and it improves their lives in some way, so too do we feel good because it validates our work and the choice we made to do it.

Now in our world, we don’t receive identical compensation for work performed, but should that really have as much of an impact on what we decide to do with our time? Yes money buys the things that we want in life, and they have value to us like a cottage or a holiday. However, you will spend 7 or 8 hours a day, 140 hours a week, 6,720 hours (4 weeks vacation thrown in) doing work of some kind in any given year; shouldn’t it be something YOU value?

Something to think about.

The End

Everything that gets started eventually comes to an end doesn’t it? Do you remember way back through the mists of time to that very first job you had when it was all you could do to contain yourself when you pulled on that uniform and started your initial shift? The idea of retiring and no longer working was about as remote as anything possibly could be, and yet, years and years later, here you are all done with work and have whatever time is left to you to move on to other things.

The staff where you work have undoubtedly got somebody in charge of some kind of send off for you – at least you are secretly hoping they do even if its low key. Or maybe you’re the kind of person whose hoping for banners, parties, cake, presents, accolades – the works! (Yeah that’d be me too). Anyhow you’ve earned the right you feel to get away from it all, and there’s hopefully enough money in the old bank account to get you through however many years you’ve got left.

So what’s it going to be? Traveling, a new sports car, gardening, rocking on the front veranda, volunteering, spending time with the grandkids if your kids will let you, or do you have plans to get some part-time job down at the hardware store just to keep your hands in doing something. Maybe there’s a fishing rod calling you, the gang whose promised to meet every morning at the coffee and donut shop or maybe writing that great novel that has been at the back of your mind for decades. Hope somebody buys a few copies eh?

The end is what you make of it, and rather than really seeing your employment as THE END, have you thought about seeing it as AN END; meaning there are new beginnings to get excited about? In other words instead of seeing things as a time to wind down, perhaps it’s just time to shift into another gear, take on a new activity with vigor and energy. Why you might have so much enthusiasm for what lies ahead that you realize you haven’t felt this kind of excitement for what is to come since the day you landed that very first job.

Reflecting on what was accomplished, what legacy you’ve left behind and how you may have improved the lives of others or bettered yourself is a good exercise in validation. However, spending too much time in that self ego-massage can detract from what lies ahead. Best to revel in your past history just enough to remind yourself of good things done, but save enough time and energy to really apply yourself to new adventures.

There appears to be a risk both mentally and physically for people within the first year of retirement brought about by a sudden change in their behaviour, their lack of purpose and it can and has resulted in death in some cases. You may even hear stories at your workplace about people you never knew that start off, “Poor old Elsie. I can’t believe it can you? And she was so looking forward to going on that cruise. I wonder how Ron will cope now?” Is it coincidence that Elsie passed away within a short time of retiring and no longer having that daily routine and responsibilities? Perhaps.

Have you started thinking about YOUR plan for post employment? I suppose that question really has more relevance for some than others based on age, plans, circumstances and dreams. Wouldn’t it be a shame if your dreams were only about what you’d do in the 67th year of your life but you only made it to 68? I don’t know that I’d want to know the expiry date of this machine I call me, but I’d imagine that if I did know ahead of time, I might choose to do a few things differently – especially as the expiry date got near. And that’s the issue really; your expiry date could be in 20 years, 7 years, or 7 minutes.

And suppose as some do, you did know your expiry date but your health, finances or commitments did not allow you do really do anything significant with your remaining time other than what you are currently doing? In other words, you couldn’t afford to quit your job, sell your home to live off the money for that precious remaining time because you had a spouse who would outlive you etc. Well what of that?

My goodness it all just seems so depressing…not a good topic for a Friday at all; the END of the week! However, what if – just think about it – you started right now to improve your chances of living healthier, happier and more productively with a goal of not finding yourself with financial or health problems? Maybe it would serve you well to financially plan things ahead of you, to work hard in that job to get ahead, and develop some hobby or activity that you could carry forward in your life as you age?
That might position you to have the resources to make the most of the time – be it what it may – to really live a life that you can take great comfort and happiness in.

So work smart, with enthusiasm, get your priorities straight whatever they are, see the big picture, put aside some money for the future, and enjoy your time right now!

It’s Best To Lead When….

Leadership is an opportunity to provide guidance, direction, encouragement, examples of desired behaviour in others, and sometimes to motivate. How a leader chooses to do all these things, (and there are others) is really more about defining the style of that leader.

You will find in your lifetime that there are opportunities to take on leadership roles, and for varying lengths of time, for little, none or significant compensation, and there are equally good times to stand down and let others assume leadership positions for the greater good of all concerned. The knack of the best is knowing when is the right time to lead.

Sometimes it’s a situation where you have the knowledge of a subject matter, experience in spades, and others are encouraging you to step up and lead a group. That kind of decision is much easier because many are behind you, or perhaps everyone is putting your name forth with no opposition whatsoever. Be cautious however, because if everyone thinks you’re the answer and things turn out less than great with your leadership, how soon they may forget that they egged you on.

It certainly is an advantage if you have a clear sense of direction and have some kind of vision for what it is you wish to accomplish. It may be a vision you would do well to share so you get buy-in and commitment from others towards, or you may decide your personal vision is something that will take time to realize, and best you go slowly and not rock the boat too much all at once.

Have you ever experienced a change in leadership where someone takes the helm and starts acting like they’ve got all the answers and everyone else can just keep their ideas to themselves? That kind of leadership can be very divisive and yet sometimes that’s what we see in reality. Someone is chosen to turn a company around, and they make sweeping changes in direction, contract their workers, close unprofitable departments, overhaul their service delivery and the company is in flux and tensions and stress soar, stakeholders get nervous, the market has to re-think the value of the services or products and the company is branded anew.

Other times leaders assume the helm and there is very little noticeable change. These leaders decide that it would be prudent to stay the course, learn from the inside what works and why, and value the opinions and practices of those around them to provide them with the information they need to establish future direction. Transitions are smooth, workers are reassured and changes may come, but they are brought about slowly and after much consultation.

Of course not every leader is the person with the biggest office on the top floor. In outstanding organizations, leaders are found at every level. Individuals are encouraged to excel, to grow, given opportunities to lead and nurtured by mentors who have been there before. Some of the best leaders will sometimes actually be hard to spot if you walked in 10 minutes into a meeting, because their style of leadership is more to listen and encourage others to chair meetings, and lead discussions. These leaders are carrying out some succession planning years in advance of critical needs. Giving subordinates the chance to gain valuable experience leading projects big or small, and then providing helpful advice and recommendations for what the person may lack or wish to improve upon to be prepared for future opportunities perhaps 5 or more years down the road. These leaders are forward thinkers.

Recently a group I am part of underwent a change in leadership. The Chairperson stepped down after a two-year term and two of us put our names forward as potential replacements. Being a fairly new group, (if 2 years can be considered new in the broader sense), the change in Chair had not previously happened and the procedure was not something the group had pondered until it was upon us. In my own situation, while I want the position in order to provide some enthusiastic guidance and direction, I actually withdrew my name as a candidate in order that the small group not be divided, and the vote become a popularity contest between us two. There are other ways to lead than by being designated a Chairperson.

And that’s the thrust today. Leadership opportunities are all around us and not only when we sit at the head of a table. People lead all the time, usually in their areas of expertise. So as an Employment Counsellor, I’m seen as a leader when it comes to facilitating dynamic workshops and thought-provoking creative solutions to problems. However, on my team, each other member leads by example in their own way and we as a group see an ebb and flow of people stepping up with ideas, sitting back and supporting others only to rise again with new initiatives.

And I humbly suggest that that’s the best kind of leadership; where in a group setting, each member serves the group by committing to full participation, leading by example whether it’s contributing, speaking, volunteering comments and suggestions, sharing experiences and actively having a part in the success of the overall group goals. It sure beats someone with a little plaque reminding everyone else they are the big cheese while the subordinates meekly sit around listening to them drone on and on only to hear themselves speak.


“I Need Help”, Takes Strength And Courage

Thank goodness we have left behind the times when if wasn’t very cool to ask for help. If you are old enough to remember, there was a time – and not so long ago – when the thing to do was just suppress your problem(s) and deal with things yourself. We now know that what many people experienced however was by suppressing all those problems, things just got bottled up until there was too much contained pressure and then there was an explosion.

See if people were all trained from birth on how to deal with problems, then we might all be able to deal with things on our own but even then I doubt it. The fact that very few of us actually get much help understanding the right way to handle problems and pressure early on in life in a socially responsible way means we aren’t really all that prepared to deal with it when it raises its ugly head.

Now in 2013, I’d like to think that the majority have come to see that we aren’t always equipped to deal with every problem and source of stress that life deals us. So for example, someone who has studied addictions and therefore has both the clinical knowledge of what happens internally to an addict, plus has the knowledge of treatment options and counselling skills is just so much better prepared to offer real help than actual addicts themselves. Likewise, an individual who has anger issues and reacts physically to solve their problems is not as prepared in life to actually work on dealing with that issue than perhaps someone who has taken the time to not only learn how to manage anger, but also has the skills to pass on that knowledge in a manner that connects with people working through it.

It may be that in a job and career advice piece, you’re wondering how addictions and anger, and asking for help to deal with problems fits in. Fair enough and here’s how. You see there are many people, and you may know some, who can get a job rather quickly. They interview well and can pull off the charm and behaviour needed to look good for an hour. However, because of their addictions or anger issues, they fail to keep jobs and lose them quickly thereafter. Maybe it’s turning to a drug on the job to deal with stress, or putting somebody in their place with fists if it’s thought they asked for it. Asking for, and receiving some supportive help to deal best with those issues and others, not only helps the person personally, but helps the person professionally.

How many chances though do we get to really reach out and help? Sometimes a total stranger might approach us and say, “I wonder if you could help me out? I’ve got a problem and need to make some changes”. It may be that if you don’t come through that one time, you don’t get a second chance. Other times, the request comes from someone you do know, with whom you’ve built a trusting relationship, and they’ve come to value your opinion. In either case, best to first tell them how much you appreciate the courage and strength to seek out help. You see they’ve probably been weighing that decision before just coming to it finally, and it’s like taking a big bite of humble pie. So in this state of vulnerability, best to build them up emotionally and aren’t we all needing help in some area from time-to-time?

Act like you would want if it were you on the other side of the table. Hopefully you can be helpful with a referral, even a pamphlet, or a phone number or a contact. Depending on the place, the time, and your knowledge of resources, offer help to the extent that you can.

So what’s in it for you personally? Well if it’s you on the one side of the table asking, you get started on the first step to dealing with your issues. If you are on the other side, you get some satisfaction out of being there with information when somebody trusted you enough to even ask. Good on both of you. And there are more benefits if you look deeper. Consider that in a future job interview, you get asked, “Tell me about a time you’ve made a difference.” Or maybe you’ve been asked, “Tell me about a time you overcame a problem and what did you do?” You could answer either or both of these questions by relating back to the time you asked for, or provided help.

Relating how you overcame your own problems is powerful and demonstrates your ability to relate to others who are where you’ve been. Having courage and strength to ask for help in one area gives you the ability to pass on that story to people dealing with problems in other areas.
Something to ponder.