How Do You React When You Hold A Different Opinion?

In our daily lives, whether it’s at work, at home or out socially, we are bound to hold different views on daily events than others around us, and I’d suggest that having different views is very healthy. But when you have a different view than someone else, how you react and what you communicate while at work is important for you to understand; especially the impact of your reaction on others.

Now first of all, it depends what you think different about. So if you are discussing the merits of a certain colour of highlighter for your notes, your preference differing from someone else’s is really not all that big an issue. The ramifications just aren’t that significant and therefore once you say you like yellow because of its brightness instead of blue because it’s harder to see the text, you’re pretty much done. But what if you differing opinion is about something much more meaningful with wider ramifications?

It’s always best to slow yourself down when being in a discussion that is leading to some decision, especially if you see that decision having a direct impact on something you care about. Think objectively about the choices you have, consider whether the topic is one you feel is something that you really have to fight for, and see if there is some merit in the views of others before taking an all or nothing position.

Sometimes what happens is that we hold a view of our co-workers and we might see them as idealistic, cowardly, aggressive, lax, emotional, practical etc. This may be based largely on past performance and discussions we’ve had, or having seen them make past decisions that did or didn’t work out. Or on the other hand, we may base our views on feelings, intuition, first impressions etc. which are less reliable. So when at a meeting where some discussion is taking place, it’s vital to separate our personal views of the person from the ideas and opinions that person is expressing. Failing to do this can result in not even listening to the person, but rather jumping to the defense of our own views prematurely.

When you listen to others, not only might you realize that despite past performance, this time somebody actually has a view that has validity, you might save yourself from interrupting the other person and making yourself look poor by shutting the other person down. The result of such behaviour is that someone else’s idea gets more attention, the other person gets sympathy, and you brand yourself as someone who is quick to speak and could benefit from actually taking a moment to think about what has just been said.

When you differ in opinion, it’s always a good idea to vocalize your difference with the opinion but base your rebuttal on facts, experience and quickly move to talking more about the merits in another course of action rather than dwelling too long on the pitfalls of someone elses point of view. Those that play smart in the sandbox also will support the person perhaps in some other idea or point of view that is less divisive from their own view or one in fact they agree entirely with.

Differing views often help groups come to more meaningful conversation. They allow groups the benefit of then having to examine differing views, find merit in each, and then come to a consensus at some point, which is often a merger or combination of two or more viewpoints. The best decisions coming out of groups are often in fact, ones that several people have some input into in order to get group buy-in. Then when the time to talk is over and the time to act begins, more people are on board. The worst thing you could possibly do is strongly voice your differing opinion, refuse to let go of your position, and then go out of your way to sabotage the action plan the group has come up with. This brands you as someone who can’t be a part of any plan that isn’t their own.

The most interesting thing sometimes happens thereafter where what you failed to see in a meeting, when later put into action, becomes something that you then understand, and you realize your opinion while still valid, might have if adopted by the group, led to a less than satisfactory conclusion. In other words, if many others are behind someone else’s ideas and you aren’t, might they see something in it that you yourself fail to see?

We all should be encouraged in my opinion to hold our own views and express them without fear of being shut down and silenced. However, this is largely affected by the situation in which we find ourselves and the subject over which we are together. If a fire alarm goes off at work, it would hardly be proper to gauge everyone’s opinion and discuss whether to evacuate or not. Somethings we just do because that’s the agreed upon procedure and while we might personally think going outside is a waste of time and inconvenient in the rain or cold weather, we do it nonetheless because the consequences of being wrong even once are extreme.

Again, when you differ in opinion from others, back up your view with as much information based on facts and experience. Separate your views of the person you differ with the person themself. And by all means, every now and then give in graciously on some things in order to get a little on things that matter more to you.

Defining Your Barriers To Employment

One of the most difficult things to do is objectively look at yourself, your situation and your circumstances and then identify exactly what’s holding you back from moving forward. For this reason, many people will often turn to others and say, “What’s wrong with me?”

The reason most often cited by people who don’t undertake the exercise of objectively looking at themselves is that they aren’t going to like what they see. After all, it’s one thing to talk about other people and their problems, but more difficult to open up a conversation about your own shortcomings; even if that conversation is one you are having with yourself!

Please realize though, whether you actually label yourself with a barrier, it’s there whether you label it or not. So for example, if you don’t have your Grade 12 education and employers see that as the bottom of the barrel in their eyes, whether you personally admit that’s a barrier or not doesn’t matter; employers do – and they call the shots in setting the standard.

Typical barriers to employment include: addictions, criminal record, lack of permanent housing, poor personal grooming and hygiene, no employment goal, literacy issues, lack of experience and references, out-of-date education and training, poor attitude, lack of transportation and more. You could add a poor resume and not using cover letters, no support around you, childcare issues, caregiver responsibilities. You might have anger issues, poor interpersonal skills, anxiety, depression and other mental or physical health concerns. Bottom line? It can be a long list.

Now is it depressing and somewhat painful to put on a piece of paper all the barriers that you face? Perhaps. It might seem like a, “Here’s all the things that are wrong with me” list. Well don’t see it that way. Look at the list you compose as an inventory check you make while on a trip. It’s a long journey you’ve undertaken and the less you carry, the better able you’ll be to move forward with some consistent energy and speed. And it’s this energy that will determine how quickly you reach your goal or are delayed. It would help if you could stop for a moment and unburden yourself by dropping a few things behind.

So in your job search and your life in general, it would be useful to identify the things you need to take and those to drop. So think about that housing situation. By shifting from a job search to a housing search, you may not get a job this month, but you might just find a place to live that you can afford, and call home. With stable housing in place, you’ve got an address to stick on the resume and maybe a phone number now where people can reach you consistently. With that pressure out-of-the-way, you can drop the housing bag by the side of the road and move forward. To get help finding stable, sustainable housing, check with Social Service Agencies in your jurisdiction, or look them up in a local directory. If the housing is below your usual standards but you can afford it; see it as a temporary housing situation for 6 months or more until you get a job and get together the necessary down payment to obtain better accommodations.

If education is a barrier on your list, look into adult education. Going back to school may seem like a big step back, but if it gives you your grade 12 and helps you compete better for work, it’s well worth it. You’ll find by the way that as an adult, you’ll be taught differently and that other adults in the class like you have more buy-in than you did as teenagers. Don’t be surprised if you get much better grades than you remember – like 80’s and 90’s, and you may have to take less classes to get your grade 12 than you think.

Barriers vary from person to person, but almost every job seeker has multiple barriers; seven or eight on a list wouldn’t be uncommon. Some people who have been fired carry along unhealthy humiliation and resentment; I’ve borne that for a time in the past myself. Drop it like a stone because it does you no good and can grow a chip on your shoulder if you aren’t careful.

As you create your personal list of employment barriers, think about sharing that list with some Career Advisor or Employment Counsellor. Get solid advice on how to eliminate some of those barriers. As you lessen your load, your confidence and self-esteem will improve, your attitude become more positive and you’ll smile more. It may sound all warm and soft and fuzzy but it’s true.

Volunteering at a time when you need a paid job can also do wonders for helping you get references, experience, training, develop your people skills and of course boost your self-esteem. And volunteer work looks good on a resume.

Remember an earlier point I made in this blog and that is whether or not you choose to actually sit down and identify your employment barriers, they will still be there. By putting your barriers down on paper, you take a small but critically important first step in taking an inventory of what’s standing in the way of getting a job. Sure it might not make you feel all that great in the beginning when you face the list, but it’s only a start. Then when you’ve got an idea of just how heavy the load is you are carrying around, you can start to figure out what you really don’t need and drop it!

“I Bet Tom Won’t Be In Today”

Do you have someone in your organization you work with that you just know won’t make it in on bad weather days? Or if there’s a project or assignment that they’ve made clear they have little buy-in and commitment to, you can assume they will be ill on that day? Are you right more than you are wrong?

Hmmmm….While this game of, “let’s guess who won’t be in today” isn’t really a healthy game for co-workers to play as it undermines confidence in each other, it does speak to patterns of behaviour which our co-workers notice and have picked up that doesn’t do much to enhance the image of the person being discussed.

Being part of a team; be it on the factory assembly line, the office or the sales group in a retail operation, comes with responsibilities to pull your weight and be counted on to do your job. So what happens when you aren’t present? Well the first thing of course is you’ve got a responsibility to notify your Supervisor or their delegated person to advise them of your absence. Most employers want you to contact them and speak with them directly – not their answering machine. The reason for this is so you are accountable, and they may need to ask you a few things like what your agenda was for the day and any special instructions you need to pass on to someone who will cover your work.

The ripple effect that your call sets off goes something like this: the Boss gets the call and has to divert energy and time determining how best to cover your responsibilities with the least disruption to the rest of the employees. At least one other employee, and often several, now must adjust their planned activity for the day to account for your absence. This might mean anything from having no replacement and have to do their own work plus yours, doing your work entirely at the expense of theirs, or getting together a group of people to take smaller chunks of what you had to do that day and divide up your work.

While everybody is generally away the odd time, let’s face the fact that there are some people who take more time than others and it isn’t always legitimate illness or factors beyond their control. I myself worked with a woman once who I could pretty much tell wouldn’t be in to work when snow flurries were called for the day before. Sure enough, roads would be bare, snowflakes would be falling beautifully and she’d have called in absent.

The adverse impact this can have on co-workers may not be something that you’re all that concerned about if you really aren’t a team player. You may also see your job as something you do for money and because you’re not there to make friends, it doesn’t concern you in the least if you aren’t popular. However, you may find over time that when others feel you can’t be counted on with respect to your attendance and punctuality, that this mistrust expands to other areas too – and these other areas may be of deep interest to you. That’s when you might say to yourself that things are unfair and see things as two separate issues, but your co-workers see as entirely related and your on the outs.

Now if you truly find weather conditions and your level of confidence as a driver for example to be life-threatening, then by all means no one would expect you to attempt the drive in. Is there another way however for you to still get to work such as hitching a ride with a more confident driver or public transit? In other words, seeing the weather and driving conditions as a problem, use your problem-solving skills to come up with a solution that doesn’t involve packing in the entire day.

You know I also worked many years ago with someone who had a four-day work week while the rest of us worked five days a week. Oh it wasn’t official of course, but we all knew that once the summer started, this person’s attendance on Fridays or Mondays would fall off almost consistently to the point where we could predict it. And the impact on our group was that the rest of us planned things a little lighter on those two days in the event that we had to cover this person’s work. After all, rather than scrambling to cancel our own appointments, why not just make fewer of them or schedule them for the p.m. instead of the a.m. which would buy us time to contact our clients?

While some sit at home sipping their cocoa or pleasantly sleeping in and then after a leisurely breakfast move to the couch to do some serious recreational reading and don’t give what goes on in the workplace a second thought or care, I believe there are others who do care about the impact their absence has on other employees and make all efforts to come in. When these people are away from work, their co-workers are only to happy to pitch-in and cover because it doesn’t happen frequently, and those away cover for them when the situation is reversed.

If you are at all concerned about getting ahead, being appreciated at work, building a positive reputation, and truly being a team player, do your very best to live up to the expectations that your job description details. Hold yourself to a high personal standard of ethical behaviour.

Oh but if you’re really ill….stay home! Nobody wants to get what you’ve got to share!

Your Very First Job: Good Advice

Okay so you’ve landed your very first job, and while some people don’t get their first job until later in life, the majority land first real full-time jobs after completing school; in other words you’re still comparatively young. So before you read any further, you have to honestly size up whether you are a person who is open to advice and suggestion or if you are someone who figures advice you don’t like is meant for other people and not for you personally.

First of all, realize that you’ll have many jobs over your lifetime, and you won’t retire in this new job. So you’re in it to get experience, and that means watching, listening, learning and doing your best to fit in. Those older workers you think are so old-fashioned and behind the times, have much to offer you in the way of wisdom and experience. Far from being put out to pasture, you might find one or more of them will be happy to share their expertise and knowledge which could save you a lot of time in the school of hard knocks. So rather than sneer at them, show them some respect.

A good habit to get into is not to start some bad habits. So show up on time, and while you might have got away with skipping classes in school or arriving late, you’ll find yourself fired in no time if you think your big-world new employer will tolerate lateness, absenteeism and lame excuses. After all, there’s a whole lot of people unemployed out there today. What would make anyone think they are so special from the rest that an employer would keep them if they were missing in action and couldn’t be counted on?

Dress yourself like a working professional. So how many clothes in your closet are no longer appropriate for your work location? It may take time, but you’ll need to start assembling a work wardrobe. Buy pieces that you can mix and match in the early going, like white blouses or shirts to wear with grey, black, or navy pants. Shirts with writing on them are usually out, as are jeans, exposed love handles, plunging necklines and excessively short skirts. Dressing appropriately for your workplace shows you have some early maturity, and yes that’s a good thing.

Talk like an adult and you’ll be perceived as having some smarts. So stop using the word, ‘like’ so often. What do I mean you ask? “it’s like I was at a party Saturday and it’s like I had an awesome time, and put like 200 pictures on my FB page”. Well in this case you were either there or you weren’t, and you had an awesome time or you didn’t; look up like in the dictionary and use it appropriately and not every 10th word. This applies to any other overused word in your vocabulary.

Mix and mingle. If you have these huge number of friends, it shouldn’t be so hard to actually talk and listen with more than three people at your new job. The more people you speak with and chat with at lunch or breaks, the more perspectives you’ll get. You don’t know in the beginning who carries favour, who’s well-respected, who you can trust, and you can learn different things from different people. If you only get friendly with one or two people, you’re limiting what you could pick up and learn from.

Just do your job and do it well. Yes you might be feeling that you’ve got all the answers because everybody has told you how wonderful you are up to now, but realize things are done the way they are because of some valid reason most of the time. Maybe you do have a great idea and it would help. However, it’s good to get a handle on your own job first and learn all about it and how it fits into the overall running of the organization. Some jobs require you to do different things at different times of the year. So it may take as much as a year to really get to know what your job is really all about. So on day 3, don’t figure you know everything and tell other people how to do their job. You’re the new kid, and you’re the first to be let go if things are tight. Earn your place.

Be friendly and smile. You want to make friends and be seen as a positive person. And while these people may not hang out with you after work, you will need to feel liked in order to enjoy your work and those around you. Friendly people attract other friendly people, and there’s a reason the word, ‘mile’ is in the word, ‘smile’; it goes a long way.

You are most likely going to find that your new job means you get two to three weeks off a year. That could come as a shock if you’re used to summer vacations where you had two months off plus March and Christmas Breaks. This is the world of work and you’d best get used to it. You’ll also be the last person in some organizations to get the time off you want if it’s a popular time to ask for vacation. So this means you might be working holidays and this is normal; no you aren’t being hard done by. The world you thought revolved around you has shifted, and you’re now just space dust floating around the universe of a billion or so other workers. Welcome!

Scaling Back And Hunting For An Entry-Level Position

There is a growing trend in our present job-tight economies where people with much education and experience are finding their job opportunities quite limited, and thus after a period of time, are prepared to hunt for entry-level positions. Now there are positives in this as well as negatives, and it’s important to be aware of what’s going on if you are looking for employment or helping others along in this regard.

So jobs are fewer and further between then they may have been in the past, and companies are contracting and reducing their employee numbers resulting in a glut of experienced and well-educated people in the unemployment lines. Now the majority of those people will concentrate their efforts on finding a job at a comparable level to the job they have just left, but eventually, the realization that they need some current experience on their resume, and the need for cash often drives many to lower their expectations and look for jobs outside their field of expertise on the bottom rungs of organization. Hence you may see a Teacher applying for a job in a retail store, or perhaps an IT trouble-shooter flipping burgers.

These jobs get 2013 on their resumes, gives them current references, give them a purpose again and reason to get up and get out of the house and of course talk about other things than their own situation all day long. In short, these jobs start mending their self-esteem, and show some future employer in their line of desired work, that they took the job to make ends meet, but will do their best to convince an employer that they really want to work in their field of training and experience.

However, the down side to this trend is that also entering the job market are those people who are young, just finishing school and interested in getting their first job and with it, the experience they’ll need to compete. In a perfect world, those just finishing school might get many of the entry-level jobs, others with more experience would work and never get laid-off and only those approaching retirement would actually ease out of their jobs. Well maybe that’s the right scenario for some, but it isn’t reality.

There are some who resist all thought of lowering their standards and applying for entry-level jobs when they are used to more senior-level jobs. After all, they reason they’ve earned the right to demand more of themselves, and their pride and self-image would be better kept intact if the next job resembles the one they’ve most recently had. To start all over again at the bottom of the chain is somehow depressing, and then there’s the wife, the in-laws, the parents and the kids to explain your new job to. Wouldn’t it be sad they might think to work alongside your daughter or son when your 47 and they are 17? And the nagging you gave them to get an education and get ahead in life; where would that discussion go now?

Consider too that if a large number of people out of work all gobbled up the entry-level jobs, employers might benefit from the increased learning curve of their new workforce, but there sure would be a lot of young people out of work and lacking the experience you or I may have got from those first few jobs we had in our lives. How are they going to get needed experience if a woman with 2 degrees and a diploma and 30 years experience is the Cashier at a retail location?

However, there is merit in actually considering entry-level jobs if you’ve been out of work for a period of time. First of all, yes you will get some current experience on your resume, and if you perform your work with a positive attitude, you will earn a good reference when the time comes to ask for one. You’ll also find that a pay cheque, albeit smaller than you’d like, comes in handy. Another benefit is that instead of looking a four walls all day long, you’ll be out meeting people, feeling connected to others, and you’ll get some adult interaction. Even if you are helping someone pick out a new pair of shoes in a store, what you aren’t doing is feeling sorry for yourself at home as the star of your own pity party. When you do get off work, you have more energy to actually do some job searching, and can be productive looking for work you really want.

Jobs give us purpose, and when unemployed, it’s natural to feel lost without accomplishing much and so a job; any job, can boost your ego and make you feel wanted again. And remember that unemployment can be draining, frustrating, stressful, etc. without respite. What you might need to think about is taking an entry-level job in your field, assuring an interviewer that you understand your new role, and while you want to progress, you also will work within the job description and not overstep your bounds or authority. In other words, give the employer a return on their investment in you.

The alternative is to take an entry-level job outside your area of expertise, and the advantage here is that if you do find a job down the road in your line of work, you can be fairly certain you can resign quickly without that decision impacting you negatively in your field where you might get blacklisted.
Something to consider.

Why Job Interviews Can Be Unsettling

One of the things that most people can agree on is that we generally avoid voluntary situations that cause us stress, discomfort and anxiety. After all, if you had a choice, why would you or anyone else enter into something you expect will be uncomfortable; something designed to expose your flaws, where you’ll be judged, evaluated, and there’s a greater chance of rejection than there is of being selected.

If you’re in market for a new living room chair and you enter a showroom, you sit in a variety of chairs but are usually looking for one that is comfortable, seems a good fit for your frame, and one that you can imagine sitting in nicely for a long period of time. Don’t you want your next job to be equally a good fit? Of course you do.

How you perceive that interaction with the interviewer(s) is largely going to determine your attitude and in turn, your overall performance. So if you see the interview as a negative thing, you’ll probably avoid mock interviews and practicing because it resembles too closely the real thing which you dislike. So I’ve assembled a few selected things you can do to help you through this process:

1. Reframe the interview as a conversation. See the job interview as a conversation between you and the company representatives. It’s a friendly chat where you center your conversation around the job opening and your suitability. Talk with enthusiasm, stay focused, smile and be genuine.

2. Be in control. Remember that you decide what you’ll share, how you’ll share it, and whether you want to be branded as serious, humourous, personable, shy, etc. Only you know what you are feeling inside because they’ve never met you before. You get to ask questions just like them, and you’ve got a decision to make at the end of the interview as to whether you want the job, just as they have a decision to make to offer it to you. You each have power, don’t give yours away.

3. Be prepared. Know some basic information on the mission or values of the company. Do some research and demonstrate to them that the job is important enough to you that you took the time to learn a few things before you walked in and sat down. This will also ease your jitters if you get asked what you did to prepare for the interview, or what you know about the company and/or position.

4. Come armed with documents. Bring along a few copies of your resume and put yours in front of you during the interview. Refer to it and draw the interviewers attention to past accomplishments. Have your references at hand, a list of 6 or 7 questions to ask to choose from, and of course any letters of recommendation or examples of your work in a portfolio such as a report you did, or a workshop you’ve put together; a book you created etc.

5. Be friendly. Anyone and everyone you come into contact with should get a smile from you, a courteous, “Hello”, or a firm but not bone-crushing handshake. These people might be asked their opinion of you after you’ve completed the interview, and they could be if your hired, your future co-workers.

6. Use examples. No matter the question, draw on your past experiences to demonstrate your skills and abilities. How you have acted in the past is generally seen as a reliable indicator of how you will perform in the future. The more you use specific examples and give just enough detail so the interviewer gets the situation you were in and how you performed the better. Even if you have limited work experience, draw the connections between what you’ve done in your personal or volunteer time that relates to the question asked.

7. Anticipate the worst. Some people have a question that is awkward to answer, such about why you left your last job if you were fired, or describing your last boss if you didn’t get along at all. Okay so you have the choice to ignore thinking about this until the actual interviewer poses it, which usually turns out to be a disaster, or you can craft an answer ahead of time if the question comes up, and then deliver it with confidence and less anxiety.

8. Know yourself. Get an objective handle on your strengths, areas to improve upon, your values, things you believe in, the kind of Supervisor you work best under, what motivates you and what you will find stimulating or boring.

These 8 tips are only a very few of the things you should consider thinking about before you start the interview process. You should not feel powerless in an interview, and in fact the interviewer would probably like to see you as your normal every-day self so they get a good read on what you’ll be like if they hire you. Pretending to be someone you aren’t will only cause you grief if you do get the job and you may be quickly let go prior to passing your probationary period.

Although interviews for jobs you really want can be stressful because so much is on the line, the interviewer represents a company who also is under pressure to hire the right person for the job, and that might mean more than one interview is required. If you land a 2nd interview, do a little more homework and take comfort that you impressed people enough to move closer to the job you want.


Customer Service Excellence

Over this past weekend, I travelled with some friends to the City of Ottawa, the capital of Canada. It was the plum at the end of a week where my wife and I had painted several rooms in our home, and we looked forward to time with our friends and getting away if even for a couple of days, to relax and do the tourist thing.

The customer service we received at our hotel, the restaurant’s we visited, and the sites we took in was exceptionally good, and while I’ll share a couple of those with you, I really want to draw your attention to the impact that this service had on me, and what I did about it; see if you would consider doing something similar.

My first example comes in the person of Alexandra Blanchet who works at the Chateau Laurier hotel next to the Parliament buildings. The four of us as guests were attempting to see some of the Women’s World Hockey Championships that were coinciding with our visit. However, we had experienced some difficulty in navigating the website to purchase tickets, and so we asked if by any chance staff at the hotel might know of a way to help us out. Alexandra experienced the same difficulty initially, but contacted the arena by phone, offered her own email address as a vehicle to receive the tickets, allowed me access to her screen behind the staff counter to see the location of the seats, and then afterward, personally saw to it that the tickets were delivered to our room. All this with a smile, some laughter, and a positive attitude. The day after the game as I passed her by in the lobby, she said, “Hello Mr. Mitchell, how are you today?” She had even remembered my name and it was she not I, with the name tag on.

The second example came from a server at Tuckers Restaurant, which is a buffet establishment. To my disappointment I have now forgot her name, but the woman who took care of our table was fantastic. She laughed, she engaged us in conversation, she continually checked in with us and made us feel valued. After the meal, she said she hoped we would come back soon, and I was struck with her genuine wish that we would return.

Now to what I did for them. In the case of Alexandra at the hotel, I ensured that I filled out a customer satisfaction card which they provide if you wish to acknowledge the service of an individual there. I also made a point of telling her personally how much I really appreciated her service and attention to making our trip to the rink a reality. As we checked out, I also asked for the front desk Manager and made sure she was aware of Alexandra’s great customer service skills.

At the restaurant, as we left, I found our server, and took a moment to thank her, told her she had great people skills, great interpersonal skills, and a wonderful smile. She beamed even more and said she appreciated the compliment and turned things around and said how much it was a pleasure to serve our group of four. I too told the Manager of the restaurant how fantastic she was and I wanted him to know how lucky he was to have such an outgoing, enthusiastic employee who happily served and provided personal attention.

So why blog about this? Well, in my job as an Employment Counsellor, I get the odd compliment here and there from clients, but there are many that I provide the same level of great service to who just walk away with an automatic, “thanks” that is more a standard thing than sincerely said. Now I know it isn’t about how many people tell us how great we are, or how we provide excellent service, but those that sincerely thank us really do make our day don’t they? Of course they do. And whether or not people just walk away or gush all over us, we should provide that same high quality level of attentive service to our clients day-in and day-out. That is after all, what makes us professionals.

Now what will happen ultimately with my two people who provided this great service? I have no idea. It’s not expected by me that my compliment will get them a raise, because quite frankly while more money would be appreciated, I find that people who respond to positive customer feedback with sincere appreciation, find their reward in the actual interaction with their clients or customers. Are they motivated to get a higher tip as in the case of the Server? Perhaps. However, that Server had people skills that she was improving that I believe will ultimately take her to greater heights in her future employment.

If you get a chance today, tell someone how much you appreciate their service and attentiveness. It’s a small thing to do that can boost someone’s pride; the knowledge that someone noticed and you made a difference. And for you personally, perform your job as best you can, knowing that whether you get complimented or thanked, you may make an impact on someone in a profound way that doesn’t perhaps know how to thank you appropriately, or feels too embarrassed to do so. You and I, we have the capacity and the responsibility to lead by example.

Honing Your Skills Is A Good Practice

I remember back in my College days when one of the Teachers told us that the completion of our College Diploma’s was only just the start, and we were expected to learn new things throughout our lives. That made complete sense to me back then, but at least one of my classmates told me later that once he was done with College, he’d never return to a classroom. That I didn’t understand, and I still don’t to this day.

If you want to get good at something, perhaps even be considered an expert at something, you have to continue to learn about that subject, practice and develop your techniques, learn new strategies, be open to innovations and new ideas surrounding it. Suppose for example you graduate from Fashion Design and were regarded as the top of your class at the time. If you isolated yourself and just produced clothing based on the fashion trend you knew without getting out and seeing what’s trending in the future, your line would soon be outdated. Other Designers would soon catch up to you and surpass you in their innovation, their choice of newly developed fabrics, and style.

As another example, boxers spar, marathon runners run on a consistent basis to stay ready, and Firefighters practice putting out fires. In short, just because you’ve got a skill; be it well-developed or entry-level, you are well-advised to hone that skill, keep it sharp and use it to ensure you stay relevant.

In your workplace, if you look around you’ll undoubtedly notice some people who are highly skilled in some areas, and others that bring high degrees of competence to other areas. Look deeper though, and you may also find it easy to spot some who are coasters; at one time they had highly sought after skills and expertise, but they have allowed those skills to become out-dated and they are content it would appear to plateau in their development and knowledge. There does come a time for many people when they shift their priorities and aren’t so concerned about being up on the latest and the greatest because they are content with where they are and that may be actually just fine with them.

However, one of the real benefits of honing your skills, and learning on a continuous basis, is that you might at some point catch fire again and want to advance your career, or even require competence in an area you have fallen behind in, just to keep the job you have now. It may not be possible then to acquire all that you need to know and put it into practice in a short concentrated period of time. There’s a great quote I love that goes, “Some things you need to do every day. Eating 7 apples on a Saturday night just won’t get the job done.”

As I have mentioned at other times, another good practice if you are interested in advancing your career, is to look at the skill set required not so much in your job, but in the job description of the position you want to aspire to hold. Essentially evaluating the discrepancy between what you’ll need and what you have is a useful way to identify what you need. Once done, you can then look at how and where you can learn the skills you want. This is a good practice to get into because you’ll feel motivated while learning because your learning takes on relevance for you. And this is why those who are happy where they are and don’t see themselves advancing, don’t generally like going to mandatory training. It has no relevance to them on a personal level; they don’t want to be there.

Learning new skills is also beneficial in a personal way outside of careers and jobs. Keeping your brain active and learning may just help you as you age and ward off cognitive development problems. Now it might not be a good idea at 60 to take up skateboarding so you can hang with your grandkids, because they quite frankly can bounce back from injuries better than those on an older individual. So thinking about what you learn is just as important as why you want to learn. In that example, I’d think learning some of the lingo, the language, the equipment and accompanying a grandchild to the skateboard park might be enough to get you relevant in their eyes without endangering you from being the center of attention when the ambulance shows up!

Back at your workplace, have a look at some of the people who are getting promotions and are regarded favourably as productive and valued highly. What have they been up to? What courses are they taking? You might have to sit down and have a discussion and determine what if anything your employer might be willing to help pay for if there is a return on their investment. In other words, how would taking a course make you a more valuable asset in your current position?

Hone those skills!

Picture Yourself On Linkedin

Open up a Facebook account and roam around checking out your friends pages, and then friends of your friends pages, and you’ll come across many people who use images other than pictures of themselves as their personal Gravatar. Reasons vary but the usual reason is that some degree of privacy is desired. Isn’t that ironic when you think about it?

Now on LinkedIn, as you roam through connections and possible connections, you’ll notice a vast majority have their real picture attached to their profile page. If someone doesn’t want their image on their page, the trend is to not attach any photo whatsoever, rather than attaching some image of a Unicorn or Disney character and calling it your own.

The main reason you’ll see more real photo’s of people on LinkedIn is that when people want to connect with you to do business, or assess your potential as an employee, or take you seriously as a working professional, they want to know who they are dealing with. Your image or picture is part of your personal brand as it relates to you work/career professional image. Of course there are people who network professionally that use Facebook, but there are more who use Facebook for social networking; talking about partying last night, what they’ve been up to today, and upcoming plans for the weekend.

Now when I first created my LinkedIn profile and went to add a picture, I decided to use the camera on the laptop. So I laughed and clicked. Not the best quality picture I admit, but I figured it was okay to get me going. Sometime later, I got to thinking about whether or not I should get a better quality picture; a more professional picture to better reflect the person I am. However, one thing struck me and that was that while I might be tiring of the image, others on the internet with whom I am interacting are making a connection between that image they see repeated again and again, and me the person it depicts.

In other words, if as with Facebook, the profile picture I decide to use should change frequently, then there is less resonance with others. The picture is easily identifiable as representing me. It shows a happy, joyful person; and that’s essentially me. When you change your image frequently, you risk identity loss with others. Your brand in other words is not imprinted significantly on others perhaps in the way you might like it to be. Your brand then becomes one of constant change, perhaps uncertainty, maybe indicating a lack of identity you have for yourself. Of course you might argue your image is updated, stays with trends, and is fresh. Depends on the image or brand you are attempting to create in the mind of those around you and those with whom you interact.

Of course, from a business and networking perspective, I really want to see the person I’m communicating with. A person’s photo tells me something of their personality, their state of mind. I for one am big on smiles and find them attracting. A serious face with no trace of a smile I find interesting, but I’m not drawn to having a conversation with the anticipation that the person may be welcoming. Then there’s the photo itself; a full body shot or a head shot? Is the background distracting, of interest, support the person’s career ambitions in any way, or does it appear to be a shot from their vacation?

Think about your own image and your own picture. When you connect with people who you don’t personally know, but would like to get to know them because of their position, or the companies they work for, do you consider their photo as part of your criteria in connecting? Put yourself in the position of say, a Recruiter checking out your profile. What does your profile and your photo say about you? It’s like trying to sell your house really; sure the information can be there in words but people want to see pictures of what it looks like. No photo’s and they might wonder why.

Now of course privacy concerns I understand. You might have had bad experiences with people just looking for ‘hot’ friends, or even worse trying to hit on you for dates and relationships. Maybe you’ve been trolled or stalked and don’t want too much of yourself on the net. So I get that.

My advice here is to put some thought into your photo attached to your profile. Whereas on Facebook you can include all kinds of photos that show you in various situations, your LinkedIn account has room but for one. Choose it wisely and change it or not at your leisure. What does your photo communicate about you?

Stop Your Whining And Just Get A Job!

By the time someone says, “Stop your whining and just get a job!”, things have probably escalated pretty much to the point where your relationship with that person is in trouble. Now this person could be your partner, significant other or perhaps someone like an Employment Counsellor. So it follows that if the relationship is in trouble, you might be left by that person if they feel you are dead weight and just not trying but sure complaining a lot.

So why point out the obvious? Well first of all you might still think that things really aren’t so bad, and that you’ll still have that person to hang on to. Now let’s be honest and admit that if you lose the relationship with your Employment Counsellor, you can move to another one if you want relatively easily. Your partner or significant other however is a different matter because that relationship has taken a lot of time to cultivate and grow. The loss, or even the threat of the loss of that person in your life could be a huge negative impact in your life.

Now you should ask yourself pointedly if you are doing all you can to land that next job. If you are following advice given, getting out and about, applying for work, getting your resume updated and improved, practicing your interview skills, networking with people, following up on leads and following up on your applications, keep at it and roll with your momentum. However, if that list is full of things you aren’t doing, you should think about whether or not you are in fact guilty of maybe not doing as much as you can to land your next job. And is it that lack of effort that is frustrating those around you who want to see you employed?

So here’s a good test to see where you are at; when your spouse has closed the door and headed off to work, when your Employment Counsellor has concluded the meeting, what do you do when no one is watching? Be honest. Are you giving it your all? Some times of course you just have to have some diversion so you create energy to focus back on the job search. In fact, I’ve blogged about that need for diversion recently. But your focus really needs to be on the job search in order for those diversions to be…well…diversions and not your primary activity.

That job market out there is tough. Employers may not appear to be hiring, far too many people may appear to be competing with you for the same jobs, interviewers may not call you back and that’s frustrating. However, do you choose to let that discourage you or do you feed off that challenge and fight back with determination? My advice would be to really do your best to communicate your frustration in a healthy way rather than a consuming way. A healthy way is to be honest and share how your lack of progress is frustrating but talk more about your resolve, the steps you are taking, the positive things that you are experiencing, the new people you are speaking with, and how this experience is perhaps strengthening you in ways you might have not thought about.

One person I just heard from yesterday really impressed me with a word that she used to describe herself during a frustrating job search with the term, ‘tenacious’. I love that word because it really does her justice. She described her efforts recently which included phone calls, site visitations, web searches, in-person contact, networking etc. and her tenaciousness is clearly evident in her effort to land an interview and subsequent job in the health care field. While she would be a tremendous asset to an organization, she is doing much to ensure that happens sooner rather than later. Sure she’s frustrated but continues to put forward a positive attitude and acts on suggestions.

As you move forward in your job search, I truly hope you really bring positive energy and demonstrate your personal tenaciousness.