Summer Vacations

Remember if you can back to your elementary school days for a moment and the end of the school year just as summer arrived. It seemed like the summer vacation would last a very long time and if your parents were like mine, there were weekend camping trips, maybe even one major driving trip. Then there were the days of just hanging out at home, playing with the kids in your area, and the days were long and happy.

Fast forward now to your present experience working for an organization where there’s been a shift in your schedule; you might get 2 weeks off work a year when you first start working, or maybe you’ve been there long enough to up that total to 4 or 5 weeks if you’ve been with a company long enough. Unless you are a politician or a teacher, you’ve no longer got the entire summer off to do your thing.

I don’t know if it’s because the number of weeks we have off as adults is so much reduced from the 8 or 9 weeks we had off as kids, but there seems to be this need to, ‘do something’ with those precious holidays. It can go like this at the office just before you take off:

“So what are you doing on your holidays?”
“Going anywhere?”
“Maybe a little camping”
“No like are you DOING anything?”

Does this kind of conversation imply that the person asking doesn’t really validate the experience of camping as some kind of legitimate and good use of vacation time? Well maybe. I think though it’s important to realize that because we are all different people who experience joy in our lives differently, it is only natural that we also find pleasure and fulfillment in different ways when it comes to unstructured time apart from our working lives. No matter our choices, each is equally a valid use of our time that brings pleasure and meaning to us in how we choose to use it.

In my own case, a two-week vacation starts this weekend. The plans my wife and I have are to turn our vehicle north, and pull our tent trailer behind us. Where are we going? North. Neither of us knows exactly where we will end up. On this trip, no reservations have been made, no advance sites have been ear-marked as must-sees, and no timetable established other than being back in time to return to work on July 8. We will drive when we want, perhaps to a new location every single day. We might stay a day or two in one place, take that interesting looking road to the left for a bit, hike a trail or two, camp by a river, take in a drive-in, make some local purchases in some nearby country store, or end up having a picnic by a waterfall. Who knows?

We might check in with the neighbours looking after our plants and grass cutting here and there, but we won’t stress about it much. If we do, we do. If the weather is sunny and warm, we’ll swim and enjoy the heat. If it’s cooler than we suspect, we’ll have fires at night and throw on a hoodie. If it rains, we’ll head on in to a small town and window shop and pick up some butter tarts and check out some pottery or museum. At a campground, you can just lie and listen to the rain on the roof, have an afternoon nap if it pleases you, read a book or two, play some table games, and strum the guitar.

Another thing that will change is a break from technology. The GPS in the car will be handy, but I suspect we won’t be checking work emails, electronic bills can wait until we return, and I’ll catch up on sports scores with local radio stations that will come in and out of reception.

No what we’re looking forward to is feeding chipmunks peanuts in a shell, perhaps right out of our hands and because I’m the braver of us, right out of my mouth. Hang a peanut between your lips, lie down flat on the ground and get that little guy to take it right out of your mouth – and get it recorded on camera or video. I’m always on the look-out for moose, deer, bears, herons, beavers, eagles, turtles and just about anything out of the ordinary.

But here’s the thing. I not running away from work because I love what I do and so does my wife. What we are doing is looking forward to our vacation. It’s a balance between working and personal time. A chance to get immersed in something relaxing, fun, different from the norm, and for me personally, a chance to rekindle my inner spirit. It’s like filling up my reservoir and finding some connection to whatever pulls me back to rocks, rivers and water.

The years I’ve not got to camp always seem somewhat to me as if something is missing. Fortunately we get away almost every year for a time. Whatever you personally do with your vacation, I wish you well and hope it brings you joy and happiness.

3 Job Seekers Compared

I want to share with you the behaviours of three individuals who are looking for employment in an effort to demonstrate how to get the most out of those who can help you as you look for work. I’ll change their names for reasons of confidentiality but use names because they are easier to read.

So let’s start with Jane. I met Jane purely by chance after having not seen her for about 7 years and at that time she was just a young teenager. Now having completed her schooling, she is starting to look for her first full-time position. When she found out I’m an Employment Counsellor, she took me up on an offer to meet and give her tips on her resume and do a mock interview.

On the day we had set, she showed up on time, stayed for two hours in the evening and took notes and took it seriously. The next day she dropped off a thank you card for my time, and has emailed me twice with the latest developments. I’m genuinely interested in how things turn out for Jane and will gladly extend myself in any way I can to help her out.

Then there’s Joan. Joan is a friend I haven’t seen for over 10 years. She is now applying for a position of responsibility running a brand new Centre. Last night she came over to my home for input on her resume, cover letter and to do a mock interview. She arrived 10 minutes late, but stayed for two and a half hours. She too took some notes, and immersed herself in the techniques I was suggesting would serve her well. Initially she got discouraged with herself for the poor quality of her resume which prior to meeting she had thought was strong. However, she didn’t let this deter her but rather fed off the advice and realized that here were concrete ways to strengthen her application. She expressed her thanks and was off just before 10:00p.m. I’m committed to providing any further help she needs.

Now I turn to Marcie. Marcie is a client I’ve been working with for almost two weeks, making myself available to her from 9:00a.m. to 2:30p.m. daily. Yesterday, she requested that we meet this morning, earlier than the 9:30a.m. mock interview we have scheduled. Her reasoning is that she has been told by an employer that she should get her resume in early today and there’s a chance she might be interviewed on the spot. Great! Now as the group I’m leading begins at 9:00a.m. I offered to meet with her at 8:30a.m. for a shortened, half hour mock interview with feedback. To this she accepted, and made a point of telling me she’d forward her revised cover letter and resume to me after class yesterday afternoon. That infers I’ll have read and made comments when we meet and do the mock interview all in half an hour.

It is now almost 8:00a.m. the day after and still no resume or cover letter. Now my motivation is still high because of my own work ethic and commitment to my clients. I’m trusting her to arrive at 8:30a.m. or earlier as I’m doing her the favour of meeting, which means I’m preparing for the class differently in advance because that half hour is essential to me; something I don’t for a moment believe she has considered.

Now the difference here is that of the three, only Marcie is in receipt of Social Assistance. If you are familiar with Bridges Out of Poverty, one of the concepts to grasp is to realize that there is a difference between the priorities and values of the lower and middle classes, and again to the upper class. So I totally understand this and make allowances for those with whom I work on a daily basis because our values are not always aligned. I start work officially at 8:00a.m., but I’m sitting at my desk at 7:30a.m. almost daily because I don’t want to be late – not even once. My clients however often arrive 5 or 10 minutes late without a word of apology.

And here’s what I really wonder; do employers know about Bridges Out of Poverty and the different values and beliefs that their employees might have? Would showing up 5 or 10 minutes late on a regular basis with no apology be tolerated by an employer? What do you think? I’m guessing that all the excuses in the world wouldn’t save your employment. Reminds me of a saying, “If you keep asking others to give you the benefit of the doubt, eventually they’ll start to doubt your benefit”.

Here’s the main thrust I want to express. If you are transitioning to the world of work, you’ve got to ACT in ways that are consistent with the expectation of employers. That means you have to act responsibly, follow through on things you agree to do, show up on time, express thanks for help you receive along the way, and in short, let your actions speak for you. Anyone can say what they think others want to hear, but your actions reveal you for who you are.

1st Impressions: Who Do You Think You’re Fooling?

Last week was the first of a two-week job searching class that I am facilitating. When the group first walked in on that Monday morning just over a week ago, I judged each and every one of the people who walked through the door and sat down. And don’t think they didn’t judge me either.

Now of course, judging others is not something that you might think you do; it’s as if the idea of judging someone else is a bad thing to do. I’m here to tell you that not only is it a very good thing to do, it’s absolutely necessary, and the faster you realize you are being judged the better if you are seriously job searching.

However, what I really want to get across is that you have to believe that some people are just better at judging others with a higher degree of accuracy than you might like to think. As each of these 12 people sat down, within a few seconds I had already formed an initial impression. As 20 minutes elapsed, I either revised or reinforced my initial impression of each person as they introduced themselves. I watched their faces to see who could make solid eye contact, looked at their posture as they were seated, felt their handshake and thought, “confident” or “insecure”, looked at their clothing and thought, “Not taking this seriously” or “Well done”.

As a week has now passed, I’m closer to the end of the program than the beginning with this group of people, and I can tell you honestly that my impressions formed after 3 seconds – that’s 3 seconds – was 100% accurate. Now if you think I’m sharing this to impress you, you couldn’t be more wrong. I’m sharing this with you as a person looking for work so you can fully appreciate the importance of that critical first chance to make a strong positive impression.

The good news is that the capacity or ability to shape the impression that others have of you is within your control. While anyone can extend a hand and shake the hand of another person, some will put no effort into the gesture and offer a limp hand, or worse, just a few fingers not even the entire hand. It’s not essential to squeeze hard, but a firm handshake is by far the best that shows you to be assertive and confident.

Take some time to groom yourself. So trim your facial hair, wash your hair and brush or comb it. Put on a clean blouse or shirt and yes you should tuck it into your pants if you want to come across as a professional, whereas a shirt hanging over your pants looks far too casual like you are going to the beach. Do your best to save your jeans for the weekends and evenings on your own time and either present yourself in dress pants or at least some khaki’s.

As for your footwear, sandals are once again for the beach and strolling down the street window shopping but never for job searching. Socks and shoes for the men, while the ladies have a few more options such as flats, closed or open-toed shoes with tights, hose, bare legs etc. And for the ladies only, don’t make the mistake of wearing your skirt too high or your top too low. Interviewers will not be impressed with your cleavage, and if anything it will work against not for you.

And it might as well be said here, that wearing the right bra for your body size is a must. If you haven’t already done so or don’t even know they exist, you might benefit from making an appointment with a knowledgeable salesperson in an undergarment department or store dedicated to women’s clothing. Tell the sales clerk you’re seeking advice on getting properly fitted in a bra that offers support. Don’t assume that you’ve had it right all these years. The difference between what you’re wearing now and what you perhaps should be wearing can make you more comfortable, keep things in place, and improve your appearance.

And then there’s the smile. A smile warms others up to you and visually tells others that you are warmer, more approachable and pleasant. If you don’t smile as a rule, you may come across in that first few seconds as cold, brooding, too serious, and someone to be cautious around. And it actually takes far less muscles to smile than it does to frown so stop working so hard!

Even how you walk will reveal you. Walk briskly and you’ll be deemed to be confident, perky, having a purpose, going places and on a mission. Walk with your hands in your pockets, slouched and shuffling your feet and you’ll come across as lazy, unmotivated, disinterested, even depressed.

I’m going to present two different initial greetings in writing only and you decide which of the two is the more assertive confident job seeker. Both are responding to meeting an interviewer. Person A says, “Good morning! Nice to meet you.” Person B says, “Hi.” Did you choose Person A as the more assertive? You can’t hear the tone or volume of the voice, but the words alone probably in your mind were heard nonetheless. A greeting just using a few more words makes a stronger positive impression.

Work on improving your own first impression. If you receiving some help from an Employment Counsellor, Career Coach, or Job Coach, maybe you might want to discuss what you’ve read and practice a few things.


Public Rejection

History abounds with stories of people who have been rejected at some point, and the most interesting examples are where the individuals didn’t give up and kept pursuing their various goals, ultimately obtaining success. Now if you the reader are currently undertaking a job search, I know that hearing about others doesn’t advance your own situation, but perhaps it can put things in some perspective that can be helpful.

Before he became the world’s most successful band Manager, Brian Epstein went from record company to record company with a disc trying to get a deal for four teenage boys. He was soundly rejected by Record Executives, one of whom told him that guitar playing groups were on the way out. Brian felt terrible because he had built up the hopes of his young musicians and told them how great they were; great enough in his opinion that he had quit his previous job in order to manage them. By the standards of the day he got a poor deal in the end, but it was a start. Still, imagine the Executive who would report later that afternoon to his bosses that he had just turned down some obscure group called of all things, “The Beatles”.

Sticking with the Beatles a moment, how would you have liked to have been Pete Best? Here was a guy that played drums for them originally, but was replaced by Ringo Starr when George Martin their Producer said they had to drop Pete. Pete has lived his whole life knowing now that he could have had immense fame as part of the world’s best Rock and Roll band, but instead of wallowing in pity, he’s had a good life with a band of his own on a much smaller scale, and handled the rejection well.

Look at the present day with all the hopefuls that audition for singing or dance contests, many of which are now recorded and made into evening television entertainment. You can bet that among those who are rejected, there are many who seriously have more invested than just a day of fun. Some will have worked hard for that chance only to be told to go home. “You’re not what we are looking for”, isn’t what they wanted to hear, but many more hear it than those who are chosen to move ahead.

Look too at professional coaches in sports. When a team hires a new coach, both the person doing the hiring and the person being hired know that in that profession, there will be a firing just as public down the road. And while working, every move that coach makes will be questioned, evaluated and debated by Management, players, fans and sponsors. If expectations are to be the best and raise a cup, that means ultimately only one of all the coaches will have actually accomplished the goals of the organization. When fired or terminated, a short statement saying something akin to, “I’d like to thank so-and-so for his commitment and dedication to our franchise. We’re just moving in a new direction”, is likely to be said.

All fields have examples of people being rejected. Architects lose bids on new building contracts, new home buyers have offers rejected by sellers, aircraft manufacturers have their bids rejected by Countries, politicians are routinely passed over in favour of others. Rejection happens everywhere. Scientists have experiments fail more than they succeed, doctors lose patients on surgery tables they can’t save, sometimes a colour of paint gets mixed wrong at the store. Big deal, small deal, it happens all the time.

What is important to remember is that rejection itself is something a person can learn from. If you can figure out the reasons perhaps behind someone’s dismissal of you as a candidate for a job, you might be able to learn from it. In fact, how you react to rejection can even be turned into the basis for an interview answer in the future. Suppose you’ve been turned down by a company in the past for a job because you lacked some credential. If you have strengthened your chances by improving yourself, that’s a great example of perseverance to use. Alternatively you might just tell everyone that the company is full of fools and you wouldn’t want to work there anyway, and take away nothing from the experience. Now who’s the fool?

In such a strongly competitive job market, for every person who is ultimately successful, there will be many who are not. That means your personal odds of being hired are lower given the larger number of applicants. Job searching and applying for jobs then requires more effort than you may have been giving in the past. This means you not only need to apply to more jobs, but you need stronger individual applications that you’ve been submitting.

Upgrading your education and experience, perhaps by volunteering, interning, apprenticing, or working on a pardon etc. might be what you have to get going on. Doing more of whatever you’ve been doing only might mean more rejection. Get some personal feedback from a professional and find out how best to increase your chances of success.


Getting Enough Sleep During Your Job Search?

One of the nicest things I’m personally able to do is to lie down at night, put my head on the pillow, and within 1 – 3 minutes, be out completely and heading quickly into deep REM sleep. I’m hitting the sack between 10:00p.m. and 10:30p.m. almost without fail, and waking up around 5:00a.m. consistently. During that 6.5 or 7 hours, I can honestly say that most nights the duration is spent asleep.

Not everyone has that experience, and some might go to bed around the same time, but then lay there wide awake for an hour or more until falling into a fitful sleep and then waking up in the morning much later and find it harder to get going despite having actually been in the physical bed much longer.

When job searching, sleep is vitally important for a number of reasons. I was reminded of this just yesterday afternoon when a Doctor who specializes in sleeping disorders was on the radio being interviewed by the host about the benefits of sleep and how to get more of it. Interestingly, the Doctor was extolling the virtues of a regular sleeping routine, rather than say a varied schedule where you go to bed when you are tired, and thus are going to bed anytime from 9:30p.m. to 1:00a.m. depending on your energy level. This kind of erratic behaviour apparently messes with the bodies internal clock which is trying to establish regular patterns of producing and conserving energy.

One suggestion made was to set a time each evening to turn off electronic devices such as I-Pads, tablets, cell phones, as these kinds of devices actually gear us up mentally, stimulating brain cell activity and to go from something mentally stimulating to complete shutdown is too much for many people to do successfully.

As you job search, there is of course a sizeable mental anguish and strain that can make you feel tired more often, and at times in the day when you would otherwise be active and full of energy. This is the process whereby the body is attempting to normalize the amount of sleep that the person requires, and is attempting to get it when it can. If you are one of the fortunate people who can power nap for say 15 minutes and wake up refreshed, a nap might be time well spent; not time well wasted. The alternative to grabbing a quick 15 minutes of shutdown may be that yes you are awake, but you are not functioning anywhere near your best, and this lethargic behaviour goes on for an hour or more, with symptoms of yawning, walking and moving slower, propping your head up with your hands, but accomplishing very little.

When you are getting enough sleep, you’ll have more energy when you do wake up, but it may take time to ‘train your brain’ to relax and de-process. When I hit the pillow, I feel my whole head sink into the pillow, and the weight of supporting it on my shoulders during the day is released. A breath or two exhaling the day, and a few more seconds relaxing my arms, my stomach, my legs….and I’m gone. My wife who doesn’t have this gift, gets playfully annoyed with me because she usually has a harder time drifting off. She’s constantly amazed how I can night after night just go in, lay down and fall asleep.

Of course when you wake up, what you do with your hours awake is up to you. As for me, I typically wake up around 5:00a.m. whether it’s the weekend or a weekday. I usually spend at least the first hour with a set routine of making a nice cup of tea to warm the throat and vocal chords, and then look out in the soft light of the morning on the yard to see the birds, check the weather, and then browse my favourites on the internet. Around 6:00a.m it’s a shower and get dressed, and on a workday it’s out the door at 6:30a.m. But that’s my routine. What’s your morning look like?

When I was unemployed in the past, keeping to a routine got harder and without some discipline, I’d stay up later and watch movies, or in my younger days play video games. After all, if I didn’t have to go to work the next day, what’s the problem right? However, like mentioned earlier, that haphazard sleeping pattern would result in waking up with either not enough sleep, or waking up later than I’d wanted to feeling less rested.

Jobs give us routine, and if you’ve lost your job, you probably have also lost much of your past routines, and going to bed and waking up at what was your usual time, may also have changed. Getting back to whatever was normal for you can help you in ways you wouldn’t think, like returning some energy, toughening your mental resolve and helping you fight depression and anxiety.

So get some sleep; job searching takes a lot of energy and you’ll need it. All the very best!

Things To Do BEFORE You Go To A Conference

This Friday, I am looking forward to a day at a Conference I am attending with my Supervisor. The event is looking at innovation in technology but now that today I have received the actual itinerary or schedule of the days activities, I can see there is a significant amount of time set aside for networking.

Now all of those in attendance have the same information I have just received, or at least that’s a safe assumption. However, do you suppose that we will all prepare for the day in the same way? I certainly don’t. Some planning on attending may like me, get together a stack of business cards in order to have them handy and distribute and exchange with other delegates. In addition, a little bit of time devoted to thinking about the topic, how it might be beneficial and applicable in advance of the conference is also a useful use of time in order to see the relevance of the day to the job I hold.

On the other hand, I’m willing to bet there are others who will be there who don’t really prepare much in advance and are there for the day away from the office, the food at lunch and break time, and they’ll show up perhaps with a pen for taking an odd note but may even be counting on the conference to supply that for them too. Business cards; they’ve got a whole desk with a new box that hasn’t been opened since they were issued it 8 months ago!

Now this isn’t to chastise those who don’t prepare for conferences and networking events. You miss the point if that’s all you think. My point rather is to point out that these events are opportunities and how you and I respond to those opportunities may go a long way to helping or hindering our advancement at work, our likelihood of getting approval to attend future events, and of course the material itself may aid us greatly in our work if we are open to what is being shared with us by others. And aside from the specific topics being shared, there are great possibilities of forming working relationships with others in attendance from other agencies, companies, organizations and entrepreneurs.

Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites provide us all with online networking websites and platforms that permit the exchange of ideas, and going to meet people in person is what pre-dated all of these social media sites. It is possible that I might even meet someone at a conference who is a connection of mine on Linkedin for example, and can now flesh-out that avatar and photo on their Profile page. And I might add, it’s a chance to either reinforce your brand or possible damage your reputation based on how you act while at conferences and networking events.

For example, the person who is the networking guru; assertive, proactive, and can talk up a storm on the internet may in-person be someone who acts like that in real life too, or they may be constantly avoiding talking to people they don’t know, hanging out at the buffet or never get up from their seat and mingle. In other words does the person in real life mirror or conflict with the on-line persona you have come to know. That synergy or disconnect may either help or hurt your self-branding and your reputation along with it.

In this case, I am someone who enjoys using technology in the classroom when facilitating job search and employment related topics. One of the things I’m in the middle of is using Prezi to make a timeline of my past employment and education; a Prezisume if you will. It’s taking quite a bit of time in order for me to get it right, but it’s something I want to pursue as one example of how a traditional resume can be electronically viewed rather than on a piece of paper. It may not be something I would submit to an employer, but it is something I might use in a class if I wanted to show participants my own path from my high school days to the present. The benefit of that? Showing others the path I’ve taken with its twists and turns, ups and downs can provide inspiration and that openness and willingness to share can help inspire others to work through their issues and still hope for success when it’s hard for them to see it.

One thing about technology is that no one person ever really seems to know everything there is to know. Someone always has a new and better communication device, a better app for a phone, a new website you didn’t know about etc. The information I get this Friday might be entirely new to me personally or a mixture of things I already knew and things new to me. Even if I were to go to a conference and the material was more of a refresher than new information, the opportunity to network, establish and nurture relationships is vital and critical.

All that networking should in my opinion, not be about what others can do for you and I, but what we might be able to do for others. By offering assistance in ways we are able to, others in turn are more open and receptive to helping in return. That symbiotic relationship, each helping the other, is the very best kind of networking!

Companies Rejecting You Might Be Right

Because I’m an Employer Counsellor, I deal with people who are seeking employment on a daily basis. In addition to success stories where people get interviews and employment, again and again I also hear job seekers blaming interviewers and companies in general for rejecting them. However, if truth be told, I completely understand the employers point of view, and not only understand it, agree with their decision.

I have just met a client I’m working with in a group who is in his mid-twenties. He’s well-groomed, in good physical condition, has no transportation difficulties and has a decent resume. However, he is a most intense guy. He seldom smiles; his eyes seem to bore right through people he talks to, and his answers to mock interview questions demonstrate an articulate and wide vocabulary, but also are delivered with an arrogance and intensity that is unsettling. That intensity is never turned off and instead of coming off as self-motivated and serious about job searching, his self-portrayal is that of possibly being a walking time bomb.

Another person I am working with is a young man who claims he only owns and wears jeans. He’s (no pun intended) attached to his facial hair which he doesn’t keep trimmed but rather has let grow wild and patchy, and he’s resistant to making a change in either. Now while the job he’s going to eventually land is one in which he’ll probably be allowed to wear jeans to the workplace, the jeans he’s wearing daily aren’t even presentable in an interview situation. But as is the case with so many young people – and we’ve all been there – he knows best of course. I wouldn’t be interested in hiring him upon first impression, and an employer’s mind might be made up before he even takes a step forward to shake their hand.

Sometimes it takes rejection upon rejection for some people to realize maybe they don’t have the right answer, and that what’s really required is an attitudinal adjustment between the ears. Sometimes it’s not them….sometimes it’s you. Now don’t get me wrong. There are many people out there doing all the things right and still not getting interviews and employment. So how does a person know whether it’s them or not? Sadly, sometimes the people doing all the things right doubt themselves first and try new things when they should carry on while those that should definitely change their attitude and appearance or behaviour assume it’s not them that needs to change.

If you are working with the aid of someone who is trained professionally to provide employment assistance and is prepared to give you personal feedback, it would seem too obvious to state but you really should listen to all the advice you are given. Yes it’s true that some of that feedback will be flattering and reinforce your ego and your self-esteem. However, it is equally true that some of the feedback you may get is perhaps not what you want to hear, challenges you to change in ways that you may not have expected or don’t even agree with. To what extent you are willing to hear the advice and act on it, will determine the willingness of the person to give you further help too.

So what exactly does that mean? Well suppose you were given a major re-write of your resume which the person you were working with suggested. Rather than being appreciative, if you get defensive and revert to carrying on with your original resume because you think you can do a better job than the professional, why would they be interested in providing you with further suggestions on other aspects of the job search?

Remember that in trying to get an interview, it’s all about marketing yourself with your resume; your resume is therefore a marketing tool that presents you in the best way possible. The best way possible means that you come the closest to what the company is looking for. How you know what they are looking for is by reading job posting requirements, researching websites, reading company publications, meeting with company employees and asking questions. Read newspapers, listen to the radio, ask some of the companies clients and customers what they like or dislike about a company. If there are enough people telling you common dislikes, that may be an opportunity for you to fix that problem by presenting yourself as someone who can turn things around in that area.

When at an interview, give solid well-thought-out answers that show some interest and enthusiasm for the possibility of working there. Be aware of your posture and sit up and slightly forward in your seat. Look like you actually care about the prospect of being hired rather than the interview is an inconvenience and the interviewer doesn’t measure up to your intellect. This too is what another person I was doing a mock interview with tended to do; he looked totally exasperated and frustrated that he was being made to ‘make believe’. He thought he should just be able to walk in and tell them he could do the job and get hired. The chip on his shoulder is enormous.

Employment Counsellors and Career Advisors aren’t always right. Any of us that might say, “Do it my way and you are guaranteed to get a job”, are people to be cautious of because I don’t think we can ever make that claim. What we as professionals can do however, is increase your odds of getting interviews and job offers. Of course, that is if you are open to hearing and acting on the advice you receive.

Use Of Tenses On A Resume

One common mistake I see on resumes that I’m asked to look over is the misuse of past and present tense on a resume. What this ultimately does is provide the employer who is looking over your resume with some information to exclude you from being considered for an interview. So let’s look at what I mean.

Suppose you are working at the present time as a Receptionist and you are looking for a more lucrative job; one that pays more or offers more responsibility or a greater challenge. This is a job you are currently doing, so the words you use should be in the present tense when describing your accomplishments. Under your job title as a Receptionist you might say:

Greet and customers and clients, direct phone calls quickly and accurately for 20 employees

You’ll see above the words, “Greet” and “direct” are both used correctly as the line on the resume refers to something that you currently do here and now in the present. However, now suppose that this was a line from your resume referring to a job you held in 2010. In that case, the two words should be modified to read, “Greeted” and “directed”. This is because they refer not to something you do but, rather something you did.

When the tenses are misused, as in putting done a year in the past and using the current tense, an unintended message is being conveyed to the employer; “I don’t know the difference between using the past and the present”, “I have poor grammar skills”, I don’t pay attention to details as I didn’t notice”, or “Oh I noticed, I just don’t really care all that much”. Another message you might be relaying is that you have less education that you should have. Ouch!

You see from the employers point of view, this resume represents the very best of what you are capable of. This is your personal marketing tool after all, and therefore should be an example of something that has great worth to you. The employer is going to suppose that if there are errors on a document that means a great deal to you personally, imagine what having you working for them would be like when you are working on documents that have less personal meaning for you. Why you might be making these errors and more all the time. How is that going to reflect on the company itself if you are sending out correspondence with poor grammar?

If you are applying for work in an office setting, this problem is of even greater significance because others may be counting on your grammar skills to fix up their hastily worded memos and letters and get them all ready for distribution. If they have to then go over and proofread everything you do and send it back to you for revisions all the time, they might be better hiring someone else who can get things right the first time, so they do.

On a resume specifically, it’s also confusing and a glaring error to see the past and the present used in two different lines in the same job title when describing your role and accomplishments. So saying. “Managed 20 employees” and then “Lead projects and inspire creativity in others” has the employer wondering if you are referring to a job you currently do or once did. You can’t have both the past and the present. The dates on the same line that refer to when you are or were employed by a company you are referring to, must mirror the words you choose.

Oh and another key area to look at on your resume is the section, “Qualifications”. The things you put in this section are the things that qualify you at the present time for the job you are applying for. So in other words, use the present tense when putting things in this part of the resume. These are skills and experience you are offering up to the company rather than skills you once had but have no longer which is what using the past tense would seem to indicate.

Remember too that as you create bullets under your various jobs you hold and once held, you should not just be copying down things from your job description, but rather selling yourself as having accomplished things. What if anything are or were you recognized for? And please keep the job you are applying FOR in mind as you think about what to put down. Make it easy for the employer to draw a link from what you currently do or have down, to what you might do for them if you are hired. Even when the jobs you had in the past are not related, find transferable skills to highlight so it reads well.

Give your resume a quick glance now and see if you’ve made this common mistake. It might be fixed as easily as adding the letter, “d” changing “package goods for transport” to “packaged goods for transport”. One additional letter avoiding any problems and maybe the difference between an interview and getting passed over.

So to sum up: Past job = past tense and current job = current tense.

Where To Start When Employment Coaching

Today I direct some thoughts to those of us fortunate enough to be in the position of Coaching others, specifically in the area of Employment Coaching, but much of what I’ll share is relevant to coaching any discipline. I want to acknowledge right up front that you the reader might be a seasoned veteran or have come just recently to Coaching, and your experience might find my comments new and refreshing, or reminders of what you already know.

One of the mistakes that many Job and Career Coaches make is starting with the assumption of putting together a plan for the benefit of a client that’s been tried and true with others, or based on the premise that one size fits all. After all, if what we’ve done with others has been successful, surely the same plan will work with this new client. This is actually how most traditional schools work; develop a curriculum that teaches from where a child should be developmentally, and you’ll be accurate most of the time and prepare that individual for the next year of learning.

However, a key starting place in effective Job and Career or Employment Coaching is to sit down with the client and together, explore where the client is actually at in terms of interests, skills, attitude, knowledge, experience, real and perceived barriers or challenges, motivation, distractions and goals. To ignore at least a summary exploration of these key areas is to get a car and head out so you get on the road but not know where you are going and to have not done any packing for the journey.

What you may find in all probability is that you’ve set the client up to fail. They won’t meet your expectations which in retrospect you’ll both find disappointing, and should it really be about YOUR expectations at all? Getting a client to be up front and share some of their personal, ‘here’s what’s going on’ stuff is extremely helpful and beneficial. Without taking time for this, all the great plans and steps for forward action are going to be hit-and-miss and your client could be misinterpreted as not committed to their own job search success.

Consider for example a Literacy Tutor. Most clients I send for literacy assistance first undergo a test of their ability. On the test are things they will succeed in, might succeed in and things they will fail in knowing. Why? The Tutor needs to know what level of literacy the client presents with. So no point starting with Grade 12 English expectations just because ultimately that’s what they’ll need if they are currently reading at a Grade 8 level. You’ve got to start wherever the client presents, and move forward from that point. Then the client can be successful, and success breeds success.

So with a job search, why ram cover letters on a client if they don’t have the linguistic skills to articulate their needs using appropriate grammar? All they may end up doing is sending out poor cover letters that actually turn off employers from even looking at that great resume the two of you crafted together. If you discover the literacy problem six months later and can’t believe what you’ve found, how unfortunate to realize the client has tried as best they could with the abilities they have, but it is all for naught. Far better, maybe….to have taken a step back, and either addressed the literacy issues, by-passed the cover letter altogether, or reviewed it each and every time prior to sending.

And if, as in the case of a group of job seekers before you, you are working with a group of people you’ll need a way to discover from each person exactly what they know, think they know, their issues and distractions etc. Otherwise if you have no mechanism to address each person on an individual level, your presentation is doomed to be less effective than it might be. Is the language you use at a level appropriate to your audience? Is the method of teaching only helpful to one style of learning, or are you using multi-media, group and individual work, assigned reading, visual presentations, guest speakers etc.?

It is not time wasted to quickly get at where people have been and what has been going on in their recent past, discover any physical or mental health issues, family demands, self-esteem issues, stressors, level of personal motivation and their expectations. An effective professional Employment Coach or Job/Career Coach, should in my opinion, not just present a client with a tried and true job search strategy, but get to know the person first. Share at a level of understanding that meets the ability of the client, presenting only as much as they can comprehend without being overwhelmed, and praise effort rather than results in the beginning.

Results are born out of effort in most cases. With a tougher job market, employers are more demanding and discerning when it comes to applicants. These higher expectations present challenges for people looking to succeed in the job application process and as Employment Coaches I’d suggest we have a responsibility to respond in kind by doing so much more than delivering standard content ie. Resume workshops and cover letter material. Stepping back to get to know the client will more often than not, result in quicker progress, heightened self-esteem that will translate to increased motivation, and ultimately success. A key process not to be ignored.

How Fast Can You Shift Gears At Work?

One skill that I have picked up over the years is the ability to quickly perceive the need for change and then implement the necessary alteration in attitude to successfully alter direction in a short period of time. This ability, or lack thereof, is a desirable trait to raise in an interview if you choose. By way of example, let me cite my experience from yesterday.

On a typical morning, I arrive at work at about 7:30a.m. and one of the first things I do is check the staff schedule just to confirm what I’m responsible for that day, as my role as a Facilitator changes often. However, yesterday morning I didn’t bother. You see, our team was planning on holding an open house for visiting staff later this month, and I was under the impression that I and two others had been removed from the schedule to flesh out the details of a loose plan. However, as that open house has been delayed to later in the year, back on the schedule I was.

So there I sat at 9:15a.m. doing some recruiting for an upcoming workshop on job searching, when my Supervisor came in and asked if I would like her to see if she could arrange another team member to do the workshop on responsible alcohol service I was supposed to be doing in 15 minutes. What?! My immediate reaction in the next three seconds and no more, was to process that I was on the schedule I guessed to do it, I still had 15 minutes to get things together so I wasn’t late, and here was a possible out so I could continue recruiting clients.

As it turns out, I did end up facilitating the workshop as my co-worker wasn’t feeling prepared to lead that workshop. She herself ended up sitting in on it all day to reaquaint herself with the flow of the day and the content. While I wasn’t getting the time to do what I had originally wanted, and still need to do before Friday afternoon, it was fulfilling what I was expected to do. My responsibility in other words to do what I was on the schedule to do, and my own fault for not realizing it sooner. It still required a mental shift however from one planned activity to another in a short time frame.

As a Manager, I think that’s a trait you hope to find in those who you supervise. Finding staff who can with a positive attitude, roll with things and show adaptability and flexibility makes things run smoother when change occurs. Now on the other hand, staff that change but make sure everybody knows how inconvenienced they are and get all flustered may get the job done in the end, but there is a path behind them like a tornado maybe getting other staff out-of-sorts along the way.

And there are some who cannot cope with change at all of course; those that will put energy into resisting, looking for opportunities to get out of doing what they should be doing because they are not prepared, which ends up of course then impacting on others directly who have to change to achieve the desired result.

In every workplace, change occurs. Sometimes the change that comes about is fairly frequent to the point when change itself is the norm. That constant flux can either fuel a person’s energy or cause undue stress and anxiety. The bottom line in that setting is that you as the worker may not be able to control the external things around you that impact on you yourself, so the only thing you can control fully is your own reaction to change. If you don’t react well to change, your options may be limited to learning to adapt to change, quit or transfer out if that’s an option, or resist change and deal with the fallout.

Resisting change in a setting where change happens daily would appear to be a recipe for unhappiness, constant strain, and you may not be valued as a contributing employee who fits in with the requirement of your position. If a Team Leader, Supervisor or Manager cited that requirement as a desired or essential characteristic of the employees under them, how surprised should you be then if a decision is made that comes down to you not being the right fit for their needs?

But back to an interview. In an interview you’d be wise if you could determine ahead of time what the desired qualities of the applicants should be, and then ensure that your answers to questions demonstrated your ability to bring that quality out. And if you are working in a setting that requires skills and qualities you don’t posses, perhaps its time to acquire those skills or move on.