Getting Together For A Chat

Being out of work, you might not be in a position to come up with a great deal of money and go to a lot of networking events that require registration. And even if you are employed and wanting to expand your networking skills, you may not have the desire to shell out a hundred dollars to go to some conference where you can network for a few straight days. So what to do?

Well, do you have $5.00 or less? If you do, one of the easiest things is to call up some of your connections, references, colleagues or business partners and suggest the two of you meet for a cup of coffee or tea at a local bistro. It could go something like this; “Hello Jim? Hi it’s Kelly Mitchell, how are you? Listen I’ve been wanting to call to ask if you would you be willing to meet one day next week over lunch? I’m doing some career research and planning and I’d value your input and thoughts.”

Do you think you have the assertiveness to pick up the phone, call a contact of yours and say something like that? What’s the best that could happen? Or the other hand, are you worried about what’s the worst that could happen? So you meet and bring along a copy of your latest resume and cover letter for a job you either want now, or recently applied for. Maybe you even have a posting for a job or jobs you recently applied for.

In the conversation above, by stating that you value the person’s feedback – and you should – you stand a greater chance of meeting face-to-face. When you do meet, you’ve got to get the ball rolling and then do your best to do a minimal amount of talking so you can get the feedback you asked for. They may have questions that will prompt you to answer and move the discussion along. This isn’t the time to get your nose out-of-joint and defend yourself if you end up being given constructive criticism, nor is it a time to dismiss suggestions for action because you aren’t willing to do things suggested.

Best to have a pen and paper handy and jot down any names and phone numbers you are provided with as future contacts, a daily agenda of some sort to fill in a date etc. If you did bring along your resume or a short portfolio of your work, be prepared to give it away to your contact. Leaving it in their hands is a good way to prompt them to keep you in mind. Maybe you’ll get an offer for a subsequent meeting when they’ve had time to critique it, or they pass it on to someone they know who you might be a good fit with. Who knows?

Presumably you’re paying for your lunch and they are paying for theirs. While they might have a sandwich and soup plus a tea or coffee, you’ve opted for a tea. So you’re spending up to 60 minutes with a colleague at a cost of $1.80. Not a bad investment.

Another strategy that some people employ is to arrange such a meeting and forward your resume and some questions in writing in advance of your meeting. This may result in a more productive meeting where feedback is forthcoming immediately. “Hi Kelly, good to see you again. I’ve looked over the information you passed my way, and I have some thoughts on how to improve things.” If you sit down with this scenario, your job is to primarily listen, consider and respond to questions posed. If you do most of the talking over the hour you are together, it’s not going to be all that helpful when you reflect back later on what you’ve got out of it.

What is essential in these meetings is to ensure you express honest appreciation for the person’s time and their unbiased feedback. However, it is entirely unrealistic to expect that person to tell you what you should do to get your career on track. You are you, they are someone else. What’s right for you isn’t what would be right for them, and I know I’m careful not to tell others what they should do, but suggestions are usually welcome.

Of course these networking meetings can be even more useful for those currently employed. Getting up the nerve to call a colleague you haven’t met face-to-face before but know through LinkedIn, or maybe your company directory can be equally or more beneficial. It could go, “Hello Brenda? Kelly Mitchell here. We’re connected via LinkedIn. I was hoping I might be able to arrange a face-to-face meeting say over coffee or tea, to introduce myself in-person and get perhaps network a little. Would you be open to that?”

Your conversation might be something akin to what I’ve suggested in this blog. You may of course have other words that better fit with your personality. I suggest these for those folks who tell me, “I wouldn’t know how to begin or what to say”. Relax, it’s just a conversation and it’s not aggressive or threatening. Go on the proactive and you’ll see how easy it becomes to be thought of by others as networking savvy!

About This ‘LinkedIn Profile’ Thing

Whether you are already a LinkedIn convert and have a profile created, you are hearing everybody talk about this for some time, or you are new to the whole concept, here’s what you need to know and why you should take care to create your profile.

Where to start?! Well the good news is that you don’t have to set up your profile all at once. You can develop and improve it at any time, but you do want to make a pretty concerted effort to ‘get it together’ in a relatively short span of time because once it is created, people start looking it over. Like a real face-to-face meeting, you want to make a good first impression.

Your profile on LinkedIn is more than just a copy and paste of your resume and your Facebook photo. That alone is a benefit of reading this piece. Facebook photos are habitually known for having an identifying picture of a person be represented by an animal, a flower, two or three people in a picture, or a landscape. Your LinkedIn photo should be a picture of you yourself, and it should reflect how you want potential employers and colleagues to see you. Facebook is social networking, LinkedIn is professional networking.

On your LinkedIn page, you also get as much space as you need to create a summary section first. This is akin to a ‘Profile’ section on your resume but it’s more than that. Here you can summarize what you currently do, who you are, what you uniquely offer, your philosophy in practice; whatever angle you want to take to portray yourself. On a standard resume, you’d be more inclined to shape this section to the job at hand for a specific company, but on LinkedIn, you never know who will view your profile.

One of the key things you could also opt to do is add specific videos, presentations and/or a portfolio of your work that does more than just talk about it on a resume. Here a person could with a click, see your work come alive first-hand. Be sure however that if you are going to share publicly something that you’ve created via the resources of your employer, that you have their permission to do so. You don’t want evidence of your work be the grounds for your dismissal if you are sharing company produced material.

And a resume has numerous bullets on it that speak to your accomplishments and responsibilities. Ho-hum. Pretty static. Here on your profile, not only can you describe what you’ve done and the results you achieved, but should you get others to recommend your work, what happens is that immediately below the section where you say you’ve accomplished things, the voice of others attests in writing to that. This of course validates and strengthens your claims as being able to actually do whatever you say you’ve done. “And if you can do it for another employer, maybe you can bring those same accomplishments to my company” a perspective employer might muse.

And of course when you’re new to resumes and you don’t have help, you can stare at a blank piece of paper for hours wondering what section should come next on your resume and in what order. On a LinkedIn profile, it’s all laid out for you with prompts and suggestions. You can even jig the layout and put things in different orders if you wish. Add organizations you belong to, your contact data, approve and add written recommendations from others, courses you’ve taken, publications you’ve produced, where you went to school, your interests, awards, honours, etc.

You can also list skills that you possess and other LinkedIn connections of yours can endorse you; essentially saying, “Yes, I’m willing to acknowledge that this person has this skill”.

Now in the traditional sense, you submit a resume, and the employer reviews it. (this takes time) Then you get an interview to probe, ask questions and validate your experience. (this takes time). Then the employer contacts your references to see if what you say you can do is actually verifiable and you are who you claim to be. (this takes time).

However, an employer looking for someone to fill a role in their organization can use LinkedIn to search first for qualified candidates using a search engine that filters their requirements down to a short-list. (this saves time). They can review a profile, (this saves time) read others recommendations (this saves time) and approach a few applicants to investigate if they’d be interested in an interview for employment (this saves time). So rather than posting a job and being flooded with applicants and bothered with emails, calls and faxes, (this takes time) they only contact a few and there’s no hassle with people you don’t have an interest in whatsoever.

You can join discussion groups too that are in your field of interest and dialogue with people around the globe and gain insight, learn, mentor others, share trends, etc. And like real networking, the best thing you can do is help others instead of only asking for help and giving nothing in return.

In my family alone, two members were recruited for jobs they now hold without actually applying, and another applied for a position and was informed that her LinkedIn profile was checked out and examined.

Like everything to do with a job search, what you do or don’t do is your call. How’s what you’re currently doing working out?

The Problems That Being Hired Solves

What I have to realize over the many years I’ve been employed in the field of Social Services, is that unemployed people on social assistance often present with multiple barriers to employment.

This is perhaps one of, if not the key differing element when comparing a social assistance recipient looking for work with say, someone who is recently unemployed but not on some form of social assistance. While both are looking for work, the person who recently lost work has less barriers to employment because they have recent work history and references, more confidence and drive etc.

This week wraps up a two-week intensive job search program I’m running for a group of up to twelve people on social assistance. To be admitted to my group, my criteria is that all must: have basic computer skills, be self-motivated, know the kind of work they want, come dressed all ten days as if they were having an interview (because they might), and have demonstrated to myself or one of my colleagues in another workshop that they are employment-ready. In other words, they want it bad.

So, while they present as a fairly motivated group, I have ceased to be surprised that they still present with multiple employment barriers. Is it fair then to strive to help them get a job in two weeks or less when some of them present with issues like criminal convictions, anxiety, mental health disorders, unstable housing, relationship problems, childcare requirements, clothing needs or dental problems?

Over the past seven work days to date, with three left to go, I’ve found no less than four women in the group at some point meltdown and literally cry on my shoulder and need a physical hug to just let out the pressure. All of them then said some version of, “Sorry about that, I don’t usually breakdown.”

You see what’s really going on inside each of them is something like this: when they got an invitation to attend my job search group, Hope was re-kindled. As looking for a job can be frustrating, and downright depressing filled with moments of rejection, here was an opportunity to have someone help them out and maybe determine where their going about things wrong. And from their view, they must be doing something wrong or they’d be employed.

When these ladies had their meltdown, each had successfully just been granted a job interview so why the tears? The reason is that each placed so much importance on now getting the interview perfect. It has been awhile since they’ve had interviews for employment, and as such, they are feeling anxiety about ‘performing’ well enough to be offered a job.

You see a job for people who have been out of work for some time means instant recognition of ones skills, talents and experience. “Somebody wants me.” With a job offer, self-esteem grows, a light at the end of a very long and dark tunnel switches on, financial independence looms ahead, credibility amongst our peer groups becomes a possibility again, and their children and extended families can once again be proud of their mom, sister, daughter etc.

A job also means creditors can be paid back, lines of credit ceased to be used, credit ratings slowly improved. Most critical of all however is that the person starts to gain a new identity. Instead of wearing the unemployed label, now that person has a job title, and a company to go with it. We all know that one of the very early things we ask each other in life when we meet is some version of, “So what do you do?” The unemployed never have a solid answer that employed people believe, but when we say, “I’m in Office Administration with Bradley and Myers”, our status from both the job title and the name of the employer announces us.

If it has taken some time to land this job interview, there is pressure to get it right, because who knows how long it will take until the next interview comes if we blow it! OH MY GOODNESS! However, what I try to temper that new and sudden anxiety with is a dose of reality. It is a competitive job market, there are many applicants, and you might be perfect for the job, but so are others and maybe it goes your way and maybe it doesn’t.

This might seem odd but it really isn’t. I know that each of them has a better resume, a better cover letter, better interview skills, physically presents better with their grooming, posture, smiles, handshakes, etc. And so I know that even though this is the first job interview they’ve had in some time, what they fail to really believe is that they will be getting multiple offers for job interviews in the coming days.

So a job offer means you’ve been validated externally. Somebody wants you and thinks you can add value to an organization! Those meltdowns are a release of stress, anxiety and exasperation, pent-up frustrations and all of that, was just looming under the surface of a calm, “I’ve got it all together” exterior.

And that is why too it is so gratifying to know that what I’m really doing is being in a place not to share job search skills so much, but to offer Hope and help people re-build some fragile self-images.


In August 1972 – that’s 41 years ago – ‘Backstabbers’ by the O’Jays was a hit single. Although the song was about a guys friends all trying to take his woman away from him while pretending to be his friend, think about the lyrics below as pertaining to getting a job or getting ahead.

A few of your buddies they sure look shady
Blades are long, clenched tight in their fist
Aimin’ straight at your back
And I don’t think they’ll miss
(What they do!)
(They smile in your face)
All the time they want to take your place
The back stabbers (back stabbers)

I’m writing about backstabbing because over this past weekend, six different people spoke with me about incidents where they had been figuratively stabbed in the back by colleagues, friends and family. It must be relevant today and perhaps this problem resonates with you.

Some people have reputations of course for backstabbing others and those same people rationalize their behaviour usually by telling themselves it’s a dog-eats-dog kind of world and there’s no time to be nice, it’s about getting ahead. However, I’d counter by saying getting ahead by intentionally sabotaging others and moving them behind you isn’t the only way. In fact, I’d argue that the best way to get ahead is to put others needs ahead of your own, credit others when the success is theirs, and in so doing, attract the very best to yourself.

Look at things physically for a moment. In order to be stabbed in the back, you have to have your back turned to the other person. Two reasons then only would occur; you are taken unawares by a stranger or someone you expected and trusted to guard your back instead drives the dagger home. Really it’s only the second of the two that’s ‘backstabbing’ in the sense most people mean; a betrayal from a trusted source.

Thankfully we’re only talking figuratively here and not literally and almost all of us can recover from this kind of backstabbing! If you have been betrayed and stabbed in the back, you can’t really do much to prevent it – it’s already happened. However, what you do have control over is your reaction and your future behaviour.

People who back stab others reveal more about their own character then perhaps they first intend, and while it can come as a shock and severe disappointment for us if we are the victim, the one thing we always have over them is our integrity and dignity. Blowing the whistle on someone who is profiting from stabbing us in the back, revealing them for stealing an idea, taking credit where credit is not due, seizing some kind of advantage when it wasn’t theirs to take is usually welcomed by those in higher positions, but you’d better have proof to back up your claims or it’s just sour grapes.

Once betrayed, it isn’t all that uncommon to refrain from trusting someone whose back-stabbed you. Kind of a ‘fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me’ mentality. Hard to give someone the benefit of the doubt in the future, and why should you? If you did, you would be saying that what happened before is okay and you’re in a position to have it happen again. So it’s ironic that people are sometimes stabbed in the back not just once but several times.

This happens I think because of the trusting nature that some of us have that would have us believe in the good of others and get burned from time-to-time rather than the alternative of distrusting everyone and missing out on wonderful opportunities most of the time because we are jaded towards people. And that’s the crux of the sadness in this whole backstabbing thing. What a shame when someone becomes a victim and then makes a conscious decision to grow a thicker skin, a tougher exterior and a less-trusting disposition. Essentially the victim is victimized twice; once by the backstabber and once by themselves.

Have you been the victim of backstabbing? What was your experience and did it change you or what did you learn from it? Were you the backstabber and how did it profit you or do you now regret it?

I’d be interested and I think others could benefit from hearing some of those stories. Call it therapeutic if you will. As has been said elsewhere and by many, it is the sharing of our experiences; the good and the bad, that makes the internet such a useful tool as we educate each other.

And for pure entertainment, check out the O’Jays here:

Judging Others To “Get A Life!”

You probably know someone like the fellow I’m going to tell you about in this piece. See if you do and if you, like me, have wondered from time to time why the person doesn’t do something more with their time.

Let’s call him Doug. Doug is unemployed, late fifties, Caucasian, typically wears his ball cap and t-shirt with jeans and runners, walks with a slight limp, and hasn’t worked in recent years. On the flip side, Doug has a cellphone with various apps on it, reads the paper daily, can converse with people easily, and is knows computer basics.

I’m the first employee to arrive where I work each day, choosing to arrive around 7:30 a.m. for my required 8:00 a.m. official start time. Most days, when I arrive in our lobby, there’s Doug. Doug arrives about the same time as myself, gets off the elevator on the second floor, takes a drink from the water fountain, then goes and sits down on a hard chair in our lobby and waits until the Resource Centre opens at 9:00 a.m.

So why does Doug come and plunk himself down where he has to wait for an hour and a half before he can access the computers in the Resource Centre or talk with anyone? After all, on summer days he could be out strolling in the park, getting some exercise, sitting at home flipping channels on the television or listening to the radio, etc. But those are my values transferred aren’t they?

I have watched Doug and what he does is come in, have a drink and sit down. Sometimes he uses our bathrooms, then he opens up a newspaper that is one of a dozen we get delivered for our clients to read. After that, he plays games on his phone, and then when the Receptionist arrives at 8:00 a.m., she flips on the television in the lobby, and he watches and listens to the morning news. He greets all the staff that acknowledge him, chats with some more than others, then he goes into the Resource Centre and checks out his email.

Ironically, he only stays in the Resource Centre for about half an hour and then he’s gone for the day, although from time-to-time he makes an appearance later in the day at some point and re-checks his email. Doug isn’t really all that likely to gain work anymore, as his age and health are detrimental to his chances given his employment field of choice. I suspect but cannot confirm that there are some mental health issues which have taken root as well.

When asked why he’s here so early he says, “Why not? I can walk around outside later.” Hard to argue with simple logic. He’s got the whole day. He’ll be down at the soup kitchen, talk here and there with the usual friends he knows, and the man has a routine.

Where someone with less wisdom might say that Doug and others like him is just wasting away his life, and could be a lot more productive, again I might counter that until you live the man’s life, its impossible to know what he is capable of and what is beyond his ability. To judge Doug and tell him to do something productive with his life would be akin to someone who is in the Fortune 500 club looking at you and I and ask why we aren’t doing more.

And what would you respond with to that question? “Mind your own business?” “I’m quite happy with things the way they are thank you very much?” So might Doug. Of course another person might argue that Doug is a financial drain to taxpayers whereas someone with a job who could be looking for a better job, a second job or volunteering their time to give back is at least paying their own way. Yes you’d be right about that.

However, doesn’t it come down to the values we hold as a collective society? If we truly believe that we have an obligation to financially support those who are most vulnerable and unable for a variety of reasons to contribute economically to society, then the Doug’s of our world will always exist. Consider that Doug is not holding his hat on a street corner begging, nor breaking the law to steal food money, nor is he drowning his misery in a back alley with drugs and alcohol keeping our middle class kids awake at 3:00 a.m. with lamentable out-of-key singing. He isn’t peeing in the park, he’s maintaining his hygiene, staying up on the world, has some technological know-how enough to master a cell phone and its apps, and we are part of his social support network.

You see Doug and others like him have a life; it may or may not be one that you or I would find satisfying but then again its his life and he’s living it. Who am I, to take ownership of my thoughts, to judge him and push him to do more with it? What I can do is engage him in conversation and keep him connected socially, make sure he’s aware of the resources available to him and also acknowledge to myself that I have my limitations, and to try to ‘save’ everybody is not only impossible, it’s imposing my value judgement which would be a grievous error.

What Do You Love About You?

What qualities do you admire in yourself? No matter what starts coming to mind, realize there is no one who can hear your most intimate thoughts, so you are quite free to be entirely honest with yourself. So if you think you’ve got beautiful eyes, endless empathy, unbridled enthusiasm, or yes, even a fabulous and sexy body, don’t apologize.

Now some people find it very difficult to find things they love about themselves because they are afraid of being shallow, vain, egotistical or self-centered. However, would you agree that there is something or some things, that are admirable in everyone? Surely if every other person has some good qualities that you can find, then you too must have some qualities that you should be proud of.

Maybe you don’t agree that there are redeeming qualities in absolutely everyone. Many blogs ago I spoke about Hitler himself and challenged readers to find some redeeming qualities in that individual. He was charismatic, a tremendous motivational speaker, had a dynamic personality, mobilized an entire nation, and there are many people today who would aspire to have those qualities for their own. If there’s good in him, why not you?

So what do you admire in yourself? There’s a solid reason for me posing this question to you and it relates to your employment search or your career aspirations. Let’s start with the job seekers. You already know that this period of your life can be one where you are either rejected or accepted when it comes to applications and interviews. Just because you may be rejected for a job doesn’t mean that as a person you are not worthy. It means that the qualities they are seeking, such as education, experience, and aptitude are a better fit with another applicant. Hard not to take it personally, but really from their perspective, it really isn’t all about you whatsoever.

If you feel that you are kind, sensitive, compassionate and an effective listener, then just because a company interviews other candidates doesn’t change those qualities that you yourself possess. You may take these qualities and apply for many jobs in the field of Social Work before someone interviews and hires you – but you still have these qualities whether you get interviews or not. Recognizing this in yourself can help strengthen your shield of self-worth and self-image at a time when you may feel very open and exposed to the judgement of others.

And if you are already employed, looking to advance or solidify your aspiring career, it is vitally important that you acknowledge and review your personal strengths and positive qualities in order to position yourself for the future. This is not an exercise in vanity. This is a process whereby you reinforce your positives, and by keeping these qualities foremost in your conscience reality, you will find you gravitate to opportunities where you can and therefore do, use them more often. Repeated kindness, consistently high self-expectations, striving to maintain exceptional attendance; whatever your great qualities, when you recognize them and acknowledge them often, you’ll show them more often.

And here’s a very key point to remember: Give yourself permission to admit that you really do love certain things about yourself. Maybe nature gave you naturally curly hair and you appreciate that even though you did nothing to obtain it. You can still say, “I love my curls”. And you may have on the other hand worked extremely hard to shed 80 pounds and tone your thighs, lose the stomach and firm up those…well…er…you know. If that was your goal, it’s okay to love those two…er… too.

Beyond the physical, there are the personal qualities we all have; self-motivation, assertiveness, a positive attitude, our priorities, our ability to raise funds for causes, our interpersonal skills, our problem-solving abilities, our vocabulary etc. Be proud of these things!

One of the saddest things I come across in my job occurs most often when I’m counselling female victims of abuse. As part of my assessment in trying to find out where someone is at, I often ask them to tell me one or two things that they like about themselves, and sadly they often initially say, “Nothing”. I cannot even imagine what it must be like to honestly feel there isn’t one single quality or attribute about myself that I wouldn’t be proud of or like. And when there’s nothing to like in yourself, how then it is reasonable to assume someone of any worth could find something in you to like? And so many of these victims feel they are ‘worth less’ and being with someone abusive is all they deserve. They tell me that they can’t believe a kind and loving man would want them because they can’t find worth in themselves.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think you should line your cubicle up with pictures of yourself and make sure there are mirrors all over the office so you can gaze on your loveliness all day long! That’s narcissistic to the extreme.

Some things you can do however is keep notes of appreciation you may get from others, and another is to write down qualities that others say you have in a notebook or in an electronic file on your computer. Take a private look at it from time-to-time and remind yourself of the things others admire in you. What comes up most often? What would you agree with and what surprises you?

Creating A Personal Working Philosophy

Let’s suppose you are considering employment with some company or organization. One piece of advice you will get from most Employment Coaches or Counsellors is to do some research and find out what the company’s mission, values and beliefs are. The idea being of course that if you learn about these things, you can best judge if you are a good fit with those three things.

Missions, values and beliefs themselves then lead to development of a philosophy; and that philosophy espouses guiding principles, ways of doing things, behaving, thinking, acting and relating to others. So for example is a company values customer satisfaction or quality of products, the way in which they operate, interact with customers, run their operations and treat fellow employees becomes a guiding philosophy. So if and when they consider designing a new product and are determining how to produce it, they may or may not consider for long the impact on the environment, costs to consumers, whether it will generate income as a first priority or improve quality of lives as a first priority.

A philosophy can be a guiding light for all involved when that philosophy is shared, embedded, and experienced each day as a living, breathing entity rather than just a few words on the wall as the employees arrive each morning. In order to be successful, there must be buy-in from all the employees right from the top to the front line. If this is the case, products and services are delivered with a unified delivery system. In other words, the product was designed with quality in mind, created with care and quality components, packaged with care and in quality containers, transported with care and attention and merchandised with care and attention to the consumer. Consistency at all stages.

This same concept of having a guiding philosophy is one that an individual can, and in my opinion should have when it comes to their employment. If you are fortunate enough in the early stages of your working life to have someone introduce this idea of a personal working philosophy, what it can mean for you is increased chances of finding satisfaction in your employment, because it increases the chances of finding a good match between employer and employee.

Of course in the early going when starting your career, most young people are more concerned with just getting some experience, learning the mechanics of how to do things, and trying to be socially accepted and liked by their peers that the idea of formulating some working philosophy is far too abstract and obscure.

So what would it look like in practical terms? Well for starters, it’s important to know what you yourself value. Is money and it’s growth the bottom line even if it exploits people’s gullibility or does providing service that leaves a person leaving completely satisfied take priority over say, exceeding the expected time you would devote to a single customer? If you really truly value providing exceptional personalized service as the be all and end all, there are some companies where you will thrive, and ironically some very profitable companies where you will not be a good fit.

Once you’ve started to think about some of the things you believe in and value, the next thing to do is keep your eyes open. Watch how people are treated – including yourself – when dealing with representatives of a company. While any one person isn’t a good measure of the entire organization, if you are repeatedly treated a certain way when you interact with a company, it’s a good bet that the way you are treated reflects on the overall philosophy of that company and how they want their staff to interact with the public. Could you see yourself acting similarly to how you’ve been treated and thrive in that way?

Now look at the people around you that you admire. Sure when you were a teenager you put rock stars and athletes on your bedroom walls, but look at the people you meet in everyday life. What qualities do they possess? What principles do they live by? What core beliefs do they hold? Think about all these people and extract from them the things that you believe you yourself might be able and desire to work into your own personal working philosophy.

As you start working, watch, listen and talk to your Supervisor. What do they believe? What’s gone into their thought process with respect to how they treat employees and clients or customers? And of course there will be people who rub you the wrong way, treat others in ways you don’t approve of, and hold thoughts that conflict with your own. These people and the philosophy they collectively hold are important for you to learn from as well.

The benefit of a personal working philosophy is that it literally guides you in your daily work. In the beginning, you may have to consciously stop and say to yourself when presented with a choice to make; “what do I believe in and what’s my philosophy?” However like any other skill, the more you use it, the more embedded it becomes, and the more natural you respond. I’d say it becomes second nature, but it literally becomes your nature, it’s how you are known to be by others.

This branding by others is a reflection of how you’ve branded yourself, working each day, and with everyone you meet, by living your personal working philosophy.

Bullying At The Workplace

Do you experience someone else trying to bully you while you go about doing your job? If so, is it something you’ve come to accept or are you doing something to put an end to it? If the bullying comes from the person in charge, is there anything you can actually do other than quit?

There are a number of people I’ve talked to over the years who work in jobs where bullying occurs on a fairly regular basis, and it’s as if the culture in that field, and that organization actually endorse bullying if you were to look at things from the outside. So when someone enters into that culture, it can come as a shock. Perhaps it really comes down to what bullying is defined as, especially if you were to complain and then be told, “Bullying? That’s not bullying, this is how we get things done here. If you aren’t up to it, maybe you aren’t cut out to work here”.

The construction and health care industries are two sectors where I myself hear most people talk of bullying as a routine experience. On construction sites, there is often a lot of loud noises, requiring workers to shout and talk loudly rather than engage in regular speaking voices. Working usually involves heavy machinery, dangerous conditions with steel beams and supplies being transported overhead, open cavities in the earth posing dangerous places to work in, things needing support, pneumatic hammers, drills, saws, welding equipment etc. It all adds up to dangerous working conditions in which new inexperienced workers are curtly told how to move, what to do, barked at if they stray into dangerous areas or behave recklessly.

And younger, fitter workers, who are big on strength and low on job ‘smarts’, are often the grunts performing the heavy lifting. So if an employer runs around barking and shouting work orders and, “get over here now”, or “take this up to Mac on the 7th floor and don’t kill yourself doing it” amount to bullying?

And in an Emergency Department of a hospital, does the behaviour of a senior health care professional come into question when getting annoyed and angry with being handed the wrong equipment by a newbie? If you’re expected, rather than asked to extend your shift by another 5 hours without regard for your plans is that bullying too?

Maybe at your work, it’s a guy who pokes his head into your cubicle and tells rather than asks you to park somewhere else after break because you’re in ‘his’ spot. Even when there are no assigned parking spaces. Or the person who blocks the exit/entry to your office and looms over you so they can talk down to you. What about the boss who rings you and says, “My Office now”, even when it’s routine, but the tone makes it clear you’d best be running not walking.

Bullying is the use of force or coercion to abuse or intimidate others. If you are feeling bullied, it’s pretty hard to function at your best. You might experience growing anxiety as you approach your workplace, your stomach churning as you furtively glance quickly left and right hoping not to catch a glimpse of whoever intimidates you. A good day at work is a day when that person is off ill, working off location, or on vacation. You start planning your own vacation around the times they’ll be at work so you can maximize the time that you don’t see or interact with them. This isn’t healthy behaviour.

So if you are bullied, one thing most organizations hope and expect you to try is to talk directly with the person and communicate just how you are feeling when they treat you a certain way and ask them to stop. Easier said than done sometimes. You might be advised to inform your own Supervisor prior to this so you are supported and they are close at hand if things don’t go well.

Secondly, if things don’t improve or you don’t get a good response, you can ask for someone to mediate a conversation between the two of you. And if you are fortunate to have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) at your workplace, you might take advantage of a chance to bring your concerns there. Maybe a Union Steward is appropriate too depending on whether you are in a union and the situation.

Whatever you decide to do, doing nothing is the worse thing you can do. No one should dread going to work 5 days a week, and that long-term stress of being bullied can and will affect your work performance, and by association your references and a chance at promotions. Quitting or transferring are options to consider, and under certain conditions, might be the healthiest thing to do. It really depends on the job you have, and the likelihood of obtaining employment quickly if you must elsewhere.

Standing up to a bully can be very empowering, but also scary and take great courage. As surprising as it may seem, some bullies don’t know that they are having the effect they are on you because of how they behave, and just having a talk can clear some things up.

All the very best.

Time To Talk About Time

Time; its the same number of seconds, minutes and hours for everyone and each day contains the same finite amount for each of us, excepting leap years and if you live in a zone where clocks are twice annually adjusted. So why is it that some people have all the time in the world, and others never seem to have enough time?

As the quantity of time is a set amount, it would appear that those whom are busiest with many things to do would often be the ones complaining about not having enough of it, and yet this is not the case. There is a very real and true axiom that goes, “if you want something done ask someone busy to do it”.

People who are busy have one exceptionally well-developed skill, and that is the ability to schedule and manage their list of things to do in order that they not be running around but not getting much actually done. They have electronic gadgets in which they enter their appointments, their tasks, projects and any upcoming events that might impede on their ability to accomplish things.

Now contrast that with the person – and maybe you know them intimately – who tends to have a more relaxed schedule, not too much on the go that they can’t handle, and yet when something comes up that they are asked to do, they seldom seem to be able to rise to the challenge. In their home life it might mean that they suddenly have that, “I have no idea what to make for dinner” moment at 4:30 p.m. – but they experience it four times a week. At work, they may be the kind that comes to meetings unprepared because it took a casual, “What time is the meeting today?” comment from a co-worker half an hour before the scheduled get-together.

These are the kind of people who usually don’t put things in their work calendar’s, but jot things down on paper at the meeting and then the next day, neglect to transfer that note into their agenda. Projects they are responsible for may get moved down on their daily to-do list until they have to be done rather than planned in advance with sufficient time to ensure all steps are taken in a ‘timely’ manner.

Now these seemingly unorganized people aren’t bad by nature, and in fact may be some of the most well-meaning people at your workplace. They just have underdeveloped organizational skills that require some constant effort to refine and hone. The question then becomes, as they knowingly have a weakness or deficiency, what are they doing to improve upon it so that as a weakness, it diminishes. Most employers will tolerate a weakness in their employees, but expect those same employees to improve upon those areas if they will mean increased proficiency and productivity.

Now time itself is what people use as an excuse; “I’d love to go to the gym but I don’t have time”, or “The kids are growing so fast, Where did the time go?” Well if your aren’t being living in self-conscious awareness, you too might find that things seemingly happen without your knowledge until you realize some huge gap of time has flown by. But actually, what has happened is that you the person made different decisions about how to spend the time you had, and those decisions have repercussions. Now you’re talking priorities.

At work, your priorities can be simple things like three of your closest co-worker friends going out for lunch and inviting you. There’s a choice to be made between what you want, (the social lunch inclusion), and the need, (getting something accomplished). If you consistently make choices to pass on the friends and get work done, you may find yourself invited less often, but be viewed as dedicated. To it’s extreme, you might even find others questioning your ability to do your work in the time allotted, if they quantity of work, and the time to do it are the same for everyone.

Conversely, if you go out all the time and pull yourself aware from what must be done to indulge your social side, you may find others feel your priorities are wrong, and you won’t be handed important assignments and may be passed over and wonder why.

If you are unemployed and job searching, make efficient use of your time so that at the end of a day, you can feel proud of how you used the time you had to apply for jobs, network, follow-up, phone people, get references, look into training, revise resumes and cover letters etc.

The decisions you make while unemployed can help or hinder you even when you apply for your next job. Suppose you were asked this question: “Tell me about how you’ve been spending your time since you left your last position.” What would you say if you were being entirely honest? If you find yourself making up things to tell the spouse or extended family to put yourself in a better light than your reality, consider choosing better uses of the time you’ve got.

The clock is ticking…

Good Advice: Stay Up On Things

Whether you are fully employed, working part-time, or maybe even entirely out of work altogether and not even needing to look for employment, it’s always a good idea to keep up on what’s going on. Now that could mean anything from local events and activities on your block, through news happening in your town, or it could mean the international stage.

Now staying up on things can be as easy as listening to the news once in the morning and later near the end of the day for the really big world-wide events, and equally as easy locally as reading your local newspaper once a week.

You see what you’re really doing when you spend a little bit of time each day finding out what’s going on around you is staying relevant and informed. That information you get will help you when you are at any kind of event where chit-chat and networking takes place. So many people get terrified and experience anxiety at the prospect of such gatherings because they are primarily worried about what to say or talk about.

Well you’ll find that talking about something other than yourself to get things rolling is a good way to begin. Just saying, “What do you think about the situation in Egypt?” if you started a conversation with someone today, be relevant and current because there’s a protest occurring there and yesterday in the news it was reported that over 630 people have been killed by the military. Only one of two things will happen; either the other person will pick up on your lead and respond, or they will say, “Sorry I’m not up on that – what’s going on?”

If you are employed, and perhaps happily so, you still might want to one day seek a promotion or a lateral move in your organization. If you can form relationships with those at your workplace, it can benefit you when it comes time to make that application because people have some idea of who you are, and you have visibility. One way to do that is to communicate and talk with others, and you can’t just expect to go up and form a nice cosy relationship with the Hiring Manager on the day you hand him your resume if you’ve never met before. That’s too artificial and self-serving and will expose you. Best to nurture a relationship now.

And if you are unemployed? Well the benefits of staying current are even more significant. You should be staying connected with as many people as you can in order to generate leads from as many different people as you can. The first few words out of your mouth shouldn’t always be, “Hi Steve, know of any jobs?” The art of conversation and well-developed interpersonal skills suggests there are some standard rules for that kind of dialogue; you meet, you talk a little and then get down to your point.

Of course there will be some who will argue that they’d rather just have you come out and not waste their time with idle chatter and just tell them what it is you want. There is some truth and value to this point of view. However, it all depends on the person, their time availability, the setting for the meeting, the nature of the work they do, how many others are around etc. Spend too much time dancing around what you really want, and you may find you get interrupted by the other person who says, “Did you want something?”

Selfishly of course, it’s good for your brain matter to learn new things, to decide for yourself what opinion you have of an issue, and to hear conflicting and different points of view. The news is a good source typically of hearing two sides to most issues, and sometimes more still. Letters to the editor in local papers often come down on different sides of local issues, and your left to see the pros and cons for yourself. When you learn that most issues aren’t black and white and that differing views often have merit, you are really using the same skills that you’d use in a job if faced with different choices on how to complete a project.

Did you pick up on that last sentence? The same skill set you would use to receive information, process it in your brain, form an opinion, and then come out with a point of view, is the same skill you will use in the world of work on a daily basis. You may have one idea on what should be the procedure for ordering toner at the office, or who should order it, how often and from what supplier. Somebody else might differ and come up with an entire different way to address the need for toner or not using toner to begin with!

And wouldn’t it be nice to be thought of as someone whose generally up on things and has a broad knowledge of the world? At least if you’re going to have an opinion on something, you’ll have perspective and a basis for your view.