“You Don’t Know Me At All, So Don’t Tell Me What To Do!”

If you work in the field of Employment Counselling at some point in your career you may have had a client give you some statement similar to the above. The statement, “You don’t know me at all, so don’t tell me what to do!”, usually comes immediately after you’ve made some suggestion or statement that challenges the person to try something they haven’t been doing up to that point; something that is uncomfortable even.

These kinds of statements are usually defensive posturing, said to protect the person from actually having to take action when what would be so much more pleasing is having you just comfort them and agree they are in a tough situation either without making any suggestion to act or suggesting things they themselves don’t mind doing.

But as the saying goes, “if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” Sometimes you do need to be nudged, pushed, prodded, kicked and jarred into action in a direction that is uncomfortable, challenging, and involves a great effort.

As an Employment Counsellor with over about 35 years of work experience in various jobs all of which involved working with people, I’m quite comfortable with saying that I’m at a point where I can read people fairly well. Oh I’m far from perfect – and no one is – in this regard. But I’ve become good at reading body language, interpreting the reason for clothing choices and what they say about why a person dresses the way the do, picking up on whether they are confident, shy, extroverted or introverted in the first 10 seconds of meeting them, and making educated guesses about things like their upbringing, parenting skills – even mental health challenges in many cases.

Do I have some kind of mystical power? No. And neither do all the other folks out there who have a long history of working with certain populations of people. Like anything else, it becomes easier to identify and make accurate guesses about people when you have seen the same issues again and again that appear to be grouped together. So for example, a single mother on social assistance who is living on her own, talks without making eye contact a lot, and is talking about involvement from a child protection agency has quite often received less than great parenting themselves. And many of these women have been victims of abuse by previous partners, the father of their children, sometimes even family members. That’s quite a leap to make maybe in thinking, but you may or may not be surprised to see how often it’s correct.

This is really just doing the following: taking my past history of dealing with many people, and with a new person in front of me, looking for common traits, characteristics and behaviours that fit with patterns of people I’ve met in the past, and then making some assumptions about the person based on those in the past who tend to match the person in the present. These assumptions are like best guesses, and need to be verified, checked into and validated of course to find out if they are accurate or not.

And you do this too by the way. For example you walk down the street and see a large male walking down an alley, it’s late a night, they are wearing a hoodie that covers their face, and they are coming toward you and you’re alone. So do you say, “Hello nice night tonight isn’t it? What brings you out tonight?”, or do you try to remove yourself from the situation by walking into a store where there are other people for safety or perhaps put your finger closely around your pepper spray just in case? Well everything in the news and on television or in the movies probably has you looking for a way to safely get out of the situation and your alertness to potential danger goes way up. Could be he’s just off to night school to become a policeman, but it’s doubtful in your mind.

As anyone who’s an effective listener will tell you, it’s very important to focus on the one person you are interacting with and give them a chance to tell their story – because for them it’s well – THEIR story and unique to them. Even if you’ve heard 50 other people tell a similar story, that person has a story unique to them. By making all kinds of guesses, you may speed things along, and they might consider you some kind of mind reader, but getting to the place where they are open to help may not be possible until they feel you really KNOW them. And you can’t know them in their mind until they’ve told you their situation.

So this becomes a real key to being an effective Employment Counsellor, and I’d wager, an effective Counsellor in general; listen.

When we listen, the other person feels they’ve been heard. And when someone feels they have been heard, they are much more receptive to seriously considering options placed before them by someone they trust has their best interests at heart. This 3rd person clarity allows them to perhaps move forward in ways that are more meaningful to them. It may not be as fast as we’d like for them, but it raises the chances of real success.

Lengthy Unemployment Leads To…

Consider the time when you first needed a job and didn’t have one. Perhaps for illustration sake, we agree this time is when we are in our early to mid twenties, school is over and we start looking for our first full-time job as an adult. Some people are going to get work immediately because they have excellent job searching skills and perhaps know somebody who can get them an interview, which leads to a job offer. Good for them.

There will be too those that get jobs relatively quickly, and some that get job offers after a few months of trying. They will tell you that they were starting to get a little worried because the other people I’ve mentioned got jobs right away and they were starting to feel a little jealous of them and perhaps getting a little discouraged themselves.

Ah but what about the rest of the people who are still looking for work and haven’t received job offers or perhaps even been given interviews yet? These people ARE feeling self-doubt, becoming discouraged and frustrated. They have rent to pay, school loans to repay, socializing needs, food and clothes to buy, and quite frankly might not have been schooled in the art of budgeting.

Instead of being able to focus 100% on a job search, they are forced to give some of their precious attention to their basic needs: sourcing money for food and rent. Without a job to provide the money for these necessities, they undergo an ugly transformation which, rather than all at once, is subtlety changing them in ways they themselves don’t immediately recognize but their friends do.

What their friends and family see is someone quick to become angry, smiling less often, stress lines on their forehead, maybe becoming more reclusive and less eager to show up for get-togethers. And this in turns leads to some friendships ending, fewer contacts, and when get-togethers do happen, there is less and less to talk about because much of the conversation is either about the employed persons job and the people there, or the unemployed person’s job search. It becomes obvious to the employed person that they should talk less about their own job because they don’t want to offend, and the unemployed person doesn’t really want to talk about their ongoing failures. So what’s left?

Lengthy unemployment can then lead to social isolation. And if the unemployment drags on, then the skills the person once had which were up-to-date in the past, are now becoming less and less relevant. Any previous job on their resume, such as a summer job, or part-time employment during school, is also further in the past. Those references they had may be less willing to lend their support, and the weight of their endorsements therefore less valuable.

With increasing isolation, stress of unemployment, few positive results to show for the effort being put forth in a job search, other issues crop up. With dwindling funds, the cell phone minutes can’t be purchased, and now a way for potential employers to contact you is lost. Landlords like money and don’t appreciate tenants that can’t pay their bills and fall behind. So that apartment you are comfortable in; the one place you can relax – well you’re threatened or faced with eviction for non-payment of rent. Well this certainly is a depressing situation isn’t it?

Depressing? Absolutely. You’ve identified the big danger that all this spirals into:. Depression. Wouldn’t you rather read a blog about puppies, sunshine and fairy dust? You the reader can of course: just stop reading on and go look for another blog. But for the person dealing with depression, it’s very real, it’s very present, and it’s not as easy to overcome.

This period of depression also means that at some point the whole job search thing has gone from being done 100% of the time to not at all. Some people with full-blown depression can’t even force themselves to get up out of bed, or if they do, it’s only to move to the couch where they close their eyes. Not very realistic to expect this person to pull themselves together and start intensively looking for work.

For those with chronic long-term unemployment there are supports which can be accessed and while they differ from area to area, they include mental health counselling, employment counselling, medical intervention, psychiatric treatment, social assistance for rent and food, food banks, support groups etc.

It may be that those services described above are not even on the radar screen of someone who needs them most. After all, we don’t typically get told about where all these services are in our community until we need them. And if you’ve never used such help, you might see asking for help as further proof of your failure.

My advice reader, is to look at asking for help not as a weakness but as a sign of strength. There’s some part of you inside that wants – AND DESERVES – to have a job if you want it, to use your skills, be appreciated, be valued, be loved and be connected to others. Asking for help and motivating yourself to go to an appointment, see a doctor or attend a support group is one of the first few steps to regaining your self-esteem, liking yourself again, and feeling good about yourself.

And if employment seems too much to handle, think about volunteer work for now. You’re contributions will be appreciated and so will you!

R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Find Out What It Means

Okay so how many of you read the title of the blog and how many of you sang the title of the blog in Aretha Franklin style? If you did sing it, I bet you added the words, “to me” at the end of it. Notice however that I stopped short of adding those two words. Why? Well because it’s not important you find out what respect means to me, but rather you find out what it means for yourself.

Is respect something that is automatically given or is it something earned? Is it initially given until lost? You may find that your answer to these questions puts you in agreement or conflict when you interact with other people who either hold your view or take a differing perspective.

Respect is an acknowledgement of what is rather than what could be, and an acceptance of that. So you may well disagree with someone else’s point of view, but you can still respect the person. You can appreciate for example how they conduct themselves, how they argue their point with passion and conviction, but ultimately you don’t have to agree with them in order to respect them. One of the most common examples of this in action would be hearing politicians debate issues in parliament. Well, sometimes there’s not a lot of respect shown for each other come to think of it!

Respect is also something you can have for other people, rules, things, property and most importantly yourself. As for property, you may for example be taking a walk around the neighbourhood and notice that the sidewalk goes along the front of a home then makes a 90 degree turn and runs down the other side of the home. Do you follow the sidewalk or cut across the lawn of the homeowner because it’s the shortest route? If you do, you’re not respecting the property of the people who live there as you wear down a path which may cause them to erect a fence to discourage people from following your lead.

In a game, there are rules established so all the players know in advance the conditions they will play under. Break those rules, and you may be penalized in some fashion. This is true too if you have a dress code at work and don’t follow it. You might find yourself being told to leave and return when your clothing adheres to the rules.

But of all the things you can respect in your lifetime, the single most thing you should have respect for is yourself. And so it is unfortunate when someone presents with such low self-esteem that they have no self-respect. I’ve run across people like this; people who don’t see themselves as people of value. And without seeing themselves as a person of value, they consciously allow themselves to be used by others in ways that only reinforces in their own mind that they aren’t worth much.

Such lack of respect for themselves can be very self-destructive, and what’s equally worse is their own aspirations and confidence are low. When they engage in activities where success isn’t guaranteed, they assume from the start that they will fail; fail because it is after all – them. And they feel they don’t deserve to succeed. What a very sad sense of self-perception and lack of self-respect.

Am I describing you or someone you know or work with? If I am, you know how difficult it is to bring about change and learn to respect yourself. It isn’t as easy as just waking up one day and saying to yourself, “I guess I’ll respect myself today.” If this has been ingrained in the person over years, it takes some time to learn how to respect oneself, and to believe that you are really worthy.

So how to start? Start small. Little things for some are huge for others. Think about personal grooming you do daily. When you wake up do you shower or clean yourself? Brushing your teeth and hair, washing your face, putting on clean clothes; these are things that show you have respect for your appearance, even when you aren’t going out and don’t anticipate seeing anyone or having anyone see you. This isn’t about being pretty or handsome, good-looking etc., this is about personal hygiene and in the case of your teeth, it also preserves your oral health.

In the workplace, you often have to have respect for people in other roles, such as your boss. By acknowledging their role as your supervisor, you demonstrate respect for them when you hand in reports requested and in the timeframe given you, or by taking their direction and carrying out assigned tasks. If you are chronically late, take extended breaks, leave early without permission and spend your time doing personal things on the computer, you don’t demonstrate respect for company property and for the job you have. Eventually, this lack of respect could cost you your job.

You are a person of worth and a person to be valued. Whether you have to earn respect from others or find they respect you right from the beginning, I hope more than anything you come to respect yourself. And respect yourself not for what you accomplish necessarily, but just for being you. Yep, R.E.S.P.E.C.T. find out what it means…

Stuff You DO Control In A Job Interview

Feel anxiety and nervousness heading just thinking about going to a job interview? Much of that anxiety is really centered around the stress of willfully putting yourself in the situation of being questioned, evaluated and judged. I mean how often do people voluntarily expose themselves to being grilled by a stranger and then look to the person questioning them for some kind of approval?

If you see interviews like this, its little wonder you probably don’t enjoy the interview process. And what’s more, you might feel like you have to come up with potential answers to hundreds of questions, not knowing which 6 – 10 you might get asked in any single interview. Well it doesn’t have to be this way.

I’m going to try to convince you that you’ve got more power and control than you think you may have in the interview process, and if I manage to convince you of this, you might find that your next interview becomes a positive experience.

So here’s things you control in the interview:

Time of the interview: Some people like to go early in the day or early in the interview process. Others like to have afternoon interviews or be the last one interviewed. When offered a time and date, you could request a time to your liking if at all possible.

Length of the interview: Your answers may be extremely long or short; have detailed examples proving your skills or not. How you respond to those questions will impact on the overall length of the interview.

Appearance: Everything from your choice of clothes to your personal grooming is up to you. Skirt and blouse or dress with heels? Shirt and tie, or khaki’s and unbuttoned collar? Polished leather shoes or suede?

Salary: Not always, but yes sometimes you can negotiate salary. Demonstrate you’ve got what they need and can add value to their organization or solve a problem, and your value rises. Blend in with every other candidate and your value diminishes.

Attitude: Whether you come across as brooding, enthusiastic, passionate or sullen, its up to you. How do you want to brand yourself? Aggressive or assertive? A team player focused on exceptional customer service, or driven to reach sales targets and deadlines at all costs? Positive and optimistic or negative and pessimistic?

Punctuality: Will you be on time, run late, get there 15 minutes ahead of time, or arrive 3 hours late because you wrote down the wrong time? And what will the time you arrive say about your reliability, your dependability and your ability to take ownership of your own situation?

Research: Couldn’t be bothered taking 10 minutes out of your busy life to even visit the company website before you walked in the door or did you do a little research about the company, it’s values, mission statements and challenges? The effort you put in here may be indicative of how much effort you’ll put out in the future if hired.

Answers: Your answers will either demonstrate you’re using a recognized interview answer format or you’re winging it from answer to answer. Your answers will also demonstrate your skills, experience knowledge and education or betray your lack of these. Will you give strong examples that PROVE you have the skills you say you do, or will you talk in vague generalities that talk more about what you might do rather than what you’ve actually done?

Language: The words you use will show your education and your weak or strong vocabulary. Are you using the kind of words the company uses and those in the field you want to work in currently use? Do you overuse words like, “awesome”, “like”, “for sure”, “totally” and frequent “um’s” and “ah’s”? Do you overuse phrases that get annoying like, “I’m glad you asked that question…” after each question?

Questions: Most interviewers provide a small window of time for you to ask anything you’d like. So will you have some intelligent questions that demonstrate you’ve done your homework and really want this job, or will you choose questions that are fully answered on the website or worse yet, questions that were addressed earlier in the interview? Maybe you’ll choose to ask none at all? What questions would this raise about you?

Posture: Whether you choose to sit slightly forward in your seat, slouch, fold your arms, cross your legs or plant them both firmly spread on the floor, your posture will communicate through your body language a message. What do you want to communicate without words that will support your and back up your words?

Facial expressions: Smile or not? Good eye contact or evasiveness? Your face could communicate anything from anxiety, stress and strain to happiness, comfort and confidence. Do questions you don’t expect cause you to look puzzled, annoyed, thoughtful or reflective?

Handshake: Do you or don’t you first of all? And if you do, is it a firm, weak, sweaty or confident hand that you extend? If a hand is extended to you to shake and you refuse; even explaining your health concerns or phobia’s, what could that potentially do?

You control a great deal in the interview process. This is only a small list of things. What others might you add that would help someone gain confidence as they prepare for upcoming interviews? The more in your control, the more you might see the interview as a power sharing experience.

Unemployment Can Be Exhausting

Some people who are unemployed become mentally exhausted, while others are physically exhausted. Then there’s those who are both; it wears on the body and the brain.

Now you might see someone in this situation and wonder at it. After all, if a person is tired, they aren’t working so they could just recline and have a nap, wake up refreshed and carry on. It isn’t so simple when they wake up however and within seconds find themselves jolted with the awareness that they have no job and have to look for one and the anxiety they may have escaped while sleeping is ever-present yet again.

Look at the face of a person who has been unemployed for a period of time during which they’ve been really trying hard. You may see stress lines on their forehead, furrowed eyebrows, less smiling than you remember. All of these are the body’s way of coping with stress. And there’s more of course; the person may eat less or more, causing abnormal weight loss or gain, and then there’s something else to worry about, the person’s self-image.

When you look in the mirror as a person with a job, you may see a successful person, a provider. Be chronically unemployed and you see the opposite perhaps; someone who is unsuccessful and dependent. Most of us have no desire to be or remain dependent on others, and so this period of life if it’s happening to us can cause us to be constantly agitated, out-of-sorts, irritable, and while we are aware it’s happening, the reason isn’t always evident.

The idea of catching up on needed sleep is a good one, and it would work too; if it wasn’t for the fact that as the body settles down and fewer distractions are present (like street or television noise), our thoughts seem to become magnified and focused on whatever is on our minds which, in this case, is our lack of a job. And so the result is tossing and turning, spending long periods of trying to enter that elusive period of REM sleep where our bodies do most of the healing and our brains really do turn off for a while.

And for many, the little things in our personal lives that bring us comfort and satisfaction; reading a book, gardening, listening to music – those things just don’t bring us as much joy because we experience is off-set by the guilt we might feel because we should be doing something.

It’s like we know we have a problem which is our unemployment, and we know we should be actively doing something about it because it’s not going to fix itself without our effort. And yet, when we take some valuable time to do something personally satisfying we can’t enjoy it as much because of this feeling we should be doing something to address the big problem which is the lack of a job. If we could see that in fact we are doing something to address the problem in having a little ‘me’ time to recharge our spirit, we might do better, but the brain is a hard thing to dupe.

And if you are unemployed, you know it gets harder to find moments to really enjoy yourself without guilt. No matter what you are doing, your brain seems to scream, “Stop this and get a job!” That pressure is coming from within more than it’s coming from those around us most of the time. While our parents, spouses, friends, social workers etc., want us to get a job, the pressure we put on ourselves is greater.

It is more than just good advice to take some time and do the things you find enjoyable with as little guilt as you can, in fact it’s critically important. Whether you are working or unemployed, balancing your life with things you take pleasure in gives you energy reserves, let’s you focus back on tasks with more enthusiasm, and you may find you’re more productive than you would be otherwise going at something – in this case getting a job – with no diversion.

So go for walk or bicycle ride. Call up some friends and get together to play some beach volleyball, pick up soccer game, or maybe ask them to go fishing. There are all kinds of things you can do to stay connected to others and still keep your expenses down. I hope you are wise enough to know that to justify recreational activities you have to do them with moderation. I’m not advocating someone spend 2 hours a week on a job search and the balance of the time doing whatever they want because it’s important to indulge yourself with doing things you love.

Oh and one final thought here is to get in and see your doctor whether you have any obvious signs of illness or not. Far from clogging up the health care system, you should get in so you get the old once over. If you get a clean bill of health, you’ll feel better instantly, and if things should change down the road you have a point in time to look at what’s changed. If there are any issues with your physical or mental health, this is the time to have someone qualified look at things.

All the very best in your job searching efforts. Stay healthy!

If The Truth Would Help, Do You Want To Hear It?

“Be honest with me; really, I want to know what you think. I can handle it.”

“Okay, here goes. To be honest, you’re ……… and because of that you come across as ………. and it’s keeping you from getting ahead because you’re turning people off”

“What? What makes you think you’ve got all the answers? Who died and made you God? Maybe you should think about what you tell other people and think of their feelings!”


This kind of conversation is one you might recognize because maybe you’ve been one of the two people in the exchange. As an Employment Counsellor, I’ve had a huge number of people ask me for honest feedback because they have come to respect my opinion, and because having got to know me, they’ve come to know that I’ll tell it like it is.

Seeking out feedback from people who are recognized as being knowledgeable in the area you need help in is a sign of wisdom in yourself. After all, no one knows everything there is to know about every topic. In my case, there are many subjects I know very little about; car repairs being one of them. So when there’s an issue with the car, I do what I think is smart and put it in the hands of someone I trust who is qualified to diagnose the problem and fix it.

So if the area you need help in is going from unemployed to employed, it likewise makes sense to seek out the help of someone qualified in that field, and you are wise to do this. So why then is it that many don’t? I think it’s because lifting up the hood on a car is intimidating. It’s not a simple matter of zeroing in on a problem and fixing it, and I know this because I’ve given the engine a look every now and then just to go through the motions of looking like I know what I’m doing. I keep looking for a flashing arrow that says, “The problem is here! Replace the fan belt and get the specs from your driver’s handbook that came with the car when you bought it!”

But looking for a job seems like something anyone should be able to do with very little skill or effort, so many people start by making up a resume and away they go. (Making up a resume isn’t even the first step to getting a job by the way.) They put so much effort and time into doing the best job they can, and they feel pretty good about it when done usually too. And we should all applaud the effort that went into doing the best job they could.

Then many people do something else that’s a good decision; they ask someone to look at it and give them feedback. That too should be applauded. However, the choice of the person to look it over and critique it is often a bad decision. Moms and dads, best friends and relatives aren’t the best people to give you the best feedback on a resume or your job search process anymore than these people are the right for me to ask about some funny noise my car is making. Unless they are Employment Counsellors, job search experts or car mechanics, there are other people better suited to help.

Okay so now you track down someone with expertise and experience and ask them for honest feedback. (Better decision by the way so good for you!) The best thing you can do next is take a deep breath, prepare yourself to hear things you might not expect, and know that after the person is done giving you feedback, your job search process and the resume you send out will be so much better, as will my car’s performance.

Resist the urge to get defensive. Now the person giving you advice is only one person after all, and they are giving you their professional opinion which if acted upon, they believe will result in a more successful job search taking less of your time to get hired and begin working. And that’s your goal isn’t it? Right.

When you are getting feedback, have a pen and paper and take down notes and suggestions. You’re never going to remember all the little bits of advice you’ll be given. If it’s a resume critique, let them mark up your copy. If it’s a complete re-write, give them an electronic copy perhaps to completely overhaul. My advice to ask the person why they recommend what they do as they go, so that you can decide for yourself if you wish to include their changes, and in the future, you’ll be able to incorporate their ideas better if you understand the logic behind their recommendations. The worst thing to do is have someone make your resume for example look awesome for a specific job, then have no idea of how to change it yourself in the future because you still don’t get the process.

Telling someone their resume is terrible or how they are going about looking for work is very ineffective and not likely to succeed can still be delivered with respect for the person receiving the news. Even humour can make the process easier to take in. In the end, you want results; resumes that lead to interviews, and interviews that lead to job offers.

Giving Exceptional Retail Customer Service

So many jobs require customer service skills when you look at job postings and job descriptions. So what’s is customer service anyway, and how do you define the difference between a good customer service experience and an exceptional customer service experience?

First I want to point out a danger that comes in overuse of the words, ‘customer service’ on postings. The simple truth is that seeing it so often repeated, many job seekers almost become numb to the words; not pausing to consider what THIS employer means by the term. You can usually find this information on the company’s website or in any literature they distribute to attract the right people to their staff, and customers to their products and services.

Customer service is about serving others – in this case, the customers of an organization. The most common image that comes to mind for many is a person working in a retail location. Customers come in a store, are greeted (or not) by an employee, are assisted to locate their items of choice (or not) and a sale is concluded (or not).

So let’s run with the retail example just a little. In a small store with only 1 or 2 employees, good customer service involves acknowledging people as they enter the store, asking if they need help, keeping an eye on them should they initially decline help but change their mind, answering their questions and concluding a transaction.

But exceptional customer service is much more. Those that provide exceptional customer service go well beyond the basics and they do it consistently. They read people’s body language; are they in a hurry, just putting in time, keep returning to a certain item on a shelf, look like they’d like to examine something out of reach, or see if their first reaction on picking up an item is to examine the price tag.

Exceptional customer service is also about engaging customers in conversation to the extent that it is welcomed, (again reading people’s reaction is critical). Volunteering information about an item that a customer wouldn’t even know to ask about can demonstrate your superior knowledge of a product, and gives customers additional data they can then use to justify the purchase of a product that they may have otherwise passed over. So for example, in selling a slightly more expensive shoe, the customer may be told about the superior construction, how it will hold up under daily wear better because of the materials used, and its waterproof quality makes it an all-weather choice instead of needing two pairs of something else. Now the customer may or may not opt for the purchase, but they can and often do make the purchase which they would not have otherwise because they could not recognize the additional benefits.

When was the last time a clerk in a store ever called you up to ask you if you were completely satisfied with your purchase, and then made a recommendation for a supplementary purchase? Take a bookstore where you buy a book based on a recommendation from a salesperson in the store. Knowing the genre the book falls into, such as mystery, fantasy or adventure, you might like other books with similar themes, writing styles; especially if its a book which is part of a series. Wouldn’t it be a great idea if they kept your name and number and called you when the next book was due to come out? That would save you from coming in and being disappointed, and they’d benefit because you’d probably buy it off them instead of the competition.

Big box stores have the difficulty of repeating the small store experience. They may or may not greet you at the door, but shoppers are often lost once past the entry by the sales staff. After all, it’s hard to know just which customers have been ignored completely and which ones have been overly greeted and asked if they want help. One common complaint is that there isn’t enough sales people around in big stores, and when you do find one, they often aren’t in the department you need help in. Poor customer service planning by management who has to justify salaries and hiring needs. Problem is, shoppers often don’t look for help for more than 20 seconds, and then they shrug their shoulders, get exasperated and walk away.

Keys to exceptional customer service? Smile, be welcoming and friendly. Thank people for coming in and for their business. Invite customers to return and make them feel that both they and their business is appreciated. Be helpful and offer your expertise and assistance. Rather than being aggressive, be attentive. Look at the flow of the store and walk it like a customer would. Acknowledge customers as they enter, even if you are busy with someone else. If you haven’t got an item, offer to order it in if you can, and let them know you’ll contact them the moment it arrives and provide an estimated date of delivery.

And if you mess up, admit it. Listen to people so you get a good understanding of what they want. Give your customers selection, sell the benefits and value of owning something, and if you don’t know that, find out BEFORE customers arrive. The features of a product and the benefits of ownership are two different things.

Exceptional customer service is lacking and there will always be jobs for those who master it’s delivery.

The Quiet Person Looking For Work

So many people dispensing advice – and I’m among them – suggest that job seekers develop their interpersonal skills, network more, talk with everybody they know; all in an attempt to increase the probability of increasing our likelihood of getting a job. But what about those people who are quiet by nature and also out of work or perhaps looking to change jobs?

Being a person who speaks softly, speaks seldom, or works for long periods without saying a great deal is not only okay, but in some workplaces highly desirable. Ever heard a boss say something like, “Hey Mack, I’m not paying you to talk all day; get to work!”? I imagine you’ve heard that line in movies from the past, and if not, I bet you know a boss who’d love to say this to someone at your workplace.

Quiet people generally focus on their jobs without having a personal need to chit-chat during the day. They have brains that like the rest of us work just fine, and they ponder many of the same thoughts, have the same aspirations and hopes, but in their observable behaviour they are essentially quieter than most others around them. Is that a bad thing? It’s no more a bad thing than it is a good thing really. It all depends on the job or career a person is either in or seeking in order for this question to be answered.

Picture in your own mind jobs that would be a poor or good fit for a quieter person. How about an announcer at a sporting event? A politician? A researcher? Maybe a horse breeder? Some jobs like a politician may on the surface be a poor choice for someone who tends to minimize their words. Ah, but then again, some party leaders are often trying to keep their own political party members quiet aren’t they? Especially when a few go around shooting off their mouths and embarrass the party leaders? So there are times when saying little is preferred.

My point is that quiet people are no different from loud people; outgoing, bold, friendly, ambitious, inquisitive or reserved people. Everybody is better suited to some jobs vs. others, and the key to being ultimately successful and happy is to find a job that is a good fit for one’s personality. So of course skills, experience and education have a lot to do with being qualified to perform work, but it’s a big mistake to overlook personal attributes, personality, disposition and demeanor.

What is unfortunate however is that some quiet or shy people will sometimes get quite mad at themselves because they often want a certain job quite badly, but lack the ability to stand up and compete for it because the actual process of applying and interviewing is intimidating and outside their comfort level. “Why can’t I just be a little more confident?” you might hear them ask themselves, but you likely won’t because those words are usually spoken internally, and may never leave their lips.

So why not then take some kind of public speaking class? Well for starters, this kind of suggestion comes out of a belief that being quiet or shy is somehow a defect; and it isn’t. Being quiet is just, well, quiet. Neither good nor inherently bad, just a personality trait on its own. Would it make any more sense to suggest someone who is a frequent talker go and take a class designed to get them to talk less? Not likely.

The beautiful thing about being human is our diversity. In workplaces we have people who share skills and qualifications, but every one of us is uniquely different as a person. Where we’ve come from, how we were raised, out past education, jobs, friends, environment, learning styles, personal interests – all different. And I believe we are richer as a whole for this diversity.

So it’s interesting to me how much we spend time trying to convert others to be more like ourselves and our image of how others should be, instead of accepting them for what they are. You’ve seen those shows where a woman says to a guy, “You’re perfect, don’t ever change.” But not long into a relationship, the small things that went unnoticed start to come out and she tries to change him by either telling him directly, or being more subtle about it. And it works the other way round too. You’re quiet? Okay. That’s fine. Really.

And there is a myth that quiet people are somehow more intelligent than others, and while it could be true in some situations, it often is no more true than any other belief. However, a quiet person who seldom adds to a discussion will often command immediate silence from others when they DO have something to contribute. This actually is a powerful ability and one frequent talkers admire; silencing an entire gathering simply by saying, “Can I say something?”

Quiet by nature? There are jobs better suited for you than others. Do your homework. What would make you happiest and be a good fit for your skills, education and disposition? Like any other job seeker, it is advisable to talk to people and let them know what you are after so you get leads and information. Do your research.

Job searching is really no different; find your good fit and GO FOR IT!

Older Workers: Your Advice Would Be What?

You’ve seen I suppose those great movies where somebody needs great advice and wisdom in order to achieve something important? You know, there’s usually some big trip involved, (sometimes referred to as a quest) and eventually the audience gets their first glimpse of the person with all that wisdom. And who does it usually turn out to be? Some old dude.

It makes sense after all, because the older one is, the more likely they’ve got some insight into how to handle a problem because they have been around long enough to have gone through it themselves, or know others who have. And so, they are sought out for advice by those who have yet to experience the solution, who are currently going through the problem.

Luckily, there aren’t many problems that require you or I to travel around the world scaling mountains, traversing seas or even having to leave our towns and cities. No, there are people you probably know with a great deal of wisdom in your own neighbourhood, and in fact, you can now reach a large number of those people from the relative comfort of your own home where you can seek them out on-line.

In the movies or the story books, after the heroine or hero had gone immense distances and survived all kinds of obstacles to reach the wise one, they often never got a straight answer, but some cryptic message they had to then decipher for themselves. Yes, it made for great stories and movies when the lead character or protagonist had to then use their own wisdom to figure things out on their own with the new advice.

In our current day though, the wisdom is usually passed along in this cryptic way. And just as some cultures revere their elders and consult them for advice, I want to give the more mature and older workers out there the opportunity to pass on their wisdom. The key difference is that there is no single person sitting or standing before you who has come with a specific problem to present. No, this is a different situation and requires you to use your imagination to view a different scenario. This would be more like tens of thousands of people gathered in one spot to hear whatever wisdom you think worthy of passing on. It’s more like, “What’s on your mind old one?”

So let’s see if this goes anywhere. My challenge or request to you is to add a comment and reply passing on you own advice to those younger than you with the only limitation that it be related to employment. You can pass on your best advice for getting a job in the first place, keeping the job someone has now, or how to get ahead. Yours can be a philosophy you’ve found works for you, a single line or several paragraphs. Think of this like a, “Best of” collection of thoughts and advice.

So what do you now wish someone had told you or shared with you when you were a younger person with respect to the world of work? What would have made things easier, or maybe making things easier isn’t what’s important at all. Okay, so what would you have appreciated knowing to make your work life more rewarding, more meaningful, or got you where you are now, only faster?

What topic you choose to add to the thread I hope ensues could be about different stages in one’s life too. Are you directing your words to a teenager, someone in their 20’s, their mid-life years or maybe only a few years away from retirement if you yourself are already comfortably in your twilight years? It could be that someone reading this shares this with their own mom or dad who has little to no computer skills, and therefore acts as the recorder, taking their advice and adding it on the elder person’s behalf. That would be a useful exercise on many levels.

Just imagine…a string of thoughts on the web in this thread, stumbled upon by browsers in months and years to come, or shared and passed round by regular readers of this blog, or members of a discussion group. And what if there were already a group out there, or we came to find a plethora of groups out there, where a whole bunch of old dudes hang out who in addition to any words of advice shared here, invite us to sit in their audience there? Wouldn’t that be one of those, “good for you and good for us” moments?

Matured or older workers aren’t automatically smarter or more intelligent. Age alone doesn’t guarantee wisdom. However, older and more mature workers do have a wealth of experiences that when shared can be learned from. By sharing our stories, our experiences and the outcomes, other readers can benefit from seeing what you thought at the time, what went into your decisions of the past and how those decisions affected you in the present day. No matter where you are in your own life, there’s a mixture perhaps of satisfaction, regrets, opportunities seized and lost – passed over altogether or challenges accepted and conquered.

So, now it’s your turn. Add a story that shows something learned or to learn by. Give some advice, do this alone or sit down with someone now you respect and make it an activity between you two. What’s on your mind?

Congratulations On Your New Job!

It’s been a long, frustrating job search for the most part. You’ve spent time applying for jobs, writing cover letters and resumes, sending them off to people who haven’t the courtesy or time to acknowledge they even received them. You’ve spent time dressing up for interviews that didn’t produce job offers, worn smiles that masked anxiety and desperation, and prayed every time your phone rang that it was an employer offering you a job, which it never was; until now.

Congratulations on being offered a job! And as you heard that voice on the other end of the phone line saying, “We’d like to offer you a position”, you felt that wave of relief wash over you, vindicating your efforts to find work, and with those seven words, a sense that life is about to get a little easier, (and hopefully better) dawned on you.

One thing you may do is notify the people who have believed in you the most during this period of unemployment. Quite frankly, you’re going to want to thank them for their help and support, but isn’t there just a little part of you that wants to hear someone tell you how happy they are for you? How you deserve to be working and your hard work has finally paid off? Hear how someone is lucky to have you and how proud they are of you? I know I’d love to hear that if I was out of work.

My suggestion is to phone up or email those folks right away. After all, they probably invested a fair bit of effort in you and your job search too. They need to know that they can stop sourcing out job opportunities for you, and they no longer need to keep their eyes and ears open for possibilities; and more importantly, they can also stop saying, “I know this person who would be great if you are looking for someone.” After all, they’re going to look bad if a potential employer says, “Great. Put her in touch with me”, and then they have to contact them and say, “Sorry, she’s started working for someone else and I didn’t know.”

Before you start the actual job, you’ll have some things to think about and prepare. If you have children, you might have child care to arrange, perhaps clothes to wash or new ones to purchase, and maybe food for lunches to buy. You may also have to make a trip to see the employer to get all signed on before you actually start working. You know, filling out tax forms, getting your ID, signing a contract etc., or this might be done on your actual first day of work.

There’s transportation to plan, perhaps personal equipment or tools to assemble, and sitters for your animals to arrange. In some cases, you’ll be needing to open a bank account and provide documentation of this for the new employer so they can deposit your pay. Oh and on your first day, look extra sharp because you might have your photo taken for that shiny new ID badge I mentioned in the last paragraph. Smile!

And while the stress of unemployment and a job search is moving out, a new source of stress may be starting to take its place; the stress of working again when it’s been awhile; the stress of learning new responsibilities, meeting new people, trying to fit in, wondering if anyone will like you. You may be anxious about things that you’ll find out in due time, like where’s the washroom, where do I put my lunch, who’s my boss and what are they like?

Of course you know in your head you can’t answer half the questions in your head until you actually start work on your first day, but that may not stop the questions from coming and a lack of sleep because you can’t turn off your brain wondering. But it’s a good stress for a change isn’t it? Nervous excitement is building, and it feels good again to think of yourself as, ‘normal’. Whether you are devoutly religious or religious on a casual basis, you might find yourself uttering a short, “Thank You” and sending it skyward.

I can tell you that as an Employment Counsellor, I love hearing when people I’ve been helping get the work they’ve been wanting so bad. Some of them get this silly grin on their faces because they are so happy, and it’s wonderful to see. And honestly, it’s really nice to feel that in some small way, I’ve helped them along. And this good feeling is largely due to the fact that I’m one of the few people who may know exactly how hard they’ve been trying and what employment really means to them.

The next test is for you to get through the first day, understand the job you have been hired to do, meet the other people you’ll be working with, and see your work area. It’s important to make sure you pass the probation period, so your employment becomes stable over the long-term. Be friendly, know that it’s normal to be anxious, nervous and no you won’t be expected to do the job as well as others who have been their for a long time on your first day.

Congratulations. Work responsibly and you’ll do well. You after all, deserve it.