Want To Work But Your Partner Says No?

If you are in a relationship where your partner tells you to stay unemployed you could be in an abusive relationship. This is especially true if you express an interest in working and the conversation is closed. To be in an abusive relationship you don’t have to be at the receiving end of a punch or slap, it could be an issue of control.

There’s some warning signs to look for in the controlling behaviour of others. Could be that your discouraged from seeing your friends; told they aren’t good for you to hang out with, and that the controlling person has your best interests at heart. This tactic is really about isolating you from other people, and when you’re isolated, you become an easier target to control. And as for looking for work, if you are isolated and don’t get to talk to many people, there goes your networking ability. Who’s in a position to help you get a job if they don’t even see you much, let alone know you want to work and could use their help?

Another sign to look out for has to do with finances and who manages the money. Many people who have control issues want to manage all the money. They themselves may use money for socializing, buying drinks for their friends and buying things for themselves, but the money they allow the controlled person to spend is severely limited. So again, with respect to work and wanting the money that comes from a job, the controlling person doesn’t want their partner working because then you might gain some independence.

So when someone is controlling the behaviour of another person, what’s behind it? Well it could be that the person has low self-esteem and actually needs someone else to be dependent on them in order for them to feel important. Being the ‘bread winner’ and bringing home the money is a physical way in which they can be the big provider; aka the caveman who brought home the kill for the day and then had their partner cook it up for them. There’s a mistaken belief sometimes that if one can’t provide for two without the second person working, the first is a failure.

Now most of the time, and I’ve been careful not to attribute gender into this piece until now, the male is the controller and the female is their victim. However, there are situations where a man is the victim of a woman who refuses to let him work, removing from him his sense of masculinity. Before you retort with, “What has masculinity got to do with it?”, the word is one used often by men in this predicament themselves. I will not change what they state as their feelings with something we might otherwise find more politically correct. And with an increase in gay, lesbian, transgendered and queer relationships, it may not be a typical male to female model at all. So the, ‘one person to another person’ analogy is where I’ll keep it. Abuse is abuse, leave the gender out of it for now.

Abusers worry about their partner meeting people, sharing things with those people that they don’t approve of, and want to know all the details about what they talked about. They are worried too that if they aren’t watched, their partner might stash some money away for themselves, or open up a secret bank account. So questions about where the money is at any time are always asked.

Now consider anyone who is unemployed for a moment. Probably not very proud of their unemployment, and may have even retreated somewhat from social gatherings. But get a job; ah get a job and what happens? Their self-esteem is back, they are more confident and only then share they good news. It’s much the same for a victim of abuse who is controlled by another. If they get a job, there’s a little rise in their self-esteem, maybe a crack of a smile more often, and possibly purchases of things just for them like new clothes. And if they break free from the controlling partner, only then do they talk much about being free of the controlling partner and in so doing reclaim some personal dignity.

I’m reminded of a 20 something woman who was very attractive, in good shape, and wanted to work. Her partner, who I never did meet, told her he’d have to approve of where she worked, when she worked, and he’d handle all the money issues for her. Alarm bells couldn’t be ringing any louder for me. She wasn’t ready when we first met to see things objectively, (how could she?) but eventually she saw things for the way they were.

She started with a job in a dollar store, and her partner monitored her from outside the store and every so often came in after she had helped people to ask what they’d been talking about. While he got banned from the store, she had to deal with his anger when she went home. Eventually she left, and when she did, he hurled physical and verbal abuse. BUT SHE WAS FREE.

Does this hit home with you? Describe you or someone you know? My advice which is always related to jobs and careers is to first get yourself in a safe spot. Seek supportive counselling. It’s private and confidential. Your safety has to be first.

Before Starting A New Job

Congratulations! You’ve been hired and you’ve got a few days before you’re due to start your new job. There are a few things you should do between now and then.

For starters, make sure you’ve shared your good news with all the stakeholders you involved right from the beginning. Whether an email sent out to them, a phone call, a personal card or notification on your social media platform, let everybody know the news. After all, whether you told 6 people or 50 people, all those people are under the impression you are still actively looking unless they hear otherwise. Even if you never heard a word from them, it’s a good practice to communicate your success with them.

The people who really need to hear your good news the most are, I would argue, those who agreed to stand up and be a reference for you. If they were contacted by the company, it could well be that part of the decision to offer you a job was based in part on the conversation the interviewer had with these people. Those folks may have had to keep you foremost in their minds as they went about their daily work just on the off-chance that someone called and asked about you. Seems like the very least you should do is thank them personally.

Depending how long you have been out of work, you might find that your wardrobe is dated. You’re going to want to make a good impression on day one, and taking a trip to the store to pick up something you are going to feel confident in on day one could be just the thing. If you’ve been scrimping and saving, this is one thing you can do for yourself that will lift your spirits. If you paid attention to how the people dressed in the company when you had your visit, you’ll have an idea of what to wear. Not sure? Why not call and ask about the expected dress code? And consider a haircut too.

Some organizations are really well-organized and you’ll have people looking for you right from day 1. You may be met in reception, given a tour, have a meeting with your new boss right off the bat and then get introduced to others and given some time to set up in your work area. In some cases, there could be poor communication and planning, and when you arrive, no one seems ready to receive you and make you feel welcomed. Pay attention to how you feel and how you are brought into the organization one way or the other. This could be a great opportunity to improve the experience of new hires.

Planning is important for you as much as it is by the company. You should have planned out how you will get to your workplace, asked where to park your vehicle and if the parking is free or not. The last thing you want to do is have to drive around for 15 minutes once you arrive and then appear to be late walking in the door. And it might not be advisable to park in the area reserved for your boss. If you are reluctant to contact your new boss for this information, call the general number and ask the Receptionist. Getting his or her name will also give you someone to say hello to when you arrive on your first morning.

Think ahead about your lunch too. Eat in or eat out on day 1? Good advice is to bring your lunch and plan to eat in the lunch area presumably provided, but if you get a chance to go out with some people, leave the lunch there for the next day and go. Making friends or just being welcomed by a few people and included in their lunch time is a great way to start off. If no offers are made to you regarding lunch plans, you can eat your lunch and maybe use your time to keep your eyes and ears open. Be friendly!

Oddly enough, there is something to look out for on your first day. While no one may know you, you might actually find that it appears someone or a group of people aren’t too happy with your arrival. Why would that be? Could be something like the person they thought would get the job is a friend, relative, neighbour etc., of someone who works there now. Your co-workers might resent not you specifically, but you in general because you got the job they hoped would go to someone else. This isn’t fair to you of course, but it could be you’ll need time to win them over and give you a break. No need to be everyone’s best friend on day 1.

Also on your first day, don’t bring a lot of knickknacks to work. Little figurines, toy cars, desktop golf games etc. might be cute in the store, but find out what is acceptable and what is not before you show up with lots of things you accumulated at your last job. You might find that poster you wanted to hang in your locker or adorn your wall with is not a offends your colleagues.

It feels good to get a job doesn’t it? Part of your identity is coming back, and so is your confidence. Awesome!

Step 1 In Landing That Job: Take Inventory

Taking Inventory
Whether it’s looking for a job because you are out of work, or looking for a promotion, I don’t think you can get better initial advice than to take an inventory and KNOW yourself.

In any interview process where a job is up for competition the overall point of an interview is the employer, (as represented by their interviewer), is getting to know you better so they can ultimately decide if what you have to offer will fulfill their current and/or future needs.

So what is ‘knowing yourself’ all about?

1. Know what is prompting you to consider a position. Are you looking for an increase in your income, a change of scenery, a move to a new community, is it economic necessity or desperation? Have you had your eye on a specific opportunity and it’s finally opened up to external candidates? Are your parents forcing you to get a job or perhaps the spouse is egging you on to get a big promotion so the status you’ll get will also apply to them?

2. Know your strengths. If the things that you do well are strong requirements for the job, you’ll be more confident and able to demonstrate those strengths in an interview. This is turn makes it easier for the interviewer to see you in the role, performing the duties and succeeding.

3. Know your weaknesses. Thinking of the promotion, the new responsibilities beyond those you currently have, or the completely different things you’ll have to do from what you are currently doing, what would you need some time, training, support and guidance to achieve? Even in a case where you believe you could do the job right from day 1, are you really saying that three or four months into the job you’ll be no more efficient than you will be on day 1? That’s what, “I have no weaknesses” would mean and you’re either outright lying or you don’t know the job and yourself all that well and how the two will impact on each other.

4. Know your needs. If you require a certain shift, compensation level, accommodation due to health etc., you should be in clear possession of that data right from the beginning. If you aren’t aware of these, you might end up wasting your time and that of the employer which will only end badly and leave them thinking you’ve wasted their time. That could really mess up future advancement.

5. Know what jobs lead to other jobs. Sometimes you’ll hear of people who apply for a job, get the interview but the job is offered to another candidate. In feedback sessions, the person is often told they need more perspective and experience; so taking a lateral position in another department or under a different Supervisor is required in order to be more diversified. Diversified simply means you’ll bring a wider perspective to the supervisory role you ultimately want. Doing nothing but your current job could mean you’ll be forever passed over and held back.

6. Know what sparks interest. What are you motivated to actually do? Are you the creative sort who likes re-working existing practices and procedures, delving into new and better ways to work? Or conversely, are you the sort who gets a buzz from pleasing others, providing outstanding customer service or inventing things that save people time? What turns you on?

7. Know what you find deadly boring. Knowing what you don’t want to do is often just as important as knowing what you do. Start ruling things out. Can you see your brain cells dying as you perform some manual labour job in a factory setting? Would you hate being in a position where you type letters and take inventory again and again and again? Where some thrive, some die. Good advice for the teenager and even those into their twenties is to try a number of careers and jobs before feeling you have to pick one and that’s it for life. It isn’t; people often change jobs or careers 8 or 9 times in their adult working life.

8. Know your potential. Do you usually sell yourself short or do you even want to live up to your potential? Everybody has potential by the way – everybody. Some have amazing potential to move mountains and change the very fabric of society by developing new energy sources, new communication models, new technologies. Good for them, we need them. But someone with a disability has potential too. Rather than focusing on limitations, what CAN you accomplish? That’s potential. And as for the risk of failing? Who hasn’t at some point or other?

9. Know people. Network and talk to people. Find things in common with them and don’t be afraid to initiate communication. What’s the worst that could really happen? When you know people, and think about this….THEY KNOW YOU. Ahhhhhh….. And when people know you they are in a position to help you with information, tips, leads, references, insider data, and all of this can lead to your success.

10. Know ____________________. There are more than 10 convenient things you should know in order to really say you know yourself. And so, what would you add as number 10 on the ‘Knowing Yourself Inventory’?

All of these things translate into applying for the right job; one that will be a good fit. You’ll do better at interviews too, because you’ll know more about the job and yourself than ever before. That means you answer with stronger answers and more confidence.

Walking My First Picket Line

When I applied for a job as a Social Services Worker with my current employer, I was attracted to the job itself, the nature of the work, and the location. As an Employment Counsellor now, I have always maintained the job is a privilege and one I’ve always tried to do my very best in. I love my job.

What I had no choice in, was my involvement as a member of a union. Oh I understand that I could have opted for a job doing something similar in a company that wasn’t unionized. In short with this employer however, if you want the job, you join the union; mandatory. Okay so for years now I’ve paid some of my salary into the union fund and had no choice about that either. Had I a choice, I’d honestly prefer to not be in a union, and have my annual salary based on performance and merit rather than a negotiated plan that others negotiate on my behalf and those whom are in the union like me. But that’s not the present reality.

So here I am on a Monday afternoon. On Saturday, there was a vote to see if we as a group would accept the offer on the table and return to work, or reject it and stay on strike which went into effect last Thursday. I don’t want to get into sharing what the specifics of the offer are, but there’s a modest increase in wages and benefits over the next three years, and for one specific group of workers in our union, there’s some changes they see as good and bad.

The result of that vote yesterday was 51% in favour of rejecting the offer. 49% of us voted to accept the offer. So by the slimmest of margins, the strike continues.

Today I went to picket not because I support the cause, but for two reasons; the $300 per week for 20 hours of walking a line, and to be seen by my co-workers as having not crossed a line, because apparently there were rumours going around I had. In any strike I’ve heard about from people directly affected, there are rumours aplenty, and because I’d not been there Thursday and Friday, I was apparently a convenient target for a bulls-eye.

As I walked around, I was listening to people either agree with my position who also find the strike unnecessary or people talk about how the it’s necessary to support everyone in our union and not have a small group targeted for different treatment.

One of the people I have great respect for is a co-worker of mine. This person said to me how angry they are, and how it’s affecting them outside of work and right into their personal life. Strikes do that. They can change people’s moods. The people I saw there who were smiling, laughing and appearing to be happy to be there were largely the most vocal of those wanting to reject the offer and strike. Union stewards get extra funds to hold their positions, and so while you may walk beside someone, they might be getting paid to be there while you don’t.

Oddly enough, one such steward paraded around with his megaphone and told all who would listen that the 4 or 5 people he was with drove 3 hours to join us from another municipality where they just returned to work after a 10 month strike. 10 months? No work? And this is supposed to rally support for we who are on the line but 3 days? I hope he keeps telling everyone that I thought. Many on the line who vote to strike probably are looking at a short turnaround, not 10 months. That might bring some reality to our situation.

What bothers me and some I spoke with most, is the loss of control over our own income when we cannot cross a line and work at jobs we love, for employers we respect, supervisors who treat us well, and get paid for doing it. After all, it’s my employers name on the cheque, not the unions. It’s a tough situation to walk a line, look like you are counted as being in favour of the strike, when in fact you aren’t. But you could hardly wear a sign on a picket line that read, “Only here to collect my $300 strike pay. I vote to work.” You wouldn’t be very popular.

I respect people’s rights to walk off a job if they believe they are being mistreated. And union’s have done a great deal of good over the years. So we don’t have child labour or unreasonable working conditions in 2014 North America. But it seems to me that if you don’t think you are being mistreated, and you want to work and you want to serve your clients and get paid to do it, you should equally be allowed to do that too. Unions of course don’t support such thinking, because it would weaken their numbers, and numbers is what it’s all about.

And speaking of numbers, how can a union cry, “Solidarity!” when only 51% vote in favour of rejecting a proposed agreement?

I like my co-workers my boss and my employer. I want to work, I want to provide my clients with support and they aren’t getting this, being caught up in this labour dispute. Hopefully there’s a swift resolution, I just have my doubts. I hope it doesn’t turn ugly.

Hiring Someone With Long-Term Unemployment

Whenever an employer advertises a vacancy and goes through the process of interviewing potential candidates for a job, they are engaging in a process which inherently brings with it an element of risk. Depending on employer needs, the risk they are willing to assume is either low, medium or high.

When the resumes and cover letters start rolling in, it’s either a real person or a computer that initially does the pre-screening. Applicant tracking software (ATS), will do in a fraction of a second what a person would have to do at this initial point; screen those resumes and identify which – on paper – are closest to the stated requirements of the employer. The closer you are to what they want, the more likely you make it into the hands of a person who will then look things over and create a short list of people to be contacted for an interview.

The difficulty in getting to this stage for a person who has been out of work for a long time is substantial, but let’s assume they made it through and have been brought in for a chat. Despite all the frustrations of trying to land an interview, this is where things really heat up for the applicant.

But let’s sit on the other side of the desk for a bit. You and I represent the employer. Out in reception are 3 candidates we’ve got on the slate for today. We’ve got 2 with relevant and recent experience, and we’ve got a candidate with a 6 year gap on their resume from their last job to the present. What they’ve done in the past has warranted them the interview, and their slated to be seen third in the process.

The first two candidates are friendly, smartly dressed and confidently answer posed questions referring to skills, accomplishments and progressively responsible positions they’ve held on their resume. The references they’ve provided are current Supervisors and Managers and a mix of co-workers and in one case, a current client. Deciding between the two may be a challenge, but there’s still another candidate to be seen.

So now walks in our 3rd candidate. This is the person whose been out of work for 6 years. That fact is easy to recall because it’s been written in pen and highlighted with a question mark for scrutiny. “What have you been doing for 6 years?” or “Why did you leave your last employer?” are questions this person is going to be asked on top of the questions asked of the previous two.

The challenge here for the applicant walking in from Reception, is to look equally confident, equally well-dressed in the current style, (not that of 6 years ago), shake hands with confidence, and made good eye contact. The face on this applicant needs to conceal any desperation, the hands need to be steady and relaxed and not betray any abnormal anxiety, the brows and forehead not show unusual strain.

We two interviewers, (for you and I are sitting as interviewers remember), we are challenged to ask the same standard questions of this applicant so the process is identical, but also to explore what’s been going on for six years. There’s any number of reasons this person has a gap, and without asking we’d be left to imagine it being mental illness, a physical problem, raising kids as a single parent etc. None of those imagined scenario’s are good, and that’s the problem. This applicant has to be very convincing, otherwise we’d be safer to choose one of the two previous candidates with more recent experience.

Companies aren’t in the charity business; unless of course they ARE the charity business. All companies need competent employees who will be a good fit. A good fit usually means they’ll bring skills and experience that are relevant, current and in demand. The unknown factor for interviewers is often the person’s personality, aptitude and how likely they will fit in and add to the overall chemistry and atmosphere with the people they’ll be working with. This is one of the most challenging things for the interviewer to contemplate.

The problem with considering a person with chronic unemployment is that there is a concern they may have picked up unwanted behaviours during that 6 year unemployment period. How’s their stamina? How will they hold up over a 7, 8 or 12 hour work shift? Will they react positively to being told what and how to do things? Is their brain as sharp as it needs to be in learning quickly, getting up to speed or do they need longer training which in turn will add costs to the company and drop productivity? Have they kept up with industry trends and technology?

Now of course that chronically unemployed person might just be so grateful for a chance to prove themselves (both to the employer and themselves) that they are an outstanding choice. They may work hard to justify the interviewers faith in selecting them, and the boost in their self-worth cause them to work with intense gratification and appreciation. So hiring this person over the others could be the best choice. Maybe.

People out of work for long periods need a fair chance to sell themselves. They also need to realize that the interview process is about hiring the person who will bring the most value to the company, solve a problem, work honestly without complaint and provide a return on investment.

Tension In The Workplace

We can learn a great deal from each other. And so, I’ve decided to share with you the reader, some of what I’ve been thinking, mulling over and talking about with others as it is now official and the union to which I belong has called a strike; or work stoppage as they phrase it. Maybe there’s something you can take from this post.

To say the least, it’s frustrating when my personal choice is to continue to perform the work I love doing, and was hired to do by my employer. After all, it’s the employer whose issuing my income, my employer who I personally find to be the very best for whom I have ever worked, and my employer who originally hired me and continually provides me with opportunities for growth and development. So when the union I must belong to in order to work for this employer calls a work stoppage, it is stressful and upsetting.

This job I have isn’t a right; it’s a privilege and one that comes with responsibility. It requires compassion, empathy, knowledge and expertise to perform well. My personal belief is that I don’t work for my employer whatsoever, but work for the clients on social assistance with whom I come into contact with. I am employed by my employer to be sure, but I work under a model of what is referred to as Servant Leadership. I see my Supervisor as serving me, her Manager serving her etc. We all have to be given the opportunity to succeed in our roles, and that means being provided with the time to plan, the tools we require, and the space in which to work that will best help clients to reach their own financial independence.

I feel for the client who gets lost in work stoppages. They’re already under stress on a daily basis from things they can’t always control. Be it landlord problems, mental or physical health issues, addictions, unemployment barriers, they really don’t need a breakdown between a union and an employer to further add to their anxiety. These people come to our resource centre because they can get guidance, advice, help and many have no other social supports in place. We’ve got our regulars need computer access because they can’t even get a library card to use computers there, and if they do use them, they have to pay for anything they print. And if they need some job coaching to work through problems, they’d be out of luck.

What I find sad too is the divisiveness that these strikes cause. Like any issue, some people come down on one side and in this case want to walk out, and others fall on the other and want to accept an offer and keep working. While the right to feel one way or the other is generally accepted among most, the right to continue working through a strike is not accepted. It sure would weaken the bargaining power of those outside on a sidewalk if some of their colleagues were inside working and getting paid their regular wages for doing so. So it’s natural that it’s frowned upon. Cross a line (even it were allowed by the employer in which in many cases it is not) and you’ll be marked by many of your co-workers, called names, maybe have your property damaged, be shunned, and that has led some in other situations to take extended time off for mental health reasons or quit.

While our differences are what we often hold as being good in each other, it is those differences that also cause us to shake our heads and wonder why others don’t see things like we do. If we think an offer is good, why can’t everyone see it as being good? If we see an offer as being poor, why can’t everyone see it as being poor? Intimidating others, issuing threats, making disparaging remarks isn’t helpful, but people do it at times. When the stakes are high, people say and do things they’d generally not, usually out of desperation, anger, stress and fear. It’s not something I approve of, but I can understand the expression people make arising from emotions.

I made a decision today that as going into work normally is not an option, I have opted not to stand on a picket line looking like I support a position I don’t. Instead, I’m remaining at home, where I’ll be revising some resumes for other people without receiving or asking for compensation. It’s a sunny day, and I’ll complete them outside where I can actually enjoy the weather but do the work I enjoy doing on my own time.

Factoring in the price of gas, a distance of 105 kilometers to work, and being asked to stand on a line from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. to show solidarity and displeasure isn’t a choice I’m prepared to make this day. While many on the lines will be there in earnest, others will be there because they must have the strike pay that goes with it and are conflicted in their decision to walk the line.

Who wins in a work stoppage? That’s a discussion of great debate. No one I know however, likes the tension of an impending work stoppage. My advice? Stay out of the mud-slinging and pray the whole thing is short-lived and comes to a quick resolution. We all have to work together when it’s over.

Following My Own Advice And Having Fun

Today might be my last day of paid work for awhile. My co-workers and I are part of a union of employees who collectively are in a situation where our bargaining committee has issued a work stoppage that would take effect at 6:00 a.m. tomorrow.

Now I’m not going to get into the issues here and talk about that process because I don’t think that would be wise or profitable for any reader out there. Suffice to say however that the stress of a work stoppage and the loss of income that comes with it are affecting everyone. There’s an edge in the workplace.

Fortunately last night, instead of sitting at home and wondering what might or might not happen and allowing the stress over things I have no control over, I had other plans. In my local town of Lindsay, there’s going to be a production of, “Beauty and the Beast” in the fall of this year. Last night was the night when those who have auditioned last week and passed that stage were invited to get on stage and audition for specific parts.

So upon arriving, I was handed three sheets of paper, each containing an excerpt from the play with three different characters highlighted. If you’ve never gone to a callback before for amateur theatre, this means that you’re being considered for whatever you’ve been handed, and you’ll be on stage speaking the lines highlighted with one or more other people so the Director’s can see how you deliver the lines, the chemistry you create with various people, and the can gauge things like the height of the actors, their stage presence and which roles suit people best.

Do you know the play? If you do, then picture me up for the role of Cogsworth the clock, Lumiere the Candlestick or Maurice, the father of the lead Belle. Do I have a preference? Sure, Cogsworth is a fun role, and I’d like that one. But some people can’t pull off certain roles, while others can adapt and play convincingly a number of roles. So it’s really up to Director’s to assemble people and put them in roles which as an entire cast will work best for the audience.

Interesting how my fate of which role (if any) and whether I’m on strike tomorrow or not are both out of my hands at this point. But I digress.

My point here is that last night was fun. It was a chance to catch up with other actors I only see whenever there’s an amateur production in our town to try out for. And it’s been a couple of years since a show was mounted in Lindsay which called for locals to audition. Some of the people who came out are now in their 20’s, and I first acted with them when they were small children. All of us are older, and we brought back warm memories of plays past.

So from 6:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m., I sat and watched small children do their thing on stage and then from 7:30 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. I was doing my bit. It is fun like I said. There’s no audience out there to wow, and you’re up there on an empty stage with nothing but other hopefuls all holding their various photocopies of script excerpts and reading lines back and forth. Some get right into not only the words, but start to add actions, facial expressions, and movement. Others, well, they just read the lines.

What I really liked about the group who came out last night is that the quality of people from which to choose is strong. That makes the job harder for the two Director’s who have to cast people in various roles, but the final production will be really good because each person can sing, can act, and can dance.

While there, I did think of the looming strike from time to time when people asked, “How are things?” I think that’s normal to be thinking of it. However, it was equally nice to then just get caught up in doing something fun and enjoyable, laugh and hug a few women I haven’t seen for years.

I imagine you’ve got some stress of your own. A frustrating job search, a promotion that you got passed over for, a presentation at work that didn’t go over well or is coming up far too quickly. That’s the thing about stress, it’s not only reserved for some. We all get in situations which bring a certain amount of stress with them. It’s about how we deal with that stress that defines us and keeps us healthy or not.

Diversions such as my audition last night, serve to provide balance and an outlet for that anxiety or stress. I know that today at 8:00 a.m. as I complete this blog, I am more relaxed than I was yesterday at this time, and yet the threat of a strike is now 22 hours away.

Take a walk, play a game, ride your bike, do some gardening, go see a comedy movie. Do whatever you personally find enjoyable and whatever brings a smile or a laugh to your face. It takes 17 muscles to smile and 46 to frown I’ve heard. So stop working so hard and lighten things up a little. Lightening things up doesn’t mean your problems are not important, it only means you’re dealing with them in a healthy way.

Indisputable Employment Facts (Murphy’s Law Applied)

I dare you. Find one thing on this list that you don’t agree with. Come on, I can take it.

1. The first day you decide to wear that new white shirt or blouse to work, you’ll suddenly realize you brought spaghetti and tomato sauce for lunch. You’ll sit hunched low over the food with your chair back as far as it will go and your legs as far apart as they will go to avoid projectile sauce. All will go well until just after the last slurp, then you close your lunch container and inevitably some red tomato sauce will land right on your shirt.

2. You’re reduced to applying for jobs that you’ll take but aren’t really your first choice. You book yourself a week’s holidays to offset the stress of a job search only to find your dream job posting came out the day you left and closed yesterday.

3. At home you opted for the navy blue slacks, so your choice of underwear wasn’t really a big deal. It was only at 10:15 a.m. when you went to the washroom to freshen up that you realized the creme pants you substituted at the last-minute aren’t concealing even one of the cute little strawberries you’re sporting. No worries; only 6 or so hours to go!

4. Bad hair days are directly proportionate to the days you are in the spotlight. Be it the big presentation, the meeting with a client, your birthday or your day to cover front reception, it will be humid, and your fly-away hair will stand on end like you’re at the science exhibition touching that magnetic ball.

5. Like a child going on a long car ride, you didn’t think you’d need to use the bathroom at all; right up until the speaker said, “Ladies and gentleman thanks for coming out today”… Forget it; there’s no slinking out unnoticed when you opted to sit in the front row.

6. The answer you gave to that last interview question was impressive. You almost wished you could have asked the interview to hold on a moment as you write it down so you can use it in the future. And while you’re thinking this, the next words you hear are, “That’s fine but your answer to the question is…?”

7. Every job interview you think you performed fantastic in will result in no job offer. The interviews in which you think you didn’t perform well in will result in – you guessed it – a job offer. Enough said.

8. Your ability to call up your email quickly is directly related to the time you have available to apply for a job. When the posting was only two days old, you were emailing everyone with no difficulty, but now that the closing date has come and it’s got to be in by 4:00 p.m., you suddenly find your email provider is performing maintenance and apologies for any inconveniences.

9. The long-lasting protection promised on that ad will dwindle in direct proportion to the length of time you are asked to sit in the reception area before being called in to the interview. The more you try to conserve movement and relax, the more your body imagines itself working out in the gym and starts shedding a few pounds in sweat.

10. Traffic will suddenly conspire to prevent you from reaching your destination only on the day you really must be at the other end of the city by 9:00a.m. sharp for that big interview. Despite leaving a half hour early, no amount of planning could have accounted for the person working in traffic light control whose apparently targeted your vehicle to mess with.

11. Your interview questions were well-thought out and planned. They demonstrated your research, an opportunity to be exploited and you as the perfect fit to resolve all those problems they are having. Your such a perfect match for the company, but right now the only thing you’ve got in common with them is that you too have a problem; you can’t recall a single question now that they’ve asked you if you have any. Your memory will suddenly kick into gear right after they walk you out of the interview and back into reception.

12. Your ability to remember things is outstanding. When you got a call earlier today and told the caller that you gladly accepted the job offer they made, it was only 2 hours later you got a call from the employer offering you the job you thought you had accepted earlier in the day. So what job DID you accept earlier and where aren’t you going to be showing up on Monday morning because you don’t know who that caller was?

13. Any vehicle you require to drive to that important interview or meeting will be found with little gas in it. The more teenage drivers you have, the less gas.

14. For your noon interview, the interviewer suggests the two of you head out and chat over lunch. Wanting to impress, you agree and only at the presentation of the bill do you realize your 6-year-old thought it would be funny to substitute monopoly money for the real deal and they don’t take plastic.

15. Finally, the day called for showers and you thought about bringing the umbrella but looked up and saw sunshine so you left it at home. Now you know why those people who give you the weather reports really do have to go to school and learn a thing or two. But don’t worry; your umbrella is home and dry.

Be Honest On The Resume

I was reading last week an article that was providing results from a survey of Canadian employers, and what they looked for on a resume, the formatting choice, the desired length etc. One of the key results was employers overwhelming desire that applicants be honest on their resume and indicate why they left employment positions.

That information struck me in two ways. On the one hand, I could definitely see why an employer would want to know the circumstances under which an applicant for a job they were posting left other employers. There could be patterns of quitting or being fired, or a string of contract jobs, or things beyond the applicants control.

Yet, for the applicant themselves, they may have extenuating circumstances that preceded their decisions to move on. If indeed they were fired from a job, their last job; they might be better off gaining the interview by leaving this out on a resume, and hoping to win the employer over in a face-to-face interview. The resume after all is only designed to get you in the interview chair, but it does become the center attraction in the interview and the point of reference both parties should be referring to.

A long time ago, I can remember the days where each job did have a, “reason for leaving” line by each job. When you left one job for another, as in the case of a promotion, or to re-enter work in your field of academic education, it was never a sore point with applicants. But for the person who was fired or terminated with cause, it was like putting a rope around your own neck and simply asking the interview to please kick out the chair you were offered in the interview upon which to sit.

To be clear here, you could hardly give reasons for leaving some jobs and not others. That would only look like you were covering something up (which you were), or you had terrible attention to detail and were inconsistent. No, the advice you’d likely get would be to leave all the reasons for leaving off your resume.

There’s another kind of applicant that could benefit possibly from giving reasons for departing employers on their resume, or even in the cover letter. This is the applicant who has had numerous jobs, often referred to as the job-hopper. While on the negative side it might look like a person is in front of you who can’t hold a job for very long, it could also be that their plan up to now has been to accumulate varied experiences, and they’ve settled on a long-term career and plan on making just such a commitment to you if hired.

Now is leaving out reasons for leaving any job dishonest? I for one don’t see it that way. In my own cover letter, and those I help others write, I almost always make a statement about WHY I want to work for an employer, and why I’d be a good fit. That, ‘good fit’ usually draws on my past experience, and that experience is specific to me and makes me unique.

Up for discussion are the reasons behind the past decisions I’ve made to leave employment; and it could be that some of those departures were for reasons beyond my control; lay-offs, closures, re-locations, changing requirements of employers etc. So knowing that I haven’t included such information on a resume should have me ready to answer such questions in an interview.

Surprisingly, I often sit down when working 1:1 with a job seeker, and when I ask them why they no longer stayed employed with various employers, and it’s telling to either hear them give a short and confident answer, or look uncomfortable and stumble along in the answer. Can you tell from that observation which jobs they left on good terms and which they left on poor terms? Sure you could; and if you were an employer you could then too.

So right off the bat, make sure you have a good solid answer to the question, “Why did you leave your last job”? heading into an interview. If you left on poor terms, (you were fired), you would really benefit from sitting down with an Employment Counsellor and telling them the complete truth – no omissions. Then together, construct an answer that is truthful, but concludes with a positive; what you learned from the experience, how it was a bad fit right from the start outside your traditional field of work etc.

I once had for example a guy I was working with to prepare for employment. “Why did you leave your last job?”, I asked. “Went to jail.” That was his entire answer. In that instance, we looked at what he’d done, why he’d done it, the circumstances surrounding the situation he was in, and the likelihood of repeat offending. Then we ended up with an answer that was truthful, but instead of a 3 word blunt statement with nothing positive, he gave an answer that was honest but ended on a positive and repaired damage from the initial statement. He was also given multiple options for answering the question; it being his decision on how to answer based on the interviewer.

Sure, be honest on your resume; especially if you have, ‘honest’ as one of your strengths on it! But understand that you have control over what you share and don’t on the resume, and what you leave out doesn’t make you dishonest.

If My Next Boss Was In My Room At 2:17 a.m.

2:17 a.m. That’s what the clock displayed when I looked over at it this morning. My head was throbbing from a headache that must have arrived with a change in the atmospheric pressure sometime between 10:20 p.m. the night before and the 4 hour interval.

I was also aware that it was incredibly hot in bed, and so I got up to open a window and let in some cool air. Then for some inexplicable reason, I also felt like – and there’s no nice way to say this – throw up. So I tried unsuccessfully. Back in bed after taking some headache medication, it was a fitful 45 minutes and I was up again trying to once again throw up. Again, unsuccessful.

And what was going through my mind at 3:00 a.m.? Well conflicting emotions honestly. Today is my birthday and I’m happy about that; I’m always happy about my birthday. On the downside, there could be the possibility of the union I’m part of calling a strike today which would start on Monday. And for a couple of moments I wondered what it might look like calling in sick on the day of one’s birthday when a strike might be called too. Especially when I’ve had an Exceptional Attendance award year after year and can’t even remember the last year I took time off for illness.

And just to show I need a life outside of the work I love so much, within a couple of minutes of these thoughts, I imagined some future boss or interviewer sitting quietly in the room being able to see all the thoughts running through my brain. “Will he take a day off or fight it and show up for work?”

It was a fitful, restless 3 hours until finally at 6:00 a.m. I got up. The headache was gone, and looking briefly outside I could see the rain had come, the pressure had broken and the stomach was settled. What was with that anyhow?

After a shower, (showers always help me – it’s like any negativity gets washed down the drain with the water) I was shaving when I heard for the first time that Mitchell family tradition playing on the stereo. “Birthday” by the Beatles was playing loud and clear and surprise, surprise, my wife was up early making pancakes just for me. Ah to be loved.

But I wonder about that silent future boss or interviewer sitting in my bedroom who I had somehow conjured up in the wee hours of the morn. If I was ever in an interview and the interviewer asked me to share an example of my dependability, would this be an example? “Sure thing”, I’d start off, “Remember that June 13th morning back in 2014? You know, you were there. I spend most of the night awake, headache, felt ill, concerned about a strike at work, how it might look if I stayed home and would I really be believed or not, but then I got my act together and there really was no question about my going in to work. Remember?”

I don’t know if I could ever really pull off that answer. I mean, sitting with an interviewer I’m meeting for the first time, they might just think it extraordinarily creepy that I lay prone in bed thinking of future interviewers sitting watching me as I sleep. More than likely the next thing out of their mouth would be, “Well thanks for coming in Kelly. We’ll be in touch.”

So how do I feel now sitting here at 7:50 a.m.? Great. Really good. It was a nice drive into work and I brought along a favourite CD I mine to listen to on the way forgoing much of the news that normally accompanies me on my drive. And when I first got to work, I noticed right off the ‘Happy Birthday’ banner over my door, the balloons on my desk and appreciate the efforts of our committee who does these little things.

And then there was a surprise email from someone who remembered my birthday that I’ve known for several years but didn’t expect to even remember. What a nice surprise that was! Thanks Rochelle.

Of course, over than a blog about me and my start to the day on my birthday, I’ve woven a learning opportunity in here for anyone who is currently employed or seeking to be. It’s a good idea to make the effort to pull yourself together and be dependable. Often, like today, you’ll find that getting up, relieving yourself, showering and having a bite is enough to get you going and you’re well on your way. Sure sometimes you’re too ill to go in, I know that too.

Thing is…from an employer’s point of view, there’s work that needs doing and you’re relied on to get in and do it. The more reliable you are, the more people can attest to your dependability. And right here is where it just kicked me between the eyes. I don’t need to tell some future interviewer I imagined her or him sitting at my beside some fitful night in the past – no! I can just provide the name and phone number of my immediate boss of the present, who can and will state how reliable I am.

You see that’s the thing, you’re present job is in some ways, a very long testimony about how you may be right or wrong for a future job!