My Superpower? Seeing Inside People

If you asked me what one of my strengths is, perhaps I’d choose to tell you that I see things in other people that they themselves either don’t see at all, or they are surprised because so few people see it. Many others have this skill and ability, and it’s probably why we gravitate to the helping professions; jobs and careers where much of our time is spent helping other people.

If you think I’m boasting, I’m not. What I’m doing is stating an ability that I have, which is one of my strengths. If put to the test or asked for an example, I could do it in a relatively short period of time, even when meeting someone just once and within a few moments. It’s my superpower. You yourself undoubtedly have skills and abilities that have become well-developed in your job over time, so it stands to reason that I’ve developed job-specific skills too, and this is just one of them.

I’ll give you two examples that just happened yesterday. In one situation I was speaking with a group of seven people about a number of options they might want to pursue in order to become financially independent. It was when addressing the topic of self-employment that I looked right at one man and said, “You for example may have not only one idea, but three or four businesses in mind, and your problem is you can’t focus on one and so you’ve never got started. At that point I could have stuck an Italian sausage in his mouth as it opened in wonder that I’d identified his key stumbling block to even getting going. “Wow! How did you know that? It’s been my problem for years but nobody knows that!”

In the second case, a woman in the same group was sitting with her legs entwined like a pretzel, her shoulders hunched, way too much foundation on her 18-year-old face, and her wide eyes and downcast head screamed that she was shy, introverted and probably hiding acne and as a result feeling insecure. In talking with her 1:1 a short time later, I ventured that as a teenager myself, I had once had an acne problem which had affected my self-confidence but over time it disappeared and I gained the confidence to look in the mirror and like what I see. “You and I both know that there’s a beautiful face emerging and that acne is only temporary.” I said. She shifted in an instant to a talkative young woman who had great eye contact and she said, “Really? Do you really believe that? I mean some people say that but then I think they have to. Do you really believe that?” And I do.”

Now sometimes this ‘super power’ is one I keep to myself or reveal gently rather than with fanfare. There are times I’ll look at a person and tell them that I suspect they’ve been told over a number of years by someone who should have treated them the best that in fact they are worthless and will never amount to anything. And in those moments, sometimes tears start, heads drop, or heads raise and they’ll say, “Is it that obvious?” or, “How did you know that? My dad always told me I’m a loser.” They generally don’t believe me when I then go on to name several characteristics and personality traits they have that I admire and in which they might like to acknowledge.

Now on the sad side, I’ve sat listening to people tell me how successful they plan to be and drone on about their long-term employment goal or entrepreneur idea, and I’ve seen enough in a few moments to tell me that it is never going to happen. And I mean ever. While I’m not one to intentionally put an end to someone’s life-long dreams, there is often a gulf between what a person is really capable of and what they think they are capable of, even with support and advice. Sometimes it’s best to say nothing, and sometimes it’s best to tell it like I see it and then help to reconstruct a realistic plan in which someone can move forward.

And please don’t think I believe I’ve got all the answers. I’m not playing God here and telling people what they should be when they grow up or do to live their lives as I think they should. It’s only about helping them, and sometimes helping people means being honest and direct. Having an ability to anticipate how someone will likely react and delivering things they probably need to hear but don’t want to hear can actually be what they’ll thank you for later. It’s how the message is relayed more than the message itself at times; with compassion and sensitivity.

So if you are in the helping profession, do you have this super power too? I bet the more you deal with people, the better you have become at reading them; seeing the good and the potential when they can’t see it in themselves. I’m guessing you have provided a word or two of encouragement when they were so low they didn’t think anyone could like them, believe in them and see them as valuable.

Well done Superhero’s.

The Sting Of Being Released

One of the most painful and demeaning things that a person can experience occurs the day you are told your services are no longer required and you’re walked off the premises of your now previous employer.

Shock. Anger. Pain. Disbelief. Acceptance. Fear. Apprehension. Shame. Embarrassment. Uncertainty. Gut-wrenching. Numbness. Whatever you feel at that moment, it’s right for you and there’s nothing to apologize for. It can feel like you’ve had your head hit with a brick. You’re disoriented and in unfamiliar territory. And that feeling is unsettling.

If you are fortunate, the news isn’t really news at all; you’ve had some pre-warning of this moment, as in the case when a company is going through a long process of shutting down operations and moving. But in that situation, the other fundamental difference is that this is a shared experience with other employees.

What is worse however is a situation where you have no warning whatsoever and you’re the single target of those above you who have made a decision to cut you loose and you’re powerless to do anything about it but accept it. How you act at this moment may be out of character as your defensive mechanisms kick in and you struggle to orient yourself after receiving this life-altering news. You might find yourself saying things you’d never have thought of before; swearing and cursing, raising your voice, yelling, demanding answers, even begging for your job in a desperate attempt to keep it.

Furthermore, if handled poorly by the person delivering the news, it can be a humiliating experience if the surroundings in which the news is being delivered is a public space or an area within earshot of other staff. It’s not hard to imagine your embarrassment as you open the door to a common area after hearing the news and faces of your former colleagues are averted, tearful, smirking or just obviously uncomfortable and likewise in shock.

The setting for getting the news of being fired is much like the setting for getting hired; you don’t have much control over this and it’s chosen by the person chosen by the company to deliver the news or conduct the interview as the case may be.

Here’s some advice for dealing with such news if or when it should land on your doorstep. There are a few things you can do NOW while you are still gainfully employed. First and foremost, whenever you get a good performance appraisal, a note of praise and thanks, or positive written feedback, keep a copy at work but keep the originals at home. After all, if you are escorted off the property empty-handed, the last thing on your mind will be to get these things, and you probably won’t be allowed to touch any files or computer to retrieve these things because of a fear of sabotage even if watched. They want you gone; now.

In addition to the positive evaluations you’ve earned, you should have some way of contacting people within the company who you’ve had good dealings with. If the woman in Purchasing you’ve only ever known as Brenda could help you out significantly by acting as a reference, you might find your ties severed if you can’t call her personally outside of the workplace. In fact, all your networking contacts will be sitting on your desk and of no use to you unless you’ve thought to keep some kind of home directory.

But immediately after you get the news, I’d like to suggest two primary choices you can make – either one of which might be the best advice for you personally. I’d suggest you either dive directly into a job search, especially if you know exactly what it is you want to do next. Some people are good at dealing quickly with this loss and moving on. But the second choice is to take up to a week to do nothing. By restricting your socializing and job searching, you can get angry, yell, write hate letters you’ll never send, mope around and grieve. Avoiding others for a week might keep you from giving people the wrong impression, or alienating yourself from people who can help you later.

There are some good things about losing a job. If you’ve been unchallenged and running on auto-pilot for years, this could be the push you needed but would never have taken on your own. This is an opportunity to change directions, try something you’ve wanted to do, go back to school and re-tool yourself.

Apply for any Employment Insurance or benefits immediately. If you are entitled, they will likely pay you funds from the day you apply; NOT the day you lost your job – so get at it! Think seriously about seeing a Mental Health Counsellor and a family Doctor. Be honest and tell them about the news and get a physical/mental health look-see.

This isn’t a good time in your life. Guard against going into a shell of silence which can bring on dark places and thoughts. Stay connected and let your family and friends know. Ask for help; this is wisdom not weakness. Visit an Employment Resource Centre and tell them your story and be honest. Ask them straight up – “I need help. What can you do for me?”

Regarding finances, tighten things up where you can now. Call for lower interest on your credit cards, cut the magazine subscriptions, get a cheaper phone and data plan.

I feel for you. While getting fired and released doesn’t hold the stigma it used to, it still stings.

Stuck In A Job?

Here in Canada, a trend that is currently happening is that a large number of people are moving quickly toward retirement. This is a massive number of people, and as such, there is going to be an equally large number of jobs becoming available in the next 10 – 15 years as those people make individual decisions to give up their employment. For many it will come with some disappointment that they are no longer working at jobs they loved, while for others it will come with great relief that they can finally walk away from jobs where they’ve been stagnating for years.

One of the harsh realities for many people is that in their late 40’s and early 50’s, they come to realize that their current jobs no longer bring them the happiness and opportunities they once promised. The climb to the top has stalled, the job becomes routine, the days a repeat of previous days, and the likelihood that things will change diminishes.

Now personally, I know of 8 people who are in this situation; some are my best friends, and some are colleagues. What’s more is that I’m willing to bet that if I really went out of my way to ask other people I know, I’d see this number rise even more.

What all 8 of these people have in common is a sense of growing frustration and acceptance, and a diminishing of their capability to do anything about it. Can you identify with them? For example, one is a Senior Manager in a large corporation who is only using a fraction of the skills and knowledge he has to do his job. It’s not that he wouldn’t like to do more, it’s because his superiors are holding him back out of their own ignorance. They don’t have his training, and as things are running just fine in the company, why introduce change where change is not needed in their eyes? So just keep doing the same thing they’ve always done, running it the same way its always been done.

Another guy is at the top of his franchise. The only other place for him to go is head office in another city or leave the company entirely and take his skills somewhere else. His problem is very complicated with financial commitments and not being able to uproot his family and move to another town. Marital break-ups can do that to a person. And to be gender fair, I know a woman who is in 2014 stuck lacking the courage to take a big leap of faith by quitting and doing something boldly new. She’s been stuck for 5 years now feeling unfulfilled and spinning her wheels. She doesn’t want to get promoted because she doesn’t want what comes with that job, and her own job is something she could do blindfolded and in her sleep she feels.

Now I’ll tell you this; as an Employment Counsellor, I have had 1:1 talks with some of these people. They know what I do for a living and they know they can count on me to listen to them and support them if they seriously want to make a change. But I know too that I can’t live their lives, and their choices are their choices to make. Even not making a change is still a choice; a choice to keep things the same and carry on.

In a perfect world, wouldn’t we all do things that we find stimulating and interesting? We’d be paid increasing salaries as we grow, and each day when we did whatever it is that we do, we’d come home feeling good and fulfilled giving thanks for the wonderful jobs and careers we have that bring us such satisfaction. Well maybe for some. For others, a perfect world would mean we only work 3 days a week or some variation, and we enjoy the other days doing our own thing with enough money to live the way we want.

Are you stuck in a job or career where you need the money it provides and there’s little opportunity to change much? Feel trapped? Despite the outward appearance each of these people show to the world, when deep in conversation on a one-to-one basis each gets very serious and I can easily pick up their discontent. It must be frustrating to know you need a change and yet feel change is the very thing you cannot do or will not risk.

The issue in one’s 40’s or 50’s is the commitments one has at that point. There’s spouses and children, parents that need supporting, social convention that says you should have made it career-wise by now, mortgages and financial obligations, and a growing realization that only a finite number of years are left to build that retirement nest egg. With so many other people looking for work, not only would your job be filled within a week, the number of other people you’d be competing for other jobs with is alarming. And the result is keeping the status quo.

The danger in all of this is growing despondent and depression setting in; a feeling of failure and a life of unhappiness ahead. That’s what they tell me. As a colleague and personal friend to some, I feel for them. This column doesn’t come with easy fixes either. While I could dispense ideas and advice, this time around I just want to highlight the situation.


When You Disagree, Do It With Class

Right off the bat I hope you will agree with me that disagreements are inevitable, and having a view on something that is not shared by everyone else is going to happen. When you find yourself disagreeing with someone else, remember that how you handle the situation is almost as important as the outcome of the disagreement itself.

Now when you disagree, it may be where it’s only between yourself and one other person. They have a view, and you have a view. Sometimes the disagreement can be resolved by looking into facts, and gathering evidence to support one view or the other. So in the case of you believing the photocopy machine is working fine and someone else thinks it isn’t, get up and together attempt to photocopy something. When it either works or doesn’t, issue resolved.

Sometimes too, you might find yourself holding onto a view that is in the minority. Now you still might be right, but your opinion or view until proven is not shared by most of those around you. If there is a way to come to conclusive proof one way or another, that evidence can quickly get a group moving again instead of holding a debate. So if you think it’s going to rain tomorrow and spoil the company picnic, but most other people think it should still go ahead because skies at the moment are sunny, you could check the forecast and make a decision. You’ve gathered informed opinions of others based on atmospheric data, and can make an educated decision.

Sometimes however, there is conflicting evidence. So it could be that in one part of the country some trends go one way, and in another part of the country, the same trends are not happening. And as we are daily in positions to converse with people from around the globe, we are often dealing with people whose experiences to date are different from ours. In other words, what we have experienced as fact and beyond debate is not a shared experience. People in other areas have had different experiences than us, their data is different, and therefore the views they hold are opposed to our own.

You may also experience this on a micro level, where you sit around a table with people from other departments, who have different priorities, and have their own agendas. When what they want to accomplish or get out of a meeting doesn’t fit with what the rest of those assembled want, disagreements can emerge.

What generally happens in these situations is that some people immediately start to dig in. They get entrenched in their positions, and refuse to budge from their point of view, closing themselves off from the arguments of others, and are unwilling to consider views other than their own. If you are alert, you can recognize these people because they typically start counter-arguing while others are still talking. They’ve stopped listening whatsoever, and are already forming their next arguments sometimes in an attempt to bully others into compliance. The group decision is paramount to them and not the relationships of those involved.

Some people dont’ do well with disagreements at all. They’d rather give in and go with a view they don’t believe in if it means avoiding conflict and salvaging relationships with others. The danger here is that they don’t always share their reservations or viewpoints, and those are often the very views that the group can benefit from because otherwise they are holding back information the group might need to make the best decision.

When you find yourself in disagreement, first ask yourself how important the issue at hand is for you personally. So if the entire work group wants to order in Chinese and you’d rather have Mexican, it may be wise just to go along and order in Chinese, unless getting both is an option.

But when the stakes are higher, you may be less willing to ‘give in’ and go with the group, such as in the case of cuts in staffing needing to be made and your department being suggested as the place to start. In such a case you may find yourself more inclined to defend. It is integral however to listen to others points of view and the arguments they make and then with all the information, hold true to your position, revise your opinion as need be etc.

The key thing when experiencing disagreement is to do it with class. Listen to others, and make sure that you give them the opportunity to be heard and to express themselves. Not only will you perhaps get new data yourself, but it gives others the belief that they have been heard – and how things work out in the end isn’t always as important as making sure people feel heard and validated. This validation is especially true if people are to leave and actually implement directives resulting from what was discussed and agreed on by the majority.

One of the worst things you could do is appear close-minded; not willing to even entertain viewpoints other than your own, and impose yourself on others.

Respect for other people, other people’s points of view, and the realities in other departments, businesses or parts of the world is what we should all strive for; but that’s just my opinion!

I Planned A Workshop…Nobody Came!

It happens from time to time and for me it was yesterday.

I was scheduled to facilitate a workshop on preparing for and practicing interview skills. Now many people don’t particularly look forward to job interviews, and as its human nature to avoid things we don’t like if we can, this workshop isn’t famous for having high numbers. However, there are typically a group of 5 – 10 people who recognize the importance of learning how to interview well, especially as the stakes are so high.

But like I said, nobody showed up. Registration for this workshop is on a drop-in basis, and it makes the planning interesting. If you’re a seasoned workshop facilitator, you already understand the planning that goes into workshops and presentations, and I imagine you’ve had your expectations exceeded or not met. But if you are new to facilitating and presenting, or possibly thinking about taking on this kind of employment, you’ll appreciate my experience perhaps as a learning opportunity.

Now right off the bat, I want to state that many of the workshops I run require pre-registration. When you have pre-registration you certainly know how many you need to prepare for, and you can get all your handouts ready etc. But some of the workshops I am asked to run are drop-in by nature, and the planning for these is very different.

The workshop yesterday was one I was really looking forward to as well, because I was including a student in it that’s with us over the summer, and giving her a chance to do some facilitating under a supportive eye is something she’s asked for. So we met two days ago and went over the agenda, what she might want to take on and lead, and what she would rather not do in case she became overwhelmed due to lack of experience.

So I showed her the flip charts I’d prepared, walked her through the process from the moment people start to arrive, how the set up of the room enhances or not the participation level of those in attendance. I explained how we’d start off just getting names and desired occupations, then list any questions they dread or fear in an interview, and how after getting their opinions, I’d share with them what I believe an interview actually is in fact.

Ah, it was magical. There I was, this seasoned Employment Counsellor all in my element. After all, I was talking to her about something I love doing, so I was confident, enthusiastic and glad to be sharing this. “It’s critical to be prepared”, I said, and pulled out one of the 10 folders I had constructed to give to participants. The contents of the folder were a pen, notepad, blank sheet for notes, one thank you card and envelope, and 15 pages of tips, suggestions, definitions, strategies, an interview format to follow and sample questions that might come up.

“Wow, they’ll get a lot of stuff!”, she said. I’ll admit when I heard and saw her reaction I was pleased. After all, I’m highly aware that this person is going to be potentially entering a career where she may be doing what I’m doing and reaching others. If I can get her to plan things out in detail ahead of time so the workshop flows smoothly, and take it this seriously ahead of people arriving, she’ll be in a position to be more comfortable, and that will translate into a better experience for clients who are nervous themselves.

So the morning came and the handouts were ready in the blue glossy folders. The flip charts sequentially ready to whip out as we progressed, and the attendance sheet ready for signing in. I opened the doors 30 minutes before we were due to start and waited. Even at the appointed start time with no one in the room I waited. Sometimes clients arrive 10 minutes late. But the dawning realization got more and more certain. Nobody was coming.

And this is a great lesson to learn. So I laughed with our student and told her that despite no one showing up, the advanced preparation should always be exactly the same. All those folders and flip charts can be used next time around and so they don’t go to waste. While disappointing, it’s also not doing any good to take things personally. After all, it’s not like we advertised, “Interview Workshop starring Kelly and Allana – come one come all!” Had we done this, it may have been a personal slight. Like I said earlier however, not many see a voluntary workshop on interviews as a must see event. For many, it’s like not thinking you need any dental work, but making an appointment just to see if they can find anything new.

Oh and lest you think the lesson ended there, it didn’t. What we did after cleaning up is talk with our colleagues and find out where we could help out. Unexpected help is always welcomed around here, and even if no one took up us on our offer of assistance, there would be other work to do. Sometimes just going up to a client in a drop-in resource centre and saying, “Hey I’ve got some time, anything I can help you out with?” gets you busy.

Failing anyone needing or wanting help, there’s always planning and revising existing presentations to be done. Good workers take initiate and keep busy. I learned that years ago.

Get Going

Some of the best personal or professional advice you can give yourself and act on is to get going. Start. Now. Be it small or large, a baby step or a full stride, get going. No matter what your short-term or long-term goals are; or even if your short-term goal is to figure out your long-term goal, get going.

Nothing happens until you do something. And the key word in that previous sentence is the word, “do”. So many people – including myself in that number – have at one time in their lives (or far too often in some cases) been guilty of never moving past the stage of thinking. The thinking stage is characterized by statements such as, “I should think about losing some weight.” “I should really think about what I want to do with the rest of my life.” “I should give some thought to my retirement.”

Sadly for some, nothing more really ever happens. The result of not acting and doing anything to move beyond the thinking stage can be long-term depression. With issues of weight, a person notices their body isn’t what they’d like it to be, so they think about losing some weight. If they don’t move beyond this stage, they can start to mentally beat themselves up for not taking action, then console themselves with comfort food, which makes the problem worse, and still the ever-present urge to lose weight remains. While the cycle continues, over time weight actually increases, and so does the poor self-esteem, and voila…poor self-image and regret followed by depression.

Jobs and careers are much the same way. We don’t come with a pre-defined career into this world. And this lack of pre-defined role often leads others to ask us what it is we would like to do. Hence the, “So what do you want to be when you grow up?” question. My inner clown always wanted to answer this question with, “Older.” Hey, I could never be wrong. Do you notice the question uses the word, “want” as in “want to be?” And there’s the sticking point for many people; they simply don’t know what they want, and without knowing this, they can’t move with confidence towards some career or goal. The result? Inaction.

And much like doing nothing about losing weight can lead to poor-self image, doing nothing about moving forward with a job or career can lead to depression too. While some pressure comes from other people in the form of questions like, “Why don’t you do something with your life?”, the real motivating pressure has to come from yourself. How bad do you want something requiring change?

So let’s assume for a second that you haven’t figured out what you want to do career-wise. Nothing wrong with this; you’re normal. Really you are. But like I said at the start of this piece it’s time to get going. The first thing I want to share with you is that THERE IS NO SINGLE CAREER THAT ALONE WILL GUARANTEE YOUR HAPPINESS. There are many jobs and careers that you would ultimately find rewarding and fulfilling. Stop putting pressure on yourself to find that single career.

So if you like serving people, you might find customer service fulfilling, or being a Cabdriver, Nanny, Employment Counsellor, Teacher or Fitness Trainer. All those jobs move others forward to their goals. If you like to entertain others maybe you’d be a good Musician, Magician, Comedian, Singer, Film Maker or Comic Book Writer. One of my colleagues does an activity with her groups called ‘Rock Star’. Being a Rock Star is a job, but how many jobs surround that Rock Star that might be fulfilling to someone who craves that kind of life? Some groups come up with 40 or 50 jobs like Agent, Roadies, Bus Driver and Sound Technicians.

Do Something. Make a phone call and speak with a Career Counsellor. If you know what you want to do but don’t know the steps to take to get there, a Career Counsellor can help you with this. Here’s a tip: instead of planning forward, (as in what’ the very first step?), plan backwards. See yourself in that ultimate role. What were you doing just before you arrived there? And before that? And before that? Working backwards, you end up where you are today, and now have each step before you. And guess what? All that thinking produced your map. Follow it.

But what as I said earlier if you haven’t got a master plan and don’t know what would be interesting for you to do? Stop thinking there is only one ultimate destiny for yourself and doing nothing for fear of making the wrong choice. So who really cares if you take a job as a Perfume Counter Salesperson and that’s not it? Do it to the best of your ability and think about what’s both good and bad in the job as you see it. Then try something else. In each job, learn what you like and don’t.

The average person goes through 8 different jobs as an adult and 3 major career changes. And that’s just the average. That means the average don’t get it ‘right’ the first time, but it was maybe what they needed at the time. I for example consider myself to be a very good Employment Counsellor. But had I started in this role at 23 years old, I wouldn’t be as good as I am today without doing many other things first.

Get going!

A Proven Way To Improve Your Life

Should you be extremely cautious of anyone guaranteeing your life will improve if you only follow their advice? ABSOLUTELY! Right up front, I’ll tell you there’s nothing to buy, this isn’t a scam, and at the end of this read, you will I trust get the point without getting stung.

Although I’ve posted blogs before on this topic, I want to put a different spin on it today; something you can actually do from this day forward and I’m willing to bet things will improve. Okay so what is it I’m in danger of building up too much and not revealing? Why it’s decision-making.

Simply put, if you made different decisions in the past about the big things, your life would be very different from what it is today. And honestly, if you had made different decisions about the little things, the big things might have ended up differently too. But the key isn’t to lament the decisions you made that went wrong, the key is to make better decisions now; today and each day in your future.

Ah but how to make good decisions when you’ve got a history of making poor decisions? That’s a necessary and good question to pose. The answer is to put off making decisions until you have gathered the information you need in order to make an informed choice. When you make decisions without the facts, it’s like flipping a coin and you may make a good decision or it could turn out badly.

A practical example would be helpful I’m sure. Let’s look then at the issue of buying a car. Some will walk into a showroom with no intention of buying on their visit and leave having made a purchase. What happened? Well, the allure of a new problem-free car, all shined up with that new car smell, and a time-limited discount on financing…it’s all too good to pass up. After the sale however, the buyer notices that the service schedule calls for service every 8,000 kilometres, and each service runs about $250.00. Then the fuel economy isn’t what they’d hoped for, and while it has some of the technology like bluetooth and satellite radio, those come at an additional cost after a 4 month free trial period. The deal starts to look less favourable, the radio subscription and bluetooth aren’t continued, and it’s too costly overall to run. But hey, it looks great in the garage!

The same advice is what I’d suggest about school and upgrading education. Suppose you’re drawn to the appeal of being a veterinarian. Taking care of animals is what you’ve always been good at; taking them for walks, scratching their tummies, and looking after the neighbours when they are away. So you pay a private school money you took on loan to take a Vet course, and after taking the 6 month course that seemed to promise so much, you get a certificate that no Vet practice will recognize. No, to work in your area as a recognized veterinarian, you need to have a 2 year University degree from a provincially recognized institution.

In the example above your money is gone, as is the six months you invested, and so too is your trust and your hopes. Now you’re bitter. On the other hand, it would have been prudent to call up a few Vets and ask them if they recognize certificates from the school you are considering taking a course. If they continually say they don’t, don’t invest your time and money. If they do, take the course with confidence.

In short, it’s this information gathering, commonly referred to as research that is critical. While some people will scoff at doing research because it takes too much time and they don’t know where to start, the same people generally make poorer decisions. Get into the habit of not bothering to do research before making a decision, and that pattern will continue and your small decisions go badly followed by the bigger decisions.

Ironically, it’s often easy for people to recognize when their friends are making bad choices based on little information. Take a person whose telling their closest friends that they are ready to have sex for the first time. “What do you know about him or her?” is often the first question asked. In other words, “Have you done your research?”

One last example concerns home buyers. Some people go out, get attracted to the granite counter tops in the kitchen and the soaker tub in the on-suite bathroom and the high ceilings and put in an offer because they don’t want to lose out to another buyer. They skip the home inspection because they think that’s an unnecessary expense, and they when doing a minor renovation find mould in the walls, and the whole kitchen they fell in love with has to be ripped out and brought up to code. Research, research, research.

To sum up, doing research until you have enough information to make an informed choice will improve the chances of making good decisions. Even the phrase, “an educated guess”, actually refers to people who based on their experience and research, make guesses summing up all their past experiences and knowledge to date which increases the likelihood of being right more than wrong.

The best decisions are made not on the spur of the moment or emotion alone, but when research indicates one choice is wiser than another.

The Many Jobs You Rely On Daily

There are a great number of people whose work goes largely unrecognized by us, and yet each of us relies on those people to do their jobs so our own lives are vastly improved. Their handiwork is in our homes, our workplaces, and in between as we commute back and forth. Ever stopped to wonder and appreciate who these people are and what it is they do?

Start with the many people who built the apartment, condo or house you live in. There’s the carpenter, the brick layer, the heavy equipment operator, the people who make the steel beams, the architect, the surveyor, the landscapers, the sod farm operator, the window installer, the factory workers who produce the glass for the windows and doors, the cabinet makers, the plumber, the electrician and the carpet installer. Then there’s the inventors who came up with the production line advances that make building homes faster. Of course there’s the people who cut the timber for the wood framing, those who plane the wood, produce the screws and nails that hold it together.

It’s the same for the bed you sleep on at night. Someone made the wood frame, designed the coil or mattress inner workings. Someone designed the robotic machines that stitched the mattress, made your pillow, and manufactured your sheets and blankets. And don’t forget the people who made your pyjamas, nightgown, house coat and slippers.

Look around your bedroom and home. People produced your lights, ceiling fan, designed and installed your shower, made the razor you shave with, the soap you clean with, the shampoo you wash your hair with, and the brush or comb you groom with. A team of people researched and produced the products you clean your teeth with, the deodorant you apply to your armpits, and any cologne or perfume you spritz.

Somebody needs thanking for making your furniture that holds your clothing like dressers and closets. What about the wood or tile flooring, or the chair you sit own and the table you eat your cereal on? Thank the farmer for producing the grains in your cereal, the milk producers and the engineers who created the machinery to process the milk. Who designed the technology that created your spoon, fork and knife; or the plates, cups, bowls, and serving utensils we use daily?

There are so many jobs others do that we rely on and we haven’t even left the house yet! Whether you turn on the television, the radio or the stereo, many people when working together are responsible for bringing those luxuries into our homes. The radio alone requires technicians, producers, radio hosts, disc jockeys, reporters, weather forecasters, traffic reporters, musicians, sound technicians, people to erect those radio towers that carry the signals. Then you’ve got the stores that sell the radio’s to us, the salespeople there, the people who made the shelving the radio sat on in the store, the men and women who made the cardboard box they shipped it in, the driver who took it from the warehouse to the store in the first place. That’s a lot of people!

Now out the door, thank the guy or gal who designed the lock and key you secure all that stuff inside with. If you take transit, remember somebody had to create the paved surface the vehicles run on, and lay the gravel beneath it, clear the land before laying the gravel, excavate the bad soil and truck in the tar and design machines that can do it all faster, better and improve it so it lasts longer. Thank the taxi cab driver, the bus driver, the subway or train operator.

If you walk to work, you rely on the people who create your footwear, procure the cement for the sidewalk, designed and maintain the traffic signals for the lights making it safe to cross the road. Is it raining? Someone made the umbrella, the raincoat, the rain boots, and the briefcase or purse that keeps all your important things safe and dry.

There are too a whole host of jobs that we rely on but may seldom see people doing which is just as vital to all of us. There are people who clean the parks of litter, wash the roads to remove the grime, pick up the road kill, tree surgeons that keep our tree canopies healthy and vibrant affecting the air we breathe. There are people washing windows on buildings we find impossible to reach, laying cables beneath and above the ground that power our homes, our phones, cable television, and light our roads. There are those that replace the light bulbs on tall highway poles, those who pour the concrete and cement to make those tall poles, and the steelworkers who put the rods in the cement that binds the structure and makes it stronger to last longer.

People also create the grass cutting machinery that keeps lawns from getting out of control, and keeps the weeds down too so those with allergies can breathe.

There are all kinds of jobs out there that affect our lives on a daily basis. When you are thinking of a career or job, get way past the teacher, doctor and fireman. We need those too of course, but so many jobs are all around us and one of the jobs I’ve noted might be perfect for you. The more you look, the more you see!

“What Can You Learn From This?”

Whenever something really bad happens, it seems somebody asks what people can learn from the tragedy. Be it a news anchor, a reporter in the field, a government official, or a grieving parent pleading for just one life to be saved from the senseless death of their own child, someone is hoping there are lessons to be learned. No let’s correct that; someone is hoping the lessons that could be learned are learned.

Not to be forgotten however, is that when things go exceedingly well, there are lessons to be learned in those instances too. Whether it’s a great job interview, the perfect mix of company at a house party, a fabulous babysitter for the kids or camping at just the right time of year to avoid the weekend party crowd, we can learn lessons in the good times too.

Mock interviews designed to help people prepare for upcoming job interviews are valuable in that they are designed to help the interviewee get ready for questions they might get asked. As it’s a mock interview and not the real thing, it cannot be entirely relied upon to accurately reflect what the person will experience, but it can approximate it.

Some questions can be anticipated such as “Tell me about yourself”; the classic interview opener. You can bet on questions that ask you about your experience, why you are applying, and what value or special skills you are offering. Whoever is taking on the role of the interviewer has a big responsibility here to mirror as best they can the real thing, and even more importantly provide some feedback that the interviewee can benefit from in future interviews.

Every interview, be it mock or for an actual job, should be assessed afterward in order to determine what worked, what didn’t and why and how best to improve for the future. And I’m betting that you’ve done a quick assessment of how things are going yourself during any interview you’ve been part of. You know, a quick, “I think this is going well!”, or a “Why did I say that? Come on! Pull yourself together!”

It’s these moments that we are in danger of forgetting as interviews proceed and our minds turn to newly asked questions that interfere with our ability to remember the questions later on. It’s not like we can ask for a break from the interview to jot down a few notes for the future.

At the end of employment interviews, many people say to themselves that it went well overall or it didn’t. That kind of general summation is good, but if that’s the extent of your assessment, there isn’t much to really learn in order to improve for any future interview.

So consider the things you can evaluate and learn from in an interview. If you were late, what can you learn from in order to be on time – even though there was a detour required en route? Well maybe planning for any delay and getting there half an hour early would be preferable to being 5 minutes late. After all, once you are on location, you can always grab an orange juice or coffee, brush your teeth, read an article or two in a newspaper, and walk in relaxed instead of rushed at the last moment.

Troublesome questions are good to write down as soon as possible, as are answers you gave that appear to you outstanding. After all, if the answer was so good you wonder where it came from, you might want to jot it down so you can repeat this with certainty rather than leave it to chance. And the hard question? Do some research and find out how to present a more confident reply.

Think too about how you feel in an interview. Be it your choice of clothing, the comfort or discomfort of your chosen footwear, your posture in the chair provided – what worked and what didnt’ for you? Many people heading into an interview have an interview survival kit with them. Breath mints, stain removal stick, gum, dental floss, brush, spare stockings, a change of tie. While you might leave these things in the car, or conceal smaller items in a purse or pocket, they are things brought along for reassurance and to deal with emergencies. I know of one guy who sweats easily on hot days. A fresh shirt is always in his car on a hanger should he interview on a hot day and feel the need to change just before heading into the interview.

The same man keeps both baby powder in his car and hand sanitizer with alcohol in a small spritz bottle. To ensure he offers a dry hand to shake instead of one dripping with perspiration, he says he uses the hand sanitizer in the Reception area discreetly to dry his skin. He didn’t come across this practice by chance. He shook the hand of an interview once where the person gave an immediate expression of revulsion, and he determined he would not repeat that. He learned.

There is so much we can learn from both our own experiences and the experience of others whom we know first-hand or through others. Experiences – bad and good – have equal lessons to be learned but it is our responsibility to learn those lessons.

All the best to you this day!

Lemons And Lemonade

Heard that expression, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade?” I’m opening a lemonade stand.

Now right off the bat I’ll readily admit that my recent problems aren’t nearly as bad as they could be, nor are they as bad as other people’s. I’m very fortunate and thankful for all the good in my life. Ah but come on, surely we are all allowed to get just a little ticked at the times in our lives when we run into a series of unwelcomed and unlooked-for setbacks. So indulge me; just today.

Let me share with you then the ‘lemons’ I’ve received of late and how I’m dealing with them. It’s not a column of self-therapy, but perhaps useful for demonstrating one way to shift a thought process when things don’t go as we’d hope. And secondly, having a sounding board; a voice of reason can make a difference.

Since June 19th, literally a single month ago, here’s what’s happened. First and foremost, I found myself out on strike. That cost me about $2000.00 in lost income, plus money I’ll need to contribute to my portion and the typically employer-paid portion of my pension through work.

While off on strike, a huge wind and rain storm totally ripped up the gazebo roof necessitating its removal and the one we are considering as a replacement will cost $1000.00 for a complete re-build. That’s money I didn’t anticipate spending and can put off awhile, so we’ve made a decision to have a sun-filled space until we bite the bullet and pay out that sum.

This week? Well I was driving to work on Tuesday thinking how well the car was running. With the sun shining and being in a good mood, I internally thought, “Gee, I hope I can drive this car for at least another 150,000km or so.” Without a word of a lie, in a span of 20 minutes, doesn’t the engine light appear on the dashboard. The manual says to pull over and seek immediate assistance at the shop without driving it further. I drove the remaining distance to work and called the shop. Turns out there’s a rubber seal inside the gas cap that somehow got folded in half and was causing the sensor to go off. End result, no new part, but to fold it back by hand and run the diagnostic that told the mechanic the seal was an issue cost me $120. Really? Well at least they washed the car.

And that wasn’t all that happened this week. My lawnmower that I’ve had for the last 6 years or so has been coughing and sputtering around my yard like a chain smoker in need of a fresh pack. I have to coax it into performing adequately. Well Tuesday night the final straw came to pass; I ran over the water main on the lawn. The blade once so straight and sharp now was a twisted curved blade that would make a Samouri or all-star hockey player proud. Before turning it over to discover that however, I tried an immediate restart which only served to create a circle in the front lawn that resembles a crop circle. New lawnmower: $314.00.

Now given all of the above, I think I’ve got a right to be a little miffed. Sure none of those in isolation are end of the world catastrophes. After all, I’m back at work, I’ve got a new lawnmower, the car is running fine, and before the end of the summer a brand new gazebo will be erected in my backyard. It’s the sum total in such a short period of time that irks.

So there I was in the car last night. My wife was sitting next to me and we were driving up to a campground where she and one of her girlfriends are camping until the end of the weekend. I went to set up the trailer given she’s got a bad shoulder and then drive home. After listening to me rant for about 20 minutes, she calmly said, “I know you’ve been on strike but you’re kind of negative. I’d like to have a nice conversation with you before I don’t see you for a few days.” And that was enough.

I’m over it now. Once again, my wife…a voice of reason that helps me stay grounded and brings me back to what is really important – came through. She’s the sounding board for me as am I for her. She’s just so much better at it then me. When I said I was heading out to by a lawnmower, what was her reaction? Did she say, “Can we really afford that?” or “Have you tried to fix it?” Nope. She said, “Okay.”

And when the I got annoyed because I’ve learned this week that the By-Law Officer paid us a visit and has told us we cannot store our own 18 foot tent trailer in our own driveway, what did she say? “I told you so Kelly. So we’ll just park it somewhere else.”

How does she swing so quickly to where I’m eventually going to be but need time to get? I’m human and get annoyed with things from time to time. I suspect on the other hand, the person I’m married to is either an Angel or due for sainthood or knighthood.

You can’t make lemonade without lemons. Good to remember.