Not Seriously Job Hunting? You’re Not Fooling Anyone

“You have to want it more than I want it for you, and I want it pretty bad.”

That quote is one I put on the whiteboard in the room I use when I’m running an intensive two-week job finding program. I point it out on the first morning, and usually in the first half an hour. “It”, refers to a job and I challenge the people in the class right off by telling them that I’ll be available and supportive for that whole two-week timeframe, but they themselves have to do the work; and make no mistake, its work.

So imagine this scenario: you’re out of work and on social assistance. You’ve found it frustrating and somewhat depressing that your job search has not yet produced a job offer. Maybe you’ve had some interviews, but you’re still unemployed and wondering what you’ve got to do to change your situation. Then you get a phone call from me presenting you with the details of this job finding support program. You’re told you’ll get additional money for transportation to and from the class plus any additional transportation needed for job searching activities. Further, I’ll give you $80 for some clothes and grooming needs to spend as you see fit. Another $40 for networking fees – lunch money perhaps, or again whatever best suits you. Get a job and I’ll pass along funds to buy things you might need to start a job until you get your first pay cheque, perhaps up to $500.

Now in addition to the money, you get me; an experienced and enthusiastic Employment Counsellor, who will give you a USB stick for your computer or laptop, loaded with job searching tools, motivational pieces, tips on writing resumes, cover letters, rejection letters, how to make cold calls, follow-up calls, how to interview at your best and deal with tough questions.

Then there are discussions for 30 minutes each day about topics that matter to job seekers. They could be about targeting resumes and cover letters, dealing with the pros and cons of age, how to conduct research, network, stay positive and use a structured interview format style that will make your interviews better. And then there’s a mock interview to hone your skills, job leads, referrals to job fairs, notice of jobs in the hidden market, and much-needed support from others in the group who like you were feeling isolated and alone in their job search.

Wouldn’t you jump at that chance? This isn’t a program recipients can sign up for or choose to attend on their own. No, to get in they have to be referred by one of the other Employment staff where I work who, in the course of their dealings notice the ones that seem keen and serious about their job search. Even then, it takes a conversation with me before the invitation is actually extended. Then it’s 9:00a.m. sharp for two weeks, no jeans or t-shirts, no excuses.

The odd thing to me despite the number of times I’ve run this program, are the people who agree to attend, confirm their attendance a few days the program starts, and then don’t actually come. This time around I’ve four empty seats. Those four empty seats represent 1/3 of the group, and they’ve robbed four others of the opportunity to come.

Now to be fair, one woman who is looking for a Personal Support Worker job called two days before the class was to start and reported that she’d had a fall down some stairs and it resulted in a sprained wrist, slight concussion and bruised back. Ouch! Yep, that’s a good reason to miss the program, especially as she genuinely sounded disappointed and asked to attend in the future.

The second situation was a guy who left a message in the hours before sunrise of the first day stating he was heading off to the hospital with abdominal pains. But it took a phone call from me at the day’s end to do the follow-up. A suspended health card meant no care was given him, and he must now resolve that issue and get his health looked at. Good reason on the face of it too.

But then there were two others that are highly suspect. The first of these two had a staff refer him to the program some time ago. I spoke with him and he questioned how much I could really do for him because he’s pretty smart himself. He turned it down but later pressured the staff person to refer him again. This time he accepted but didn’t show up or call to report his absence until after 11:00 a.m. day one. He’s not coming because he had a phone interview the first morning, and is driving his sister and mother to the airport on two days during the program. He took on their problems as his obligations. Doesn’t want it bad enough.

And the final guy? “Family obligations” is his reason for non-attendance. Sorry, we all have these things in our lives, but we who work make different decisions. So I’m left again knowing that some job search intently and with purpose and some put far more effort into appearing to job search.

You’re not fooling anyone however. Your actions rather than your words, demonstrate your commitment and your focus. Some just want it more than others; and for two weeks I’m working with eight of those people.

Resume on Red Paper?

Remember high school? Go on, think back…for some of you, way back! Did you ever open your locker and find an envelope in it that smelled of perfume? I did. Back then I thought it was groovy, and it got my interest focused pretty quickly in wanting to open it up because I was sure the reading would be good. And back then, I was right.

Back before we had started dating, I recall my wife sending me an envelope with a hand-drawn picture of lips on the back with the words, “Sealed with a kiss” written on it too. It was not only groovy, it was totally out of sight, and I was hip to the trip.

Okay enough about my single days in high school and University. My point is nobody talks like that anymore, and I haven’t seen a perfumed envelope or got one with, ‘sealed with a kiss’ on it in decades. In both cases, those two envelopes stood out and got my attention, so is it a good idea in 2014 to send an unusual envelope to the company when you want to make sure they look at your resume and application if it’s arriving by post?

Generally the answer here is, ‘No’. Something as gimmicky as a red envelope may in fact get noticed as it stands out from the traditional white or brown envelope that’s true. But whose opening the mail? Likely not the person doing the short-listing of those to be interviewed or the Hiring Manager. No doubt it’s the Secretary or someone in Human Resources. And while you may think yourself creative with a flair for getting noticed, it may not have the intended results you want. You might be seen as unprofessional, wacky, a jokester and not to be taken seriously, and ultimately rejected.

The perfumed envelope will just show the company that you don’t know about their scent-free policy; you know, the one instituted because the Hiring Manager has allergic reactions to cologne and perfumes. Oops! Rejected. How could you possibly be expected to know about that scent-free policy? Oh it was clearly stated on their website.

Put yourself in the position of the people both receiving and reviewing resumes and applications. If you were reading a single resume, you might be up for reading something unusual. But don’t mistake the fact that they get many resumes to mean you should stand out visually with red paper. Stand out you should; but stand out with your content and writing style not some gimmick.

“But I know this guy who got an interview with some coloured paper” you say? Well it could be that the person was in the entertainment or acting field where being unconventional is encouraged. It could also be they just wanted to see who would actually show up. Did that guy get a job offer or just an interview?

Pictures on a resume or attached are good things if you are an actor, model, television personality etc. Pictures on most people’s resumes should be discouraged. If a company was making decisions on who to have in for interviews based in part on how the people looked who applied, they might be open to lawsuits and actually decline to read on even if you were qualified. This is exactly the case at one company I know. Send a picture and get rejected out of hand.

Go into some stores that sell packages of paper and you might find that there some with decorative borders and they might appeal to you. These might be appropriate for writing poetry on, making certificates on, but for a business resume – never.

Think about your personal branding and the message you send. Be a professional and be someone to be taken seriously. Sell your skills, pitch your personal value, demonstrate your abilities. You should stand out because you have accomplishments that interest others in having you as part of their workforce. Perhaps you’ve increased sales, obtained some level of education, worked abroad, been able to come in and clean up a mess. And if you are going for a job on an assembly line where it’s unlikely you’ve done incredible things elsewhere, maybe highlighting your perfect attendance record would stack up well in a company who stresses attendance, safety and performance.

Clues as to what a company values aren’t that hard to find. You can visit a website, read up on their values and mission statements, get copies of their financial documents and year-end reports that will give you facts on what health they are in financially, and if it’s not great but you’re good at turning thins around, there’s your edge.

Oh and the perfume? Many years ago now I knew of a woman who spritzed herself with a small quantity of perfume. At the interview, she noted that the person interviewing her seemed increasingly displeased and made facial expressions that told her things weren’t going well. She couldn’t understand why the interview was putting her chances in jeopardy because her answers were strong and her qualifications were solid. It was only at the end when the interview correctly guessed the perfume she was wearing, and made the comment, “That was my ex-wife’s favourite”, that she put two and two together and assumed it reminded him of her. She didn’t get the job, and always wondered if she’d not used perfume that day if things might have been different.


Sexually Exploited At Work?

Talking about being sexually exploited work is something that might trigger past memories for some readers. Might even be just what you need if you’re in this situation now.

I wonder first if we could agree on a basic premise that people, (that means you) are always much more intrinsically valuable than the work they perform. Just about all jobs can be performed by any number of people. While I might for example not be cut out to be a Lineman for the local hydro company, there are many others who would be more than qualified to take the place of a current employee should that person leave their job. Even the head of a country can and is replaced every so many years.

There are some people in jobs that we think no one else could do – people who invent things perhaps. But wouldn’t someone else eventually invent the great things they did eventually? Would we really be still in the dark if you-know-who didn’t invent the light bulb?

Okay so people are more valuable than the work they perform. As I write that statement I am mindful of a large number of people who will agree with this statement as long as I’m referring to other people, because they themselves have such a poor and low self-image. But we’ve got to stick with the word, “people” meaning everyone, and that includes you.

So you’ve got this job and you’re being or have been sexually exploited on the job. Maybe it’s a fellow employee or even your boss. It could be anything you don’t want, like what they deem a playful pat on the behind or squeezing up against you in a tight space when there’s a lot of room behind them. It could also be much more than that, having your pay withheld until you perform some sexual favour for them, or being coerced into doing something for a client in order to keep the boss happy.

It’s wrong and it’s illegal. If like some others, you know its wrong but feel you have no choice because you need the money from your job to pay rent and eat, you’re caught in a situation called a moral and ethical dilemma. More than that though, you’re at a high risk of things getting much more dangerous if you don’t take immediate action.

There are several things you should do. First and foremost tell the person clearly that whatever they are doing is not welcomed, and make it equally clear the behaviour is to stop immediately. If it’s someone other than your boss, don’t threaten to tell the boss, go and actually tell the boss. Lodging a complaint against someone who persists in sexually harassing you is not only going to hopefully get them to stop it with you, but maybe get them to stop repeating this with others now or in the future. In a union? Talk to a Steward.

Another thing that is a good idea is to limit your own exposure to the person as much as you can, especially avoiding situations where you may be alone with that person. Staying out of the stockroom when the other person is there, leaving the lunchroom when only that person and you would be left behind, etc. Unfortunate as it is, you may find that adjusting your behaviour on the job when that other person should be having to change their behaviour is what ultimately makes you feel safer and keeps you out of harms way.

There is no excuse for someone to sexually exploit another person. The victim in this case is certainly not encouraging or responsible in any way for egging on or encouraging the behaviour. No you’re not, “asking for it” as some perpetrators say to defend their actions.

Filing a complaint with the police is also something you should do. I guess it depends on if you’ve been initially successful in halting the unwanted touching immediately just by telling the person to stop, and how small or great you feel the intrusion to be. Squeezing a rear end, a breast, a crotch? Definitely not accidental. Backing up while carrying a box and touching their rear to yours because they were unaware you were there is highly more believable as accidental.

Quit the job and do it immediately if you feel physically at risk just by going in to work and the employer is doing nothing to curtail someone else’s behaviour. If it’s your boss and there’s no one else higher to appeal to, get out. It’s back to the original premise; you’re more important and valuable than any job.

Of course having another job to go to is preferable over quitting and being unemployed. If you are able, you might be in a position to job search while still working, and finding another job to replace the one you’ve got now, move on. This protects your income but removes the danger.

There are social service groups in your area that deal with victims of sexual assault. It’s not your fault. Contacting them for help and support is anonymous, confidential and will help. Know your rights, and know that no clothing choice you make, the way you style your hair, or the way you walk gives anyone the right to touch your body in ways you don’t want.

Protect yourself; no job is worth more than you. Please share this.

I Want It Bad; You’ve Got To Want It More

Next week I’ll be starting to work with a new group of job seekers. It’s a two-week intensive job hunting program where twelve people receiving social assistance get the dedicated support of an Employment Counsellor in their pursuit of tracking down job leads, coaching on interviews that hopefully lead to job offers.

When they walk in on Monday morning, instead of getting down to it immediately, I’ll take the better part of two and a half hours setting up expectations. One of the things I’ll stress very early is that I’m passionate about wanting to help them as much as I can. I sincerely do want to help them realize their employment goals and become financially independent. However, I’ll also tell them one key thing; you’ve got to want it more than I want it for you.

“Find me a job”, is one common response when I ask people in this group what their expectation is of me. Finding them a job actually would take me about forty-five seconds. Helping them track down the right job that they are both qualified for and would be successful at and enjoy doing requires more time and effort. Hence, every participant has to come into that class knowing the kind of work they intend to look for. Tell me you’re looking for, ‘anything’ and that’s enough to tell me you’re not ready for this group.

Frustrating as a job search is, that roller coaster ride of looking for a job has got to be anticipated. Hard to have ups in other words if you don’t have the downs with which to contrast the two. What I really like about this time of the program – a few days prior – is the hope and anticipation that it gives to those who will attend next week. A prolonged job search usually robs people of hope over time, and so the prospect of getting some support and guidance, the chance to perhaps find out what you may have been doing wrong and correcting it, are key parts to raising their hopes.

Okay so what exactly would someone looking for a job get in terms of content in an intensive two weeks? We’ll look of course at targeting resumes, writing directed and powerful cover letters. Learning how to interview so you become memorable is in here too, but only after we first examine what an interview actually is in and of itself, what you have control over (more than you’d imagine), and what you don’t. How to conduct research on companies, current employees, culture, the job itself are covered. Social media and how to exploit it to your advantage with a strong emphasis on LinkedIn, plus the more traditional methods of job searching such as job boards, job sites on the web, newspapers and networking are all covered.

There’s also segments on problem-solving, conflict resolution, maintaining a relationship with a job coach even after the job starts, building trusting relationships, what employers are looking for in 2014, the pros and cons of both age and using temporary agencies. We’ll look at how to address tough interview questions; “Why’d you leave your last job?”, “Explain this gap on your resume?” “Why should I hire you?” and the most often asked question, “Tell me about yourself.”

There’s time spent on gathering references, tracking your job search, learning from failure, determining the style of leadership you’d function best under, clothing choices, grooming, non-verbal communication and the whole before, during and after the interview routine. And if this sounds like a full two weeks already, consider that for the bulk of the days, clients are expected to job search. It’s the client who has to actually do the job of looking for a job. You see, when they get the call inviting them to an interview, I want them to feel good about having got it themselves. When they get offered the job and give me credit, I want to pay it back and tell them they got it themselves because I wasn’t there with them. You CAN build someone’s self-respect and self-esteem and then…look what they can accomplish!

But all of the above, (and there’s more content I assure you) is only going to eventually lead to securing a good job or career if the person wants it more than I want it for them. It starts with an attitude of hunger; you have to want work. It also means being open to honest feedback and having your shortcomings pointed out to you and then choosing to do something about them instead of becoming defensive. It’s about having a positive attitude in the wake of employer rejections, knowing that with each and every job you research and apply to you are learning and getting better at doing things for yourself in the best way possible.

That little voice of doubt that whispers in your ear that you’ll fail? Everybody who has ever lived has probably had that voice whisper to them from time to time. Small successes; one built on another, can build momentum and silence that voice, replacing it with a voice that speaks much louder, “NOT ONLY CAN I DO IT, I DID IT!”

But for now, wanting it bad is a good start. Next up; putting into action what wanting alone will not achieve.

Facing The Prospect Of A Very Long Day

As I start writing, it’s 4:43 a.m. but I woke up at 2:12 a.m. and have been awake ever since. Up until now I’ve made a hot cup of tea, watched an episode of, ‘Silk’ (British court drama series), and tried unsuccessfully to return to bed at 4:00 a.m. It’s the beginning of a very long day ahead.

So what could sharing this possibly do in any way to help you with respect to getting a job or performing well at the one you’ve got? In a word; plenty.

Generally speaking I’m the kind of person whose head hits the pillow and within two minutes is well on the way to full REM sleep. It’s a wonderful gift that I am very thankful for. And most nights, I’m sleeping soundly until the hour of 5 a.m. When you head to bed just after 10 p.m., well there’s my seven hours. Today though, it’s down to just over four.

You too will have days like this. You’ll wake up at some point maybe worrying about something about to happen; an interview, the big presentation, the prospect of meeting someone new either personally or professionally, giving a speech. Or like me, maybe you can’t quite determine exactly anything specifically that’s on your mind. It doesn’t really matter because reason or not, you’re wide awake.

And when you face the prospect of having to get up – oops, we’re already up – and get to work and put in a productive seven, eight or more hours, the prospect isn’t attractive. So you’ve got options; 1) call in sick when you’re just in need of some sleep. 2) take a sleeping pill or other sleep medication 3) distract your mind with some numbing television or a book you can delve into 4) pace about, sleep fitfully on the couch, get up, lie down and get more agitated, 5) repeatedly ask your spouse if they are awake until they actually are so you have someone to commiserate with your sleeplessness. I don’t recommend number 5; it doesn’t end well.

Now for me personally, calling in ill is rarely an option except when I am deathly ill. Being tired and up half the night doesn’t qualify; and that perfect attendance record I’m shooting for is still intact this late in September. There’s not a prize you understand, it’s just my own standard.

The sleep medication? Oh it might help me drift off to lullaby land, but boy would I find it hard to rise and shine with a spring in my step. The worry over then sleeping in and being rushed or late wouldn’t be a healthy relaxing combination. And driving to work for an hour feeling drugged and groggy isn’t appealing. Your welcome fellow drivers.

Oh and I did try the television show. Not a bad episode at all, but I was actually into it, and it didn’t do much therefore to numb me to sleep. I even tried returning to bed but lying there for a prolonged time usually only results in getting a headache; know thyself and avoid a second problem if possible.

No the solution that really works best is in this person’s opinion is to look ahead at your day. If nothing is on your calendar, do your best to keep your visibility low. After all, despite your little bursts of creative energy, it’s likely you won’t be at your very best. And as the day wears on, you might even find the last few hours of the day to be even more challenging. Although you yourself might not be entirely objective, others might observe behaviour or comments that isn’t in keeping with your usual performance.

By way of example, you may be irritable, quick to dismiss others comments, look strained, yawn, withdraw, be subdued, drink more caffeine-laced drinks like coffee or a Coke. Even your pace around the office might be slower as the day wears on, and you might be short with people on the phone.

If this kind of thing doesn’t happen often and is quite rare, you might even have the kind of job where you can walk in, announce you’ve had a rough night of it, and apologize in advance for not pulling your weight this one day. It might be more of a day to stay out of the limelight and do some background work. On the other hand, you might have the kind of job where for safety reasons, you owe it to your co-workers to step out at some point; say operating heavy machinery when you’re feeling groggy. Not a good combination.

But maybe you feel the pressure to excel and can’t get out of doing anything less than your very best. Could be you’re on probation at work and can’t call in ill and don’t want to make it appear this is a regular thing. Be self-aware as much as you can than throughout your day. Watch your words, bite your tongue, hold off on major decisions 24 hours so you’re clearer of mind.

Some cold water on your wrists actually gets the blood going and a splash on the face might help too. Some folks bring an alarm to work and head out to the car at noon for 30 minutes of sleep to come back more refreshed. Power naps.

Whatever you decide on, remember this day. When you find a fellow employee is having a day in the future you’re experiencing now, give them some slack if you can.

Unemployed In The Upper Echelon

You were at the top of your field. You were the person that everyone else looked up to and could be found at the top of the organizational chart. You were the top dog, the big enchilada; numero Uno. The keyword is, ‘were’.

As financially rewarding as it was, and good for your ego, its many years into the future before you are ready to hang them up entirely. So the big question now is, “What’s next?”

It’s hardly likely that you’re one of those people who says they are prepared to do anything; in fact, I think it far more likely that you’re only interested in an extremely small number of options. You may be considering a consultative role, parachuting in to lend your extensive expertise in matters you are well-versed in. You might be on the prowl for a position of similar stature and prestige. You might even be contemplating taking a year off to travel, reduce your overall stress level, spend time pursuing your personal interests and hobbies you never found the time for while working.

Sooner or later however, that pull will start to do something. And while the pull to do something is the same for anyone looking for work, your network and connections are in different circles than many other people, and you may be openly wary or doubtful that anyone in an Employment Counselling function has the necessary skills and expertise themselves to help you land that next career.

Like anyone looking for a service, I think it only prudent for you to prepare a number of questions and interview people before you invest your time and potentially your money with them. Questions you might want to pose have to do with their bottom-line success rate helping people who come from similar backgrounds as yourself. The kind of work they ended up obtaining, the time it took for them to achieve their goals and how best to launch yourself into this career search to reduce the time out of work are also good things to ask.

However, expecting your journey to be identical to others who have gone before you is not a fair expectation to put on yourself or transfer to someone helping you. Your past experiences are unique to you and as much as you want the person helping you to give it their all and help you out, you’re likely only one person they are dealing with.

Here’s another tip that may require a spoonful of sugar to help with the mental digestion: the sooner you realize you need to give your advisor the absolute truth the better they will be able to help you. So many people who have held positions at the top of organizations have been trained over a number of years to only reveal information on a need-to-know basis. And most personal information doesn’t need to be known.

However, being candid in a confidential environment with someone whom you are paying to advise and coach you is a huge step forward in reducing the time you will take looking for that next position. Most will only reveal a little here and there, and as the time draws out that they are looking, more and more gets divulged. After all, if you’re going to get a job in a matter of weeks or months, why be entirely forthcoming with information that you deem isn’t entirely necessary if it compromises you in your opinion or demonstrates a weakness?

What I’m referring to here are your own insecurities. Where are your weaknesses? What haven’t you kept up at that it is assumed otherwise you have? Are you genuinely insecure or frightened inside when your outside tells others you are calm and in control? That self insecurity if not bolstered can reveal itself otherwise in the most unlikely – and awkward of situations.

You were a long way up in the organization, and now you feel it’s a long way back up to where your mental expectations should meet with the physical reality. Truth is, with mergers, relocations, takeovers and new models of business delivery, some positions are just redundant. And if you were the poster child for an organization who is no longer viable and in business, by association, perhaps you too are no longer relevant and viable.

There are organizations and individuals out there whose clientele are ex-executives, CEO’s and business leaders. Their expertise, much like your own, is specific to a niche market; namely you! Oh you can waste an extensive amount of time if you want questioning and doubting their abilities to help you, but in the end you do or you don’t. Find the person, (and don’t waste time doing it) you want to work with and can trust to put as much enthusiasm into you as you do yourself.

One of the best things you can do is determine for yourself and then give anyone working with you a clear idea of what it is that you are now after. Finding out all your options might take a short time, but exploring those options more time. Exploring your choices so you move ahead with conviction and confidence is imperative. You know you could be in for a change in lifestyle. Are you and those around you ready for that possibility?

Frustrated People Only Bring You Their Troubles?

If you work in Social Services you’re likely inundated with people constantly telling you their problems. Not many people book an appointment just to say, “Nothing’s wrong at all, just thought I’d like to talk with you about some good things going on of late.”

People I know outside of my job who work in other lines of work sometimes say things like, “It must be depressing when all people do is bring you their troubles”. Funny how I’ve never agreed with them, and I usually go on to tell them what an actual privilege it is to be in this position where I can be of help to those in need.

The guy I share an office with at work and I were just discussing this yesterday. Last Christmas I made a present for him which is a 4′ x 2′ collage of inspirational quotes; all printed off with pictures reinforcing the quote. I turned to it and said that I recalled a quote on it somewhere that spoke to our discussion. I found it in a few seconds, and it went, “Never regret that people only bring you their troubles. Consider yourself the candle that people think of first when they’re in darkness.”

And I thought today that this concept was worth reminding us all about. In this field, (and there are others as well), we interact with a large population of the disadvantaged, the persecuted and the needy. In the case of my colleague and I, we work with people in receipt of social assistance. Many of them present multiple barriers to living happy successful, financially independent lives. Some present with issues of abuse, addictions, low self-esteem, dysfunctional families, failed relationships, depression, anger, criminal records, hygiene and grooming, poor communication skills, and the list goes on.

It’s humbling sometimes to pause and just consider how versatile, patient, skilled and compassionate one has to be in order to best listen to and then act to assist people presenting with various combinations of all the above. In only a few minutes, we’re expected by them to know enough about their plight in order to give them the help they need. This ability to quickly assess what the immediate need is and who we are dealing with, is an acquired skill just as is the way in which to best respond in kind.

There are dangers in this field when you work with such populations. It could be that you get numb to the position you are in, listening all day to these stories, and just as people are explaining themselves, you mentally jump ahead and categorize their problem and the most often correct solution. “Stop talking, because I’ve stopped listening; here’s how you solve your problem”. No one I hope would ever actually say that, but there is a danger that you may think it, and then your actions follow this course. You’ll be wrong more than right unfortunately and lose the relationship of trust with the person that’s so critical in this work.

Another danger is taking on their problems and issues as your very own. You can’t, ‘save them all’. You can’t take them home and turn their lives around. That’s condescending and playing God don’t you think? Oh my colleague was saying this about a client he had just worked with for 5 straight days, but of course neither of us would ever serious entertain the idea of suggesting such a thing. It’s unhealthy to take on all the problems you’ll encounter as your own, for otherwise you might end up with compassion fatigue; and that’ll make you less than effective.

The best of workplaces I really believe has a system in place whereby if you’ve personally just spent a significant amount of time dealing with someone in an extremely rough situation, you can call on colleagues to takeover and debrief if needed. This process gives you the opportunity to step back, share and deal with what you’ve gone through, and then return better prepared to cope with the rest of the day. I call it Mental Health Maintenance. It’s caring about each other enough that you do for them what you’d appreciate them doing for you in return if needed.

If you find yourself constantly frustrated; annoyed more often than you used to with people, ‘dumping’ their problems at your feet, look inward. What’s changed? Why does this frustrate you so much now when in the past you found it energizing, and looked forward to helping? For a variety of reasons you may yourself need either some time to pause and rekindle that mental stamina that’s been overtaxed, or it may actually be your inner self saying it’s time to move on.

Don’t get the idea I’m advising you to quit. There are many occupations where someone with your skills could be most effective; perhaps even within the organization you currently work for. In order for your clients to get the maximum help they need, someone in your position needs to be at their compassionate and caring best however. You’d be doing them and more importantly yourself a favour in either re-igniting your passion or finding it other places.

But I suspect you are pretty good at what you do. You’re here for the right reason. Whether it came as a calling, or it came as a job but you’ve discovered it’s a career, you make a difference in the lives of others. Go ahead, be a problem solver; it’s an honourable profession.

Don’t Apply For A Job; Apply For The RIGHT Job!

Been getting no response to your on-line applications or resume drop offs? Wondering why employers aren’t beating down your door to call you in for an interview or offer you a job? Well that could be a number of things, but please, please, please make sure at the outset that you aren’t applying for the wrong jobs.

So what exactly are the wrong jobs? These would be the jobs that you quite frankly aren’t qualified to do. Don’t waste your time trying to convince an employer, (and perhaps yourself) that you have the necessary qualifications to do something you can’t. And the second kind of wrong job is one you can actually perform, but will be regretting every single day should you actually get it. Life is too short.

Okay, so first of all you may have what it takes to do a job that’s been advertised. You read over the job description or the job posting and say to yourself, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I could do this job!” However, maybe in your enthusiasm to do the job you just take one of your resumes and change the job objective and fire it off. After all, you’ll sell yourself in the interview right? Uh, you won’t even be getting an interview. Why? Because on the paper you just so confidently fired off, you aren’t the best candidate and won’t get asked in. No interview; no sales job.

I don’t know how many times people need to hear it, but there are a massive number out there from what I’ve encountered both personally and professionally who still don’t understand that you need to tailor your resume to each and every job you apply to. That’s not a lot of work as most assume. It saves you time because you actually get interviews with a higher degree of frequency, and hence, less resumes are needed because you get offered jobs more if you actually land the interviews to start with.

Now I haven’t forgotten the other scenario; applying for a job that will fry your brain, cause you unwanted stress, or be so simple to do, you’ll loathe it from those first few days until the day you resign or get fired. So let’s say there’s you with your university degree in Oceanography. You graduated with all the hopes and dreams of someone bound for greatness. And the first job you apply to after the graduation party your friends threw for you is a Receptionist job. What are you doing?

Nothing wrong with a Receptionist position. Some of the nicest people I know are Receptionists, and they love their work and its a good fit for them. However, that skill set is quite different from what you learned in school. Weren’t you planning on putting those skills to use in that field of work? Bet mom and dad thought so when they paid for tuition! And again, a Receptionist position is one I’ve picked at random, and not in the least a slight against that profession. But it’s the wrong job for you because you may regret every moment of it when you compare and contrast it against the job you dreamed about and thought you’d get when you were sitting in school.

The key is to go after the jobs that will draw best on your skills, education, personal preference and interests.

Applying for the wrong job diverts your limited time and resources, not to mention energy, hopes and dreams away from what you might otherwise be doing that would bring you long-term happiness. This is backed up by several various survey’s I’ve learned of recently where people with jobs were interviewed and a high number of people said that their current job is not providing them with the fulfillment they had hoped, and the job they really want is something else. Yep, it’s the happiness factor.

So let’s say you take the time to track down the job that is a good fit for you; maybe the perfect fit. You can really see yourself doing this job and enjoying the idea of working at it. You can visualize yourself in the role because you’ve got training in the field, past education that prepares you well today, even the location and salary are good fits. Wow!

What is essential is to take your best shot at getting to the interview stage, then on to performing at your best in the interview so you leave nothing on the table. How to start? Research the company and really look at the job. Ensure your application follows the directions given, right down to the paper stock, font and paper size, the spelling and grammar are correct etc. This job application stage does take work, and you won’t put out as many applications as the woman standing at the photocopier running 50 copies.

Good advice is to initially apply for jobs as close to your ideal job as possible. Then gradually expand on that ideal job and apply for jobs closely related to it. This approach differs from the buckshot approach where you’re applying for anything and everything out of desperation. The wisest thing for anyone in school is to start job searching…while in school. Do research on companies you could potentially work with, network and meet people in companies you come in contact with. Then when you graduate, you just might transition into a job faster.

A Fatal Flaw Working People Should Avoid

While many of my blogs are aimed at helping the unemployed track down interviews that lead to employment, some (like this one) are also intended to help those who are currently working get ahead. This blog however, is aimed squarely at those who are currently employed in order to help them get a job in the event a future day comes when they find themselves out of work.

For the purposes of simplifying things, I’m going to take the liberty of dividing working people into two categories; those who continuously learn new things and network on a regular basis, and those who have become comfortable in their positions and make little effort to upgrade their skills and work their professional networking circles.

Here’s the problem in a nutshell people: At some point, be it for a number of reasons, you just might find yourself out of work. With a lack of ongoing training your skills may be obsolete, even though your length of service was commendable. And the networking? Well, if you’ve not taken the time to maintain communications with others, you may now have no contact information for them, and they have no strong motivation to help you now even if you do seek them out.

The subject for today’s blog came to me twice; once yesterday afternoon and once this morning – and it’s only 5:45 a.m. as I write this! A fellow on-line colleague weighed-in with her thoughts and mentioned the number of older workers she is assisting whom took little effort to continually upgrade their skills and now have learning gaps to overcome. And yesterday, a senior long-term co-worker of mine asked me to do his work for him and issue some benefits to clients in his workshop – because he doesn’t know how to do it.

Although I’ve given two examples above about what prompted me to write today, there’s a third more prominent example I’m thinking of. I have a personal friend who worked at a management level in a company for nearly two decades. While good at his job, he had mentioned for some time how the job didn’t challenge him anymore and he had actually started to think seriously about other opportunities that he might check out. Unfortunately, the decision was made for him as he was released from his job a couple of months ago.

Now in a smaller community of 74,000 people, and as the top guy in a retail outlet that supplies the public with office material, I would have thought that he’d have networked with other business owners and Managers on a regular basis to attract their accounts and supply them with their supplies. That apparently wasn’t the case. Unfortunately, he didn’t forge those contacts, and so now out of work he has no history of interaction to draw on where they might alert him to openings or upcoming job possibilities.

Technology alone is one of the most obvious and most-cited areas in which a person can and should stay up-to-date with their learning. Can you imagine going into an interview and in 2014 proudly stating that you’re a wiz when it comes to using your Commodore 64? I’m willing to be the graduating classes of 2014 have likely never heard of that or if they have, they’ve likely not seen one. You not only need to be using currently hardware, you need to stay up on the software too and use latest versions.

And if technology doesn’t affect you a great deal in your line of work, think again. A man in his fifties came in the other day and said he was looking for a job as a Driver. He figures with no computer skills he can at least drive a truck for a company. Surprisingly, he’s not aware that the inventory in that truck isn’t being kept on paper attached to a clipboard, but rather on a hand-held device electronically scanning the load. Even the driving is guided by a GPS these days, not a folded map.

Now it’s true, you may be banking on the fact that you have a job for life; that unemployment is something that happens to other poor souls but not you. And furthermore, you might be relying on your past track record of being able to get a job quickly if you ever were out of work, because it’s always come easy to you. I hope you never have to find out if your track record continues to be that good.

2014 is much different for job seekers than it used to be. Essentially there are more people out of work and looking for employment than there has been. Fewer companies are hiring in many jurisdictions because of the economic climate. That combination of many job seekers and few jobs means you’re in for some tough competition. Oh but right, you already have a job and don’t need to worry about that.

I wonder however what discussions are being held, and decisions being contemplated behind corporate doors that you don’t know about yet but will soon. It might be that you regret decisions you’re making now to avoid working your contacts and upgrading your skills. Take better care of these things now and it could pay off handsomely in the future.

At least look into skill development. If you are lucky, maybe your company pays for this training. Go to a conference or at least dialogue with people in your field. Never bad advice.

Why No One Will Hire You

“Why can’t I get an interview? I know I can do the jobs I apply for.”

Sometimes; okay quite often, I’m asked that question in my job as an Employment Counsellor. With rare exception, I’ve got a pretty accurate idea of exactly why the person I’m working with isn’t getting hired, or often even interviewed.

It’s usually at this point that I pause for a few seconds and look squarely at the person whose just asked the question. In these few seconds, what I’m really doing is making a quick assessment of how to answer the person in such a way so that I’m truthful, but address them in a way where I’ll get through to them. In other words I’m trying to speak to them at a level they’ll understand and in words that they understand. It’s reading your audience 101.

Now this might remind you of your own experiences when dealing with others. Take a child who asks, “Where do babies come from?” Don’t you immediately think to yourself, “Oh my…uh….” and then quickly assess the age of the child asking and what their brain might be thinking and what they are capable of understanding? Not very likely you take a 4-year-old and start telling them about the human reproduction experience and the usually nine month gestation period. Have a version of that question posed in a medical student course, and you’d get an answer from a health care professional instructing his audience on what’s going on inside including the journey of the sperm and it’s going to deal more with anatomy and biology and a powerful microscope or two will be introduced. Different audience, different levels of understanding.

So in that few seconds when someone says, “Why can’t I get an interview?”, I start assessing the person’s age, how well or little I know them, whether they have a sense of humour or not, how fragile or strong their ability to handle constructive criticism might be, and is this a public or private setting in which the person is about to receive the information.

For some people, it’s just the resume. Their resume isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on quite frankly. Other than their name at the top, there isn’t one thing – one thing mind – that doesn’t need an overhaul or adjustment. Spelling errors, grammatical errors, improper wording, false information, misleading and tired phrases repeated over and over, entire sections missing and the order of the resume confusing etc. With others, the resume is only needing small revisions.

Ah but the resume itself is but one part of the application process. Maybe the person has never heard of a cover letter, can’t be bothered to write one, doesn’t possess the vocabulary to properly compose one, or has one but it’s actually better if they didn’t use one at all because it’s so atrocious.

Oh and in that few seconds I’m looking at the client, I’m checking out their posture, their clothing, personal grooming, cleanliness and listening to their voice. Everything from their language skills, slang, accent, eye contact and mannerisms is sized up. I even quickly look at how disorganized or neat the table they are working at is arranged. Are they sitting there alone working with focus and I was in the area, or did they bring along their mom, a friend, a spouse or their children while working on finding a job?

Yep. All that goes on in the few seconds that it takes for the person to ask the question and then take a breath or two and decide how to respond. Now please don’t think that I’m under some illusion that I’m playing God and have some superiority complex where I’m treating this person like the 4-year-old I mentioned earlier. If you’re thinking that, you’d be off.

The quick assessment is something developed over a long period of time and interacting with people on a continuous basis; years. I and others who work in this field get better at it with every interaction and while we might assess incorrectly sometimes, most of the time the approach settled on is the best one because it’s worked well on others of similar presentation.

So here’s why no one will hire you. Rarely is it one single thing. It’s several individual things that when compiled together, form the overall impression your creating. That overall impression is not attractive to the companies you’ve been applying to. If you go about job searching and applying for jobs in the same way you’ve been doing things unsuccessfully, the results are likely to be the same only a small possibility of success.

Being open to doing things differently is the first and most significant thing a person can do in the short-term to increase the probability of being successful in the future. Yes it’s like saying, “It’s not working your way; try another way.” Be warned; the other way usually doesn’t mean just a re-written resume. Like I say, it’s likely you might actually benefit from learning how to interview better, maybe an honest chat about looking and acting like the people who work where you want to get a job. Doing some research on the job and the company too might be suggested.

All of the ideas and suggestions you might get are meant to be helpful. They just have to be given in a way that doesn’t offend the person but rather starts a relationship that will eventually produce desired results.