Giving Of Yourself Too Much Can Be Dangerous

Is it even possible to give of yourself too much? Yes it is. But there’s no harm in that is there? Yes there is.

Do you know someone who has issues of their own they are working through, or should be working through, and yet they spend much of their time listening to and helping other people? I know more than just a few, I know a lot of people like this. And there is an irony that these same people being called on to listen and provide supportive advice and counselling are themselves dealing with issues of anxiety, depression, hopelessness, low-self image and self-esteem, financial hardship, mental health issues and parenting issues just to name some of the more common problems they face.

There is an inherent danger for these people which they sometimes realize but more often than not fail to do so. In their futures, there is likely to come a time when they become incapacitated from being able to not only help others, but their own lives and feelings of usefulness deteriorate and not understanding why, come to resent themselves and it can end very badly.

Allow me to explain. A simple analogy is a tall pitcher with liquid in it. If that full pitcher represents ones capacity to give, there’s enough there to give away. So yes it’s your pitcher but you are able to provide yourself and others with some of it quite happily. But now there is less in the pitcher and some of those people come back for more. Well this time not everybody is satisfied. First of all those that take some may get less than they’d like and the ones who get nothing are disappointed there isn’t anything for them. You? Unless you find a way to add more liquid to the pitcher, there isn’t any for you either, and you’re unable to draw from it yourself.

So in real life what does this look like? How about the single mother who is raising two teens, one of which is bitter, mad at the world, blames the parent for the driving the spouse away. The same single parent is trying to stave off the landlord from evicting them, somehow catch up with utility arrears, caring for aging parents that say she doesn’t visit enough, sees the cost of food rising beyond what she can afford. Now throw in unemployment and while attending some workshops to improve herself, one of the two kids at home isn’t going to school and the school is demanding attention to the matter and summoning her in for meetings.

So here we’ve got a person trying to appease school officials, meet her children’s needs, placate her own parents who are ill and aging, find money to pay utility arrears and landlord increases, and while keeping all these people happy by giving them her time and attention, is neglecting herself and her own desire and need for employment. That’s quite a juggling act. How many more stressors do you think such a person would be likely to add to this juggling routine before everything falls apart? Well let’s add the two or three friends who constantly come to her for advice because she’s so good at listening. Hmmm….

In such a situation, I can’t pretend to tell you there is one solution that would be right for everyone or even best for everyone. But generally speaking, I think it’s time – high time for this person to be given permission to become a little selfish and spend some time in self-care. In other words, if you give and give until there is nothing left to give, not only will you be of little or no use to anyone you care about, you’ll be paralyzed and unable to function which will make you not only unable to help others, but you’ll resent yourself for your inability to do so. You may come to see yourself as a failure; a failure as a parent, a provider, a good child to your own parents, a good listener for your friends, and at worse a person of value. Stop seeing yourself as a good person and you’re in trouble.

Being selfish in this respect might mean telling those friends you’re taking some time to get things in order and can’t give them the time they’d like for a while. It might mean exploring help in the community to get those arrears paid off and by swallowing some pride keep the lights and heat on. It might mean telling a rebellious angry teen that believes it’s all about him that it isn’t; and that some family counselling, better behaviour and school aren’t options anymore, they are mandatory and the alternative is the door.

Again, I’m not advocating the above as the only solutions, nor the best ones for everybody. Fail to take care of yourself and get your own life together however, and you’ll have less ability to help the very ones you love and want to be there for the most. Being selfish in this regard really has the long-term impact of continuing to be able to give of yourself, but much more effectively.

Share your load with someone in a professional capacity who may suggest help you don’t even know exists. You’re going to feel better, like yourself more, and ultimately juggle less things daily which makes it all the more manageable.

“Judging” Others Isn’t Bad, It’s Essential

Do you find it troubling or disturbing if I tell you that I’m positive you go about your daily life judging other people? If you do, what is it about the word, ‘judging’ that puts you on the defensive? Judging others is not only something you do all the time, its a critical part of your self-defence system that has got you this far in life.

Okay so you’re walking in a strange neighbourhood – wait – it’s not strange to the people who live there and frequent it all the time. No, the neighbourhood is just unfamiliar to you, and yet you chose to think of it as strange instead of new or unfamiliar. Moving on though, you see this large, imposing figure come out of nowhere and who is now walking toward you with their head held high, shoulders square, and your senses tell you to be on your guard. You furtively look for an open store to dash into until they pass, or cross the street to avoid meeting them altogether. Your survival instincts kicked in based on your past experiences; real and vicariously lived through television, movies and books.

Yes we make judgements about people based on how they dress, walk, act, their tattoo’s or body piercings, their vocabulary and where they live. If we meet them and strike up a conversation, we ask what they do for a living, where they went to school, who’s in their social circle, what they’ve read lately, what they do in their spare time, and we form opinions and judge them based on every little piece of information that we gather. And those people are instinctively doing the same thing about us.

Employers are no different. When they get our cover letters or resumes, they start assessing whether or not we might be a good fit to work for and with them. Spelling and grammatical errors might cause them to judge us as poorly educated, having little regard for proofreading and attention to details, illiterate or worse. Written work that is error free and grammatically correct may cause them to judge us as well-educated, professional, desirable and having a strong attention to detail.

Now follow this pattern to a first meeting, and in seconds, you’ll find yourself looked up and down, and an initial first impression is made by them about you. Presumably you chose your clothing when dressing, so that says something about you and how you see yourself. Did you dress conventionally to fit in with those who work there currently or did you decide to express your individuality and go with the reindeer socks for the big interview?

Yes judging others is something we all do. Think back on some of the more notable people in your past. A favourite teacher, a kind neighbour, your favourite grandparent or Aunt. Think now of some of those whom you didn’t really get on with too; the bully in the playground, the stern teacher, an abusive partner, a boss who treated you unfairly. Got some images for the good and bad folks of the past or possibly even the present? Good.

As you now go about your daily life, you’re running into people all the time. There’s the cashier at the grocery store, the bank teller, the person who makes your coffee, the person your best friend introduces you to etc. And of course there are job interviewers, workshop facilitator’s, mental health counsellors and even Employment Counsellors. All of these people are no different. Meet any of them for the first time and you’ll immediately form some reaction.

So what’s going on in those first 1 – 10 seconds when you meet? Your brain takes in all the visual and auditory information it can gather and immediately starts comparing what you are now experiencing with all the data it’s collected and stored about similar people you may have encountered in the past. If the person in front of you fits with the good experiences you’ve had, your impression is a positive one. If however the data you are feeding to your brain via your senses of sight, sound, smell and possibly touch match up with people from your past with whom you’ve had bad experiences, you’ll have a negative reaction.

This explains why you and your best friend have a different impression of someone you both just met for the first time. And it also is why some organizations have panel interviews; to get two or more people’s assessment of you the job applicant and see if they can agree on who would be the best fit.

After that first impression, there may be many more interactions. These subsequent interactions either confirm our initial first impressions, or they provide additional data to our brains that cause us to re-think and re-evaluate our initial thoughts, and our judgement of others may shift slightly or completely. However, in the case of a job interview, we may only get a single shot at the job. Those first 1 – 10 seconds are vital then to making a positive impression. The next 11 seconds – 1 hour will either confirm for the interviewer that they had you sized up properly right at the start, or may change their opinion of you based on your answers and your non-verbal communication.

So you do it, they do it, we all do it; we judge; and it’s a good thing. You’re judging me right now based on what you’ve read. I’m hoping I’ve made a good impression!

During The Job Interview…

There is much to be said for what you should do both before and after an interview. But when you are actually in the job interview itself, how should you conduct yourself to maximize your chances of getting an offer of employment?

It starts when you walk onto the property of the employer. Any one of the people you meet entering the building, passing by in the corridor or even sharing the washroom with might turn out to be the very person you need to impress yourself upon. Rather than trying to be someone who turns on the professionalism and charm only with the right people, do your best to be polite and friendly with everyone as the rule, not the exception.

Once you’ve met the person at reception to advise them of your arrival, again be courteous, friendly and use your time waiting to get your breathing under control, remind yourself that your resume outlining your qualifications was good enough to get you this far, and it’s not a bad idea to also remind yourself that you are going to simply have a conversation with an employer who has some needs you could fill. You aren’t the only here who is under pressure; you need a job but they need someone to fill a vacancy.

Okay so your moment has arrived and someone has come out to introduce themselves. Smile, shake their hand, look them in the eye and sound genuinely pleased to meet them. Take in the surroundings as you pass out of the public area into the space reserved for employees, and if you are engaged in small talk on the way to the interview area, it will likely be on such things as the weather, finding the workplace that morning; every day conversations you’d likely have with anyone.

When you enter the actual room set aside for the interview, you’ll first note two things almost immediately; whether the interview is 1:1 or a panel, and secondly whether or not the seating area includes a desktop or not. If the area you are to sit in has some desktop area, lay out your folder with your cover letter, resume, references and the job posting, put your pad of paper and pen next to it. This will visually demonstrate to the interviewer(s) that you are prepared for this meeting, you are organized and you’re taking the process seriously. No desk surface? Take your folder in your hands, and place it open and on your lap ready to refer to it if and when necessary.

Some people are still under the impression that you should show up in the interview with nothing other than a single sheet of your references. Where does it say that? Rather than looking like your somehow cheating if you need to refer to your resume or a note you’ve made in your research, having the items mentioned earlier on visual display demonstrate that you enter important meetings prepared and ready to go. And if you prepared well for this meeting, you are likely going to repeat this process when employed.

As for the questions they’ll ask of you, as trite as it sounds, answer the questions asked. One woman I know who is well-educated recently lost her chance at a job because she didn’t actually answer the questions put to her. She was going for a promotion and as she was being interviewed by someone who worked with her everyday, she assumed their relationship and what the boss knew of her already would be enough to get her by. She saw the interview as a formality instead of an unbiased opportunity for a job, and as it turns out she didn’t get it.

There are a few things you want to communicate every single time without fail; first your genuine desire for the job. Yes you should ask for the job and many don’t feeling it is somehow inappropriate to be so forthcoming. Ask for it! Get into the interview and if this is something you really want, sound like it and look like it. Please do yourself a favour and cite very specific examples from your past and current experiences that prove you have the skills and qualifications you are telling them you have.

Examples are critical. Talking in vague generalities about what you might do in the future in a given situation is very 1990’s. In your answers, paint a visual picture for the interviewer of the job site and company where you dealt with that challenging customer, never use real names to identify people you may have had interaction with as this shows your respect for confidentiality. The more examples you use, the greater your credibility.

Do prepare some questions which will again show you’re genuinely interested. What you ask about will show your understanding of the role you are to play, what’s important to you and your enthusiasm for the job or not. Ask nothing and say all your questions were answered, and you come across as bland, forgettable and a poor fit.

Ensure the usual stuff of course; good posture and grooming, appropriate clothing, no fidgeting with your hair or annoying finger tapping or leg swinging. Bring some extra copies of your resume or CV in case there’s more than one interviewer, and walk in and out confidently.

Remember that a job interview should be framed as really just a conversation between two or more people where the topic agreed upon is a job vacancy. See it for what it is.

Speaking With The Emotionally Fragile

This week and next, I’m meeting 1:1 with 21 people who just last week I spent 5 days with exploring career possibilities and learning about themselves. The purpose of our individual meetings is to give them feedback on their participation in the process, sum up what they got out of the experience and what steps lie before them in both the short and long-term.

Among the things they all share in common is that each of these people are currently in receipt of social assistance; getting help with their rent and food while they rebuild their lives. Of those in attendance, what you may find interesting is that quite a few disclosed in the group or to me individually over the week that they are dealing with issues of depression and anxiety either on a frequent or regular basis. So you can imagine how proud I am of all of them for coming out, doing some self-assessments of their skills, abilities, values and needs with respect to jobs and careers.

I met with one such person yesterday for about 90 minutes. I asked about her living arrangements in order to find out how stable this part of her life is, as stable housing is a pre-requisite to finding employment. She mentioned that she lives with her younger brother, but previously lived with an older brother, her mother before that, her father before that, and with both her mom and dad prior to a messy divorce. Having revealed all this to me, I asked her how she felt moving around during that period. And it was at this point that I was glad I had thought to put a box of tissue within reach of her.

All her feelings of being inconvenient, in the way, unappreciated, passed off as a burden and a source of frustration for others flooded out. That one inquiry I’d made touched a sensitive and raw area that on the surface of things was invisible, but internally she was carrying it so close to the surface that the slightest mention of her feelings caused her to pour out.

At a moment such as this you’ve got to know how prepared you are yourself to have someone break down in front of you in such an obvious trusting and honest way. The key for me personally is that it’s not about me, but about them; and at that moment, it was pretty clear she was in need of a slight pause in the conversation – even though we’d pretty much just begun – to compose herself. She apologized. I get that of course, but why apologize?

At 25 here she was before me an emotionally sensitive woman still experiencing the trauma from the messy divorce of her parents and being shuffled around from family member to family member because she was not wanted by any of them until she landed with a younger brother. She’s been robbed of the security and stability of an intact parental pairing, and has yet to fully work through this loss.

Counselling of course came immediately to mind as a viable addition to her support team in moving forward. Unfortunately, she mentioned that she is distrustful of counsellors because it was a counsellor arranged by her father that first told her that her parents were about to get a divorce and that it would be very messy. That unfortunate experience has jaded her from giving counselling a second chance. I’m still hopeful that this option for her becomes one she takes me up on, especially when it’s free for her entirely and just down the hall from where we were meeting, so it’s in a place she currently trusts and visits.

We meet people every day in our lives who are experiencing trauma, dealing with anxiety and depression. Some of these issues become known to us and at other times they are invisible, but we deal with the people nonetheless perhaps never knowing what they are really dealing with and working through.

What makes encounters with those experiencing mental health issues unique from physical health issues is that they are not immediately apparent, and therefore the rest of us might not come to the same conclusions with respect to the behaviours we observe when dealing with them. So while a person wearing a cast gets a, “Gee how did that happen? Let me get the door for you”, the depressed person might get a, “What’s your issue? Smile a little, it wont’ kill you.” And if those with mental health issues did wear identifying labels on their foreheads we might be paralyzed ourselves in wondering how to even start talking to them when we saw 5 or 6 labels on one person alone.

For me personally, I have found that just sitting and listening, opening the door to a disclosure, making no promises of a quick fix, but engaging in a safe relationship where it’s okay to share something personally important works.

People with anxiety and depression can be valuable additions to an employer. They deserve success, happiness and employment just like anyone else, and in many cases will work with appreciation for the opportunity. Initially they may need extra support, a kind Supervisor as they stretch themselves and what they can do. Just imagine how grateful and committed an employee you’d be getting if they could share their triggers with you and not be taken advantage of or dismissed for doing so.

Something to consider.

1 Way To Strengthen Your Resume Or CV

While there are many do’s and don’ts to making your resume or CV, the suggestion I have today for you is one that will strengthen almost any application and hopefully get you into the interview chair. I hope you personally agree with me, whether you are making a document for the very first time, or you are a seasoned pro when it comes to making them.

My suggestion has to do with the content of the bullets under each job you have either performed in the past or are currently involved with. However before I discuss this further, you’ll only get what I’m talking about if you first have in front of you a job posting you are actually interested in applying for. Sitting down to make your CV or resume without a job you want to apply to is a very poor way to begin, and my suggestion for strengthening your resume won’t work whatsoever if you don’t already have the posting to guide you along.

Okay, so here we go. Many people will look at the job posting and read over the requirements. When making their resume, the same folks will more often than not, make sure that the section called, “Qualifications” includes some of the more important ones from the posting. This is a good thing. After all, the employer reviewing all those resumes they receive in answer to a job posting wants to quickly know if you match up well on paper or not before reading the entire thing.

So the same logic should be easy to understand further on down beneath that section as you start listing your current and past experiences. Ironically however, my time spent watching people construct their own resumes or reviewing them once they have done it completely shows a lack of understanding in this vital area. What seems to occur is a person writes down their job title, employer and date, and then they gaze upward, look thoughtful and start putting down whatever they can think of that they did or accomplished in that job.

If you are one of these people, you are likely agreeing with the above paragraph and wondering therefore how this could possibly be the wrong thing to be doing. Asking yourself, “What did I actually do or accomplish in that job?” is the wrong question to be asking yourself as you list some bullet points. The right question is close but different. The question you should be asking and answering is, “What did I actually do or accomplish in that job THAT IS RELATED DIRECTLY TO THE JOB I AM APPLYING FOR RIGHT NOW?”

You will find with this question that a review of the job posting you are applying to will tell you specifically the skills required for the job. While you may have done some impressive things in a certain job in the past, those accomplishments might not be relevant to the job you are applying for. It may be far wiser to use the same words from the posting in demonstrating and proving you have done similar work and developed similar skills rather than something spectacular but not really relevant.

Okay an example. Suppose the job posting is for a Personal Support Worker and says the successful applicant will practice confidentiality and exhibit compassion and sensitivity. You may be well served then to say:

– Respectful of people’s rights to privacy and confidentiality at all times while delivering compassionate, considerate personal care in a sensitive, dignified manner

The above might be far better than a bullet that says you are good at multi-tasking and take on extra work without complaint. While multi-tasking and a good attitude when it comes to additional work are excellent qualities themselves, they aren’t the qualities identified by the employer as the ones they are specifically seeking. If you can imagine a resume or CV where the applicant has carefully constructed each and every bullet to specifically align with the job posting, you can I hope also imagine how much stronger the overall document will be.

So is this worth the extra time it will require to personalize the entire resume? After all, I acknowledge this will make construction of a resume longer. Well, obviously in my opinion the answer is yes it is. Why? Well, simply put it’s less work not more. You see, a resume that is as strong as it can be and specifically done this way has to be among the strongest the employer will receive. If the qualifications section and all the details of what you have done in the past all point back directly to the job posting, it has to rank up there with the strongest.

The result of this method is that your resume now gets you an interview more often than not. That in turn means you are doing less resumes in the first place in total, even though you are spending more time on a single resume. And given a choice between doing 1-3 resumes to land an interview with 2-3 hours spent on each, or 20-25 resumes to land an interview that you spent 15 minutes on each, which would you want?

Hopefully as I said earlier, you are either already doing this yourself or the light bulb just went on and you’re having an ‘a-ha’ moment right now. The longer the job posting, the easier it is to make a stellar resume using this simple but oft overlooked process.

Career Exploration Activity For Workshop Leaders

One of the many classes I facilitate in my role as an Employment Counsellor is one where participants explore career options after first completing many assessments to determine their assets. Looking at their work values, problem-solving styles, transferable and job-specific skills, likes and dislikes is essential to first knowing themselves.

One of my favourite activities in this one-week long class is fun for clients to take part in yet on the serious side allows them a chance to see how their personal attributes could contribute to a job that is likely one they’ve not considered before. It also shows them the process to undergo when looking at a job posting for the first time, before starting on their resumes.

If you like it by the way, feel free to try it out with my blessings and maybe let me know how it turns out for you and your group. Sharing and exchanging ideas is how we all improve ourselves in the pursuit of best practices after all.

So here’s how it goes. On the third day of the class, what participants see on the walls around them upon entering the room are 50 legal sized envelopes all of which are on the walls in various places, seemingly in random order. Some are up high, some just above the floor, one or two behind where I stand at the front of the room, some grouped together in a group of 7 or 8 and others standing alone by themselves. This time around I also put a single one on a 45 degree angle, all by itself in a prominent place.

Now after everyone had arrived and we were just wrapping up our hello’s, I made sure to get the attention of the entire group and asked them in a serious voice not to look inside the envelopes. Then I moved on. Over the course of the day, I reminded the group at least 5 more times not to touch the envelopes or look inside, and each time I did it, I said it like I had just thought of it and was telling them for the first time. So I’d say something like, “Oh and just before we break for lunch, if I haven’t told you already, please do not look in the brown envelopes on the walls. Did I mention that earlier?”

What I was doing of course was building up the expectation for whatever it was that we eventually would be doing with the envelopes. Nearing the end of the day, I knew I had succeeded when I said, “Okay we’ve just got one activity left today”, and one of the participants interrupted and said, “Finally the brown envelopes?” To this I said, “Oh right, have I mentioned NOT to touch the brown envelopes yet? No, we’ll use them tomorrow.” Some in the class laughed, some showed mock disappointment but it built up the anticipation. What would we do with those envelopes?

Next morning, just before mid-morning break, I told them that we’d be using the envelopes right after break time. Everybody was back early from their break. What I then told them is that while I wouldn’t be choosing a career for them in this class, in this activity they would in fact be choosing their own. So one by one, I had them get up, go to the envelope of their choice and take it off the wall and reveal the picture inside with the job or career title on it.

Which envelope went first? The one that was on the 45 degree angle as I predicted. It was apparently causing some small anxiety for someone who joked they had OCD. Some chose envelopes right behind them because they don’t like being in the spotlight. Some chose envelopes high up because they thought the best jobs would be just out of reach. Others chose the one or two behind me because they were representing the hidden job market – seriously, they figured this out on their own.

Once they all had jobs and careers revealed, some were happy, others disappointed, and some had no idea what their career job was even after seeing the picture and the title. What is an Actuary? Then I handed out a single sheet with questions for them to answer. What skills and education does the job require? What characteristics do they have that the job requires? What’s the worse that could go wrong? What would they like or dislike in the job? What’s the annual salary? Is University or College required for the job?

Then I ‘fired’, ‘laid off’, and had some ‘quit’ their jobs and we repeated the process a second time with a new envelope. It showed them that jobs they didn’t previously consider might suit them in some ways. One guy with anxiety got a Street Cleaner, and he said it would be perfect for him. On his own, small brief conversations with people, performing a service but independent without a boss watching him and little social interaction. Who knew?

You might give people valuable insight into themselves with this exercise. It lasted 30 minutes in total but was among the most memorable we did over the week. Of course real research is required and not just best guesses sitting in a room with others as I pointed out to honestly find some information. And that’s a key part in looking at any job.

Try it out!

Shooting Off Your Mouth? Be Careful Which Direction You’re Facing

Job searching is for many an exercise in frustration. First of all many see the whole job search as a tedious way to spend their days; applying for jobs, getting few positive results for a lot of effort, going to interviews where they will be judged and usually rejected, then doing it again day after day, and all the while supposed to be smiling and upbeat.

I personally don’t agree with this characterization of the process, but many see things this way. So it’s not hard to understand why people whom otherwise would be positive souls sometimes become embittered, difficult to be around, and often spew out their thoughts with venom and anger. If you ever find yourself on the receiving end of this, how can you help but take their words personally?

The inherent danger however for the person themselves is this: the very people who may be in a position to help aid the job seeker may themselves be turned off from wishing to do so, and the result is the job seeker becomes more isolated, more frustrated and ultimately spends additional time going it alone. Employers will find you unattractive.

Being around someone who is launching verbal tirades, sees the world as black and white, right and wrong and who suddenly has become an expert in all areas and doesn’t miss an opportunity to give you their indisputable opinion on everything isn’t fun. Yes, these kind of people have much to apologize for in terms of their behaviour; behaviour which is inexcusable. However, it serves the rest of us well to forgive what we can recognizing that some people have passed their point of endurance and are floundering and coping the only way they are capable of. Having a jaded view on life and work may already have cost them much in terms of jobs and opportunities, so if you or I can help them in some way to grab hold of some positive relationship(s) in their lives, that says much about us.

But let me turn to you the frustrated and jaded job seeker. Maybe I’ll get an earful in writing at the conclusion of this piece. Maybe I’ll also get a word or two of support for telling you what you need to hear but are missing. We shall see.

First of all, I acknowledge that you are going through a tremendously frustrating job search. I can’t pretend to know first-hand what your individual circumstances are, but it’s not hard to guess. You could be in a situation where you have many years of experience, you’re aging and that’s becoming a factor, your health may be a concern for employers, your skills and qualifications while impressive are becoming out-dated; after all you haven’t done the work itself for quite a while since you’ve been out of work.

On top of this, you’re pretty sure you know how to look for work. All the hours you’ve put into job searching however are yielding few if any positive results at all, and nobody enjoys putting out a lot of effort and getting nothing in return except rejection. You really do feel like screaming and telling people how it is, and because so many people you know who claim to be experts happen to have good paying jobs, they can’t possibly know as much as you do about being unemployed. I get that.

But listen. That small chip on your shoulder that has grown into a boulder isn’t making you very attractive. You’ve either lost or are close to losing the support and help of the very people you need to help you get back into the workforce. Don’t fool yourself, you DO need help. It’s getting harder for people to separate your behaviour from you yourself, and your behaviour needs attention.

If you’re a walking time-bomb, just about to go off at the slightest odd look or misinterpreted comment someone makes, you need more help than you know, and that’s a huge problem. Talking frankly and openly with a professional Mental Health Counsellor is maybe long overdue. You might not think it’s you that has a problem, but it is unfortunately. This is the right person to vent with, express your honest feelings, unburden yourself to and pour it all out on. Bottling it up until you explode isn’t working and it’s not likely to.

There are three professional people you should be tapping into; your Doctor, a Mental Health Counsellor, and an Employment Counsellor or Advisor. The doctor will look at your physical health, the next your mental health, and the last your employability. This group as part of your support team may not only help you get your working life back on track, they may just save your life and personal relationships period.

People around you will only tolerate and forgive a certain amount of your anger. Hopefully you sincerely want to regain that positive old self you used to be and can be once again. Those around you want that too.

I’m not judging you or your situation. I’m telling you what others who are too close to you perhaps want to tell you but are afraid to. Maybe you should read this a few times before saying anything to anyone and let it sink in.

Here’s hoping you get the help you need and the eventual employment you want so bad.

Okay, let me have it.

Do You Look For Excuses Or Solutions?

Sometimes we find ourselves in situations where we have two courses of options, and just for the briefest of moments, we might actually be tempted to take the easiest of the two; the one that we could justify for inaction or minimal effort. That might be normal perhaps. It’s what happens after those few seconds of reflection that define us by our actions that follow.

By way of example, you could find yourself at work tasked to put out an email to all your colleagues at the end of the day so that when they arrive in the morning, they have direction and will adhere to whatever Management wished them to do. However you only remember this while you are turning the key in your ignition, warming up the car for the drive home. Do you shut off the car, go inside, turn on the computer and send the email? Or instead of taking the ten minutes to do this, do you drive on home planning on telling the boss in the morning that you forgot all about it and had been on the way home when you remembered?

If you go home, you could justify things to yourself and maybe even get the boss to concur with you. However, if you go back and complete the task, you add reliability and dependability to your reputation. You get things done and can be entrusted with this and additional responsibilities in the future.

Now the interesting thing that you should be aware of is that one incident on its own doesn’t mean much. I have found however in my dealings with people, that one type of behaviour tends to be repeated. When a behaviour gets repeated it forms a pattern, and this pattern of behaviour brands a person; both to themselves and to others. Sure some people act one way at work and one way in their personal life, but it is more common that people gravitate to act the way they have acted in the past.

Ever heard of that phrase, “If you want something done, ask someone who is busy”? Surely it would be better to ask someone who is available and not doing anything than ask someone who is busy to do something important. That however is not the case much of the time. People who are busy are, ‘doers’. They are used to working hard, following through, and it is their reputation for succeeding that makes them someone in demand.

Think about your own workplace for a moment. Do you notice people as you think about things who are involved in many different areas outside of their job requirements? Often people who serve on a committee will be on more than one, and those who just come in and go home get passed by when it comes to depending on someone to take on additional responsibility.

Now you might have good reasons or valid explanations, or even poor excuses for why you don’t or can’t get involved. You might also be the type however that finds solutions to problems and challenges and opts to do so. When that little voice whispers in your ear and tempts you to withdraw, put something off or beg out altogether, how quickly do you give in to this temptation?

At my workplace we’ve got an employee who does the minimum when it looks like work, but if the situation is a social one, this person is the first to raise a hand and get involved. The result is they are perceived as a fair-weather employee, but when extra effort is required, they can’t be depended upon to step up and help. What makes this all the more difficult to understand is when they put forward an excuse such as having to catch up on all their emails while they were away, and yet they are observed to be socializing with others and basking in the attention they are getting while they talk about their vacation.

Now this is a good lesson for you and I, for this kind of behaviour each time it is observed, either adds to or changes a little other people’s perception of us. How do you want to be perceived in your workplace? What’s important to you? And perhaps, what could be important to you not so much right now at this point in your career, but down the road? When that opportunity for a promotion or an assignment you really want comes up, your past behaviour may dictate whether you get serious consideration or not for the increased responsibilities that come with the new work.

Here’s the thing about excuses: If you keep asking others to give you the benefit of the doubt, they may come to doubt your benefit. Companies and business exist because someone with a vision started them up. They want people on board who hold like viewpoints, are committed to the success, the vision, the goals of the organization. If you put in a minimal effort; just enough to do your job but no more, you might not have that job if someone else can demonstrate they are prepared to do more, are more committed, more enthusiastic and are closer to what the person who started things up is like.

Do what is required of you. Be accountable first and foremost to yourself. Work with enthusiasm. It pays off.

Applying For Work? Here’s How

I see people each and every day applying for work. Many of those people sit in front of a computer scanning job postings and when they see a job they are interested in, fire off an email and attach a resume and then repeat this process. If this sounds like you, you’re making it hard on yourself and the odds of success are low.

As much as it might be redundant for those who have excellent job search skills, I think it’s never a bad idea to re-visit some job application basics. After all, to do so will either give you completely new information or confirm what you already knew and raise your confidence.

1. Take an inventory of your skills, interests and qualifications. Most people want a job they’d be both happy and qualified to do. Starting with this crucial step can help you better locate work that would be a best fit. Not only will you be happy in the work, you’ll be good at, stay with it, and that job could transform into a career.

2. Define your geographic search. How far will you travel to work or are you free to re-locate to another community for the right job? Getting an interview or job offer for a job you are unwilling to travel to is wasting both the employers time and yours. Know you’re mobility boundaries.

3. Identify potential job titles and companies. If you only search for specific job titles you’ll miss opportunities. A simple example is only searching for Waitress positions and missing all the jobs identified as Servers or Hostesses.

4. Job Search. Yep, step 4 not step 1. Look on the internet but also watch for job fairs, Help Wanted signs, newspaper ads and articles. Set up some job alerts from companies you are keen to work for.

5. Get the word out. Tell people you are looking and tell them what for. Give them a profile of yourself including your certificates and training, volunteer and work experience, and what you are ideally looking for. Check in with people from time to time so you are remembered and not forgotten.

6. Social Media; set it up and clean it up. Get yourself an online presence that will do you credit if an employer visited your profile(s). Would you be embarrassed or proud to have your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc. page checked out?

7. It’s about them not you. In your applications make it clear what value you’ll add to a company, not primarily what you want. If you solve a problem, fulfill a need or add a new dimension to an organization, you become more attractive.

8. Research. You’re looking for information on the company including how long they’ve been around, what services or goods they provide, their reputation, opportunities you could address, who works there you might know, how the position came about, salary ranges, hours and terms of employment, location and company culture.

9. Be professional. Avoid keyboarding errors, grammar and spelling mistakes, run on sentences, incomplete sentences – all of which are suggestive of your education, competency, professionalism, intelligence, attention to detail and commitment to your own success.

10. Follow up. Don’t just apply for a job and hope for a result. Dig for contact information and use your networking results to get a name. Call unless clearly advised not to do so. Ask for an interview; you’d be surprised how many people who want an interview actually go out of their way NOT to ask for one!

11. Be mindful of application requirements. Quote posting numbers when it says to, get it there before the deadline, make sure you send it in the desired method (fax, email, in-person, on-line). Visit the website and check for details like mandatory font style and size.

12. First impressions count. Right from the first point of contact, be it a phone call, job application, face-to-face meeting or cover letter, your reputation is being examined and judged by company representatives. Don’t wait for the formal interview to make the right impression.

13. Be courteous and respectful. Whether it’s the Receptionist, Janitor, Doorman, or the person pushing a mail distribution cart, be polite and use your good manners. Good or bad, word could get back to the person who holds the decision-making role with respect to your future with the company.

14. Work on your self-presentation. Your smile should be genuine, your handshake volunteered, your eye contact direct, your clothes appropriate and clean, your hair clean and tidy, your breath pleasant, your hands and shoes clean. If sitting, lean slightly forward to show interest, and avoid spinning the chair or distracting gestures.

15. Show enthusiasm. Employers are excited about their own companies and they work hard to make them as successful as they can. In an ideal world, they’d hire people who feel just as committed to success as they do. Your words and body language should give the impression that you care, that this is something you really want; that your success will be their success and vice-versa.

16. You need quality and quantity. It’s no good to apply to 50 jobs in a week if you aren’t personalizing those applications. And a single job application per month won’t likely lead to many positive results either. Make each application a sincere good effort, but you do need to get several out there.

Okay now there is no set number of steps in applying for work. Bottom line is I hope you see that looking for work is so much more than sitting in front of a computer.

Your Job Application Says More Than You’d Think

Over the course of any given month, I’m scheduled to supervise a drop-in Resource Centre where people can come in and have use of a computer hooked up to the internet, photocopiers, fax machines, telephones and even get free paper and envelopes. While they take advantage of all the above, only seldom do they take advantage of the Employment Counsellor with years of experience there to help them.

Now if I went into a brake shop and there on the wall were a number of brake pads, grinders, rotors and a car hoist, I might be able to tinker away and eventually leave with something that may or may not stop my car on the road. However, if there was a licenced professional brake installer standing there just waiting to help me for the asking, wouldn’t I be much better off asking for his or her expertise? I’d like to improve my chances of stopping.

Unfortunately, many people think they can put together a job application. They usually see the cover letter as a lot of effort and don’t do one at all, or if they do, it broadcasts all kinds of things about the person who wrote it that the person is oblivious to and wouldn’t want known. And the resume? Sorry folks but resumes are usually poorly composed without some second opinion.

So take yesterday. I’m watching a guy photocopy a number of documents which, in my experience tends to be a resume. Just as he was finishing this, I engaged him in conversation. I asked him if he was doing a resume and he was. Then I asked him if his job search was going well or if he was pretty frustrated and got the answer I expected; frustrating. Next I took a chance and told him he was going about the job application process the way that worked way back in 1995.

You see anytime someone is making multiple copies of their resume, I know it’s not specifically targeted to a specific job and this same resume is going to be sent out to different employers. It will never match up the best for any job, because it’s going about things backwards. The first step isn’t to make a resume and then find a job, it’s to find a job and then make a resume. “A” resume, as in singular.

Now as it turns out, he was pretty cautious about me looking over his resume. Most people I speak with out of the blue who don’t know me in the Resource Centre open up immediately and accept my invitation to look over their resume or cover letter and give them some advice. Others like this fellow are more guarded and I change my approach with them.

Here’s something I find pretty basic yet I see more often than I’d like. At the top of the resume I almost always see the person’s name. There is nothing else on the first line, just the name. That makes sense to me. You wouldn’t for example put, “Name:” to the left of your name because it’s obvious right? So then why is it some people will put the word, “Email:” and the beside it put their email address? Isn’t that obvious too? If someone can’t figure out what your email address is just by looking at it, then putting the word, “Email” just before it probably won’t help either. And the same goes with the phone number. Just put the number without announcing it’s a phone number. The employer is smart enough to run a business and can probably identify a phone number without you pointing it out.

In the case of the person I was speaking with, he sheepishly grinned a bit when I pointed this out, and a connection was starting. I could see the first glimmer of his trust forming. What he was really doing was visibly showing me that he recognized he had something to learn from me. Now he asked me for more.

And let’s be honest here. Resume Experts and Job Coaches don’t know everything about everything. If the person leaning against the wall watching me install my brakes came over and pointed out something I didn’t catch at first, I’d certainly ask them for pointers too. But even in the job searching industry, no one person knows everything, least of all me. Things change and so does the job application process.

He asked me if I could guarantee I could get him a job with a resume and I said that I couldn’t. For a moment he almost reverted to his original protectiveness, but he didn’t retreat all the way. I pointed out that the objective here wasn’t to get a job at all, it was to get an interview. The resume was really just one tool needed to get an interview that would be the next step in landing a job. The better the resume the more the odds swing in his favour.

This column is way too short to tell you how to make an exceptional resume. And this post isn’t an advertisement to drum up business for myself. The point is this: Get your brakes installed by a professional, or do it yourself only after having been instructed by a professional. Likewise, get your job application (cover letter and resume, social media profile etc.) looked over by a professional in the Job Coaching/Employment business. Then you’ll be skilled enough to do it on your own with a good chance of success.