This Is The Final Day

As today is December 31st, 2014 I thought I’d remind you that today is the final day. “The final day?”, I can imagine you are asking yourself; what is he talking about? Well I’m just reminding you that as it’s the final day of the year, tomorrow is the day you promised yourself you’d get on with it. You know, that change you’ve put putting off because you might as well make a fresh start of something and 2015 seemed like a logical time to begin.

That’s the thing you see about putting things off to some point in the future; the future eventually becomes your present. Often it’s the things we really should have been doing once we realized we weren’t that we put off, and we somehow rationalize the decision to put things off if there’s some external event that somehow justifies putting things off for the time being.

Take looking seriously for a job. Are you one of the people who put off looking for work in late November and all of December and somehow justified that decision by saying, “Nobody hires in December so I’ll get going when 2015 begins.” Yep, that’d be tomorrow. So are you ready to launch into that job search on a full-time basis tomorrow morning? Or are you going to now say, “Well, nobody is even working on New Year’s Day so I’ll start looking on January 2nd.” Uh huh.

So who am I? Your consciousness? Have I become the little voice that is now trying to hold you accountable to the words or perhaps just the thoughts you had awhile ago? Maybe and maybe not. And if not a full-time job search, was it a promise to lose a few pounds, get more active, be a better person, read a bit more, do a bit more around the house? What was it you promised yourself or put off until the new year because it seemed so convenient at the time as a way of putting off what you should have actually been doing back then?

Making a change from a pattern you have established over a period of time usually doesn’t come easily. We can walk into a dark room and with a flick of a switch the room instantly becomes light and stays bright until somebody flicks that switch again. Making a change in our routines and practices however requires more stamina and more effort to achieve the results we desire. And at the slightest setback, those with limited commitment to change may use their minor setback as justification to pack the whole ‘change’ thing in and revert to their previous ways.

So I suppose it now comes down to, “How bad do you want it?” How much do you want a job and the income that comes with it that would give you financial independence and raise your sense of self-worth and self-image? Are you still content to accept your unemployment? It sure takes a lot more effort to motivate yourself and get going on looking seriously for work. It is so much easier and requires so much less effort to just blame the economy, slam employers, blame immigrants who are stealing all the jobs, point to your age as the problem and the prejudicial attitudes of Human Resources personnel who won’t hire someone as well qualified as you despite your growing gap in work history.

And we do tend to point the finger at external factors and blame others for our situation don’t we? “It’s because of him or her that I ended up this way.” “If only the government would do something to get me a job”, or “It’s not just me, everybody is looking for work!” Really? Seriously? At what point, (if any) do you take the bulk of the responsibility for your own situation and with this new-found personal accountability say, “I am responsible for myself and my future will be what I make of it.”?

Here’s some things to realize: If your resume isn’t generating many interviews, it isn’t good enough in its current state no matter who put it together. If you aren’t making a unique resume for each job you apply to – even in the same line of work – you need to. If you aren’t writing a cover letter for the jobs you are applying to, start. If you aren’t researching employers before you apply for jobs, you need to. If you think no one is hiring, you’re wrong because they are. If you can’t figure out what your unemployment barriers are, get a professional to help you determine this and yes take what they say personally – very personally.

As for computer literacy, if you can’t make, revise, save and send your own resume to an employer without help, take a basic computer class and learn. Whatever you find hard as part of a job search is probably exactly what you should be doing and stop putting off. Hate talking on the phone to people? Pick up the phone and make some cold calls and try to set up some meetings. Ask for interviews.

Have a good time tonight because it’s New Year’s Eve. Tomorrow is January 1st, 2015. If you want change to occur in 2015 it MUST START WITH YOU. Light a fire inside and get serious about rebuilding your future. Not for the last time, I ask you, …………………………………

“How bad do you want it?”

Help Yourself; Read

We are increasingly moving towards living in a society where we get our information in short bursts; and whether by design or by choice people are reading less and needing to be stimulated more often. If War and Peace burst were to burst on the world stage in 2015 for the first time I have to wonder if the general populace would have the stomach to even do more than flip through it in a bookstore let alone read a few pages and certainly not the complete vast book it is.

We do however an injustice to ourselves if we fail to read and it hampers us unknowingly when we express ourselves either in writing or verbal communication. I’m afraid when it comes to writing cover letters, resumes and being able to effectively market ourselves in job interviews, many find themselves handcuffed and unable to express themselves to the extent they would like to do. Many have lamented, “I know what I want to say, I just can’t get it out.”

Now I am not perfect with respect to written communication, and while seldom at a loss to verbally express myself, there are times when my vocabulary is tested. Yet while I admit such shortcomings, I still assert my communication skills to be a strength of mine in most situations. But this piece is not about me; it is directed at any and all who have lost or never had much interest or love in reading.

Here is the thing; when you read on a regular basis you get introduced to new words and discover their meaning. New words and the order in which they are arranged spark new thoughts, some of which may challenge your beliefs, and from that we grow and learn new things. Reading can spark change, take us to places we otherwise would never go, and even in reading non-job related pieces for sheer pleasure, our own vocabulary expands. The consequence of reading on a regular basis then allows us to better communicate ourselves when in the company of others, and so you come to my point in including this appeal in an effort to help readers of this blog in their job searching and career advancement.

Look around you and you’ll see a generation texting in 140 characters or less using social media. Instead of descriptive words that build a strong vocabulary it is essential to minimize and reduce words to their smallest denominator that still communicate the intended meaning. So words like, ‘you’ become, ‘u’. Phrases such as, ‘laugh out loud’ become, ‘lol’ to use some of the more well-known examples. Rather than berating Twitter and texting in general, for I acknowledge their appeal in marketing to the desires of people who want to say as much by saying less, I applaud on the one hand the skill it takes to communicate thought in those 140 characters.

Ask anyone who enjoys reading to share one of their favourite titles with you. When you ask them why it appeals to them so much, you will likely be told that the writing is vivid, the text rich, the words depict pictures and images in their head which they grasp, and they come to care about the characters, the fate of the protagonist. If it’s a job-related book, they will tell you how it impacted on how they go about their work, gave them pause to re-think the way they did something, or introduced them to new ideas and best practices.

Putting books and the printed word aside for a moment, think too of people you find interesting to listen to or conversely grow weary of as they drone on and on and on in some tiring address. Those of interest capture the listener with stories and examples sprinkled in their talk. Their voices vary in pitch, intensity and volume. When making a speech they need not shout to be heard but hold everyone’s ears with their content, mixing in humourous antidotes, getting serious when needed, and they can evoke laughter and tears with equal acclaim.

I would caution you too that you are in danger of revealing much about yourself whether you intend it or not just in your own choice of words which can limit you or serve you well. It’s true, for our vocabulary often reflects our education level, and in an interview you might wonder why some interviewers will suddenly ask you the name of the most recent book you’ve read. This is not a harmless, random question. It is designed to gauge your interests, your level of comprehension, your literacy and your general commitment to your own development. If you say you aren’t reading anything at present or the last book you read you can’t even remember the title of, well that’s telling on you.

Start with anything that interests you – but read. Be it a fantasy novel, a short story, a daily read of newspapers, blogs, news articles on the web – whatever you find motivates you to read more. Re-introduce yourself to a library if you can’t afford to buy books and have no library of your own. The more you read, the more you may find your spelling improves, your grasp and understanding of words becomes.

You may find in reading more that you gain a stronger ability to communicate and express yourself both in the printed word and in speaking to others. And selling yourself to a potential employer is all about communicating your value!

2014 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 26,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 10 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Our Small Deeds Define Us

When we are bucking for a promotion or want to be assigned some project or assignment, is it at these times when we suddenly change our character, act kinder to those in influential positions or conversely do we stay true to whom we are throughout?

Having just had Christmas pass, in a few of the movies I watched recently some of the characters in the shows mused openly about how kinder people were at this time of the year; why couldn’t people carry this kindness and thoughtfulness with them throughout the balance of the year? Usually these people wondered about others instead of turning the question inward and asking it of themselves.

Have you ever noticed that a child who wants something often is on their best behaviour? That an adult who wants a change in behaviour from a child often says something like, “Remember Santa’s watching”, or “Somebody is having a birthday soon aren’t they?” and the hope is the child is angelic henceforth. Thing is those strategies do work most of the time but only until the birthday or Christmas morning and then what? And are we really wanting our children to be on their best behaviour only under the threat of no presents on Christmas morn or no party to celebrate?

Why then should we ourselves be any different in our workplaces? Imagine if you will that you are told the person who currently holds the position you covet is close to retiring or some other scenario that creates a vacancy; a vacancy you’d like to take over. Okay now ask yourself honestly if you would say your current production, your attitude, your leadership etc. has put you in a position to be a logical candidate? Would you do more, do things better, put out a better attitude, be more cooperative, strive a little harder? Are you doing enough?

Some of us of course can honestly answer that we do invest ourselves in our work and were such an opportunity to arise, we would feel confident in being able to point at our record with pride. On the other hand, you might be doing exactly what is in your job description and not an ounce more. How you are doing that work might be suspect, but you meet the minimal requirements of your current job. Ask yourself, “Does my employer want to promote those who do the minimum in their jobs or those who perform at their best routinely and excel?

Of course you might argue that you have no further career ambition; that you are in the very position now that you have always wanted to be in and are content to remain so. That in my opinion is a wonderful thing and you are to be congratulated for finding your ideal position. Well done! Would you like to keep it? Or would you like to inspire others with whom you work, who do what you do in the organization to work with as much zeal and honest effort as yourself? These are reasons to invest yourself each day and throughout each day.

One of my valued colleagues who works in another city contacted me before Christmas and requested a previous article I’d constructed to share with a new colleague. He is concerned about him and his development, not wanting him to burn out early in a field where it is critical to have the stamina, endurance and positivity to continually make an impact. Dave is a shining example of a person doing his best and working consciously to be a positive role model through his daily actions for the benefit of a peer.

It is the small deeds we do, the words we choose, the actions we take, the time we give that make the biggest impact often on others. It’s when we are observed by others as we go about our routines, habits and the courtesy in our requests for help and appreciation for help given that impact on others. It’s our dependability when we show up each day for work and others view us as reliable. It’s when we stop and consider rather than impulsively decline to give more of ourselves that tells others we sincerely can’t take on something or rather that we can.

When we do small things like consider the workload of others when we ask them to do something for us, albeit a small extra thing, that we grow respectful in their eyes. When we send an email of thanks or acknowledgement, put a chocolate in their inbox or mail slot, maybe just ask how they are doing and actually wait for the answer.

One small deed may be nothing more than a single act. Two acts may be nothing more than a coincidence and three the start of a trend. Four small acts the start of a reputation and continuing small consistent acts solidify your credentials and character. In every day we have opportunities people to do the small things that really matter and make a difference. If you are waiting for the really big opportunities to demonstrate your attitude, leadership and character, you may find those moments few and far between.

Today start with a small act of kindness and thoughtfulness. Say thanks to a colleague, ask about their workload – their interests, their health. Send an email to a colleague and introduce yourself to someone. So many ways to do small things that collectively mean so much.

The Gift Of Anticipation

As I write this, it’s early in the morning of Christmas eve and while the anticipation of Christmas morning just 24 hours or less awaits, Anticipation itself is felt before job interviews, while awaiting calls to offer you employment or the fresh start on your ramped-up job search in 2015.

Some cynics will tell you not to get too high when job searching, and they base that advice on the knowledge that for every single person that gets the job offer, there are dozens who will be disappointed, let down and could become discouraged. The advice they are kindly giving is meant to spare you the crash from high anticipation to rock bottom frustration. I can see why that advice is handed out.

On the other hand, why not allow your anticipation to soar? If you are pouring out a lot of energy investing in your job search, researching employers, networking with employees who work at companies you want to join, penning your very best cover letter and targeting your resume – oh my goodness I think you have every right to be excited and full of anticipation!

Now that doesnt’ necessarily mean you should be someone who sees every job offer with rose-coloured glasses. Isn’t it possible however to want a job quite badly, do your best to apply to it, hang in anticipation of a positive result but not get that positive result and still keep an overall upbeat attitude? It is for some, and so it may be possible for you too. Like any other skill, it takes practice.

I’m working with someone right now as a matter of fact who is in the process of looking for a full-time job. She works with me as a colleague but her employment is on a part-time basis, and as a 28 year-old woman with her own home, a full-time job would provide her with long-term financial security. So she’s been applying for full-time jobs in clerical positions both internally and with other organizations.

This woman of whom I speak is fantastic. She’s upbeat, positive, greets everyone she meets all day long with a sincere hello and smiles a beautiful smile. She’s also got experience working in several different departments with the same employer that I work with, and is helpful, organized, computer literate, does her job with energy and meets all her deadlines.

Now she’s applied to several jobs, had interviews but not landed as yet the full-time job. Cause for disappointment? Yes. Discouragement? Yes. However, the day after hearing the decisions that don’t go in her favour, she’s back at her job with zeal, still maintaining that positive attitude and still anticipating going through the process again until she lands the job she wants and is wanted in. That feeling of anticipation once ignited is hard to extinguish.

Anticipation itself as I titled this article is a gift. It’s the promise we give ourselves that there is something better than what we currently have that is just around the corner and we want it bad enough that we anticipate the results. Why look at Christmas itself. Why do we wrap gifts? It sparks the anticipation of seeing something wrapped with our name on it under the tree but we can’t open it until Christmas morning. OH THE ANTICIPATION!

Job applications are full of anticipation but so too is that first day on the job. Will people like me? Where will I sit? Will I have a window? What will my boss be like? Where will I park the car? Will anyone ask me to join them for lunch? All of these questions and others like them cause some stress and others joy, but they all come with anticipation of the answers. Although we intellectually know there is no way of answering those questions until we are in the moments and on the job, we still expend energy thinking of the possible scenarios even though we have no power to determine the results while at home pondering the questions.

Okay so 2015 is all about an opportunity to start with a fresh slate. 2014 and it’s highs and lows is drawing to its natural end and you’ve got this wonderful gift of a blank new calendar and can shape yoru own future. What do you anticipate will happen in 2015? Same old results? New and exciting changes for the better?

The beautiful thing I have discovered is that by and large we are the designer and architect of our own destiny to a great extent. We can’t make someone hire us, but we sure can ensure we put ourselves in positions to succeed. We can update our skills, network and meet people, get out more and be visible and we can keep looking and applying for work that we anticipate will bring us financial independence and happiness.

I encourage you to move into 2015 with optimism, positive anticipation and choose your daily attitude to be one of positive energy. You can’t have highs without lows, so if you’ve had your share of lows tell yourself you’re due. Things don’t drop in our laps often. More than likely we have to be proactive, act, and get after what we really want. Anticipate good things for yourself but take the actual steps to make them become your reality.

Merry Christmas if I may to you dear readers. Thanks for your support in 2014. I anticipate great things and big changes in 2015 are coming.

Why Is Getting Hired So Hard?

I meet a lot of people in my line of work who are out of work or working part-time in jobs they never thought they’d be in at this point in their lives who can’t understand why it’s so hard to get a decent paying job. What exactly is going on when every day I can go on any number of job websites and see that there are literally over 1,000 jobs listed daily that employers seemingly can’t fill?

There would appear to be a disconnect between the number of jobs being posted, and the number of people who are saying they can’t find a job.

There is a shift of late that is gaining more and more momentum with some employers which is to demand applicants apply online, and in that process, create a profile specifically for a single company and then take a 60 – 80 questionnaire. What’s up with that? Seems to me that what’s really going on is that employers have found a new way to restrict themselves to a narrow group of people who in the end are really not the best candidates for the job which is ironic considering this isn’t the intent of the employers in the first place.

I sat with someone recently who on the surface appeared to meet the requirements of an employer extremely well. The job was a position working as a Cashier in a national pet supply chain of retail stores. The job posting called for experience operating a cash register, friendliness, speed and accuracy processing check-out items, and sometimes assisting customers find items they couldn’t locate on their own. Fair enough.

Between us, we crafted a resume and cover letter that responded to each job requirement, and if I do say so myself, the person not only looked great on paper, but the job was one well within her ability to perform and also seemed to suit her personality having a love for animals. Now this job as a Cashier isn’t one of high social status, wouldn’t mean lifetime financial freedom, but would be a perfect fit for her given her circumstances. Like I said, so far so good.

In order to apply for this position however, the next step wasn’t just to upload the cover letter and resume or even to visit the store and drop it off in person. No, no, no. The next step was to hit the enticing button on the monitor named appropriately, “Apply now”. By clicking on this button, we were taken to a screen where we had to create first an online profile. It started with coming up with a unique username and password which would only be valid on this company website. Really? Her unique birth name wouldn’t suffice? But okay, no problem.

Once past the username and password, there were more fields in which to enter personal information; information that was all included on the resume she was attempting to submit. Interestingly she had been reticent to add her home address on her resume but eventually consented to do so, and it was when completing this process on the screen that I pointed out they would have had it anyway unless she abandoned the application process.

So after this personal information was all submitted to the site which promised security, confidentiality and not to share this information with any other source, the real fun began. We were seamlessly now at the first stage of a questionnaire with no idea of the number of questions we would be asked to complete, no hint of total pages to move past, just a list of questions. Turns out there were 70 questions in total although they weren’t numbered. No interview on a face-to-face basis ever asks 70 questions, but apparently this company feels 70 questions are required. But required to accomplish what?

My Cashier applicant was growing mildly frustrated with the process, and between the two of us, I think it was me more than her that was growing impatient. Once we had finished with the questions, we landed on a page where we could upload a resume with a click and we did so. There was no place for the inclusion of a cover letter; and while the cover letter in my opinion was essential in introducing her and her fit, the employer had no wish to receive one and that is their prerogative.

I sat there after she left and thought about the process, the questions themselves and who would complete or abandon the entire process given the people I know. It strikes me that the people who will complete such long application processes may be people who have all the time in the world at their disposal, who are patient, computer literate, can move a mouse to click relentlessly from button to button, screen to screen. It rules out people who may be go-getters, energetic, and those who are great at being a Cashier ironically, but not 100% familiar with a computer-generated application process.

So employers are going to end up interviewing people who may have poor people skills, but are great on computers and very methodical. Wouldn’t they be better interviewing people who have great interpersonal skills, a smile, and who instinctively know to welcome people back to the store? Maybe these long processes are why employers say they can’t find the right people, and people complain they can’t find a job.


Thank You Employment Counsellors

If you are an Employment Counsellor I want to extend my personal nod of thanks in your direction for the help you have given over 2014 to either the unemployed or those seeking work-related changes in their lives.

You may have helped build a social media profile, a resume, prepped someone for a job interview, given another career insights and direction, lent an ear, been there when someone lost their job, their self-esteem or maybe their sense of purpose; in short, you gave someone hope. And of course, the previous sentence speaks to the singular when in fact you undoubtedly helped multitudes of people and played some role in turning around the lives of those you touched. Well done.

I don’t really mind that some readers will see this post as a gratuitous pat on the back. What is wrong with acknowlding the work of others, especially if they inspire and help? And some might say, “Well that’s your job and you’re getting paid to do it – so do it!”, but it never hurts in my opinion to just say a small thank you.

I suppose it’s because I’m an Employment Counsellor myself that I’m aware of the impact of kind words in a job that brings us into contact with others who deal with frustration and sometimes anger when in the process of a prolonged job search. Thank you for giving of your time to let people vent their frustration, express their anxieties and unburden themselves. Thanks for taking over, if only temporarily, some of their load and then replacing what you took with a little optimism.

The work Employment Counsellors do is important work. Do it poorly, and people may experience unemployment for a longer period of time and grow colder towards other people. Do our jobs well and we have the power to help people transform their lives, earn higher incomes, walk with greater self-esteem and see the brighter side of life.

There are those that have an erroneous understanding of what an Employment Counsellor does. Employment Counsellors don’t get jobs for people. When someone says, “Can you get me a job?”, or “It’s your job to get me a job”, I remind myself first and foremost that while an Employment Counsellor can advocate for a client, show them a job posting, or coach them through the process, only the person themselves can truly do what is required to land a job. And keeping a job? Ah, now that is something much more challenging that getting a job.

As Employment Counsellors, I thank you for taking the time to get to know your clients. Understanding their strengths and limitations and tactfully pointing out what sometimes they need rather than want to hear is a skill that is perhaps one of the more valuable in our tool box. And speaking of skills, I hope you continue to grow your skills, learn new ones, and come to appreciate in others.

I have enjoyed networking through social media such as LinkedIn again in 2014. Around the globe I have met some wonderful connections, strengthened some relationships, formed some new ones, and even helped out a few people as I sure have you. We are so fortunate to live in this time when we can converse, share, help and assist our peers. Learning from each other our best practices, reaching out across continents and oceans for advice ourselves, helping hands, friendship and feedback is something only a generation ago would have been unthinkable.

So what does the new year have in store for us as Employment Counsellors? If we are honest, we will have times of frustration, consternation, conflict and remorse. We won’t be able to help everyone we come into contact with achieve their goals and some might not think kindly on us for their own lack of success. On the other hand, we will take great pride in having played a small part in the lives of those who reach their goals of financial independence obtained through employment. Those who get promotions and full-time work instead of part-time might do so because we spent some time preparing them for job interviews, editing resumes and cover letters, or coaching them through the entire application process.

Some of us might meet face-to-face at training events and conferences. When we do, it might be as if we are meeting someone we’ve known for years and admired greatly even thought we see them for the first time. Whether through LinkedIn, the blogs we write, making comments when in on-line discussion groups or skyping, we’re getting closer and closer to each other.

We all have connections and on-line friends that we seldom if ever actually interact with directly. While some people connect with us, get our help and then seldom if ever speak to us unless it is in times of need, others connect and nurture those relationships, adding as well as taking. And if you are someone who others only seem to take from rather than give of themselves to, be thankful that you are the person others think of first and turn to when they need help. That’s a gift.

So thank you Employment Counsellors everywhere. There are many people doing good work but this time it’s just for you that I extend my personal thanks. I raise a glass in your good name and wish you continued success.

I’m proud to be counted among you.