Opportunities Squandered

Most who facilitate classroom instruction will tell you that a classroom full of adults and a class room of high school students should be instructed using very different techniques.

My first introduction to this concept is still as fresh in my mind as the day I experienced it first-hand sitting in my first university Sociology class. I can recall the Professor telling us he wouldn’t be taking daily attendance because it was up to us to get what we needed by being present; we were accountable to ourselves. That has stuck with since that September morning way back in 1979!

So zoom ahead to 2015 and I’m the person at the front of a room and I’m facilitating employment workshops with adults, all of whom are either underemployed or out of work entirely. I’m doing my part in similarly trying to make people accountable first and foremost to themselves for both their attendance and their success.

I’ll be honest with you that things haven’t changed much since 1979 as I’ve experienced them. Personally I was the studious one who never skipped a class and really wanted to soak up whatever someone was trying to educate me on. I was open to learning and while I didn’t agree with everything being taught, I did so if I couldn’t come up with a counter point of view based in experience and fact.

In a group of 12 invitees to an employment workshop I’m running for two weeks, here’s what I’ve observed: 1 never bothered to show up at all – for the second time by the way. 4 have missed one or two days of the 7 we’ve had to date with questionable reasons. One in fact won’t even tell me why she was absent one day.

So why let such people continue on in a class at all? Well some people wouldn’t quite frankly. In fact one of my colleagues has a rule that you cannot miss a single day in the first of her three-week class or you’re out. That’s her call, it’s her program.

Me, I figure that I’ve explained the expectations even before class began in a personal 1:1 chat and they agreed to the conditions. the only one in fact they are hurting is themselves. Disappointing, disrupting, disrespectful – absolutely. Do they really care about these things? No, not always. But if they are to be truly treated as adult learners I’ll teach and share with them what I can, when I can. If you aren’t present, you can’t learn.

Now of course the real world doesn’t work this way and I’ve told them all this. Miss time away from work with no excuse and you’re gone. And if you can’t commit to being at a class for 2 weeks to help you get a job, how on earth are you going to perform should you get one?

There are some consequences which at least one of them will feel personally today. A colleague of mine who helps match our clients with employers who have job openings asked me for the resumes of the people in my group. I gave them to her and then she asked me who were my ‘A’ and ‘B’ people. Those whom have shoddy attendance, who have been less than committed to their own job search and have been idle, she doesn’t want to pass on to employers with whom she herself is trying to build a reputation with for sending quality people. So some are going to get interviews for real jobs, and some will undoubtedly think it unfair they didn’t get a chance. They did get a chance however. They didn’t make the most of it.

My advice is pretty straightforward; all the people you interact with are constantly observing your behaviour and sizing you up. Your behaviour ultimately predicts how you are going to act in the future. If you want inside leads on jobs, help, advice, good references, people to speak well of you, etc. demonstrate through your actions that you are deserving.

One of those in my group is disappointed she hasn’t had a job interview yet. Ironically in my opinion, her ‘interview’ started on day one when she walked in my class. I’ve been evaluating her since then and watching how she participates, her commitment to her own success, how she handles adversity and disappointment, how she copes with life events outside the class. No it’s not a job interview with a job on the line at this time, but I could be a reference in the future and either be a great one to extol her virtues or politely decline when asked because I would tell the truth.

If you want others to help you, you must first decide to help yourself. It stands to reason that if you aren’t committed to your own success, other people are going to stop going out of their way to really work hard on your behalf. If you get a job lead, follow-up on it. If you are told you should get out from the screen and knock on doors, ask for interviews, make some phone calls, do some research, etc. you should.

Opportunities don’t come along as frequently as we’d like. When they do come along, we always have a choice to seize them, dabble in them or let them pass us by completely. We always have a choice and it’s our decisions that define us.

I’ve Become The Annoying Guy

In the last two days, three on-line colleagues have emailed me and advised me that they received 35, 50 and 150 emails from me all identical to each other. Apparently the blog I write daily and send to my 12 LinkedIn discussion groups and LinkedIn connections is morphing into multiples. Unknowingly, I’ve become an annoying nuisance to these people and they’ve asked me to stop it.

Ouch. Now if I was spamming folks on purpose I’d say mission accomplished. But I’m not. I need help with this and so instead of writing my usual dissertation and advice column centered on a job advice theme, I’m reaching out for help and suggestions.

So first of all, could you send me an email and let me know if you get multiple emails re. the same discussion please? I suppose if you are a connection of mine you are going to get one email for that and if you are in a discussion group along with me, you’d get another one. But 30+? Something is amiss.

As I think about it, this does really relate to employment and job advice in general because these are my professional contacts I’m affecting and I certainly value them and want to resolve this issue. So yes perhaps we could all learn from my experience and the solutions that others might offer.

As I see it, there could be an issue with my wordpress blog settings, LinkedIn and how it disperses these or possibly with my internet provider. Last evening I looked into the blog communication settings and the FAQ section but found no easily identifiable solution there.

I also considered that to my knowledge, I’d changed nothing in how I go about communicating my blog, added no new groups of late and so that suggested no solutions either. Hmmm…perplexed.

So somehow to my great disappointment, I have become the annoying guy to some people who is sending out a large volume of repetitive emails to some people, and even now that I’m being informed about it, I’ve no idea how to stop it. And that is most unfortunate.

With over 1300 connections on LinkedIn, and with membership in 12 discussion groups comprised of hundreds or thousands in some cases, I wonder if the three people who emailed me about this situation are the only ones affected or if they are just the 3 who are sharing their experience with me. I’ve even checked with family members and colleagues at my workplace to see if they’ve had the same experience and they report no problems.

So I’m going to leave things at this: email me if you’re getting too many emails on the same topic. Email me too if you’ve got an idea what the problem is and more importantly with possible solutions.

VERY MUCH appreciated!

What Do You Want?

I’m sorry if like me just this second, the refrain, “Tell me what you want, what you really, really want”, is playing in your head. Sorrier still if it wasn’t but it is now. Ah such is life. Thank you Spice Girls I suppose.

But seriously, what do you want? What is it in life right now – today, that you really want? What if there were no limits on what you could ask for and no one would ridicule you for your choice or tell you to get serious. Here’s a sequence of questions to ask yourself:

What do I want?
How bad do I want it?
Am I prepared to make it a priority?
What do I have to do to make it happen?
What barriers to what I want are in front of me?
What steps do I need to take to eliminate those barriers?

So what is it you want? A car? Boat? Home? A life-long partner? Kids? A career? A trip somewhere? Usually what we want is dependent upon what we currently have in life. So if for example you have a good job, you usually don’t want a job because you already have one. If you want a better job, it’s because you currently don’t have one that brings you fulfillment and happiness or the income you want.

The same is true of the material possessions we have. If you want a car, it’s a safe bet it’s because you don’t have one at present and know that it would give you independence, or your current vehicle needs replacing. We want what we don’t have much of the time.

Now of course it is possible to want more of what we already have. We could really enjoy our vacations as well as value our home and job but want more of the times we get back to nature. We could want more time with our children. However, wanting more of something still breaks down to, we don’t currently have it, and so again, we usually want something that we don’t currently have.

Now thinking about what it is you want, is part of the reason you don’t currently have it a lack of money? Money is needed for the purchase of the car, the home, the extended vacation, certainly makes raising a large family easier etc. Is money therefore not necessarily a bad thing to want in and of itself? You might feel that wanted money is bad in some way, but maybe it’s no so much wanting money, but wanting what money can buy and be exchanged for.

So if we see money as a goal, the question becomes how to get more of it and then exchange it for the thing we really want. If we want that one thing bad enough, we will save for it, avoid spending money on other things that make acquiring our one goal further out of reach, and we become focused. One thing we can do to help in this focus is to identify the potential barriers to our goal.

Barriers are the things which we anticipate will delay us or stop us from achieving our goal. If we want to work but don’t have a good resume and don’t know how to go about applying for a job on-line, we can either get a resume and learn how to apply on-line, (thus removing the barrier), or we can throw up our hands, give up and stop. The interesting thing about barriers that we have to realize and accept that barriers are not universal except in extremely limited circumstances. You may not know how to apply on-line, but many other people who once didn’t know learned how. You can too.

So you’ve got this goal. Identify what is preventing you from reaching your goal. Now sit down either alone or with someone who you respect and trust and open up to them. Together, brainstorm all the possible options for overcoming your barriers one at a time. Each time you move forward, your self-esteem is going to get a boost, and as you mark your progress, you’ll be building momentum. Momentum gives you the drive to tackle the more significant barriers.

And now the question of it being a priority. Ever heard someone say, “I need a job.”? I bet you may then see that same person immediately engage in something that doesn’t fit with that statement, such as siting down and playing a video game, writing a daily journal about their feelings, or watching television. What they want and what they are doing are not in sync, and there is a disconnect.

The things we want in life rarely come easily or immediately. You might say, “I want some ice cream” and go to the fridge and get one just to prove me wrong, but I’d reply you just proved my point. You wanted something, made a decision to get it, then put your idea into action and now have it. This process is identical to the more meaningful things in life we want.

One of the saddest things is not so much not attaining our goals, but lacking meaningful goals in the first place that we want bad enough that prompt us to sustained action.

What do YOU want? Make it happen!

Why Job Search In January?

When your blog and subsequent post in discussion groups is read around the globe, one of the key things you have to understand is that when it’s the dead of winter for some readers, it’s mid-summer for others. So me commenting on job searching when it’s cold, snowy, icy and there isn’t a great deal of daylight might seem off to many readers.

Of course I’m writing this from Canada; from the Province of Ontario. My home is set in a community about an hour and a half north-east of the City of Toronto. While I live in a town, I work an hour away in the City of Oshawa which gives me both the rural and urban, small town big city perspective. That perspective often rolls into the blogs I write.

So today is January 25; a month ago it was Christmas day, and a lot of unemployed people were putting off their job search until the start of 2015 under the mantra that nobody hires in late December. Now in 2015, many of those same people have barricaded themselves in their homes and apartments, sheltering themselves from the dead of winter and promising themselves that they’ll start job searching when things warm up a bit, the streets aren’t as dark and the roads to travel on are less treacherous.

When you are looking for work, one of the most obvious things one has to deal with is the competition; the number of people you are up against for those positions you are applying to. Wouldn’t you normally jump at an opportunity to get an edge up on that competition? Take advantage of a situation when you could compete against fewer applicants? Welcome to January in the northern hemisphere.

Okay so for starters, there are many people who are giving themselves a month or two to kick back and sit on the sidelines as far as job searching goes.

Now here’s another advantage for you if you are wise enough to realize it. Some of the jobs you might want badly in the summer are in fact doing their resume collecting, interviewing and hiring right now. The prudent job hunter who for example is seeking a job as a Youth Counsellor in a residential summer camp would be wise to be sending their resume to all the residential camps they are interested in working for right now. In fact, you may already be too late to submit your application for some of these camps even though you wouldn’t start the job until late May or early June.

Now let’s stay with this particular profession for another suggestion. Suppose as a late-twenties to mid-forties Youth Counsellor, you are finding your resume lacks recent experience. Your concern is that while you have recent education and perhaps even great references, those references are 4 or 5 years old and becoming a great deal less impressive because of the widening gap in time. How can you quickly get 2015 experience on your resume?

One option could be to get into a situation quickly where you are working with youth. Although it’s nearing the final week of January, you could be one of the smart ones who has applied for a job with some Recreation organization supervising March Break programs. Here in my part of the world, some of those positions have already been advertised for and the application deadlines past.

“Ah”, you might counter, “I didn’t go to school and become a Youth Worker, Teen Counsellor, etc. just to take a 5 day job over the March Break.” On the surface I see your point. However, consider this: we’re only 25 days into 2015 and comparatively few people have 2015 experience and training on their resume or CV. Even if you were working up to early December last year, to the mind’s eye, a quick scan of your CV makes it look like you were last working in 2014 – over a year ago. Getting 2015 experience on that resume and quickly going about it should be your prime goal.

Here’s more incentive for the wise among you: It won’t be that long until the University and then College crowds will be released from school classrooms and another entire generation flooding the job market with all their youthful enthusiasm, drive and far more recent training than you have. In 4 or 5 months, the high school kids are out too. And of course if you are a parent of a child who isn’t in school full-time, you will have a child to impede your job search come June.

So the overall message I’m sending you? GET GOING NOW! The worst snowy days are the very ones to ramp up your job search not shut it down. Just Friday I had one of the people I am working with of late decide to get out to a store and apply for a retail sales position; this despite the fact that many people are assuming no hiring goes on in January in the retail world, just Christmas lay-offs. Turns out she made a great impression and not only has a job offer to become a Sales Associate, but was first told that another location was actually interviewing for a senior role and her application would be forwarded there first. She got a call later on Friday and had an interview for a Leadership role in the 2nd location yesterday afternoon which I’ll hear about on Monday.

Yes people, get out there; they’re hiring!

Let The Receptionist Pick Your Career

Hey are you one of the many people who find job searching enormously frustrating and constantly moan that you don’t get interviews and can’t understand why because you are totally qualified for the jobs you apply to but never get a call and it’s so unfair?

You could be making an all too-common mistake in your applications and unknowingly leaving it up to the Receptionists out there to decide your fate. If you are making this mistake that’s resulting in no phone calls and interviews, I have to warn you ahead of time the fault is yours and yours alone for your lack of success. Oh I know it would be so much nicer to have me sympathize along with you over a soothing cup of hot tea about the injustice of the whole process. Sorry.

Okay so what error am I referring to you might be wondering. It’s an old one; one I’ve gone over time and time again but keeps being repeated time and time again. See if you can pick up the glaring mistake in this classic resume blunder to be found right at the top of the resume just under the name and contact information. It reads,

Objective: To get a full-time job where I can use my skills, grow with the company and learn new things.

Did you spot the mistake? What’s the big problem you might say? After all, the person wants to work full-time and that’s good, in a job where they can use their skills, stay with the company and learn new things. And the problem is?

I really hope you aren’t seriously wondering what the big deal is but unfortunately there will be many that can’t spot the glaring problem. Now remember they feel totally qualified for this job they have in mind when they sent off their resume. So let me ask you this question: What job is it exactly the person is applying for? You can’t tell from reading the statement anymore than I can.

Next consider who is first on the list to receive your paper application you dropped off personally. It has now landed in the hands of the Receptionist for the company. He or she opens it and is now deciding to whom your application should be passed along to. It might be for Max who is doing the hiring for the Maintenance position, Sandra who is interviewing people for the Accountant vacancy, and it might be Larry who is taking applications for both the part-time and full-time Clerk positions as well as the Dispatcher job.

And so your fate is now being decided by someone who doesn’t have the interest or the skills to read your resume, determine what it is you might be applying for and forward it along to the right person. You meanwhile are at home completely qualified and feeling pretty confident about getting called in for the job. But no call is coming. The Receptionist has already passed along the other resumes to the right people who were more specific in their opening statement. Your application? It’s buried under the Home and Garden magazine in the, “I’ll get around to it soon” pile.

Don’t blame your lack of success on the poor skills of the Receptionist, bad luck or anything other than yourself. For starters, you have to quickly identify what job you are actually applying for and your qualifications have to be clearly stated so you match up well with the stated needs of the employer. Had you said you were applying for the position of Full-time Clerk, you’d find your application in the pile of other applications picked up by Larry and walked back to his office – the ones he’s going through right now in fact.

People are busy these days. Many employers are hiring fewer people and as a consequence the people who are working are busier than ever and have much to do. What they don’t have time for is sitting down and reading your entire resume and then trying to guess what job you might be qualified for first and interested in second. Ironically, this is exactly what getting a generic resume with no clear employment objective in mind communicates. It’s as if you wrote this at the top of your resume:

“Please read my resume and figure out what I’m qualified for. I can totally do it.”

Think I’m exaggerating? Actually I’m not. Figuring out what you are qualified for, making it clear, and getting the resume into the hands of the right person is your job alone. This is 2015 not 1968. Jobs are harder to come by, more people are competing with you for work and employers expect applications that are targeted and meet their stated needs.

Now you could get lucky of course. It is possible that a generic resume with vague skills and qualifications does land you an interview. It is possible but not likely when other applicants are targeting their applications specifically to the qualifications and skills the employers need and properly indicating what job they are applying for.

Sure most jobs are now on-line, emailed or faxed. Ah you think, it will by-pass the Receptionist altogether! Even if it gets to the person doing the interviewing you are still unlikely to get called unless you spell things out clearly.

Unintentionally Coming Across As Insecure?

I am a strong believer when it comes to speaking with assertion. Assertive language is empowering and oozes confidence when communicating with others. when you think about your own use of language, I wonder if you might catch yourself using words which betray or reveal a lack of self-confidence.

Two such examples of this I noted yesterday when giving feedback to a woman who had just constructed a cover letter. I’m going to share these two examples, but I caution you first not to roll your eyes as you read what they are and say to yourself these are no big deal. Why do I say this? Because it’s inevitable that some readers will in fact think it’s not a big deal and that I’m being overly picky. Be open I say, and read on.

The first small gaff came in the second sentence where she said, “I believe I have the qualifications stated…”. Note how the word, ‘believe’ in this case weakens the statement. Do you have the qualifications or not? Or maybe you believe you have the qualifications when in fact you don’t. If you eliminate the first two words from the sentence it now reads, “I have the qualifications stated…”. In the revised sentence, it is a statement of fact; I have what you want.

The second such example I pulled from her cover letter came in the final paragraph, which had the impact of leaving an otherwise fairly well composed letter on a weak note. It ended, “I’d like to request an interview…”. Can you spot the words setting up a weak request? Omit the words, “I’d like to request” and replace them with, “I am requesting”. After all if you’d like to request an interview why don’t you?

Now some folks get all worried because they are concerned that assertive words will be misconstrued as aggressive words. They are concerned that aggressive language sounds pushy, and the last thing they want to do is come across as demanding. There is a difference between assertive and aggressive I’d point out, and I have been often told by those who read resumes for companies that they look for people to state they want an interview if that is their goal.

Consider this sentence: “I am requesting an interview to demonstrate in-person the skills, qualifications and personal qualities I have which uniquely qualify me for this position.” Now the reader is aware that your goal is to get an interview and you are being courteous but clear. The sentence also tells them you are uniquely qualified and you are prepared to demonstrate that. What is also evident is that you are aware skills and qualifications alone aren’t going to be enough – as others will have identical skills and qualifications – but you’ve got the desired personal qualities that make you an ideal fit.

Here’s another example of language that betrays a lack of self-confidence and reveals skepticism of achieving personal success; the use of the word, “if” instead of the word, “when”. “If I get an interview”. “If I get a job offer.” I hear these when working with unemployed people who will ask me, “If I get an interview can you help me prepare for it?” By changing the single word, “if” to “when”, it becomes, “When I get an interview, will you help me prepare for it?”

There is an immediate change in the message sent. Getting an interview suddenly goes from a wish to a certainty. “Oh I’m getting an interview make no mistake.” The use of the word, “if” comes across as, “Gee I’d love an interview but I have my doubts I’ll be that lucky.” One word changes the whole message conveyed.

Now imagine if someone – possibly you – used the word, “if” over and over, and in letters used passive language like, “I believe”, “I’d like to” etc. The cumulative impact is that you come across as insecure, lack self-confidence and the underlying impression you are unwittingly conveying is that if you have self-doubts about your abilities, maybe they should too. The alternative leaves the impression that if you are confident in your skills and abilities to perform the job, maybe they should too.

This shift is something I share with people I work with in my job hunting groups. I put it on the board and it reads, “In this room it’s “When” not, “If”. I task myself with listening for the instances of, “if” and correct the person stating these. I am thrilled to say that after a very short period of time, people catch themselves and correct themselves, and then the language changes. So big deal you say? The language alone isn’t all that changes. I’m not just correctly written and verbal language, I’m working on creating a mental shift in self-perception.

This is only one of many small things which I pass along to my job seekers. When they put all these little things together, I can see (and more importantly they can feel) a change in how they conduct themselves and apply themselves in their efforts. Communication skills improve, self-esteem is being rebuilt and a transformation is underway. The result is a much more appealing and strong applicant who comes across better in the interview as well as the resume and cover letter.

Hopefully you find this helpful. Catch yourself, mind your words. All the very best today!

Excuses I Hear For Poor Resumes

I encounter people each and every day who are looking to join the ranks of the employed. Most of them have poor resumes unfortunately, some resumes that aren’t too bad but could be improved and there are thank heavens, only a few who think resumes aren’t needed at all.

It’s interesting to me as I engage these people in discussions about their resumes, how quickly they are to shift the responsibility for its creation to someone else who made it for them, or how they immediately tell me how they’ve got conflicting advice on how to make one. I’m not surprised that getting conflicting advice would be frustrating; different people telling you how it should be laid out and the content arranged can be very annoying because we are used to doing things in our life in very right and wrong, proper and improper ways. So why should resume writing be any different?

So let’s look at some of the common excuses for having a poor resume. One has got to be that someone else made it for the person. My response to this statement is to ask the person to tell me the name at the top of the resume. When they tell me it is in fact their own name, then I tell them if they are going to distribute it anywhere, they have to take responsibility for everything below their name, no matter how it got there or who put it there.

Now the second most prevalent excuse I hear is when someone tells me that they had their resume done by someone at another agency. In other words, they’ve taken good advice and sought out someone they truly believed to be a resume writing professional. That much is good but at the same time they themselves have to take ownership of the document. So if there is a spelling error, something is wrong with the dates, or there are words on it that the person doesn’t even comprehend, it is critically important to stay seated in the chair while with the person creating it and read it slowly and carefully to pick up and change whatever is detected.

One rather poor excuse which outdoes the other two mentioned is the person who says they’ve heard from other people that all these professionals can’t agree on one way to make the perfect resume so they can’t be bothered even getting someone qualified to help them. The result of this is of course a resume that is extremely poor in the majority of cases and almost guaranteed to generate zero interviews.

Okay so although there are numerous reasons for having a poor resume, let me turn to giving you some advice on how to know you are in good hands with someone claiming to be a resume-writing professional. I hope this advice comes to you at a time when you are open-minded and willing to consider getting some help – especially if whatever you are currently using is generating little.

First of all whomever is going to help you should be willing to actually sit down with you rather than doing it in isolation and then handing it over to you. Of course there are situations where this isn’t possible, such as getting someone’s help who is in a different country etc. The advantage of sitting down with someone is that they can ask you questions as they proceed, not only about what you were responsible for, but what you accomplished. When someone is sitting beside me personally, often a discussion brings out information that should be on the resume but isn’t volunteered without some questioning and prodding. If in the case you can’t sit down side by side, you should be prepared to answer questions either through Skype, email, twitter etc. so things can be clarified. It also will help you to understand WHY they suggest whatever they do.

One sign you are with the wrong person in my opinion is the situation where the person offering to write it for you makes no inquiry as to the specific job you are applying for. If for example you were considering someone’s help and they said, “What are you applying for?”, and you answered, “A Youth Worker”, that shouldn’t be enough information for them. If they don’t ask you for the name of the organization and the job posting you want to apply to, you know right off the bat you are going to get a generic all-encompassing resume that’s bound to end up resulting in frustration. You should be asked and give the person a specific posting so the resume contents can be focused on the needs of that single employer. A Youth Worker may have very different requirements from one agency to another; and from one level (Senior Youth Worker) to another, (Entry-level Youth Worker). And let’s not forget one could be for a religious organization and another not just by way of example. Yes, all of this does matter.

There really are few excuses for having a poor resume. Like anything, some people are better at it than others. The real acid test for a winning resume is whether or not yours gets you seated in an interview for the job you apply to.

Oh and by the way, there are many people who charge for making resumes. Pay them if you want, but some of the best do it for free.