Tradespeople Find My Wife Memorable

5 years may seem just like yesterday or seemingly forever depending on what happened 5 years ago that you are now recalling. What I want to share with you today is how some tradespeople we have employed have not forgotten the favourable impression my wife made on them 5 years ago, and how that continues to pay off in the present day.

Now lest you think that it was a physical attractiveness that the tradespeople remember my wife for, now she didn’t get remembered for wearing provocative clothing or flirting etc. which at least some people reading that opening paragraph might have suspected. That’s an outdated stereotyping of an industry isn’t it; the construction crew all stopping to notice a woman walking by. Actually, I still see that portrayal in some advertisements on television today.

No 5 years ago my wife and I were in the process of having our current home-built. Each and every day after we both arrived home, we’d get in the car and drive by the work site to see the daily progress. Some days there’d be more done than other days and we’d marvel at the progress as a blueprint got more and more visually real. Other days, we’d wonder what had been done, and we’d be guessing the poured foundation was just hardening.

So what was she doing 5 years ago that still makes her memorable? She was popping by either first thing before work when the guys were already on the site or during lunch hour, and she was handing out $5.00 gift cards to the local coffee and donut chain. It was her way of saying thank you for the work going on and this way she got right to the people performing the work not just the foreman or builder.

She’d eventually tell me that she dropped off – are you ready? $200 worth of those $5 gift cards. There were cards for the framer, drywaller, floor installer, painter, backhoe operator, cement truck driver, builder, foreman, plumber, electrician, clean up crew, and probably others I can’t recall. She obviously made a habit of giving out multiple cards to the same people over the course of the project to get to that $200 total.

Originally I couldn’t believe it when she told me what she was doing. I mean when you are already paying $300,000 for a home to be built why be adding to your costs in the form of gift cards? Well if you know my wife, you’d know that she’s just designed this way. Her motives were really to thank them in a small way for making what was to them just another building, our home. By being recognizable and on their minds as they went about their work, who knows, maybe they did things with a little more care and attention too.

So now we are renovating our basement. In going from a concrete floor to a finished basement, one of the days this past week we happened to get home to find 1 lone worker just finishing up sanding the drywall mudding. The next day my wife was talking to the contractor we hired to renovate our space, and he told my wife that the young guy who had been doing the sanding told him that he remembered her and those $5 gift cards she handed out when the place was being built. In fact, he said all the guys still remember her.

Wow. 5 years ago and she’s still memorable. That young guy by the way told us over and over again how sorry he was to have made such a mess with the drywall dust. He cleaned as best he could, and hoped we’d be happy with his work. Once again, I couldn’t help wonder if maybe; just maybe this guy was putting in a little bit more effort because of the kindness my wife had shown him 5 years ago.

Now me, I know I wouldn’t have handed out $200 in gift cards to guys I’m already paying to do a job. Oh to give myself credit I’d probably have swung by the odd time with a box of donuts. But I’d never have thought of $200 on top of everything else. In fact, when I first saw her hand out a gift card, I had said, “What are you doing?”

But that’s the thing about expressing thanks to people who work around us and sometimes work for us. Yes they are, ‘doing their job’ and that’s why they are getting paid. However, sometimes the unexpected little acknowledgement and expression of thanks goes a long way to making somebody’s day.

“Good job Johnson”, “Nicely done Adam”, “Appreciate the effort on that one Esther”, or “Excellent work Jessica” goes a long way too. Those kind of comments are even financially cheaper than my wife and her $5 gift cards. I know I personally like it when somebody thanks me sincerely for the help I’ve provided or the thoughts I’ve shared. I suspect that you deep down inside also appreciate a bit of appreciation sent your way as you go about doing your work.

So here’s a small challenge for you as you read this today. Find three people this day and thank them for something. Acknowledge their positive attitude, their teamwork, help, punctuality, smile, keyboarding accuracy – anything. Make it genuine, but catch them by surprise and tell them you appreciate something about them. I wonder how many will ask suspiciously, “What do you want?”

Signs Of A Successful Person

Back in late 2014, one of my co-workers shared with me that she had been applying for internal jobs in our organization, hoping to move from the ranks of permanent part-time to permanent full-time. This week she shared with me the news that she has successfully landed a full-time position, and how she went about it might provide you with an example if you are in a similar position.

When I first heard she was looking for employment, I asked her how things were going in order to get an idea of whether or not an offer of help would be appropriate or not from me personally. As it turns out, she mentioned that while she was getting some interviews, she would invariably not do well in the interviews themselves; sometimes wondering if she was saying too much, perhaps not really answering the question, and her anxiety coming through. Bazinga! A specific area I could help with.

So I made an offer to look over her resume and cover letter, help with a mock interview, whatever she wanted and felt she would benefit from. Now here’s the first sign of a successful person; she welcomed the offer of help. Within a 24 hour period, she provided me with her resume and cover letter, plus the job posting they corresponded to. Following through and delivering what she had been asked to provide me with was the second sign of a successful person. You see too many people nod their head and say, “Yeah I’ll get it to you”, but they don’t.

After I edited both resume and cover letter, we set up a time to get together. Working only part-time, she made the effort to meet after her own shift was done, and she followed through – another successful step. When I was going through her resume revisions, she leaned in, looked interested, listened, clarified what she initially didn’t understand, and was genuinely interested in understanding where it was weak and why, and how it was strengthened in replying directly to the employers stated needs. Again, the sign of a successful person.

The cover letter review was much the same. In overhauling what she initially gave me and comparing the before and after versions, she saw the difference. Was she ticked off, affronted, defensive? Absolutely not. In fact, she was appreciative, thankful and open to change. You guessed it; yet another sign of a successful person. The bottom line is get interviews and job offers, not protect her ego. And guess what? The more she was open to ideas for improvement, the more she received.

Now to the mock interview process. She mentioned that applying for these full-time jobs was very stressful. Each application meant undergoing a test of competency and face-to-face interviews. Working for a large Municipality, she was going to various departments for these jobs; Water Treatment, Works, Social Services etc. Similar office administration positions but in completely different sectors. She’d get excited and nervous, talk quickly and lose focus.

We first went over the non-verbal areas; posture, first visual impression, eye contact, smiling, hand gestures, etc. This woman is actually very good at being engaged in conversations, makes solid eye contact, has a beautiful smile naturally and her non-verbal body language is pretty good to start with – just a few small suggestions.

As I asked her my questions in our mock interview, I made notes as fast as I could jotting down exactly what she said without paraphrasing. After the last question and answer, we went over the questions I’d asked and her answers. Now, whether she gave me a good answer or a poor one, during all of my feedback, she sat there intent on learning, being open to the feedback, taking it all in. Yes another sign of a successful person.

Constructive feedback can mean what you hear isn’t all flattering. It should be honest, helpful, instructive and delivered as straight-forward as the person receiving it is capable of taking it in. It should never be delivered with an intent to ridicule, embarrass or demean. As we talked, she was so receptive to getting better, I had the green light to keep it coming and I got more invested in the process. A huge sign of a successful person.

All of this I am thrilled to say, changed the way she viewed the interview. Seeing it as a conversation; an exchange of information centered around both an employers and applicants needs, she improved. Her answers became stronger, the framework for delivering those answers tightened up her nervous babble, and using specific examples to prove her skills validated her as authentic and believable.

You know why I’m really excited for her? She’s a mid-twenties homeowner who now has a better income, benefits, vacation time, and a brighter future. She’s also done for the time being with the distraction and stress of job applications, tests and interviews. I’m going to miss her very much actually because she’s incredibly positive, helpful and genuinely helpful. A sign of a successful person. Our loss is someone else’s gain.

Take advantage of offers of help. Be receptive not defensive. Implement ideas for improvement with enthusiasm and be hungry to improve.

Finally, she did one last thing that marks her as a successful person. Though not required, she said thanks with a token of her appreciation. A beautiful compass with the inscription, “Life is about the journey not the destination”. For a guy who helps provide people with direction, it’s perfect and now treasured.

Returning To School Too Expensive?

Okay so you’re out of work. You’ve tried looking for a job but you’re over qualified for some and don’t have the credentials for others. It’s so frustrating you’re strongly considering going back to school for 2-3 years and hoping the job market improves when you graduate. But the cost of school and increased debt is scary.

Does the above situation sound familiar? I’m actually not going to advocate one way or the other when it comes to returning to school, but I want to provide you with some food for thought so you can perhaps make a decision that’s right for you.

You know how people go into debt for things like houses and cars? Most of us eventually do these things, and while the debt we incur for a house is pretty high, we look at it like an investment over the long-term as well as a place to live. We hope when we buy that when the time comes to sell, we sell for more than we originally paid. The car on the other hand depreciates in value as soon as we drive it off the dealers lot, and if we sell it at all instead of driving it into the ground, we lose money in the end.

Both the house and the car however are things we have to continue to upgrade and put money into just to keep them running. With the car its oil changes, new tires, batteries etc., and the house means new windows, shingles, lighting, furniture etc. Don’t invest and the car breaks down and the house becomes worth less quickly.

Returning to school is also making an investment however, unlike the car or the house which are external things, the investment is in you. Eventually you’ll replace the car and the home with something else, but your education sticks with you for life. Based on this, returning to school to learn sounds like a great idea – and it is. Aside from better employment opportunities, you’re going to benefit as a person, thinking differently, broadening your perspective on issues, and gaining in knowledge.

As for employment opportunities, employers do value employees who are knowledgable, and if you’ve got recent education in the field you want to work in that’s a huge plus. In fact, going back to school as an adult learner with years of employment behind you and being in a graduating class of young people who went straight to College or University and have no job experience could work out good for you. You’ve just discovered your edge; your unique value. Not only will you have the same diploma or degree as the rest of the graduates, but you’ve got real world work experience to go with that education, and that increases your value to an employer.

But what of the debt you are so anxious about and don’t want to be burdened with? Okay look at it this way for a moment. Like I said earlier you are in debt because you invested in yourself. Every moment of every day you’re a better individual because of what you learned and the knowledge you acquired. That alone is worth the investment. Your overall earning potential is greater having graduated, meaning the jobs you can compete for are hopefully higher paying jobs; jobs that can help you pay back those loans faster.

The downside now. Many people fear that they will go to school for two or three years, and upon graduating, will only be able to get the same kind of job they could go out and get right now without that diploma or degree. So why end up with $15,000 or $20,000 in debt and then feel you’ve wasted those years when you could have been earning minimum wage in a job?

The people who feel this way have usually run into someone they know who graduated and can’t find employment, so they are waiting tables or something similar and are bitter because they have debt and for them things haven’t worked out. Even with people you know well in this situation, you don’t really know however how hard they are really job searching, how they are going about it, whether they are reaching out for professional help and even if they are, do they follow the advice given to them when it involves changing how they are going about their job search.

In other words, just because someone else went back to school and is currently unemployed or working in some field other than what they went back to school for, your personal experience doesn’t have to be the same.

What I do believe is that if you are only putting off school because of the money, give yourself a wake up call and run to school and register. If people waited to have children until they could afford it, the race would have died out years ago. If people waited until they had all the money needed to buy their homes, almost all of us would be homeless. Debt is a way of life in 2015, it’s really about how we handle the debt load and reduce it through the payments we make.

So, thinking about going back to school. Check out job prospects and how many grads work in the field once they’ve completed school. Then make your own choice and make it with no regrets. Life is all about chances!

Work A Drag? How Come?

There are a number of reasons why people don’t fully invest themselves in the work they do and the people they come into contact with during the course of the work they are paid to do. I’m not talking about an odd day or two, I’m talking about day in and day out. So if you aren’t giving 100% it’s in your own best interest to know why.

Some people by nature just don’t do much of anything to the best of their abilities; home projects are started and dropped midstream, not really committed to a partner the way you once were, maybe picking up a hobby and letting it slide. Others of course tackle home projects and get them done, work at their marriages constantly and commit to their hobbies because they love them so much.

But let’s look at the person who knows they could be doing more at work and for whatever reason is just coasting along, putting in enough effort to stay hired, but not enough effort to stand out or excel. This is a dangerous person.

Dangerous? Absolutley. You see depending on what they do, they may be making your car minimally safe, your home minimally well constructed, your kids minimally educated, and your job search minimally assisted. I think if I was looking for work, I’d want somebody fully enthusiastic and committed. If I were in school myself, I’d want a teaching similarly enthusiastic about what they are teaching and fully invested in my learning.

Still though; dangerous? Well, look at the possible outcomes. Someone on the vehicle assembly line is doing the bare minimum and not an ounce more. Could your vehicle’s performance suffer as a result? Maybe. Better your car than mine if you don’t agree. And job search-wise; someone helping you only minimally because they are no longer putting in their best might mean you miss opportunities, you stay unemployed longer, banks foreclose on your home, you find yourself in despair and depressed. Dangerous? Oh yes.

So what about you or someone you know? Why aren’t they, or YOU, doing your very best in your job? For some it’s the frustration that the person beside them at work puts in minimal effort and still gets paid the same, so why bother? Ah the race to the bottom of the gene pool is underway. These people are motivated by the external rather than the internal rewards. Give them more money and supposedly they will suddenly perform better. Does that work over the long haul though? Does 30 cents an hour more result in increase efficiency? Could an independent observer tell who makes 30 cents more every hour based soley on observing two employees?

Maybe you’re hanging around because you’re not old enough to retire, but you are old enough to be unattractive to a new employer and the risk that switching jobs brings. Besides, it takes the effort to really look for something you’d find stimulating, and it’s so much less work to just go in and do what you’ve done for the last twenty-seven years. Hmmm…. does this sound like a teacher you might have had in school?

So ask yourself this; if everyone was hiring for the next two months only; if you could have any job, or back to school and learn something new at no personal cost to you, would you stay in your current job or leave? If you think you’d stay right where you are, you must be getting more than a pay cheque out of it. I’d think you are staying because you like what you do and you’re good at it too. On the other hand, if you’d leave and take another job, isn’t your happiness worth the risk?

Suppose you were in your late 40’s or your mid 50’s even. If you really sincerely aren’t finding satisfaction in the job you are doing, you’ve got 20 or 10 more years possibly to grind away every day doing this work you find so hum-drum. Why would you expect to start really living after 65 years old instead of really living right now? Surely life isn’t about doing work we don’t really love only to be, ‘free’ at 65 with maybe 15 years of ‘living the good life’ to look forward to. That’s sad.

Find out what’s really behind your reluctance to put more energy and effort into your work. Is it the atmosphere of the workplace? You might find others feel the same way and maybe together you could do something to change that but everybody thought they alone felt the way you do.

Is your lack of effort stemming from a long commute? Would you be willing to move closer, carpool, lose the wheels and take transit, or get some funky little car that makes the drive fun? Maybe even varying your route would stimulate you differently and provide some visual diversion.

At work, maybe you could transfer to a different job but at the same pay level, change work locations with a co-worker. Even making an effort to be friendlier with co-workers can make them friendlier to you in return.

These are just the tip of the iceberg. Find out what’s holding you back, change things up and regain the pleasure from the work you do. You spend many hours of your life doing, ‘work’, so it only makes sense you find work you find meaningful and satisfying!

What Your Resume Reveals About You

Ah once again, another look at the resume. There are so many articles on the internet about how to make a resume that gets results one would think there is nothing new to say. The truth is however, that there is a constant influx of people looking at making a resume for the first time, as well as people who are just plain ignorant of the problems in their existing resumes, that the topic can be talked about for a long time yet.

I’m going to share some unflattering things that your resume actually reveals about you in this blog. Those reading resumes and making decisions on whom to invite for interviews don’t worry about hurting the feelings of the person behind the resume submitted. They after all, are trying to hire the right people for the companies they represent. Who doesn’t get to the interview stage is of zero interest to them.

As you read the points I’m going to make, remember one basic truth; your resume is your personal marketing document. Anyone who reads it assumes it represents you at your best; that the words you’ve elected to use are well-considered. As this document is the first thing an employer sees from you it represents the best you’re capable of when it comes to your ability to express yourself. If you make mistakes on it therefore, the chances of you making the same kind of errors when working for a company increase dramatically, so it should be error-free.

Spelling mistakes are seldom forgivable. I say seldom instead of never, because there are some jobs where a person will only be required to use their hands and their head, never having to communicate anything in writing. Poor spelling might suggest you have a poor education. In North America, grade 12 is often the minimal educational requirement. You can get a job of course with less, but you’ll find you’re limited in terms of advancement without upgrading. Spelling errors of common words could also reveal a learning disability.

If you are applying for a job where your work goes external, it is critical that you have zero spelling mistakes. Your work will be part of the company image projecting forward, and no company sets off on a mission to promote themselves with spelling errors, as it sends the wrong message to clients and possible consumers.

Where you’ve included your phone number on your resume, have you actually inserted just before it the word, “Phone”? Believe me when I tell you that people reviewing resumes can identify a phone number or an email for that matter without you needing to put the words, “Phone” or “Email” first. Using the same logic, would you put the word, “Name” before yours? Of course not.

A regular thing I’ve picked up is talking about yourself in the third person. When you do this, it sends a message to the interviewer that the resume before them was not created by the person named at the top. That could lower your credibility. If for example a bullet of yours starts off, “Possesses organizational skills”, it’s as if someone else is talking about you. You can almost hear the word, “She”, or “He” before the first word in the sentence. If you were talking about yourself in the first person you’d say, “Possess organizational skills”. What’s inferred but not stated is the word, “I”. First person is correct, third person is not.

Building on the previous point, it is also a general practice to avoid the use of the word, “I” entirely on the resume. This differs on a social media platform such as LinkedIn, where your profile can make use of this word.

Now to tenses; past, present and future. I’ve witnessed this glaring mistake on resumes from some very well-educated people. If you yourself find the point I’m about to make obvious and somewhat offensive, realize that there are many out there for whom this will come as new information and not something they were aware of. Is the example that follows, something that has happened in the past or the present?
ex. “Supervise six employees.”

Without the addition of the letter, ‘d’ the word, “Supervise” is present tense; something you currently do. Add the, ‘d’ and it becomes, “Supervised” and refers to something you have done in the past. The problem comes when the word you may be using is present tense, such as, “Supervise”, but the dates connected with the line on your resume are in the past. In other words, the dates are in the past but the words you are using are in the present. Employers I speak with have told me this tells them that the person may 1) not have the intelligence to know the difference, 2) Notices but can’t be bothered to fix it or 3) may have literacy issues. Past jobs use past tense, current jobs use current tense.

Finally, check all your bullets. Are you putting periods at the end of some lines and none on others? This inconsistent use of periods might reveal a lack of attention to detail. If you are going for an Administrative job, you’ll be counted on to catch these things in the work of others, and yours therefore needs to be free of such mistakes.

Check out your own document for these mistakes. The good news is they are easily fixed.

As Workshops End, What Next?

As a facilitator of Employment Workshops and Programs, I am consistently aware of the emotional state of my unemployed participants. Be it 1-3 weeks or more, they arrive with hope and expectation, maybe even some initial anxiety and suspicion. Quickly I watch them transition to inclusion, where their participation rises and they build relationships with other participants. They eventually start to resent the impending end, and on the last day express a desire that it went on for another week. Then what?

Workshops assisting the unemployed usually share best practices. Whether it’s a workshop on gaining life skills and getting oneself together, or a basic introduction to using the computer, the general idea is participants learn skills and then transition to using them independently moving forward. So you’d expect a person to take those new computer skills and start job searching using the computer more. You’d expect a person to manage their life better after learning some life skills such as goal setting and managing their frustration and anger.

Most seasoned facilitators are wise enough to know however, that despite all the good intentions people have while in their workshops, success won’t come for all. Some will of course take what they’ve learned and have the drive and determination to continue what they’ve learned. Through practice, they gain mastery over what was perhaps new to them, and they can independently incorporate that new learning into their daily lives.

Others however will not have gained the skills necessary to carry on with the momentum your workshop ignited. They will return to their previous behaviour once returned to their own environment. Sustaining the energy and the positivity you and the others in the class brought daily for themselves is impossible. In fact, some not only regress to the point they were before the class started, they go further back mentally, now beating themselves up for not doing what they know they should, which before they took your course they were truly ignorant of.

No it’s not practical to expect you can hold their hand each and every day. You can’t be expected to phone your participants all at 9:00 a.m. and ensure they are up, dressed and hard at the job search either. You can of course flip them a business card and say, “Call me” at the end of a workshop, but how much time can you really give all those participants if they called you wanting more. Your own time is limited, and you’ve already turned the page on the last group and might be starting to gather your next roster of participants.

Well maybe you can arrange a get-together of sorts; you know, some kind of support session for those who haven’t found employment and who want to meet in a month’s time. You can also encourage the group to share their contact information with those in the group willing to do the same. Connecting with each other may help them hold each other accountable and build some social supports. That’s good. Be it by email, the phone or meeting in person at the library or coffee shop, they can initiate their own activity after workshops end should they choose to do so.

I myself find the following: some participants have no desire to implement much of anything they’ve learned. Some have the desire to make changes but don’t have the skills to bring about change. Some too have the desire for change, have the skills too but lack the momentum to keep it going unless they see positive results early. We all need reinforcement. So a job searcher needs an employer to reply and give them an interview for example. No interviews at all for the effort invested, momentum sags, disappointment seeps in and the job search can stall again.

I get disappointment. The danger after a workshop is that one can feel right back where they started. I caution them in fact on this very demon. “You’re going to wake up next Monday and that’s when it’s going to hit you. Suddenly you have no place to go, no reason you have to get up, you might feel cut off, isolated again and right back where you were before you took this workshop. Know it’s coming, and prepare to mentally meet it head on.” And then we talk about strategies to ward off this despair.

While we as facilitator’s cannot live our clients lives, nor make decisions for them, realize that wouldn’t be best for them anyhow. Who is to say that we have any right to do that anyhow? People do have to make decisions for themselves and not all those decisions are ones we would make. We can guide, inform, assist, suggest, caution and we can advise. What we don’t have the right to do is actually decide for others. Yet we want to don’t we!

I generally find after a workshop I pick out 2 – 4 people who have really impressed me with their effort. In addition to what I’ve got to turn my own energy to, I continue to connect with and support these few, checking in with them and fitting in whatever follow-up time I can give them that they are open to. I can’t, “save them all”; the usual mantra of the new and young facilitator. I can only do what I can do and I suspect we are the same.

Know Somebody Out Of Work?

My guess is you know someone right now who is unemployed. That person could be a personal friend, a family member, the neighbour next door or one of your acquaintances. If I’m right, your mind has already identified them by name as you are reading along. What if anything are you doing to help them out?

I mean that’s what you should be doing isn’t it? Helping someone out at a time when they need more help than they are asking for? If you’ve ever been out of work yourself, you know what it’s like. While it’s a different experience for everyone it can be a time of embarrassment, shame, humiliation. For the lucky among us, it can also be a time of opportunity, a fresh start in a new direction or the same direction but with a new organization.

So what can you do? Well to begin with it’s pretty important to find out first-hand how the person you know is handling things; get their perspective on being out of work before making any assumptions. You might for example be all prepared to be sympathetic and understanding, talking almost with reverence in hushed tones only to find out they are euphoric.

If its genuine happiness that they are no longer working for an organization and are greatly relieved to be free, you yourself might have to change your intended role from a comforting best friend to a cheerleader. How comfortable are you with those pom-poms?

Conversely, you might be more comfortable speaking with a person who has already started to move on and is looking for alternative work, but the person themselves is still in shock and denial. You might be ready for the next stage where seeking employment is what it’s all about, but your friend is still feeling like a casuality in a train wreck called Life. Switch off your employment counselling and start with emotional triage.

This is a sign of a really valuable person; the ability to listen and observe a person in a given situation, make no pre-conceived assumptions, and then adapt oneself to what you see and give them what they need at that time. This is so much more beneficial than giving them what you perceive they’d need because it’s what you’d want in the same situation.

Now you may not have a level of comfort dealing with someone in whatever state you find them. This of course is your issue, not theirs. Given that one of you is out of work, I’d say it’s your responsibility not theirs to adapt. Can you do that? Some can and others can’t. You might be the kind of person who is more than willing to help but only when the person snaps out of what you call their own pity-party. In the nicest way possible, you might be entirely right to gently let them know when you will be most useful to them if it’s not now.

You run the risk of course of being seen later by the person as not being there when they needed you. That of course isn’t the real issue; you made an offer of help but didn’t have the necessary interpersonal skills to deal with the person in the state you found them. You made an offer of help when they themselves transitioned to a place where you could meet them and provide help then.

Now one of the most common things people fear who are out of work is that they get left out and forgotten. In their minds, the world is carrying on quite nicely and they are missing out. The solution for these types is to keep them connected. Maybe it’s a phone call, dropping off a meal (which gives you another opportunity to speak with them when you collect the serving dish you delivered it in).

Having someone over to watch a comedy movie and share some drinks and snacks. They feel connected and included, there’s no awkwardness over money as there would be in paying to see a movie at the theatre, and the laughs the movie generates would do everyone some good. By the way, totally avoiding the topic is NOT a good idea. Talk about how things are going, where are they at and ask how you might help them best. Then show the movie and sound genuine when you say goodnight and you’ll stay in touch.

What else can you do? If you both have a previously paid for membership in something – the gym, the golf club etc., make plans to go and keep that part of your relationship ongoing and them active. You might hear bitterness, talks of revenge and anger. Make your own assessment of how serious the person is and don’t over-react and think they’ll carry through on 90% of what you hear.

You can also look for jobs they might be interested in and pass them along, offer to be a personal or character reference for them. Offer to proofread anything that might help them out. Just plain ask what you could do to help. You don’t have to have all the answers to solving their problem.

If they are willing to give you their resume, you could also speak (with their permission) to other people and see what if anything you can come up with to help them get back in the game.

Thank The Cleaners? Why?

Has it ever dawned on you to thank the person who empties your trash and cleans your office during the night when you are at home with your family? Where I work, I hear people complain from time-to-time that their garbage can or recycling bin wasn’t emptied the night before, but I can honestly say I’ve never heard them talk about what a good job the cleaners did the previous evening.

This past week we were fortunate at my work to have our cleaning staff do one of their extensive cleaning jobs; the kind where we get an email to move everything off the floor so they can easily do more than just vacuum the carpets but really go at them. They also cleaned our chairs and washed our windows the night before the carpets. I for one and thankful for this service.

What I find interesting though is the complaining from some in having to move all their stuff off the floor and then have to do it a second night in a row. Wow. Two nights in a row that happens maybe twice a year when the cleaners do a thorough cleaning job and that’s inconvenient? I don’t understand that. Seems to me it is far better to show gratitude for this service both to the cleaner and to Management for paying for this additional service.

Every so often I leave a note for the cleaner on my desk thanking the cleaner and expressing my gratitude. I’ve never met this person, don’t know if they are male or female, tall or short, black or white, happy or frustrated, single or married, but I do know they are human. Humans I have found like to be acknowledged and thanked every so often for what it is they do, especially when what they do is seldom acknowledged because then it means more.

So why thank the cleaner? Selfishly I could tell you that it might mean they do a better job in my office than in other ones. Maybe that’s true I can’t really say. But I do know that it takes about ten seconds to take a blank piece of paper and with a pen print, “Thank you for cleaning my office. Much appreciated!” Those 8 words found every so often by a cleaner going about their business after hours when the place is deserted might come as a welcomed item, letting them know what they do is actually appreciated by the person who occupies that space. And maybe it even puts a smile on their face. 10 seconds = a smile; I like that equation.

Unfortunately, I imagine in many workplaces the only time the cleaner gets talked about, (or talked to) is when they have someone not performed up to expectations. “Ah the cleaner didn’t do a very good job last night! What do they actually do? Anything?” Yes that might be the more popular refrain. And when they do their job to their best ability it largely goes unnoticed and taken for granted. So some will see an empty waste bin with a new bag in it, a clean carpet, shrug and go about their day.

Don’t we however like our colleagues and those we serve to every now and then say something nice about the service we’ve provided? Sure we do. When a client says, “Thanks Kelly, I really appreciate what you’ve done for me”, I know that makes me feel good about what I’ve done. Why then not extend the same kindness on to the invisible cleaner who likewise does their job which I in turn appreciate?

This also extends to the landlord of your building. The person who replaces your light bulbs when they go out, the maintenance staff who check the duct work when your too cold or too hot. And have you ever put a ticket into your IT department that just logs your appreciation for the work they do or do you just reserve your tickets for, “here’s another mess for you guys to solve.”

What am I talking about really? Relationship building. Go home and tell your spouse you’re having a relationship with your cleaner and the IT department. On second thought, don’t. They won’t understand. Have one anyway. Not only do I leave a note every so often for the cleaner, I’ve also been known to leave a candy on that note. Something unexpected but hopefully welcomed that doesn’t slow them down but might be accepted as a, “Hey I’m acknowledging that you exist and I appreciate what it is you do that lets me go about my job daily in a good environment.”

There are other people you could similarly thank including the bus driver who gets you to and from work. Maybe even a police officer you pass on the street. “Thanks for doing what you do” is all it takes. What about the minimum wage earning employee who makes your lunch? The person who picks up your dirty mats at work and lays down clean ones? The person who fixes the photocopiers or tests your fire extinguishers? There are all kinds of people going about their jobs who make your day better (or not) in how they go about their own job. Why not say thank you?

Keep your eyes open today for opportunities to acknowledge others for what it is they do. Even the person picking up cigarette butts in your parking lot could use a, “Thank you”.

LinkedIn: Don’t Teach It If You Don’t Get It

“My teacher in College told us we should be on LinkedIn but I don’t get it. They said it’s like Facebook for grown-ups. What does it do?” I’ve heard this sentiment expressed almost word for word with three different College students I know just this past week alone, the latest only yesterday. It almost makes me wish those introducing LinkedIn to their students would skip it entirely if they don’t really get it themselves.

Yes it appears from talking with these students that their teachers told them they should be on LinkedIn but didn’t go on to demonstrate to them exact what they could do with it. The result I’m noticing is that these students either don’t see the point in even attempting a profile, or they start to construct their profile and stop almost immediately, leaving little more than a shell which then has the undesired impact of being entirely underwhelming. Ouch!

Telling college-aged people that LinkedIn is like Facebook for grown-ups accomplishes two things; it makes them think it’s just another socializing platform and this demographic is turning away from Facebook in droves, so it’s like being saddled with something else they don’t want. In other words, you’re not turning them on to LinkedIn at all, you’re turning them off.

Yesterday there was 10 minutes left in the day when a placement student who was sitting behind me suddenly said she didn’t get LinkedIn and didn’t know if she should be on it or not. I turned to her and said, “Well, in my opinion if you don’t use it you’re a fool.” Notice what I didn’t say is, “if you don’t GET ON IT you’re a fool.” There is a huge difference between just being on it and knowing how to use it and maximizing its benefits.

She’s 21 and I’m 55. I’d like to use this experience in some future job interview when the interviewer shows concern about my ability to grasp and use technology! I’ve been using LinkedIn for years now, and she didn’t know it’s been around for years.

So I started my pitch. “What do you want at this point career-wise?”, I said. “A job in Probation”, she replied. So I then asked her how valuable it might be to assemble a room full of people currently in Probation, all at various levels of seniority, then have a corner of the room full of job postings solely in her field, and as she walked around the room she could join various conversations people were having related to probation. “That’d be great, you mean like a convention?”

Okay so LinkedIn would expose her to these people through connecting with people currently holding positions in Probation. It would also allow her to find them discussing mutual points of interest in the group functions, so she could join and be surrounded by people with similar career interests. Jobs in the Probation sector can be searched for filtering the opportunities in her geographical area, as well as by entry-level, and by connecting with others, she could even ask for advice, inside information about a company or an opening. It’s still who you know much of the time, so you should get to know people.

I asked her to tell me when it’s appropriate to give an employer your professional references in the application process. To this, she replied she’d be taught that you only give these at the end of a face-to-face interview when they ask for them. “Old school”, I said. I told her about recommendations and how employers can read what people are saying about you if you’ve got them BEFORE you even get the call inviting you for the interview. No recommendations and how good can you be? Lot’s of recommendations and your value rises.

“I’m going to make a profile”, she said. I told that was a good move, but as our 10 minutes was up and just before we left for the day I told her I’d only scratched the surface of what she could do with it. We agreed that next week when she returns we’ll find more time to talk about it and how to make it productive.

Like anything else, the best person to learn from is someone who not only knows more than you do, but who can communicate it in a way that you find meaningful and can understand the personal benefits to be realized from. Those who didn’t like math in school usually complained, “I don’t see the point. I’m never going to use that in real life.” Same goes for those who didn’t get Chemistry, Geography or English Literature. If there is no practical application understood, why learn it?

My pitch for LinkedIn is that no matter what discipline or line of work you choose to pursue, connecting with professional people who are in that field has to be valuable. Don’t have the time to invest in using it? That’s your personal choice and I respect your right to use it or not, but understand it first and what it can do for you, and what you can do for others.

Facebook for grown ups? Facebook is, “Look at what I had for dinner!” “Here I am taking a selfie – boy I’m good!” LinkedIn is, “I’m launching or advancing my career and in doing so enriching my life.” Maybe it is for grown ups after all!

Feelings of Isolation And Being Left Behind

When you are out of work, many people spend way too much time inside their apartments and homes. This voluntarily exile can and usually will bring unexpected and unwelcomed changes to a person. Your residence, which when you were working was your place of solitude and regeneration, could transform itself little by little into your prison. Ironically, the key to freedom is within your grasp.

So why retreat from the world in the first place when you are out of work? In the beginning, say shortly after you’ve been let go, it seems natural to coccoon yourself away and process what has just happened. You might be in a state of shock, trying to reason out your sudden loss of employment. Even when you saw the writing on the wall months’ ago, it still comes as a blow when you’re told not to come back the following day. It still stings.

And of course there is an element of pride that one has; that sense of identity you enjoyed as an employee of such-and-such firm or company. You might be understandably worried therefore that even a trip to your local coffee shop might raise a questioning eyebrow from someone who would normally expect you to be at work at 9:45 a.m. instead of in your jeans and sweat top ordering your favourite brew. “Hey Dave, what are you doing here you rascal! Lose your job or somethin’?”

If it’s not the coffee shop, you’re perhaps worried that the retired couple across the street who know everything about everybody are starting to get suspicious of your car still parked in the driveway. “Hello David, it’s Milly. Are you alright? Donald noticed your car in the drive. You haven’t lost your job by any chance you poor dear?”

Highly unlikely these situations might happen the first day you are home, but in your mind, that kind of negative thinking puts thoughts there that are destructive and self-defeating. It is true that part of our identity is connected to the work we do and the company we work for. That’s why for example it is so common when meeting new people for someone to ask you early on, “So, what do you do for a living?” Somehow, “Oh I eat, drink and breathe”, isn’t the answer they are looking for.

When you are home, you’d best get use to being comfortable with being alone. It’s quiet in the house; certainly quieter than the workplace. All that chatter that you may have found irritating coming from the hall is gone. The continuous grind and whine of machines, photocopiers, forklifts etc is replaced with the suddenly noticeable hum of the fridge, the furnace coming on and shutting off, and the ticktock of the wall clock. Never noticed those being so loud before.

Of course one of the things that nags at the brain after days start to pass is that somehow the world is moving on and without intending it, you seem to have got off the train. Welcome to ‘Nowhere’. In your mind you keep asking yourself, “How did I get here? Where is here? Is this my final destination? I thought I was headed on up the tracks to, “Somewhere” where I could be, “Somebody”. In this little town of, ‘Nowhere’, am I a ‘Nobody’?

Enough already. Taking some time to process a job loss is essential. Take up to a week if you need it. Yes a week. It’s dangerous to take much longer except in the case of a planned vacation and there are exceptions depending on the stress of the job you held. Get going and get outside. Breathing in some fresh air and going for a walk can help you gain some perspective. You can also rationalize your walk by telling yourself you are getting some exercise, so you’re not ‘wasting’ time.

In that first few days after a job loss, you might do well to start thinking about the things you DO have control over. You can if need be, cut back any expenses not deemed essential. You’re probably saving gas or transit fare just by not going to work so see that as a plus. Apply for whatever employment insurance you might be eligible and do it immediately. Many jurisdictions that will provide you with this only issue it from the day you apply, not the day you lost your job income.

Any projects around the house you’ve been putting off that are cheaply accomplished? Even washing the windows inside and out can help you to later look at them and feel you’ve done something instead of being a reminder that you can’t even do something that simple. These kind of dark thoughts are precursors of depression and are best put in their place pronto. Do the laundry, plan the dinner menu, rake the yard, shovel the drive, replace the dim lightbulbs. Do anything that fills your day.

Ready for the bigger stuff after a few days or a week? Good. Now turn your attention to the job search and getting back in the game. Update the resume, make a few calls, let people know you are looking for work, tell them what happened and do your best to sound positive and hopeful. Trains are constantly taking people from, ‘Nowhere’ to ‘Somewhere’ and you’ve always been a, ‘Somebody’.