When Is The Job Interview Over?

Before we can talk about when the job interview is over, we need to talk about when it starts. There’s some strong difference of opinion as to both its beginning and end. My position is that it doesn’t begin when you shake the hand of the interview and say, “Hello”, and end when you shake their hand a second time and say, “Goodbye”.

So let’s begin. The start of the interview? Well to me the start of the interview comes the moment you have any interaction with the company of which they become aware. So if you walk in their front door and ask about volunteer opportunities, your employment interview has just begun. You see even if you have no immediate plans to apply for a paid position with that organization, it may well be that you change your mind as you volunteer there in the future and become aware of job postings. It could also be that they eventually discuss an employment opportunity with you without even posting a position.

Your first impression of the company – how you are greeted and treated – is also the organizations first chance to form an opening opinion of you. If you are of the opinion that you can act one way and then a year later suddenly transform yourself into someone else when there is a job posting, you’ll never pull off coming across as genuine. By that point, they’ve formed strong opinions on your punctuality, your level of interest and commitment, your attitude, your ability to work with others, your reliability and your skills. In short, your job interview started a year ago when you first started volunteering.

How am I doing? Have I got you saying to yourself, “Okay sure I get it, but I thought you were talking about the actual job interview.” I am! You see I’ll bet that in that formal sit down interview, you’ll be discussing your performance in your role as a volunteer. You’ll cite examples of your abilities you’ve experienced while volunteering for the organization. So yes, you’ll be bringing in your shared experience as proof of your strong application for the position.

And if you’re not volunteering? You start making an impression on the people who work there right from the first time you identify yourself on the phone with your manners, the words you speak, the tone of your voice, the presence or lack of a sense of humour. If it’s a written application, your cover letter and resume get to the organization ahead of you and will give them all kinds of evidence of how well you write and communicate; your professionalism or lack of it. Your interview has already begun. The face-to-face meeting is a continuation of your interaction, just moving to a different phase.

So when is the interview over? Just like the beginning, I don’t think the face-to-face formal meeting represents anything but a change in the dynamic of the overall application. Most employers tell me that they put a lot of weight on what a person does or doesn’t do after they shake hands and walk out. If they go home and do nothing, they probably aren’t all that committed to really wanting the job. They most likely are applying for other jobs with other organizations. If on the other hand they follow-up with a short note of thanks for the interview, subsequent questions or additional information to support their application, they really want it as demonstrated by their continuing effort. In short, the interview process continues.

Look too at the selection process at its conclusion. One person gets the job and all the others are passed over. Does it end here then? For 9 out of 10 people it does. That 1 other person though? That’s the person who continues to want the job and wants a second chance. They follow-up expressing both their disappointment and their continued interest in the position should it or a similar opening come up.

They also request feedback, suggestions, advice and then act on that advice so they can in a future discussion, explain what they’ve been doing to better position themselves for success by heeding the advice they got in the past. For them you see, the interview isn’t over, it’s still going on.

Do you see the difference in perception? Do you see that there are some who see the interview start and end as a date and time on the calendar. These folks say, “I have a 45 minute interview this Tuesday at 10:00 a.m.”.  Others say, “I started my interview 6 months ago and I’ve been invited to a formal discussion this Tuesday at 10:00a.m. as the next stage in the hiring process.”

Oh and guess what? If you don’t like interviews and think that when you get hired they are thankfully done with – I disagree. The day you shake hands and accept a job offer is the first day of a long process as you are now interviewing for the job you officially apply to down the road as a promotion. In short, every day at work is an ongoing interview.

I hope you zeroed in on that last sentence. If you are headed off to work today you’re being watched, evaluated, judged, gauged and affecting others opinions of you as you build your reputation. You my dear reader are in an interview. Hope you used deodorant before leaving home!



“You’re Not What We Want. Next!”

Rats! Rejected again. Whether it’s your dream job or a survival job, that rejection can sting; especially if you’re hearing, “Sorry”, just a little bit too often.

Now there are many reasons why you might not be what a company is looking for. Not all rejections should be seen as negative. Some are beyond your control, and surprisingly, some of those rejections might just be the best thing that could have happened to you if you are smart enough to think about the reasons behind the rejection.

Suppose for example you are up for a job as an actor in a play. You prepare for your audition and it goes extremely well, but you don’t land the part. Until the Director cast the leading characters, they couldn’t determine the supporting cast, and that being done, you’re just too tall for the part. That news is no reflection on your acting, dancing or singing skills; they just don’t want the person playing the younger brother to be taller than the older brother. While that happens in real life all the time, on the stage they want the oldest to be tallest as viewed by the audience.

The above example is one where although the outcome is disappointing, again it’s no reflection on your skill or performance. Pick up your ego with your 8″ x 10″ photo’s and move on. What’s important for your mental stability is to know you auditioned (or interviewed for the part) having prepared and given it your best.

A second situation where you can re-frame rejection into a positive is when you apply for a job you ultimately don’t get, but it would have been a bad personal fit. Suppose you are a Civil Engineer, complete with degree and working on a Masters. That phone call you just got saying you are far too qualified to work at the café might have been a blessing in disguise. Who knows…you could have successfully worked there for the next few years and all the while your up-to-date skills aged with every espresso you frothed. By the time you got serious about applying for a job in your educational field, you’d be old news and then really frustrated!

And that’s one of the pitfalls of applying for numerous jobs when you feel like, “I just need to work!” It’s a real Catch-22. I mean, you start broadening out in your mind the kind of work you will apply for, and run the risk of expanding too fast and lose all your focus on what you should be doing most – applying for the jobs that best make use of your education, skills and experience. Yet, if you don’t look outside of a narrow niche, you run the risk of missing good opportunities while your skills rust.

Finding out the reasons behind your rejections can sound frustrating in itself to a job seeker. It’s bad enough they don’t want you, now you’re being told to find out why. Sounds like a bad replaying of your high school experience in trying to land a date with someone you had a crush on. “Go out with you? Uh, no thanks.” And then you ask, “Why? Don’t you like me?”

Funny enough in an odd kind of way, the reason for getting an explanation for being rejected as a date and as a job candidate are the same; you want to learn from the experience so you can make changes and increase the odds of success with the next attempt. The real challenge is to get honesty in the answer. Having an employer tell you there was another candidate just a little more qualified is about as much help as having that high school guy or girl tell you, “It just wouldn’t work out that’s all.” It’s too vague.

As a general rule, I think it’s a wise move to contact an employer after you’ve been rejected. Be professional in your approach and in a non-threatening tone ask for some concrete feedback, assuring them that the reason you are asking is because you continue to be interested in the position and would like to address any concerns the employer might have in a future application.

Almost all job seekers these days just chalk up a rejection as a permanent rejection and never contact the employer. While it’s true employers are very busy and can’t give every rejected applicant all the feedback they might otherwise, only a very few ever seek it anymore. Many applicants tell me, “I’ve already lost the job so why bother further humiliating myself? I’ve got other jobs to apply to.”

Here’s why: 1) Not all people who are hired actually work out. 2) You’ll stand apart from any other applicant who got rejected in the final decision and did nothing. 3) It shows you REALLY want the job. 4) It shows you want to improve and learn from the experience – and you can share this in future interviews demonstrating how you deal with challenges, are persistent and work on your goals.

Reframing rejection is a skill just like any other. It’s really not about the rejection but how you choose to react to it and what if anything, you do to minimize the odds in the future of being rejected that’s the key. We all get rejected be it in relationships, jobs, an offer on a house or a loan at the bank. How we react is what defines us.





Stuck In A Rut Of A Job?

Hey how are you? No, I mean how ARE you? You…yes you the person reading this! Yeah you! Ah finally got your attention. How’s the job going eh? Not as rosy and perfect as it was some time ago then? Sorry to hear about that; no really I am. You were so sure this was THE one. Ah, well things change – we change.

So, ah, what are you’re plans today? “Going to work”? That’s it? I mean yes we both have to head on out soon to work yeah, but what are you DOING today to either make work better or find a better gig? You know, “take a sad song and make it better”?

No mate, I’m sorry but if you’re JUST going to work today, how are things going to get any better? I mean it’s not like you really expect somebody to ring you up and offer you the perfect job if you aren’t even out there looking for it. Yeah, yeah, I know the odd lucky one gets a call from out of the blue when some Recruiter calls them up after reading their LinkedIn profile and such, but listen mate really? I mean I’ve seen your rather pathetic excuse of a profile and you haven’t done much to really make it stand out now have you. What you’re needing is some motivation friend.

I hear you. I mean sure you’ve got to focus on work when you’re actually at work and then when you get home you can’t find the energy to job search after dinner. But uh, well, you know then as well as I do that things are almost never going to change. This is it then isn’t it? This life you’ve got, this excuse of a job that you once thought was downright smashing and all the rage. How much longer do you think you can go on? I mean you’re only in your 30’s now and you’ve got roughly 30 more years to go. It’s like you’re in the lockup!

Look, anything worth having is worth the work it takes to get it isn’t it? The old man told you that years ago but turns out the old guy knew a thing or two didn’t he? You’re floating along and can do that job with your eyes closed at this point right? I mean no more challenge, no more growing and stretching yourself? The only stretching your getting mate is on the couch at the end of the day. Don’t think we all haven’t noticed either even if you haven’t. You’re mentally exhausted and your brain is sending the message to slow down when your body isn’t even working up a sweat!

Oh so you DO want to do something about it then? Good! Well then DO something don’t just WANT to do something! Well for starters do you want to stay with the company or get a fresh start somewhere else? I mean, aside from your job, is there any other position in the company you know of that you think you’d be interested in? Yeah that’s the question then isn’t it? You’d best find out then what options you’ve got there.

So what is it then? I mean is it this company or the job itself? Could you be happier doing something the same as you’re doing now but somewhere else? You know, a new boss, new digs, corner office this time ’round?

All right, all right keep your shirt on! Sure enough then it’s to be something completely different then Well at least that little emotional outburst shows you’re alive and kicking! I thought you’d turned into one of those working zombies without a pulse but clearly you’re not too far gone and saveable!

Look, you best make a list of what you’re good at and the skills you’ve got. Yeah I know it sounds hokey but it’s the thing to do. Look do you want to go on like this or not? Then you’ve got to change something up man! Just do it. While you’re at it, write down what you like and don’t like in your present job. What’s that third thing there? Gloria? Who’s Gloria? Listen you can’t write down, ‘Gloria’ under things you like in your present job! Do behave!

Okay good start then. So you know your skills, you know what you like and don’t like. What are the things you’ve got going in your life now that you don’t want to change? This is where you write down my name mate! No really, what’s up for changing and what’s non-negotiable. Willing to get a new address or not? Big office? Small firm? What are you thinking is best?

Look here’s the thing. What you’re after is a gig that matches up with your skills and qualifications but is a good fit for your personality too. Might mean heading back to school you know. Can you handle the day job and night classes? What if GLORIA was there? Ha thought so!

Yeah you’re on track for a starter. What you’re needing then is someone with more smarts than I’ve got. It’s a Counsellor you’re wanting. You know, down at the Centre? They’re the experts in finding a good match. Set something up on your day off or lunchtime. Hey it’s your life mate. 30 years more…remember? Thought you’d forgotten.

So what are YOU DOING today?






Setting Yourself Up To Fail Job Searching

Job searching as most people will tell you can be a frustrating experience. So much of it after all seems beyond your own ability to control. However, instead of worrying about things you can’t control, let’s look at basic things you can control and the negative impact they can have on your success if you don’t get a handle on things.

For starters, let’s talk about your phone. These days job seekers have a tremendous advantage over those looking for work in years’ past. You can take your phone everywhere these days, no longer having to hang around the apartment or house just in case someone might call and offer you an interview. That’s huge; but it also pointless to have a phone and then not be able to receive or make calls on it.

Make sure you put enough money into your plan so that you can actually receive and make outgoing calls. Nothing is more frustrating to an employer than receiving your resume, deciding you are indeed worth an interview and then calling you up only to find that they can’t leave a message. If they do leave a message and you never receive it due to issues with your provider, employers won’t know that. They’ll only surmise that you haven’t got the good grace and respect to call them back

Your resume might be another major issue. If you are still photocopying your resume and sending it to multiple employers, you’re stuck in the early 1990’s. Your competition? They’re adjusting their resumes to meet each and every posting they apply to and that means on paper, they will always come across as better qualified and a good match. If you are too lazy or disinterested in your own job applications to target your resumes, companies won’t want you working for them.

Next get yourself connected on social media platforms and do more than just post pictures of yourself and your friends. You’ve got this extraordinarily powerful tool at your disposal where you can connect with people, share ideas, ask for support, tap into job leads and reasons for job openings. What a shame if you are complaining that job searching is all about who you know not what you know, and you don’t know anybody. Create a profile for yourself and fill it out in detail, research companies you are interested in working with and who works there; these are the people you can make connections with.

Another problem many people make is only going about their job search using technology. Sooner or later you have to get out of the home office or off the couch and meet people. Your interpersonal skills; your ability to talk with people, engage in conversations and listen all need practice to stay developed or to improve. So many people can chat up a storm when it’s a keyboard they have in front of them, but when it comes to meeting people all those communication skills fail them.

So get out of  your house and go see a local sports team in action. Head out to the library, the zoo, take a stroll on a well-used walkway, join a recreational organization – in short do anything that will give you opportunities to connect with people. If you fear your communication skills are really poor, just keeping your head up as you pass someone on a footpath and saying hello while making eye contact is a good start. Will that get you a job interview? Absolutely not and it’s silly to think it might. Could it be a huge first step for someone with social anxiety and as a result poor communication skills and low self-esteem? Absolutely yes!

Here’s another idea that you probably will agree philosophically would be time well spent, but for other people and not you: get some help with your interview skills. Told you that you wouldn’t like. You need practice my friends; those interview skills are probably rusty, and if you aren’t getting past the interviews you are currently getting, the answer could be in how you interview. If you aren’t even getting too many interviews in the first place, all the more reason to get help so you do well when the interview does come.

A good Job Coach, Advisor or Employment Counsellor will help you strategize ways to deal with: awkward questions, work on your body language, appearance, the tone of your voice, things you could phrase better, things you shouldn’t share, draw out your accomplishments and strengths, how to minimize the possible damage of exposing your weaknesses.

However the number one thing you should avoid at all costs is the very thing that some people ultimately do, which is to become so bitter and angry that they allow their lack of success to change who they are. Don’t let the stress of unemployment change your optimism, your positive outlook. You’re still a good person worthy of living a life full of all the good things you want in it. Don’t turn off your friends, alienate your spouse and family, and think the world owes you.

No, you owe it to yourself to work hard at this job search. Hold yourself accountable, not all the other people in your life. Take personal responsibility for your successes and your failure and most importantly for learning from your failures.

Set yourself up to win in your job search!

Constantly Consumed With Your Problems?

Working with so many people who are unemployed or underemployed, it is only natural that most of them have problems. Actually, all of them have problems, issues and barriers. Some of those barriers and problems they openly share, and some of them they keep locked away and are only revealed after establishing a deep trusting relationship.

Now these problems usually tend to mirror many of the problems that others have who have shared them with me. Their issues typically include stress over being in debt, family problems, relationship issues, low self-esteem, a lack of purpose, housing instability, mental health and literacy issues and of course unemployment.

Any one of the above is in its own right, difficult to deal with. Imagine trying to juggle all of them and possibly throw in an addiction or a criminal record, seeing a counsellor, a probation officer or going through the court system to obtain full custody of a child. So, it is very understandable to me to see how such a person dealing with so many weighty issues could be entirely overwhelmed.

From the time the brain moves from dreamland in the morning to wakefulness, right up until sleep comes again, how must it feel to be so constantly aware of all these things that need fixing? What if you didn’t have the skills or knowledge that you need to actually do much of anything to start dealing with the problems in the first place?  I think therefore it is not such a stretch to start to see why some people appear to give up or give in.

Think about when you have a problem of your own. Life is good except for the stress you feel over that one single thing; maybe the brakes on the car that are going to cost money you have but didn’t plan on spending. Aside from the brakes, you’ve got a home to return to, a job and the income that goes with it, golf on the weekend with your buddies, movie and dinner tonight with the spouse and a pretty decent closet of clothes. Ah but those brakes are stressing you out!

Not to diminish the unexpected cost of replacing your brakes, but you’ve got one thing to stress over and you know that it’s a time-bound stressor. When the car goes in the shop tomorrow, by the evening your brakes are fixed and your one problem solved. Can you imagine having 5 – 9 additional sources of stress all at the same time and each of those stressors goes on and on with no end in sight of being ‘fixed’ and done with? So maybe some empathy for those dealing as best they can with their issues would be the least you and I could do.

Okay. So you’ve got some major issues that are getting in the way of leading the life you want. When you say you just want to live a, ‘normal’ life, what you really mean is living with normal pressures and stresses, not dealing with major stressors all the time and all at once. Yes? That’s not such a strange thing to understand; in fact it’s reasonable.

One possible idea if you are open to hearing one, is to do something that might seem unpleasant but is fairly easy. Start by writing down all the things you can think of that are causing you stress. Just putting them down in black and white on a piece of paper will be a good place to start. This alone will help you if you feel totally stressed out and can’t understand why. It is however only a first step.

Then if you are willing, look at picking one thing that’s freaking you out and decide to put most of your energy into tackling that one issue. So if getting a stable place to live that you can afford is constantly stressing you, it might be a good idea to put most of your energy into that one thing. When you do get an apartment to call your own – even if it’s not your ideal residence – you can give yourself some credit for dealing with that one thing. Having dealt successfully with one thing might give you the motivation to deal with another source of stress.

Now let’s say you are so overwhelmed you just don’t have the skills or ability to even know how to go about getting affordable housing, but this is the one thing you want to resolve first. Perfectly normal by the way. Congratulate yourself for two things: 1) you know what you want to work on and 2) you’re smart enough to know you need someone’s help to fix things.

No matter where you live, look into visiting a social services agency nearby. It doesn’t matter which one you contact first, if they can’t help you directly, they will point you in the right direction and give you the phone number, address, maybe a name of the people who will help you out. They are all connected, know what each other do, and so they can provide you with support and help. Share your troubles and the problems might be less heavy to carry on your own.

Everybody has problems and issues. Most of us manage things well but some better than others. It is a sign of your strength and wisdom to reach out for help, and there’s no shame in that. All the best.






That Single Second Of A Possibility

Your commute: That daily drive down deep into the darkest, dank, death-like dungeon of despair. Your destination? The job from the netherworld from which you routinely gazed up into the ceiling above, with your arms flung as wide as you can while you screamed to some unknown force in the universe, “WHY ME?!”

Ever had one of those jobs? You loathed it on a Sunday morning when you automatically without willing it realized that you had this single day of respite before you had to march into your workplace and shackle yourself to your desk with a ball and chain. You looked around and saw only resignation on the faces of your co-workers. The worse part of the entire picture was that as you saw it there were no guards, no warden, no executioner – just prisoners who chained themselves without questioning to their work and released themselves at 5:00 p.m. only to repeat the sentence upon the dawn of the following day.

Your co-workers names you no longer recall, but sympathetically refer to them now as Diablo in reception, Lucifer in accounts, Beelzebub your boss; who seemed looking back now to be as lost as yourself. Everything around you seemed so stale, so unappealing, joyless – even plants on the window sill drooped in mute capitulation.

Maybe you did have one of those jobs or worse still have one of those jobs now! Yikes! How unfortunate if you do but feel you have no options, no hope, no promise of a brighter day! Alas, is there no mercy? And what devilry is there afoot that brought you to this lowly place? What sins did you commit to become sentenced to this endless fate which drones on and ever on?

Okay enough of that. Give your head a shake and sit up straight. Focus. I said focus! You there in the front row with your head in front of the screen. Yes you! Focus!

A change in scenery is definitely required here isn’t it? Of course it is. You’re deserving of a better existence aren’t you? Of course you are! Work need not be a drudgery exercise to be repeated 5 or 6 days out of 7 for the rest of your working life. You’re not serving a sentence where you get released home for a day or two each week in an effort to integrate you back into society when you retire and can’t do anyone much harm. At the moment, it would appear you are the one in harm, and it may just be self-inflicted.

You my dear reader, in order to bring about the change you want, have to BE the instrument of change itself. Nothing changes until change occurs. Oh lovely you say, now he’s being just a tad trite. But it’s true. NOTHING CHANGES UNTIL CHANGE OCCURS. It has to start somewhere after all; that first second when something sparks a new thought that you haven’t previously had. That single second is the seed of change presenting itself and what happens next is entirely up to you.

Think of it; that single second where you see an option, a fork in the road, a possibility…and we all have those single seconds when new possibilities come into our conscious thought. Some of us nurture those thoughts, close our eyes and encourage more thoughts. We imagine, allow ourselves to dream, to consider, and then we connect those single seconds into a minute of thought, an hour, a day. We then talk with others around us about those thoughts we are having and breathe life into the possibilities which lead us to examine our skills, our aptitude, then research the opportunities suggested and develop workable realistic goals.

In others of course, that same single second of thought which is the seed of something that could be, is quickly extinguished like an unwanted light in the darkness. Change and the struggles it might bring seems somehow worse than what we have now, and what new disaster might the future bring if we error in following that spark and things end up even more disastrous than they are now? The result is no change, no movement, little hope for something better, and more of the same.


Choice is one of the greatest gifts we have but only if we see choice as opportunity for something better. Choice can be something others don’t want – they’d prefer others choose their destiny for them. ie. “Tell me what to do with my life!”

Maybe exploring a small tiny spark of some new idea doesn’t really have to cost you anything other than some moments of reflection. After all, you have the power to explore any idea as far as you like and either go all the way with it or choose at any time to snuff it out for what you have instead of something else.

But you; you who toil timidly today, tomorrow, to the ends of the time you can foretell, why not at least consider that the next time you feel a momentary spark of a new possibility to think on it. You my friend are the single person on this planet of billions of life forms with the capacity to alter your future. Your future you is one day going to look back and either regret the moments you rejected exploring change, or thank yourself gratefully for giving yourself permission to pause and reflect.




60, Visible Minority, MBA, Unemployed

Yesterday I sat down with a man for an hour and half and we talked about his employment goals and employment barriers. Now he wasn’t completely unknown to me as we’d just spent the previous week together as he took part in a class I was co-facilitating pertaining to knowing yourself and finding a job / career that would match.

So who is this man? Well as the title suggests, he’s a 60 year-old, originally from India where he obtained his Masters degree. He’s been in Canada now for 20 years and is a Canadian citizen. He’s worked professionally in Sales and Marketing, once starting on the front line in a company and rising all the way up to be the company CEO. He’s in good health, speaks multiple languages, has a good sense of humour, excellent communication skills – and oh yes he’s unemployed and on social assistance.

Last year he and his wife moved from the west side of Canada to Oshawa, Ontario to move in with their adult son. This way the son gets some rental income, helps out his parents, and they in turn have a stable home and the extended family support they want. The difficulty is of course that they begin anew employment-wise.

When we talked of barriers I threw the prejudice against age and race issues right out there instead of dancing around them to maximize the value of our time together. Yes, both are possibilities he conceded and he has felt dismissed too abruptly for jobs he is well qualified on paper to do. In a move that is sure to offend some but be completely understandable by others, I asked if he’d ever considered submitting some resumes using a pseudonym or nickname. Both his first and last name you see might suggest he is a person from a visible minority with origins offshore.

Yes, sadly, there are still some employers who are prejudiced against people who don’t look like them or their other employees, and worry about everything from a lack of Canadian experience to traditionally spicy foods in the microwave. It’s true. They don’t want to risk alienating their customers or some other such silliness and so they blindly dismiss any application from a person not like themselves.

Then again, it might be his age with all that grey hair (same as my hair colour). At 60, the sands of time are falling much too quickly and employers might look him up and down and see someone slowing down, rising health issues, afternoon naps, inflexibility, out-of-date training and experience. Very real possibilities.

“But can they really do that?” he asked me. “I mean can they not hire me just because I am old or because of my name?” Well honestly discrimination is against the law on the basis of age, gender, sex, religion, ethnicity etc. However, people being people, some poor employers do discriminate they just don’t always openly share their prejudices with applicants.

“If I used a nickname would that not make me seem fraudulent?” This is a great question and one that people will argue for or against with compelling points. The object of a resume and cover letter however are to do but a single thing; get an interview. Once the interview is obtained, it falls to the applicant to sell themselves in the interview, marketing their strengths and values as benefits to be desired leading to being hired. Good thing he’s in Sales and Marketing.

Now by his figures, since January, he has applied for 1,000 jobs. (Is that even possible over 4 1/2 months?) As hardly any interviews have transpired, it would be interesting for ‘Peter Sharpe’ to send out a few resumes and see if he gets any increase in interviews. And supposing that with his new nickname he did land more interviews, he’d have eliminated one barrier to employment.

But what about when they see him and the colour of his skin and the lines on his face – the colour of his hair? He’s in Sales and Marketing remember. So my advice to him was to immediately hijack the interview at the first sign of being dismissed if that happens. After all, if he feels a job is lost that he is qualified for, there is nothing to lose but something to gain. So it could go like this…

“I’m not sure you’re what we’re looking for after all Peter. We’ll let you know though if we can use you.”

“That’s a good strategy of yours, I like it! Dismissing me early to see whether or not I get up and leave or persevere and make my best sales pitch. You are playing the customer who doesn’t want your product. Let me tell you then that I am internationally trained and have full fluency in 4 languages. That means your multicultural clients will readily identify with me. I have worked both on the front-line, at the top and everywhere in between so I can speak with customers at their level. I’m energetic, in good health, have a great sense of humour and meet all your requirements. I even adopted a nickname to increase my chances of obtaining this interview by improving the attraction of the product – me; and you bought it. I am fortunate to have met an employer who understands Sales and Marketing and can detect value when it sits across from them.”

And wouldn’t it be ironic if Bob the interview was sitting on his wallet containing his birth certificate identifying him as William?




What You’ll Grow Up To Be

Older. That’s pretty much it as far as a guarantee goes. It’s also a great answer when all those well-meaning people ask you what it is you want to be when you grow up. Other than older, which barring your untimely death is going to happen with great certainty, little else can be guaranteed; certainly not the occupation you end up with.

Did you catch the error in the concluding sentence of that previous paragraph? Read it again and now that you know there’s one there, see how easy or difficult you find locating it. Go ahead, I’ll wait a minute for you to catch up.

The error in the first paragraph is in the singular version of the 5th last word; occupation. You see it really should be pluralized to read, “..the occupations you end up with.” By the time your life is winding down, you will no doubt look back on a working life that has a combination of jobs and careers rather than a single occupation to fill out your adult life. So it’s interesting that adults who themselves have had many different jobs and careers would still ask of those just entering the world of employment, what they want to be when they grow up.

Doesn’t the question itself beg a singular title? “When I grow up I want to be a Teacher.” Surely that is the kind of response most people are expecting when the young person they ask is answering. What would happen however if you overheard a different answer; an answer that actually reflected the reality the person was going to experience? “At this point I think I’ll be a Journalist, but I’ll tire of that in 6 years and turn to conducting market research. After a period of disillusionment, I’ll work in retail sales for a year, return to school and complete a program in Heavy Equipment Operations, work my way up to a site Foreman’s position, then I expect my spouse will accept a job in another part of the country necessitating a relocation and I’ll open a consulting business.”

I think the eyebrows might rise on the listener, the mouth gape a little waiting for the brain to catch up and figure out what to say next. And that’s when the irony of the situation becomes funny; most young people don’t know how to answer the ‘what do you want to be when you grow up’ question, and most who ask the question wouldn’t know how to respond to the answer.

Truth of the matter of course is that the future is so unknown, the options so wide open, the possibilities are limitless. The only limits really are the ones we place upon ourselves. Of course our finances, family encouragement, geography, education all play significant roles in how we develop and the opportunities we might have. The single biggest hurdle or source of  motivation however comes from within ourselves.

In addition to being older, I think you’ll grow up to be whatever you want bad enough. If you don’t think about occupations seriously enough and what will likely make you happy, you may just move from job to job – some of them quite good fits, and some poor ones. You can be very successful and earn a living or living to earn.

If in another perspective, you give considerable thought to your long-term happiness and fulfillment, you might either alone or with the help of someone else, come to settle on a longer-term career goal that based on what you have found out, would appear to offer you the job satisfaction that you personally would find fulfilling.

Either way, I would suggest you give yourself permission to change your mind down the road. Sure it would be great to have such conviction that you get it right the first time and you have a very linear path to your ultimate goal and it’s exactly like you imagined it would be. However, it is also the case that some people find that what they imagined at 17 or 18 was good then, but at 26 and 27 they have had a change in perspective, learned about jobs and occupations they hadn’t ever known in their teens, and what was a good fit then is not right now.

It takes courage of course to change your course. It could mean the tuition you’ve paid has left you with debt and you incur more debt to change your field of education. It could mean too that sharing your change of heart means potentially upsetting others; your parents, family and spouse. But courage to change might be far better if done sooner rather than letting what was expected of you have you end up living someone else’s plan for you instead of your own.

So what will you be when you grow up? Difficult to answer whether you are 14, 34 or 55. If there is something stirring inside that says you are due for a change, it’s a good idea to listen and identify what is driving that inner voice. You may be all grown up at 55, but that voice pulling you to look at other things that would make you ultimately happier is a voice worth listening to.

It may be safe to do the usual; what is expected of you. Safe isn’t bad nor good, it’s just – safe. Doing what really motivates you and enriches your life – that’s living.

How Do Givers Keep Giving?

Ever known someone who always has time for other people? Someone perhaps who works through their breaks on a regular basis, maybe shortens their lunch just so they can give a client some personal time? Maybe you know someone who works all day and then comes home only to leave again and go volunteer their time for the benefit of some social organization or cause. How do they do it and where do they get all that energy from?

Those questions are good ones; especially if you are the kind of person that puts in a days work and then comes home and feels the need to plop down on the couch and your done as far as being able to rally yourself to help someone else.

I’m not leading to a conclusion by the way which is going to encourage you to be one of those who continuously give of themselves. No, that’s an individual choice and one you can make for yourself or not. It certainly doesn’t fall to me to suggest you be one kind of person or another in this respect. I just think it’s interesting to see the givers for who they are.

Now contrast this kind of person; the one who makes extra time for their clients seemingly all the time. Be it as they walk in the building and are accosted by an unscheduled client just wanting a minute, someone at break or lunch time who’s needs are pressing, or the client who just needs some social interaction after class and doesn’t want to return home to the isolation of their bachelor apartment.

Contrast this person I say but with whom? Let’s go with the worker who needs to get in to their workplace and get settled first, check their emails, check their hair, have a bite to eat before seeing anyone, then who at break exercises their right to a full 15 minutes of alone time, and their lunch hour isn’t a lunch hour unless it’s a full hour; and finally who at the end of the day, switches off their client concern as they switch off the lights.

Before you say the picture I’m painting of the second person is unfair, I think in many respects that person is fully entitled to start and end their workday as their contract lays out. They are equally entitled to take whatever lunch and break periods that their employer has set out. They are not to be vilified in any way, least of all by me – for going about their job and doing what is expected of them.

No, I’m focused here more on the person who just gives and gives. Where does that energy come from to do not just every so often but on a continuous basis? I think these people by and large are fueled differently. They get genuine energy from the moments of connectivity that helping others provides. If a client really wants more of their time, they put the clients purpose and needs ahead of their own without reservation. Often the times they do say they can’t give someone the time, it’s only because they’ve previously committed to giving of their time to someone else. Even then they don’t say no absolutely, but offer to make time for the person soon.

The people who give and give of themselves do run a risk of giving so extensively that without making concerted efforts to replenish themselves they may literally exhaust themselves physically and mentally. The result? A person who lives to give but is ineffective and conflicted in their ability to give. This can cause the person who doesn’t read the signs correctly to actually struggle to give more when there’s nothing to give.

The easiest metaphor or image I can share would be a container of water. If the water represents the good will one has and is continuously emptied without ever being replenished, it will eventually be exhausted. There has to be a mechanism or process of filling that container with additional water in order that there be water to share as needed with others.

Now this kind of person who fails to replenish can become fatigued; their inability to give weigh on them and who knows, a complete mental breakdown would not be unexpected. Only after a mental health leave and truly taking time to regenerate and revitalize would the person have any real chance of once again being effective in their ability to give of themselves for the benefit of others.

For most of us, the replenishment we need comes from what we do in our evenings and weekends. We get momentarily refocused and recharged on our lunches if we go for a walk, talk with our coworkers, squeeze in a trip to the store. In short, we build in moments of self-repair with a change in activity that focuses more on our own needs.

Look out for yourself as you go about your work if you see yourself as a continual giver. If you want to be helpful, watch out for your co-workers; recognize the signs of those who might be in danger of exhausting their reserves. Suggest going for a walk at lunch together, just sitting down and engaging in conversation about things outside of work that would be of personal interest to the person.

When you take the time to self-govern your giving, you may just be able to give more and for longer. Stay healthy out there.


Moving From Child To Adult On Welfare

Yesterday I had a really good discussion with a 19 year old who gets social assistance. She is 19 years old if you simply count the years she’s been alive, but in some ways she is 14 and in others she is in her mid-twenties. Like so many other people in this world at this age, she’s just trying to find her way.

She said her parents have been on and off welfare for years and as their child, she’s also been in and out of the system. Now at 19, she’s just found a place to live outside of the immediate family, and is making the transition to adulthood. Her biggest fear is that she’ll grow up to become like one of her parents; dealing with anxiety and depression.

This one parent does nothing day after day and talks about big plans and dreams but doesn’t actually do anything to make them come true. She is angry that now as an adult she’s found out about the help that’s available in terms of training and workshops to build self-esteem and help get employment; help her parents never actually took advantage of and still don’t.

The issue she has now is that she hates being on or in the system. That nags at her and is a source of embarrassment and shame. She wants off and out. Complicating things for her is missing 1 credit to graduate from high school, being enrolled and liking it but, then having the school shut down at the moment because teachers are on strike. It’s out of her control to complete her grade 12. With a scant work history and underdeveloped skills (she is only 19 year’s old), it’s hard to be attractive to an employer.

If like this young lady you see yourself, take heart. The very fact that she resents a life on social assistance or welfare and wants so badly to remove herself from it is a positive driving force. That can provide the motivation to really want financial independence badly enough to make it happen. While awaiting the resumption of school, she’s making excellent use of her time by taking a career exploration course too; a course that also helps identify strengths, interests, challenges and learning styles.

There’s a lot to like in her and others like her. She talks of being socially awkward because her parents didn’t let her out much as a growing child. The streets were busy and for safety reasons she wasn’t allowed to go out and play with other kids. That lack of interaction contributed to being somewhat on the outside of the ‘in’ groups. As stated, one parent dealing with their own demons didn’t help much to provide a positive atmosphere in the home. No blame thrown at the parent here, just not fair to the child who otherwise might have grown up more connected, nurtured and encouraged.

So now at 19 here she is on social assistance, fearful of repeating the cycle, becoming the very thing she wants most to avoid. It’s hard at 19 to see a bigger picture. School will eventually resume, she’ll get that grade 12 diploma, she’ll update and upgrade her resume, get her first real paying job, and be on her way to financial independence.

But what of right now? That rosy picture of the future is, well, the future after all. Right now the key is to do what she can, not fret overly about the things beyond her control, not try to solve all her issues at once. She states there are no drug, alcohol or criminal issues (yeah!). She takes good care of her personal hygiene and appearance. She’s got a nice smile, decent teeth, dresses herself appropriately. So she’s got some things going for her and is working on things she sees she needs to in a proactive way.

A major barrier young people like this lady have who grow up with family histories of being on welfare, is often not having parents who can pass on life skills and the knowledge of how to improve. To be completely honest, some families actually flip-flop between wanting more for their children and wanting them to be just like them. One young adult told me their parents would always say, “So you think you’re better than us? Well you’re not and you never will be. Welfare was good enough for your grandparents and your parents and it’s good enough for you too so get used to it.”

So what’s normal for some middle class families; high school, post-secondary education and employment is not necessarily, ‘normal’ for everyone. Welfare may be, ‘normal’ for some families. It’s when someone, as in the case of this young lady, wants to improve their quality of life and income that with that desire for change struggles surface. The good thing to understand and believe is that the struggle is worth it; because when you feel like you just want to quit, you can remind yourself why you started in the first place;. a hunger for something better.

I see something in her; something she may not see herself with her limited skills and experience. And sometimes – just sometimes – if you can’t see something worthy in yourself you should just trust when someone else sees it first. It will reveal itself to you and that’s when you might wonder how they could see what you did not. So good for her, good for you.