Many Are Doing Jobs They Don’t Love

There are a great many people who are strongly advocating that people without a job should take the time to figure out what they’d love doing and then go for it. On the surface of things, it sounds like good advice. There is an inherent danger in those words being misunderstood however.

I’m going to run the risk of over-generalizing but in previous generations, it appears that many young adults found work any way they could get it. The idea of finding work you were passionate about for the working class just wasn’t in. Today, more young adults are being told, “Find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

Make no mistake however; all jobs are hard work if you really want to be successful. Physical jobs require physical strain and it’s hard work requiring strength and endurance. Some jobs require work of a cerebral nature; they can be mentally exhausting; a different kind of work to be sure but work nonetheless.

If you loathe your job, you’ll have to work at psyching yourself up just to go to work, and work at getting through your day. You’ll equally find in a job you love that you work hard to produce things better, more creatively, keeping things fresh, innovative and wanting to stay on the cutting edge of your field.

Work requires work. However, some people today – predominately transitioning from school to those first few years of full-time employment, have received or misinterpreted the, “you can be anyone and do anything” message.

When family and friends say that you can do anything you put your mind to and to find work you love, they don’t mean that you should ONLY do work you are infatuated with and at all cost avoid hard work. There are in fact many people – some would say the majority – who don’t love everything about their work but do it anyhow.

Some in previous generations had to quit school to support their families during a depression. Work was scarce, employment lines long. You took whatever work was offered to you and you were happy to have it because it meant you had money for food and rent. The kinds of jobs you could actually hope to hold were fewer.

In 2015 first-world countries, the standards of living we enjoy mean there are thousands of jobs out there which didn’t even exist 20, 10 even 5 years ago. Much of that credit goes to technology and innovation. With so many new careers springing up, it isn’t any real surprise that people have more options for work. Older generations who didn’t have all these opportunities and who know the drudgery of doing work they didn’t love, want to ensure that the young people in their lives find work they really are passionate about and love. Hence the advice to find a job you love.

However, if you think that this means, never do any job you are flat-out bonkers over, you’re making a mistake in my opinion. Unless you actually do a job, you can’t possibly know what aspects of the job you don’t enjoy, and you might find part or all of the work you thought you’d hate, you actually don’t.

Many work at jobs they wouldn’t define as their dream job. I can tell you there are some who do work at their dream job and it’s not quite as beautiful and attractive as it sounded when they didn’t have it. So the University grad who is going to set young minds on fire gets disillusioned when they can’t ignite students in their classes who find the teacher and learning boring. The young theatre school grad who dreams of the accolades of a full house raining down applause on them suddenly realizes the parts are few and far between and being an usher or running the bar in the lobby is as close to the stage as they might ever get. It takes work.

You may know of someone who will help you along, get you in the front door, even lobby for you to get that job you want so very much. That’s great. You will however, have to work hard to keep that job, and may find you must work harder than others to keep it once you have it.

The worst job of all? Again it’s my opinion, but the worst jobs are the ones where things come easy with no effort exerted to be successful. I’ll not name any specific job as that might insult those in it, but imagine a job where you use few brain cells or physical strength; you learn little because things come so easily so you don’t know what your limits are. Now imagine yourself doing that job until retirement. That would be a poor existence indeed; that would take work of a different nature.

My advice is to do a variety of things early. As you work, note what you like and love, just as you should note what you don’t. If you find work you love and get paid well to do – fantastic! If you find work you love that doesn’t pay overly well, you’ll be happy but never well off perhaps. Remember what someone loves, another dislikes. We’re built differently and think differently. So just because someone says, you’d love their job and should follow their footsteps doesn’t mean it will turn out the same for you as it did them.



Why People Don’t Change

A very common mistake in the helping professions is to make a blanket assumption that the people we serve want to improve themselves and are ready to change.

So when we that help don’t see change take hold in our clients, we run the risk of silently chastising the client. By  way of example,a person signs up for a class to learn basic computer skills, seems enthusiastic and open to learning, but during the class you observe them reverting to old habits. Although you taught them the home row and keyboarding using all the fingers and both thumbs, they are pecking away with one or two fingers like they did when they first came in.

Similarly, you spend time showing an unemployed person how to go about job searching, telling them it’s a full-time job in itself but observe them a day later apparently goofing around on the internet instead of applying themselves full-time trying to land a job.

Yes it can be frustrating. It is however just possible that a couple of assumptions were made – not by them but by you and I at the outset. These assumptions are the reason that lasting change has not taken root.

The first assumption may be that we assume the person wants what we ourselves would want were we in their position. So if they lack computer skills, we assume they have the equal desire to learn. If they are unemployed, we assume they want a job and the financial independence and rise of self-esteem that comes from having one. Not everyone as it turns out who takes a computer class really has the same commitment or strong desire to learn, nor does everyone actually want a job who says they do.

By projecting our own assumptions onto others, we start our interaction off on the wrong footing. “Of course you want a job right?”, and the person will nod their head and verbally agree with you. But do they? That very old expression, ‘actions speak louder than words’ translates nicely into realty. Does the persons actions support their assertion that they in fact really do want change – REAL change?

Let’s face it, old habits die hard. It takes effort and drive to learn new things, to change out of what we’ve done and has been normal for us up to a point, and then struggle from what’s been easy to what is in the beginning hard. Self-discipline isn’t universally shared. So it isn’t hard to understand that a person you’ve shown how to properly use a keyboard will revert to old habits rather than struggle. In the short-term it’s just faster to use those two fingers, and it’ll take much longer to use all your fingers.

One of the things I’m often heard telling those I work with is that they have to want it more than I want it for them. ‘It’ referring to whatever we are discussing be it a job, computer skills, a career, their education etc. If they don’t own the desire to change, change will start and fail. Lasting change means doing things differently than they’ve been done before over a long period of time, and that can only be successfully achieved when the motivation to change is in the person.

Now, let’s suppose the desire to change is sincere. A second assumption we run the risk of making is that the person has the necessary skills required to take what they are taught and then implement the new ideas, concepts and skills on their own. So even the most sincere person who comes to us and asks for our help may not ultimately be successful in reaching their goal. They just don’t have the necessary building blocks for the new skills we are imparting to build on.

At this point, resist the temptation to assign blame. It’s not your fault that you couldn’t get them to move forward, nor is it theirs for failing to implement for any length of time what you’ve shared. You and that person are however at a wonderful place if you can both see it and act on it. You may be in a place where you can evaluate together, what you need to put in place first so that higher learning can take root.

An undisclosed learning disability might be the problem. It could be just as well that the person who says they want to work is pretty comfortable with their present situation. You and I? Oh we’d want a job, and the independence it would mean, but them? Well if they pay rent to their parents, have their food and rent paid by social assistance and don’t have a strong desire for materialistic things, they might just really be content to keep the status quo. I’ve heard many a person eventually tell me this, but don’t assume everyone on social assistance feels this way.

Our values may not be the values others hold. To make this assumption is an error on our part. To assume others want to change the way we’d like them to change is likewise a mistake. It is equally important to check out if the person we hear requesting our help has the necessary pre-requisite tools for the skills we want to impart to be built upon.

As you teach others, be conscious of what others teach you.



If I’d Only Found This Career Sooner

Not too very long ago a gentleman I was working alongside and I were talking of all the various jobs and careers we’ve had.

When I got around to the position I hold now as an Employment Counsellor, he very kindly told me how well-suited I was to the position, and then said, “If only you’d found this career sooner.” I wasn’t really certain what he was referring to since that kind of statement implies some kind of regret on my part – at least from my perspective.

He then said that the jobs and careers I’d previously had were fine but since I’m good at what I do (for which I thanked him), I could have done so much more for a lot of people earlier in my life when I was doing other things. There I had to disagree, or if not entirely disagree, at least open up the possibility that he may be wrong in assuming that a younger me would have been equally as effective.

I believe people are a sum total of all their experiences to date. We are shaped by good and bad jobs we’ve had, people we’ve come into contact with as customers, clients and co-workers, our bosses etc. Every position we have held down and then quit, been terminated, been laid off etc. shapes us. Even now I am shaped and defined by all the people in my working life with whom I come into contact with.

I know I’m influenced by what I read, what I observe, what others say, how I’m treated, and most certainly by those who I help. My clients; all the people I listen to and all the stories they share with me shape me most certainly.

So then, the question to really consider is: “Would I be just as impactful and effective as he believes me to be today if I’d come to the profession earlier in life?” I think the answer is no. In my own case, I’ve worked in retail profit, provincial and municipal governments, recreation, youth organizations, been self-employed, social services; a wide variety of sectors. I’ve held positions at the top of organizations and been on the front-line. I’ve been terminated, quit, promoted, rewarded and had some poor leaders to answer to and some outstanding people to guide me. I am who I am as a sum total.

Take a favourite book of yours as, “The Lord of The Rings” is mine. Would Frodo be the same person at the end if he’d just had a pleasant walk through middle-earth to Mt. Doom where he’d casually drop the One Ring into the volcano? How boring a book would that to have read. He needed – and we with him – to experience all the rich and vivid characters he encountered and the trials he suffered that in the end made him stronger and the person he became.

And so he and I were back discussing his initial assertion. If perhaps like some of my peers, I’d have graduated from University and immediately become an Employment Counsellor, what would that ‘me’ really look like? It’s entire speculation of course because no one can say. I am confident in saying however that I’d be very different.  And in being different, I’d have a different impact on the people I serve.

Maybe – and just maybe – I’d be more black and white, right and wrong, “get a job if you want one like I did.” Maybe job searching would appear easier, maybe I’d be quicker to judge others, more naïve, convinced I could, “save them all”. I really can’t say. So why speculate? Well there is some value in the thinking process not because I could change anything in the past but because it serves to remind, clarify and give value to where I am in the present.

It is no less the same for you. Maybe right now you’re dealing with problems and long-standing issues of pain, guilt, sadness, fears, isolation etc. You’re wondering perhaps if there will ever come a time when you’ll emerge free of all the stuff that’s stressing you now be they poverty, abuse, addictions, unemployment, lack of education, housing, family dysfunction, relationship woes or any number of other issues. Whatever the issue or combination of issues, they are all shaping you at present.

Think of some iron a blacksmith wants to shape into a sword or a shoe for a horse. In order for it to be softened up and shaped into that useful tool, it has to first go through the hottest part of the fire – not just for a minute, but repeatedly until the contents can be forged into something stronger and only then does it get shaped and have value. Maybe you and I are the raw iron.

The big difference I suppose is that the Blacksmith has a plan when he puts that iron in the forge. He knows what he’s making. We on the other hand quite often don’t know what it is we would best ‘come out’ as after being tested. We start off thinking we’ll be a Recreation Supervisor as I did, and we later become an Employment Counsellor – a job I innocently didn’t even know existed in my early life.

Every so often, evaluate where your skills and experience plus your personal preferences might change your direction. May you have a wonderful – and not too safe – journey.



Thoughts On Employment Counselling

I love my job. I find great satisfaction in the work I do primarily because I’m in this wonderful position to make a tangible and real difference for good in the lives of others.

The nature of my job and the population I serve brings me into contact with people who are on social assistance, almost all of whom are unemployed. Most of these people share characteristics beyond a lack of financial resources. They may have low self-esteem because they didn’t plan on ever being where they are, and with that is a loss of dignity and personal pride.

They may be experiencing anxiety, certainly stress, increasing moments of depression and mental exhaustion. All of the above makes them fragile and vulnerable. So it takes real compassion and empathy to work day in and day out with all these various people you come into contact with. At least it does if you want to conduct yourself with the highest possible standards of service excellence.

Here’s a dilemma though. Do you think it best to look at those you help as clients and participants or people first and foremost? It’s easier to see them as clients. Clients come and go and there will be more to replace them when they move on. It’s a conscious decision if you say things like, “Hey one of my clients got a job!” This would reflect to others that you see the individual as a client in a professional client-counsellor relationship.

However, suppose you work with the view that these are people you are helping. Seriously, you then say things like, “John got a job!” It’s a subtle thing but it shows how you see the person rather than the client.

Make no mistake, people on assistance who are out of work have plenty of experiences where they are treated like clients. They are numbered on documents, they hear staff talking about clients, they even sit on the other side of desks in most situations, physically separating them as a client from the staff person. It’s you over there and me over here; we’re different. You are unemployed, I’m here to help you – and that implies that we have some power the client does not, and sharing what we know will move you to independence – like us.

When you see the individual as a person first and foremost however, things change both physically and emotionally. The ‘client’ becomes a person and they’ll value you and your help more because you see them this way. Two days ago at a meeting I asked a woman what if anything, I had done for her over a two-week period. She said without hesitation that the single biggest thing I did for her was treat her as a person, and that only myself and one other person had ever done that. That’s what she was most impacted by.

And when meeting, instead of people sitting on the other side of a desk, my office set up puts us face to face without that barrier between us. The desk is off to one side. “You care about me as a person and want ME to succeed, and I need that right now”. Make no mistake, people are good at reading us just as we are good at reading them. If you are really invested in people and treat them with dignity and respect it shows. If you feel you’re just doing your job and these are all interchangeable clients that come and go without seeing them as individuals that will show too.

The downside for me honestly becomes two things in seeing those I help as people first and client second – and make no mistake I know they are ‘clients’. First, when they are successful at gaining their independence from social assistance, our relationship typically ends. When you connect with people, especially people you’ve come to know (knowing their vulnerabilities, hopes and dreams) it can be sad personally if you’ve really connected. Oh your happy of course in sharing in their success, but it means you’ll soon lose contact with THE PERSON as well as the client.

The second thing which can be the downside of seeing the person first and foremost is that if you have high standards of service, the biggest fear you can have is in not doing enough to help. “What more can I do to help Mary sitting in front of me/” So now it’s me the Employment Counsellor Kelly sitting down with Mary the person I am honoured and humbled to be in a position to help.

Some touch us more than others; human nature. When they succeed, we love the success they’ve achieved, we feel happiness in being a small part in that success. But make no mistake, there is a bittersweet moment where you know this person that’s touched you in a unique way will soon be exiting not just social services, but your life with it. It’s only natural and logical. Your relationship was built after all on that client/professional basis.

Feeling touched in this way though does one very important thing; it serves to remind you that you’re still invested in people first and foremost as you should be in this profession. And at this moment, one such client has me grateful for allowing me to help her on her journey to financial independence. How grateful I am to have shared this brief time with her.




How I Made Monday A Day To Look Forward To

Are you one of those people who dread Mondays? You’re swinging in the hammock Sunday afternoon watching the cloud formations above you, or cheering on your daughter at her softball game when suddenly out of nowhere you start thinking about going to work Monday morning. Suddenly it’s just not as enjoyable swinging or cheering anymore. That’s a shame.

Well I think I’ve hit on the answer to making your Monday’s something to look forward to from now on. It might cost you calories, it might disrupt your strict dieting and health restrictions, but it will put a smile on your face as you drive in to work. Like some of the best things in life, this secret came to me quite unexpectedly and by accident.

No this isn’t one of those blogs where you have to buy something and I profit, or the answer is in the final paragraph after you’ve been lulled to sleep. Nope. Here goes: The answer is apparently on Friday afternoon three days earlier, stash a butter tart in your cupboard above your desk. Yep, it’s been sitting there in the dark just waiting for me this morning – and yes it was still good, and yes I ate it. It isn’t even 8:00 a.m. yet local time.

You see it all started innocently enough. I’d bought 3 tarts heading home last Thursday because we were having a friend over for dinner. Turns out none of us were in the mood for a tart that night and so I brought them into work the following morning – last Friday. I’d had such great intentions you know. Really I did. I looked down at the 3 butter tarts and thought I’d give all three away to some of the participants in my final day of the workshop I was leading.

Well, I was kind of good. I walked in with two of them in the end and asking folks to pick a number between 0-11, I awarded both in the end to one person with the only stipulation that she must give one to someone else in the group. The 3rd one? I thought I’d have it with my lunch. Turns out though, I completely forgot it.

So there I was on Friday night driving back home. As I passed the bakery in this little town where I’d bought them, it suddenly hit me that one of them was sitting on a plate in my cupboard above my desk. As the weekend went on, I forgot all about it again; forgot about it until yet again I passed the same bakery on the way to work.

Suddenly I smiled – I actually smiled even though there was no one around to see it. There was a physical change and I was optimistically looking forward to eating that buttery tart. All that sugary goo and raisins sitting delicately perched within a flaky tart shell. And although this sounds like a cheesy video, the sun was shining, today is the first full day of summer, and because I had left 10 minutes earlier than normal, I was committed to do exactly the speed limit all the way in. Hundreds of cars could pass me today, I didn’t care.

Arriving at the office, I turned on the computer, left my voicemail for the day, and got to work. Then I looked at the cupboard 14″ from my face and it was like I could hear the angels singing a multitude of praises in harmony as I opened the cupboard door and there it sat in all it’s glory. Hallelujah! And not a speck of mold or dust, (not that these things actually deter me much I confess. I mean how bad could it be after just three days?)

So with no one at all in the office, I just sat there and consumed it s-l-o-w-l-y. It wasn’t big and I wanted to savour every drop of morning sunshine it contained. It was like a warm lingering kiss – you’d want to consciously be aware of it while it is happening so that later on it’s a memory you can recall in all its sensuality. Uh….sorry….some of you might still be eating breakfast and getting nauseous.

Now alas, it is gone. The mindset I have though lingers on and I’m still sitting here with a smirk and surely someone walking in now might wonder what I’ve been up to. Ah if only every Monday morning started this way.

Wait a second stop the presses! I might be on to something here. What if we started a movement? Why people ’round the world what if we all went in to our local bakery’s  Thursday nights and got ourselves some butter tarts, or on Friday’s as we went in to work? Why what if we all left those golden tarts of passion in our overhead cupboards or desk drawers? Why we’d start a butter tart revolution! We’d all start our Monday mornings with a dose of sugar, walk around with smiles on all our faces, and we’d all drive into work with heightened anticipation of those few quite moments of sublime sweetness awaiting us! Say it with me brothers and sisters – praise Monday mornings!

On the other hand, had I just given the 3rd tart away to another participant like I’d originally intended, this article could have been about putting others needs ahead of my own selfish desires and wants. But that’s been talked about before!

Enjoy your day.


The Employer’s Responsibility To Applicants

I’d be willing to bet that at some point or other you’ve applied in good faith for a job opening and then waited for some kind of acknowledgement from the employer that your application has been received. Confirmation that perhaps never came. You may even have had an interview and then waited without ever being contacted to advise you that the position was filled – and obviously not by you.

So why is this apparent poor behaviour common and growing? Wouldn’t this reflect poorly on a company’s image and reputation? It was them who posted the job and asked for applicants after all!

Well, let’s look at that seemingly rude and inexcusable behaviour but from their point of view. First, let’s give companies some credit for putting in the line that reads, “We thank all those who apply but only those who meet the criteria will be contacted for interviews.” This is their way of making sure in advance you know that only those who actually meet the requirements move on. Those who don’t meet the identified skills and qualifications test will not be contacted.

Now this might not equate with a phone call or letter advising you that you didn’t make the grade, but it is a courteous notification and warning to make sure you are so well matched on paper that you stand a good chance. Can you imagine a phone call to everyone who applied and was not successful in getting an interview? If 70 people applied for a job and they narrowed things down to 6 candidates, that’s 64 people to call! While some applicants might say something nasty and hang up, the majority would express disappointment and ask for some kind of feedback.

So now you’d have someone tied up letting some down gently who appear upset, others wanting feedback they don’t know about first-hand, and being yelled at and told off by at least a few less than ideal candidates. Who would you have make these calls were you the company? An entry-level employee who may not have the discretion and wisdom to refrain from saying anything that could be later used in a lawsuit launched by an unhappy applicant, or a person well-trained in what not to say costing a small fortune? Neither is a good business decision.

What of an email or a letter you ask? Oh you could do that if you are the employer, but now your decision is in writing and you’d want your lawyers looking over such correspondence so that again, you aren’t sued.

I myself remember many years ago having an employment lawyer come in where I was working. They schooled us on what we should and could say to avoid lawsuits just on providing references. We were told about some companies that were initially providing honest references and then getting into trouble because someone didn’t get hired and sued them. So they changed. They’d say things like “you’d be lucky to have Susan work for you.” This could be taken as Susan is an asset and she’ll do great things for you, or you’ll be lucky if she actually does any work for you because she didn’t for us! That double-speak got messy.

So now in 2015, we’ve got companies who have policies stating they will confirm employment dates and nothing more; good or bad. Some really bad experiences ruined things for the majority. I think you can understand the employers predicament: in some instances, a really good employee gets a good reference and another company makes their hiring decision based in part on that reference. The 2nd company can’t get the same level of excellence out of the person and they fire them, suing the 1st company for wages and lost time in part caused by that glowing reference.

So now organizations who do acknowledge receipt of applications, and who do notify those who are not successful job applicants are becoming a minority. Even more a minority are the ones who provide feedback after interviews so the person can improve moving forward. Most won’t now again out of fear of reprisals and that feedback ties up an employee and their productivity halts while they spend time with someone who isn’t working there anyhow.

I believe employers who identify hiring needs have a responsibility to be genuine. They shouldn’t post jobs that don’t really exist just to gather resumes. If a job is essentially a given for an existing employee, then it’s not ethical to advertise a job prompting desperate people to hope a little for something they have no shot at. This erodes a persons dignity, self-image and confidence only to be told, “Oh sorry, not you this time either”.

Good organizations DO exist. Like most things, it’s a small number who taint the process for the masses. Maybe someone who is interviewed but unsuccessful could sign a document promising not to sue in exchange for honest feedback? Something legally binding? Of course that doesn’t address the productivity and salary issue for person tied up giving feedback does it?

Yes, if only all applicants only applied to jobs they really had a legitimate shot at, and if only applicants didn’t launch lawsuits when they didn’t get hired, we might expect more from employers. The next time you apply for a job, get someone in that field to go over your application and prepare you for the interview. Increase your odds!



Overcoming Job Search Barriers

“What’s the big problem? Get out and get a job!”

Reading those words might instantly bring to mind someone who has said them to you in real life. They imply that getting a job is relatively easy; all you have to do is make up your mind you want to work, put in minimal effort applying for work and bring home a pay cheque. Ah, but you and I know it’s not that easy don’t we.

One of the very first things we must do is define what barriers stand between the goal we want and wherever our starting line is. By the term, ‘starting line’, here’s what I mean. Suppose two people are looking for work and both of them are being evicted at the end of a month by a landlord who needs the space for family members. One has the money to pay last month’s rent for a new place and one doesn’t. They both have a goal of getting a new place to live, but the one is much more ahead of the other and has an advantage in solving their mutual problem sooner. So one can focus back on the job search faster than the other.

Barriers are of two kinds really, those we are consciously aware of and those we are blind to. The one’s we are aware of could be for example, a criminal record, fear of interviews, limited experience doing the job we want. As for hidden barriers, it could be we have an undiagnosed mental health issue that other people can detect but we are not aware of affecting how we act, or we could have a resume we believe is good when in fact it’s very weak.

The huge difference between the barriers we are aware of and those we are blind to is that we can only work on improving things we know. Until we become aware of what has been previously unknown to us, it would only be by sheer chance that we could improve in an area like a poor resume.

Okay so a good place to start is to make a list with pen and paper of our known barriers to employment. Here’s some things to consider:

  • education
  • criminal record
  • communication skills
  • job-specific skills and experience
  • interview skills
  • references
  • expired certificates / documents
  • technological skills (computer)

This is a very short list and there are plenty of others but it’s a start. You might find this exercise discouraging at first, especially if your personal list is a long one. It might cause you stress just making the list and then looking at it suddenly realizing how many significant things stand between you and the employment you want. Take heart! Imagine how thrilled you’ll soon feel eliminating items from this list!

Now the second list is harder to compile. After all, how can you make a list of things which are hidden barriers to you? This is a tricky one and it requires objectivity and honesty, plus some bravery. You see in order to really find out what barriers to employment might be standing between you and the job(s) you are applying for that you aren’t aware of, you need to ask others for feedback. As hard as that might be to hear when your self-image and confidence is low, it’s very important and could be the difference in taking a long time to get hired or shortening that time significantly.

This feedback has to provided by people who know you, know what you are after, and come from some kind of background where they would be qualified to know the characteristics of people who successfully attain what you are seeking. So asking your mom or brother, best friend etc. won’t likely get you the information you need. You might be better asking an Employment Counsellor, Job Developer, Employment Workshop Facilitator, or employer where you’ve been passed over if they’ll give you honest feedback.

Steel yourself. You might hear things which because they have been unknown to you, hit you hard and your first reaction might be to defend yourself and dismiss what you hear as entirely wrong. All that will do is silence the people who you asked and you’ll miss some very important clues to barriers you might actually need to work on.

Okay so you get your two lists. Now what? For each barrier, you now make a list of the steps you need to take to eliminate that barrier. If you lack grade 12, don’t just write down, “get grade 12”. Write down, “1. research schools I could attend. 2. get registration dates/fee schedules. 3. register 4. pay fees 5. attend (how long?). 6. graduate.” That barrier has steps which might be 10 minutes in length (step 1) and steps which could be 10 month’s in length (step 5).

As you progress through the steps you’ve identified, your confidence grows as you feel movement forward. You’ll need steps for EACH barrier and that’s a lot of steps to take which can be daunting to look at. The steps are still there though whether you write them down or ignore them. The sooner you get going, the sooner you’ll feel progress and a rebuilding of your self-esteem.

If you lack the ability to define your steps needed, ask someone who is in a qualified position to help you out and has the skills to plan with you what you can manage. The professionals I mentioned earlier are a good place to start.

“You’re Not What We’re Looking For”

Rats, rejected again. So now what do you do? Looking for work takes its toll, especially if you really invest yourself in the process. It can be mentally draining attempting to show the world a positive face, a smile and exude confidence at a time when you feel vulnerable, stressed and anxious.

If you think about the title, “You’re not what we’re looking for”, there could be some valuable clues in those six words that you’d be smart to think about and then do something about. The most obvious question to ask of the person making that statement is, “Why am I not what you are looking for?” In other words, what are they looking for that you lack.

You see it could be that if you hear this once, you were a wrong fit at that company. It’s not your fault, nor is it theirs. In fact, finding fault at all is the wrong thing to do. You may have all the qualifications on paper, but during an interview, the interviewer(s) made a decision that based on your personality for example and how you conducted yourself that someone else with equal qualifications would just fit in better. That’s fair I believe.

After all, the company and the person representing it know the culture and the kind of people who thrive and those that don’t or might put that culture at risk. You and I, we don’t know that, and they might have done you a favour from being hired and then shortly fired when you didn’t fit in as well as another candidate would.

Let’s suppose now that you hear, “You’re not what we’re looking for” frequently. What message could really be behind those words? Hearing it often could well mean that you just don’t have what it takes to compete with other applicants period. Say you got a job 8 years ago through a family friend in an office setting. You were let go a year ago due to downsizing and you’ve been looking for work for over a year.

In a situation like this, you may not have the credentials required by a new employer, such as certificate in Office Administration. You may have a working understanding of the software that company used, but perhaps employer’s are looking for people who have experience using newer programs, and face it, there are many people over those years who have upgraded their formal education in school and are now graduating with training in the latest and best practices.

You see that job you held in a small firm of 10 people was good while it lasted, but it has left you unprepared to compete with other applicants with more recent education or experience with larger companies. If you were one of those applicants, you’d be arguing that you’re a better fit and you might be absolutely right.

Now the above is just a scenario that I’m presenting. It does illustrate however that the experience you may have is valid and good so far as it goes, but it falls short of the experience other applicants have which may mean they are consistently hired where you are not. Frustrating? Absolutely. Understandable however? Yes, completely.

If you can determine therefore why you are not the best fit and what they are looking for, then you are in a position to do something about it if you so choose. If the message is that you don’t have experience working in large organizations, maybe you should confine your job search to smaller companies where you’ll be a great fit based on your work history. A job in a larger firm where you have to interact with many people in different departments may be something you’d have to learn but why hire you when other applicants know it already?

Recently I read a reply from a reader pointing out that it is companies not job seekers that are to blame when things don’t work out. I read their post and sensed bitterness, anger, resentment and a lack of full understanding when they have been passed over for others. I don’t think job seekers are to, ‘blame’ for their unemployment any more than I think employers are to, ‘blame’ for making the decisions they do.

Just as a job applicant can turn down a job because they don’t like the money offered, the travel involved or the work location, a company can turn down any applicant. In both cases, from either way you look at it, one or the other could decide it’s a bad fit. In fact, an applicant could withdraw from the application process and the company decide to hire someone else at the same time.

My advice is to respectfully ask for some clarification of why you are not presently what they are looking for in order to better compete in the future. If you need more experience get it. If you need a specific kind of experience, seek it out volunteering or take some upgrading if that’s the suggestion.

You may not of course get the real feedback that you’d like. If your personality and attitude are a bad fit, they aren’t going to tell you that. Some outfits don’t give feedback at all if you don’t work out. Be as objective as you can, open to feedback as you can and then pause to consider any feedback you do get before responding.




Out Of Work And Feeling Down?

At the moment, I’m facilitating an employment workshop with 10 participants. I’ve had 1:1 conversations, ascertaining the reasons they believe they are unemployed. So here I am, now in possession of information from all of them, though I’d hazard I haven’t got all the barriers, just the ones they are open to sharing with me.

Many of their self-declared problems are shared problems; you know, the kind that one would expect to be associated with being out of work for an extended period. Now I’m not going to share who said what, as that would break confidentiality and trust if they identified themselves after reading this piece. However, if I gave them all slips of paper and asked them to write down their issues which they’d share, many of the participants would look at each other and say, “You too?”

Have you been out of work at some point in your life? Maybe you know some of what they have shared then. Should that unemployment period be protracted and become longer than you’d have hoped or expected, your departure from the world of work would result in additional barriers and problems wouldn’t it?

That’s the point really; what you’re feeling is probably exactly the same thing other people in your situation are feeling. You have a shared experience which is long unemployment, and therefore the feelings that go with that long unemployment are naturally the same for most people. It’s not hard to believe that if you started feeling unsure of yourself, some anxiety when it came to going for a job when you haven’t had an interview in a long time and finally, you were feeling somewhat sad or depressed about your plight, others might feel the same way.

Those general kind of feelings wouldn’t be unique to my 10 people. Those are generalities which are shared by a majority of out-of-work folks. It is comforting to know that because other people in your situation feel like you do, maybe you’re not so odd or broken. That phrase, “What’s wrong with me?”, that so many people end up asking themselves is being asked by an awful lot of people.

So? How does that help get you a job? I didn’t say or claim that it would – but keep reading. The benefit of this is that once you realize that other people also feel much the same as what you are feeling, you have to come to the conclusion that there really isn’t anything wrong with YOU. Those feelings you have are sure unwanted of course – but they are a shared normal experience by people in general in response to unemployment and a desire to be working.

There is a struggle going on inside you between what you want and perceive as normal (getting and holding down a job) and your reality (despite my efforts, I’m out of work). If you choose to look at things differently, that’s actually a good sign. Those feelings expressed as, “What’s wrong with me?”, are really internal signals you are sending to yourself, encouraging you to get back to what you perceive as normal; in this case, working.

Once you stop feeling that internal struggle and the brain ceases to say, “What’s wrong with me (that I can’t get a job)”, it may be because you’ve got a, ‘new normal’ which is unemployment and you are actually okay with that status. If you settle in to unemployment and don’t feel anymore stress or anxiety, that isn’t something I’d suggest is a good thing. Your inner self is struggling to change your present reality and knows that paid work will bring you back into balance; this in turn brings you out of sadness, raises your self-esteem and you say, “There’s nothing wrong with me.”

Work can in fact, resolve many people’s inner imbalances. You’d expect to feel good when you get an employer who calls you up and offers you an interview. Why? Because that call is really validation from someone saying you are wanted and have desirable skills and qualifications sure – but actually it’s because you are hopeful of returning to what you perceive as normal.

Should you actually hear those words, “Welcome to the team, you’re hired”, you’ll feel a weight being lifted. That weight you currently feel is a mixed bag of anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, insecurity, financial dependence, constant tension, isolation, etc. So no wonder then that just getting hired brings a smile to your face, your shoulders may physically drop, your forehead stress lines relax, and your self-confidence improves.

All those symptoms and labels we have for what is wrong with us and others is our mind and body’s way of signalling us that something is out of whack. To return to ‘normal’, something needs changing; and in this case it’s unemployment to employed. Okay getting a job doesn’t snap you out of clinical depression overnight anymore than you woke up one morning and went from everything perfect to clinically depressed.

Take faith though; just making an effort to get help with your unemployment is a mental signal which sows the seeds of, “I’m doing something to change my unemployed status and I anticipate success in the near future”. Every bit of improving your resume, cover letter, job searching techniques, interview skills, etc. repairs part of your ‘damaged goods’ mentality and tells you that you are on the road back to ‘normal’. Welcome back.




Why Should I Hire You?

“My Social Media savvy? My love for technology? My passion for service excellence?”

How indeed do you answer this question? Well, before you jump to possible answers ponder WHY the question is being asked and WHAT it’s designed to reveal about you, the person being interviewed.

Presumably you have arrived as one of the final candidates being interviewed if they are getting around to this question. It might suggest they are narrowing things down to you and one or two others. That’s got to feel good. However I agree there are situations where everybody gets asked this question at the first round of interviews.

This question is really being asked so that you are provided with a chance to sum up and articulate your VALUE and the things that make you stand above the other applicants. In short, what makes you the RIGHT candidate and the BEST person to choose overall. When you examine what it’s designed to reveal about you, it’s purpose is to find out if you know what key qualities set you apart and if you know how those qualities fit with the organizations needs.

It’s a fairly safe bet to assume that your technical skills in applying for a job as a Computer Technician will be matched by at least some of the other people applying for the job. In such a case, perhaps it’s not the most ideal thing then to discuss your technical skills. Oh quickly mention your technical skills meet the stated requirements for sure, but if you stop there you’re opening the door for your competition to outperform you. A number of the applicants have the same hard skills.

You’d be wise to spend the bulk of your time on this answer addressing the intangibles you will bring to the job and this is one area where you must have completed some research to know which way to go with this answer will serve you best. Perhaps you should emphasize your strong skills in not only diagnosing problems, but in your communication skills because you have a knack for explaining technical problems and solutions to people who don’t love and ‘get’ technology like you do. If the job involves a lot of remote assistance, you have to be able to communicate solutions in such a way that the people on the end of a phone line who are agitated can follow your directions.

In the above example your stock goes from a technology expert to a technology expert with excellent interpersonal communication skills. The value of this is reduced time lost, increased productivity and less transportation costs for the technician who otherwise would have to travel to sites to resolve issues. As you point these things out to the interviewer, they follow your line of thinking and the value you add becomes clear in ways they may not have considered.

If your research into the company around the position you are applying for reveals to you that there has been a high turnover in the company at the level you are applying to, you have also identified an area to exploit. You my friend, yes you might be just the person if in addition to your hard skills you address your full understanding of all the components of the position and your own desire for stability. So nothing in the job will come as a surprise to you causing you to quit because it didn’t come as advertised. Your own need for stability and long-term employment will mean less turnovers for them and the costs associated with advertising, interviewing, hiring, training etc. In sharing this, you underline your VALUE to the organization.

The last thing I want to say is something not too many people actually understand. Ever been in love? Infatuated? You love spending time with that one person and go out of your way to do all the little extra things that will develop your relationship deeper? You may have seen the words, ‘love’ or ‘passion’ in job postings. If you don’t love the work described, you’re not going to be the best fit. If you do love the work, YOU HAVE TO DEMONSTRATE THAT LOVE!

So here’s your chance to answer why they should hire you. First off, you don’t want ‘a job’ like most of the competition; you want ‘this job’, and emphasize the word, ‘this’. It’s the fit of the job and the company. Now smile as you talk about the job the same way you get that goofy smile when you hear the name of the person you love. Sit slightly forward in the seat, open your eyes slightly more and sound enthusiastic as words come out of your mouth.

Combine this non-verbal body language with content and you’re on your way. If you really love the work being offered and it’s your dream job, sell that verbally and non-verbally so the message is clearly and fully communicated. Passionate about serving people? Make me believe that. Love crunching numbers and finding cost overruns? Demonstrate that and convince me by looking and sounding proud of your accomplishments.

Pick any item from a group of similar items and something likely attracted you to that one. What caught your eye? Same goes for you in applying for work. You have to determine what will make you most attractive to the company and then stand out so it’s clear why they should hire you!