Some Settle For Mediocre Resumes

Are you better at fixing cars than the person that does it for a living and has had years of training and experience? Can you build a workshop with the same quality as a Master Carpenter? Not likely. What is more plausible and probable is that your efforts will result in something you might be okay with, but you suspect is not as professionally finished as it could be..

You can see examples of mediocre everywhere if you look. There are people driving around with duct tape covering rust holes in their cars, decks at the rear of houses that are wobbly and unsafe or people in school who are content to just get passing grades. Not to be confused with those who work hard and can only muster barely passing marks, or the ones who can’t afford a proper repair job. These are the folks who could do better but don’t put in the effort. These are examples of settling.

Now if you want to risk falling off your deck, don’t mind the jeers and looks you might get from your duct taped paint job, that’s your choice. The consequences are yours to assume and you shouldn’t be surprised if you and your guests feel uneasy on that deck or you get the odd comment about your quick-fix repair. In short, you know the consequences and are okay with the risks  you run.

It’s interesting then when someone will make their own resume, be told by a professional that its got some major issues, and still be okay with it just as it is and head on out confident that it will get them an interview. In other words, if an auto body shop offered it’s car restoration services for free, why would anyone still want to drive around with painted duct tape covering a rust hole? Or if someone knocked on your door and offered to replace or repair your wobbly deck at no charge, wouldn’t your only question be, “When can you start?”

To accept help with your resume from a professional, here’s what you have to acknowledge: 1) I’m big enough to admit the quality of what I can produce is not as good as what a professional could produce 2) Just as I have skills and expertise in some things, an Employment Counsellor or Resume Writer has the expertise when it comes to the job application process 3) Seeking out help with my resume from someone who can do it better than I can shows my intelligence.

Now I’m happy to say that many people I interact with are receptive to getting and accepting advice and suggestions with respect to crafting a better resume. There still remain many however who when being given feedback on their resume, become defensive, argue that spelling doesn’t really matter, and shun the help. Their choice as I said earlier.

It doesn’t mean of course that the poor resume they leave with is guaranteed to fail. No, I admit there may be some employer out there who does call them in for an interview even though the resume has spelling and grammar issues etc. Sure it could happen. However, the ODDS of it happening are lower than if the resume was enhanced by removing those spelling and grammar errors and the overall impression it gave was notched up significantly.

So why do people settle and hand out what they know are inferior resumes? Well for starters, it may be an issue of pride. After all, if you’ve worked hard to produce something yourself and you don’t actually know the quality is poor, it can hurt your self-esteem if even the most well-meaning professional starts pointing out all your errors. As you listen, you may very well feel foolish, yes even stupid (although I dislike that word intensely). So while some might express thanks and ask for help to improve it, some might just defiantly hand it out anyhow because they don’t want to admit their work is inferior.

In my line of work, I also see many clients with diagnosed and undiagnosed but suspected mental health issues. So in some cases, the person may actually believe the resume they have created is perfect, although the lack of results it brings them would suggest otherwise. As sad as it is, there are some people who will likely never get an interview with the resume they have, but they truly believe that resume is fantastic and their capacity to see its shortcomings even when pointed out is minimal or non-existent.

Resumes require work, and work is something many want to avoid, especially if making a resume – a really good resume – is something they don’t enjoy. The irony is however that making a poor resume is easy, but a poor resume means having to make and submit many resumes. A strong resume takes more effort, but the result is a higher likelihood of getting an interview and having therefore to do less resumes. But the short-sighted, ‘whatever requires less effort’ mentality often wins out.

My advice is obviously to get professional help with your resume. Get over it. It’s not about you, it’s about the resume. The resume professional isn’t a professional in all areas of life, but they are when it comes to crafting a resume. If their help is free, as in the case of a social service or job search agency, run and get that help!








Our Responsibility When Meeting Clients

Yesterday I wrote a piece encouraging anyone who is a client to make the very most of the meetings they have with others who are in a position to help. In short, the message was one pleading for clients to make the very most of those opportunities.

So it now makes sense to turn to the role you and I play if you are one of those who host those meetings. As professionals meeting with clients, there is an inherent risk we run in sliding into poor habits due to the many we serve. So let’s look at the part we play and how we might go about those face-to-face encounters.

First of all, it’s usually we who drive the meeting isn’t it? I mean we might have requirements to meet with clients within designated timeframes. Whether it’s to update a file, satisfy some legislative or company requirement, we send out letters or make phone calls so we can ‘update the file’. What we should never forget or take for granted however is that, ‘the file’ exists because there is a person or people the file represents.

When we drive the agenda we might have the same pre-set questions ready at our disposal in order to garner the information required so we can update the electronic field in the computer software. We may have a template which designed to ensure we don’t forget or miss something, and this data collection allows the organization to then fulfill its requirements. On that front, it makes sense and all is good.

However, that person sitting in front of us is a unique individual. We may be tempted to evaluate them as similar or exactly the same as any number of other clients we have, but that one person has a unique background that has brought them to sit before us today. So whether it’s employment counselling, marital or grief counselling, financial advice, real estate transactions or any other kind of 1:1 meeting, that person is unique and worthy of being treated with respect and dignity.

So how to best show respect and dignity then is the question. It starts I believe in seeing this meeting as a two-way exchange; a conversation. Aside from our own agenda, shouldn’t we ask what’s on their mind? Is there anything they’d like to ask, share or clarify? Recognizing the other person has their own issues and needs and then paying attention and actively listening to them makes investing in the meeting and its outcome worthwhile.

Now I personally know of some people who are exceptionally good and unfortunately others who are exceptionally poor at hosting productive, meaningful meetings. The worst is the person who has all the forms pre-filled for the client to sign before even getting the clients input, sees the client as an intrusion in their day, and ushers them in and back out as quick as possible in order to join their teammates on an extended break.

Now ironically, some clients would love this kind of meeting. In and out quickly, not needing to be hauled back in (as they see it) for months, and by signing the forms they continue to benefit in some way without any real inconvenience to their daily life. I’ve met with such clients whose files I’d assumed in the past, and the first thing they found odd but good was that I actually sat there and talked with them instead of to them. They were initially suspicious, thinking I was pretending to care in order to find something to seize on. How relieved they were to find I used what they shared to suggest action plans that would help them. But isn’t that our job?

I’ve seen some really fabulous examples of conducting productive meetings too. Even now in my present job, I’ve got co-workers, (some I can overhear as they meet) who really invest themselves in the well-being of the client. The meetings are not rushed, the client is given 100% of the person’s attention, and the dialogue flows back and forth instead of one-way only. When the client leaves, they more often than not follow through with the plans agreed on, as there is more ownership and buy-in to a shared plan versus a plan they didn’t help develop being thrust on them.

So I believe that you – and I – need every now and then to remind ourselves that the people we see and assist are not only entitled to our full attention and our respect, but if it must be said, they are the very reason we even have the jobs we love in the first place.

For me personally, I imagine myself in their position, (as best I can) and try to give the service to them I’d want and hope for were I in their chair. That client might not even know what they should ask, or what funds or programs they might be eligible for. That’s my job – your job – to empower them with information and support which they can use to propel themselves forward.

Sometimes just listening to a person talk who senses they can trust you reveals all kinds of information which is then extremely helpful in addressing barriers and challenges.

It’s a great privilege to serve others, especially when we have the knowledge and the ability to do so. I applaud you if you are in such a position and thank you for doing so!


As A Client, How Do YOU View Meetings?

I am fortunate to count among my readers a broad cross-section of professionals, some unemployed and looking, or in school preparing to launch themselves into the field of their studies.

My appeal in this post is to actually speak directly to you who are clients receiving some kind of support and guidance, where you are sometimes told or asked to meet with a representative of an organization. This kind of meeting may be mandatory or optional, and you may look forward to it while others might see it as an intrusion; the price you pay for financial, spiritual or social support.

These meetings are wonderful opportunities for you to take advantage of. While the person you are meeting with might have their own agenda, such as updating your computer file every few months, you should recognize this as a chance for you to ask some questions of your own, find out what more the person you are meeting might be able to offer you or possibly help you do for yourself.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who come to such meetings without having done much thinking about its purpose; who sit in chairs provided, answer all the questions put to them, then get up and leave not having really engaged themselves in the process. What a shame!

As an Employment Counsellor, I often meet with clients 1:1 following various employment-related workshops I facilitate. This is a great time to give a person feedback on what I’ve observed, listen to the person talk about their goals for employment or schooling, and based on what I hear offer some suggestions. If however, it turns out that the person I’m meeting with limits themselves to short responses to questions I ask, asks no questions of their own, that meeting is going to be short and unproductive.

You see, you might want to get out of such meetings as fast as you can; viewing such face-to-face encounters as a wasted part of your day, having to travel there and back home, and for what? Just to go over the same old questions and give the same old answers? If that’s how you see things, then I guess you can be forgiven for not wanting to be there in the first place.

However, I wish that you could be a silent observer and watch some other clients in the same position as you as they go through the same meeting process with the same employee. You see, these folks come in willing to participate in the discussion; they want the opportunity to share what’s going on in their personal lives. This information is often valuable to the person listening; as a trained professional will be able to figure out what services, training opportunities or even what money might be available to help the person achieve their goals based on what they’ve shared.

So for example, if someone wanted to look for a job waiting on tables and serving alcohol but couldn’t afford the money to get the training in responsible alcohol service, the person hosting the meeting might have the funds to release so they could get the training, or know where to access it. If however the client says nothing, no help can be suggested, and the person’s goal is still only a wish.

Just yesterday I had two meetings I’d like to contrast as examples. One meeting was with a mature man who knows the construction industry. Being around 50, he sees himself working for 10 – 15 years but is trying to figure out what to do as he only knows construction and the body is making it harder to continue doing labour. So we addressed some options and he left with a plan.

The 2nd client showed up with her grandson and really just saw the meeting as a ‘where do I sign the required forms’ session. She was very nice, but there was no meaningful conversation to be had when the young pre-schooler was present and so actively robbing us both of a productive discussion. Was that her plan? I doubt it, but the entire meeting was less than 10 minutes. The conversation with the man? It lasted just over an hour, and he was surprised it went by so fast.

These are the chances and opportunities which you only get so often. How you view that meeting you must or could attend largely affects the outcome and whether you walk away feeling it was productive or not. I would encourage you to share your thoughts, your ideas, your problems and challenges. Be open and honest, listen to feedback and if you feel yourself being dismissed earlier than you’d like, arrange another meeting, or ask for more time. Some of my best discussions with clients actually happen when the client emails me ahead of time with questions they’d like answers to at our meeting, or things they’d like to discuss. That’s great! I’m always impressed and our time is much more valuable.

Truth is, this is YOUR meeting. You should take advantage of it. Will it be just a formality so you can go on with the day or will you really get involved in YOUR plan moving forward.

Now I really believe that as an adult, you are responsible for your own actions. You can choose your level of engagement or separation from the process, just understand the opportunities before you and the consequences of each choice.

Not Working? Net Working?

If you’re not networking, you’re not working.

You have heard no doubt that fairly common phrase which goes, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” It sums up nicely the idea that getting to know people may result in one of those you come to know being able to help you with your hope for employment.

Those who network well and make connections with others will tell you how much that networking proves useful, while those who don’t network will lament that it shouldn’t be about who you know at all, but what you know. Either way, both the two groups of people are acknowledging the power of networking.

I really think that if you aren’t networking, it’s likely because you either don’t know how to go about it, or you don’t want to put in the effort. Like most things in life, if you want something bad enough you have to work for it, and building up contacts and networking takes work. It is after all called, ‘NetWORKING’.

So what is networking. It’s actually easier to tell you what it isn’t. Networking is not having 2,000 friends on Facebook and sharing a photo of you and your cousin at the local restaurant having a pizza. It’s not about going to some conference or seminar and sitting at your table and talking to the 3 other people who sit with you about the topic and then leaving either. There are many people who go to conferences and seminars who never do any networking whatsoever.

Networking occurs when you engage others in conversation and that discussion shifts beyond the original reason for the dialogue. So if you go to a meeting about leadership and only talk about leadership with others, you aren’t really networking. Talking of the weather and the drive to get there is social courtesy but not really networking. Networking would be where you are chatting with someone on your mutual break or lunch hour and opened with, “So tell me about your work. How did you get started?”

With that kind of opening remark, the conversation shifts from speaking of leadership to that of showing an interest in the person’s work and how they got into the position or field. You are now networking. In a moment or two barring the conference getting underway again, you’ll be asked no doubt something similar about what it is you do.

Some people I know are painfully awkward when it comes to networking. They fear the moment when someone will ask them something and they’ll have to actually talk and engage in conversation. In short, their people skills are weak and instead of casually talking and enjoying it, they feel it taxing and a lot of mental work to initiate that conversation and keep it going.

Consider though that the first person who asks a question, such as the one above, “So what do you do for a living and how did you get started?”, just has to listen as soon as the question is out there. When the person is concluding their answer, a second or third question based on what you learn keeps THEM talking and you listening. “Wow that’s very interesting. So you didn’t plan on this career path at all when you started out?” And away they go!

Now, when it does shift to you, try to seize this chance to share your employment goal if you are unemployed or your hopes for a promotion or change. You’re not there to only exploit others, but if there is a relationship you can forge with this person and perhaps set up a follow-up meeting 1:1 with them, you might be on your way to getting some insights in the field you want to work in, and know you will ‘know’ someone.

Knowing someone in a company or a field in general in order to get a lead or a job offer isn’t a dirty thing; it’s the way of the world and quite a good thing actually. When you know someone they know you. As they know you, they may see a person who would be a good fit with their needs, maybe someone who will work hard or whose attitude would be a welcome addition to the organization.

Let me ask you this: Were you in a position to help someone you know right now get a job either in your own company or a company you know is hiring, would you let them know about the opportunity or help them in some other way? Perhaps tell them who to send their resume to, and maybe even put in a good word for them? I suspect you would. So if you would do that for others, why does it seem a bad thing then for others to lend a hand to people they know? The answer seems to only be when you are looking for work and don’t have the advantage of a network to leverage.

Connect with people therefore on LinkedIn or at the company you wish to work for. Then whether it’s through social media or conversations in real life with those you already know, start networking. Tell the people what you are looking for, ask for help, take and interest in them too. Networking is conversing so converse.

Networking is not magical or complicated. If you’re not networking, you’re not working.


Adding Debt When Unemployed

Recently I’ve had several conversations with unemployed people, each of whom are trying to find some direction in their lives when it comes to their future employment. Now the people I’m speaking of are all on social assistance with few financial resources if any, and most are already in debt with credit cards or existing school loans.

In recognizing that just as each person presents with their own unique unemployment dilemma, I recognize the logic then that the solution for each person must also be arrived at in recognition of their own circumstances. No one option therefore is necessarily the right one for all of them.

My approach in each situation, has been to present myself as a sounding board, then take what I hear and objectively present some options before them on paper, talking of the pros and cons of each, and then letting those choices sink in. Once the two of us have the options before us, I frame some questions for the person which are designed to elicit an emotional or rational response, which might prove valuable in either removing an item or strengthening the likelihood of one option being selected as the preferred one.

Now the thing about identifying pros and cons when faced with any tough choice, is that even when you’ve exhausted all your pros and cons that come to mind, you may still find that what would appear to be the ‘right’ choice doesn’t sit well with your emotional compass. This state is usually reflected when the client is heard to say things like, “Well I know I should choose option 3, but I still don’t know…it doesn’t feel right.”

This inner conflict voiced by the client could be explained a couple of ways. First, it may not feel right because for that client, the choice is the wrong one even though the pros and cons on paper state otherwise. The client’s uneasiness is a warning that to choose that option would later prove to be a poor choice made when looking back. The other possibility is that it doesn’t feel right because that choice is actually the smart one to make and it’s the first of many good choices to come when the client has had a history of making poor choices. It doesn’t feel right to them because their internal decision-making processes up to this point have largely been poorly thought out, and for the first time they are going at decision-making a better way.

One example to help explain this is a situation where a client is already carrying a $35,000.00 debt. It worries them, the stress of that debt hangs over them and yet being on social assistance, there is no way they are in a position to pay down any part of that loan. Now, being unemployed, one option is to return to school and add a university degree to their college diploma. Why take on another $15,000.00 and up the total to $50,000.00 in debt? Wouldn’t that be just more stress, and more to pay back eventually?

To answer this question correctly, you’d need more information, and whether this option is the right one or not for this one client, you’d have to know their circumstances such as the job they eventually want and the barriers to employment they’ve been facing. In this case, the client has a diploma but the job they want keeps requiring a university degree in all the job postings. The combination of both a degree and a diploma in the same field would conceivably give her a unique advantage over others with only the degree.

In speaking with another client also with accumulated debt from previous school loans, they too are considering a return to school to upgrade their education. However, in this situation, the client voiced the opinion that going back to school was in their mind a gamble that when they graduated, there would be a change in the job market and more employment opportunities would exist. This opinion isn’t based on anything more than a hope and a  hunch; a,  ‘things can’t get any worse’ statement. Going to school is more of an evasion  from the real world.

One way to look at things is that investing in yourself by improving your education is the best thing you could actually invest in. You’ll carry that knowledge and those increased skills and general awareness your entire life, giving you more perspective than you currently have. And whether you owe $35,000.00 or $50,000.00, your payments can be identical, you just pay one longer than the other. Debt is debt in other words. Homeowners would see $50,000.00 as a drop in the bucket compared to the hundreds of thousands they’d invest in a new home. So debt becomes relative.

Another option could be to pass on returning to higher education and change their career goals to something they are currently qualified to do, which may or may not make them happiest, or put them in a position to pay off their existing debts anytime soon.

In all cases, I presented 6 options to move forward, and in zero cases did I force them to choose their decision in front of me or make it for them. That decision is theirs to make, with or without further consultation from me. Once decided, direction is laid, action plans can be developed, and forward movement initiated.

Taking on more debt may or may not be the right move.





Complaining About Online Applications

This week and last, I’ve been instructing 8 people on the very basics of using a computer. We started at proper terminology and how to turn it on, and now we’ve transitioned to making a resume, creating emails, sending documents and applying for jobs. After all, making a resume and going through the job application process is a great way to both learn the computer and possibly get work at the same time.

Every day, there are breakthrough moments for different people when what was difficult to do just the day before becomes mastered, and I’ve seen more than one person throw up their hands and say, “I did it! Yeah for me!” I love that reminder of childhood innocence when accomplishing something without the help of someone else was a major victory. There are fewer opportunities to do that for some people so good for them!

So yesterday was the second day we managed to get to the online application process. At one point in the afternoon I gave the group 1 1/2 hours to find a job, edit their resume to match the new job requirements and apply for the job either by email or using the online application process; whatever the job called for. This activity gives those in the group a good indication to themselves if they can in fact independently use their new-found computer skills to accomplish a major task.

Staying in the room and observing, I watched them browse one of 5 websites I shared with them and find a job. Then I saw them print the posting, highlight the skills required, open their resumes, make some adjustments, save the document under a new name and then send it out. For some it was easier than others. The ones who succeeded were pretty happy with themselves, and it reinforced their confidence.

One fellow however had a different experience. The job he found required him to apply online. As it turns out, he was first required to create an individual profile with the company, (which he did successfully) and then complete a rather lengthy list of questions as part of the application process. It was this part that he rebelled against. “Why do I have to give them all this information? Why can’t I just give them my resume and they hire me because I’ve got the skills to do the job?”

Knowing nothing else, take a shot at guessing his age. Go on. Did you guess between 18 and 30? I bet you didn’t. I’m going to suggest you guessed an older person, perhaps 45 or older. He is in fact in his late 40’s. Now this doesn’t mean that everyone in their late 40’s or older rebels against these application processes, nor that younger people embrace them. But it does fit with a broadly observed pattern of the older generation longing for the good old days when you could just walk in, take the sign out of the window that said, “Help Wanted”, and tell the person working there that you’re their man. Bread used to be 25 cents too. Neither are likely to happen anymore.

Now as it happens, the class had been told once you go through the process, they could be on their way home. Do it quicker, you leave earlier. Take longer, you leave closer to our regular departure time. Everyone else completed their assigned work and headed out with their thanks for the day and stepped out into the sunshine. He and I however sat there talking. The conversation is one I’ve had many times before, but it was a first with this fellow on the topic of online applications.

What I was trying to ascertain was the real problem. So was it his reluctance to complete the process or his inability to use his technical skills? Both perhaps? As it turns out, he had been able to create his unique username and password for the site, and was paused at the screen that said, “Please allow 30 – 35 minutes to complete the application questionnaire. You can save your progress and re-continue at anytime.” So it was his frustration as a job seeker having to give this company information here instead of at an interview. “Why can’t I just give them my resume, they look at it and see I’ve got the skills, and they give me the job?” he asked.

Online applications that have a lengthy number of questions do weed out applicants who can’t be bothered to go through the entire application process. On the one hand, if I was competing for the job with this fellow, I’d love the length if it was going to keep him from applying; he might be better qualified for the job than me, but I’ll sit there and complete the entire application and he won’t. Of course this logic is the very logic he feels proves his point – and I don’t entirely disagree.

Yet most jobs do require some amount of computer knowledge and basic computer skills these days. Inventory in warehouses is computerized, so even the process of putting paint cans on a showroom floor requires that initially, you have to access the computerized inventory directory to find out if you have the right brand and colour of paint to fill the voids on the shelves and where it is located. You can’t count on someone else to help you go find it on the computer all the time.

He left eventually but plans on doing the entire application this morning. I bet he does just fine.





The Single Thing Employers Want Most

Dependable? Team Player? Hard-working? Qualified? Experience?

These are some of the desired traits employers look for in their applicants. You’ll see in job postings and want ads a number of key qualities which come up again and again. Each requirement is in its own right necessary and desirable to be sure, but is there a single quality which is universally desired by employers? That one quality that every employer would like to see in every person they interview for the job?

I believe there is one quality, one characteristic which separates some applicants from the rest, and that quality is enthusiasm. I’ve written about this before, but it seems to me that this is one item that can’t be shared enough.

Of course you must have a licence to operate a Forklift, and you must have your Real Estate licence to sell Real Estate. If the job posting says you need a Bachelor’s Degree or you must have 5 – 10 years experience then yes that’s a must. However, when any company – even those with these kind of stipulations – gets right down to their shortlist of candidates to interview, they’re looking for that one individual who shows some honest drive and enthusiasm for the work to be done.

You see, if your enthusiastic about your work, you’ll put real effort into it and do more than the minimum required. You’ll show up with some positive energy, you’ll interact with your co-workers, customers and clients with enthusiasm, and if an employer can attract such people in a majority of their vacancies, the entire culture of the organization becomes one of enthusiasm, positivity and energy. In short, it becomes a great place to work, and the reputation of the organization rises as everyone who deals with the people who work there will think and speak highly of it.

Now think of your current or past workplace(s). Have you ever experienced the kind of workplace where people shuffled into work like they were part of a chain gang? Your co-workers had long faces, the very air seemed stuffy and the work was truly a monotonous drudgery? Did you ever feel like you were imprisoned at your desk with a ball and chain around your ankles? That kind of environment didn’t promote any real enthusiasm for the work, and anyone who tried to inject some was quickly shuffled off to another department or discouraged and ‘whipped’ into submission.

Contrast this picture with the kind of workplace where employees genuinely greet each other each day, smile naturally and find humour in their day and go about their work with real pride in what they do as being valued and contributing to the organizations goals. If you are wondering if such workplaces even exist anymore that alone is telling. Yes they do, and in abundance.

Now not everyone smiles naturally, and not everyone interprets humour in the workplace the same, and it’s not vitally critical that you be a ‘morning’ person and join all your co-workers at the water cooler for hugs and singing of kumbaya. If you find yourself more in this kind of demeanor you can still be enthusiastic in going about your daily activities.

From the employers point of view, enthusiasm in the workplace is staff showing up ready to work on time daily. It’s everyone pulling in the same direction to meet shared goals and targets. It’s minimal absences, harmony in the workplace, happy workers and workers who are engaged in the work they do. No matter what your role is, you should know how what you do contributes to the overall goals and purpose of the organization, and you should ideally take some personal pride in that work, meaning you do it to the best you are able.

So when training opportunities come up it means taking advantage of them. If the company offers to send some staff to a conference – sign up. If the company is launching some new initiative, get on board with enthusiasm rather than reluctance and apathy or even resistance.

If you get a chance to volunteer to work on revising some workshop, procedural manual or policy review, why not say yes every so often instead of saying no and then complaining about the result later?

The single biggest thing you can do of course to demonstrate some enthusiasm in the workplace is just to be positive. Being a positive force doesn’t mean being phony or insincere, but it does mean walking around and not being the energy drain in the office. You don’t want to be the cancer that everyone avoids because just speaking with you leaves people emotionally zapped.

Most employers tell me that specific skills can be taught, as can specific company policies and procedures. What is impossible to impart is genuine enthusiasm and a positive personality. Sometimes when employers have 2nd or 3rd interviews, they are no longer looking at your skills and qualifications, they are assessing your impact on the chemistry of the workplace you’ll be working in. If they deem you will upset or negatively impact what they are trying to work toward, you may not get the job offer. If on the other hand they see you as a positive contributing influence in the direction they are heading, welcome aboard!

Enthusiasm is something you should consider embracing in how you carry yourself. Not mandatory of course, but perhaps extremely desirable.

What does enthusiasm look like in your workplace?

Mercedes Benz: Bad Customer Service, Great Learning Opportunity

This piece is not a slam of Mercedes Benz, but it is a factual account of terrible customer service provided, and a wonderful learning opportunity if they value their customers. Why should you read this? Read on not because you’re thinking of buying a Mercedes but because you too can learn from their mistakes when it comes to providing customer service excellence.

Two weeks ago, I took my car in as there was a problem with the driver’s door lock seizing up and the latch would lock while the door was actually open, making the car immobile until I could free up the lock with some lubricant. Turns out they didn’t have the part in stock,so a follow-up appointment was made. It was this appointment yesterday I reference the rest of the way.

Well the dealership got off to a bad start right at 7:30 a.m. when I dropped off the car. The woman driving me to work couldn’t find the key to the shuttle car, nor could anyone else. Not a major problem, just a delay – turns out someone had that key in their personal possession.

Before I left in the morning, I knew that the guy behind the counter was one of three new Service Advisor’s (that’s right 3 new ones) and so I mentioned to him I’d be requiring a pick up at 4:00 p.m. as per my usual arrangement. “No problem” he said; it would be however. When the shuttle driver dropped me off her last words were, “See you at 4:00 p.m. Have a nice day.” Turns out I would have a great day – right up until 4:00 p.m.

Around noon I returned to my office to hear a voicemail message from the new Service Advisor telling me the car was ready and I could pick it up anytime before 6:00 p.m. I figured a call to confirm the shuttle driver was in order. At 3:00p.m. I called to thank him for the earlier call, and to confirm my pick up at 4:00 p.m. “Who did you make the arrangement with?” he asked. I should have said, “You”, but I told him it was the shuttle driver, and again he said the infamous, “No problem.”

At 4:20 p.m. I was still standing outside waiting for my ride. The ride eventually came at around 4:45 p.m. – 45 minutes late. A call around 4:20 p.m. to ask about the delay only got me a Receptionist who failed on two tries to connect me with the Service Advisor or anyone else at all. The shuttle driver told me she’d been directed to pick up a customer in exactly the opposite direction and had told the Service Advisor that someone else would have to pick me up a 4:00 p.m. and he’d told her, “No problem.” I don’t think he understands that phrase.

Upon arriving at the dealership a full 1 hour past the 4:00 p.m. promised pick-up time, I found no one at the Service Counter at all. No one. So the shuttle driver went and got my Service Advisor. Now knowing he’s new, there are going to be some wrinkles, I get that.

So as he walked towards me I said, “Hi Alex, apparently you and I have a communication problem. I was supposed to be picked up at 4:00 p.m. and it’s now 5:00 p.m.” Here is the response I got…”It’s not a communication problem, it’s a shuttle problem. It’s been a busy day and we had too many people needing a ride.” Word for word, that’s the truth. He actually declined any responsibility for failing to communicate the situation to his customer, and then stood there and blamed the hour delay on too  many of us customers actually using the shuttle service the company provides. He’s just compounded the original problem.

So I thought I’d do Alex a favour. In very direct but respectful language, I told him that the very least he could have done was pick up the phone, advise me of the situation resulting in a delay, he could have offered to send and pay for a cab, but at least I’d be aware of the problem, not standing waiting.

This got the attention of the Service Manager who only a few minutes ago had looked up to see me standing at the empty counter and then told me by gesture it would be a minute. “We seem to have a problem?” he asked of me. So I related all that had happened. And while I explained all this I paid Alex the full amount. The Service Manager apologized and said I caught them on a busy day, there was nothing more he could do but say he was sorry.

Now I appreciate that apology. I told him the whole story in front of Alex. I made sure to tell the Manager how my intent wasn’t to get him in trouble, but that this was a learning opportunity and I hoped it wouldn’t be repeated. I even pointed out to the Manager I hadn’t requested a discount on my bill because I was living up to their expectation of paying it in full. I expected them to live up to theirs to pick me up as agreed.

That’s when I was offered 20% off my next visit. I’d sincerely rather just be picked up on time, but 20% off is his way of retaining good will. I’ll take that.

Customers should never be an inconvenience. When problems happen, communicate them and take responsibility.



Reminders And Notifications

Ever noticed how the word, ‘organized’ or the term, ‘strong organization skills’, seems to be a qualification employers are all searching for these days? Well no wonder, because it’s a busy world and everyone seems to have tight schedules.

I’ve noted how LinkedIn sends me automatic notifications each time one of my contacts is celebrating a birthday. A very sincere wish by the way I want to send out to Nancy V.H. who celebrated hers just yesterday. Hope your birthday was celebrated with those you love most around you Nancy!

Now you might find those reminders annoying, you might delete them as soon as they pop up in your email, but then again, you might just dash off a very short greeting and best wishes for the day. The folks at LinkedIn certainly make doing so easy. I mean as soon as you get such a notification, they also give you options to send the person a reply in several ways. If you hit ’email’ for example, they even compose a standard, “Happy birthday” message for you and you just hit the send button. Nice.

One other example of an electronic reminder I just have to mention is from my auto service centre. I’ve booked this appointment 2 weeks ago for this morning to have a new door lock put into my driver’s door. In the last few days, I received no less than 4 reminders from the dealership reminding me of this appointment. How can I forget it with that kind of service? That’s the point isn’t it? They thrive on a constant flow of people bringing in work to be done, so they can’t afford many people saying, “Oh sorry, I forgot.”

Whether it’s my automobile service centre, my optometrist  or my dentist, these reminders ensure I keep my appointments. Yes it must be a sign of my tremendous importance that they keep me so organized. Or is it my failing memory that causes them to remind me constantly! Actually it’s just an example of a very good business practice so that ultimately the service center, optometrist and dentist keep making money.

Now you and I can and should be equally organized on the job. Putting those team  meetings, project deadlines and client meetings in our electronic schedules and day planners keeps us equally organized. It prevents us from double-booking, forgetting entirely, and wasting the time of others. If you are not using some form of electronically shared calendar at work, you probably should be. For many, it’s equally important that others in your workplace are able to see what you are up to, like the Receptionist or your team clerk.

Need to get your daily, weekly or monthly work life organized? There’s an app for that! By the way, if you are one of the people who doesn’t quite see the value in sharing all your schedule with the people you work with, or you can’t figure out how to actually use your electronic calendar, learn how! If you are an older person, it will come across loud and clear to some that your age is a big part of your reluctance to use technology. Isn’t this just feeding into that old adage about old dogs finding it hard to learn new tricks?

Resisting organizational procedures by refusing to enter your personal activities into the electronic scheduling software at your workplace can lead to some performance issues too. So your reluctance or flat-out refusal could be seen as a disciplinary issue if clients, customers and co-workers are negatively impacted. From the Receptionists point of view, he or she is going to look bad if they say to someone standing in front of them, “I don’t see your name down as having an appointment today. No, you’re not in Mr. C’s schedule.” If it turns out you do have an appointment with that client, now you and the Receptionist look disorganized, and by association so does the company.

Things are really no different when you are looking for work. How organized is your job search? You could just wing it and apply for jobs, keep no records and then hope if someone calls that they tell you what company and job they are calling you about, but how does it look if you have to ask?

I recommend to all my clients that they keep track of the date they apply for a job, the company name, the name of the position, the contact information for the company including fax, email, phone and address. They should track the name of the person they applied to or spoke with (including anyone they phoned like the Receptionist for more information), and they should track the date of follow-up correspondence.

I think it wise too to schedule time and days to update your social media profiles and of critical importance, organize your resumes and cover letters. I mean after all, you should have folders set up for resumes sent that make it easy to retrieve those same resumes and cover letters when company’s call. You want the right resume open before you to make your phone call less stressful.

Put reminders and notifications into your own calendar a day or two before an event so you are on top of things. If you aren’t use to this concept, start with things of low importance like a shopping trip for groceries. Get organized!




Empowerment In Decision-Making

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you were conflicted between two choices; you had to choose one option over another and were torn between the two?

One often-cited activity to help clarify which might be right is to make a list of the pros and the cons of each choice (rational). Yet, sometimes even after having done this, a person can still feel confused as to which choice they will ultimately make (emotional).

Yesterday I had a two-hour meeting with a person in this situation. This person has recently started a job but unfortunately the job hasn’t come as originally advertised. There is more to the job then they’d been led to believe. Of their first seven days on the job, the person providing the training and support was only there for the first two and then went on vacation for the next five, leaving a new employee to do the best they can until her return.

Now on the one hand, that sounds like a poorly run outfit. After all, why not just wait 7 more business days and have the new employee start then with a much better training program in place? If we assume the company was in a pinch, they may have figured the new employee with two days training could at least survive the next five days; kind of being thrown into the job and you sink or swim. Being positive, they may have felt the person they chose has the skills to just get by until the trainer returns.

However, what they didn’t take into consideration is that this has had an adverse impact on the new employee to the extent where being at the job is highly stressful and the person is considering quitting and looking for work elsewhere. Not everyone reacts the same to similar situations. So where one person might see such a situation as a challenge and an opportunity, another might become distraught and unable to perform at their best feeling lost and confused in the process.

And so it was that yesterday I sat down with the person and together we were talking out whether to stay on the job or quit. Quitting the job would be somewhat the easier decision of the two. Tell the employer of the decision to quit, pick up the Record of Employment when the employer has it prepared in a week and look for another job. In looking for the next job, take from this the lesson of doing complete research before accepting a job, and find a job directly in their field, not one close to it to ensure a good fit.

The more difficult option is to get through today; today being Friday. Survive the day, recharge over the weekend, and then with the trainer back on Monday, see if proper training and support come with the start of the new week. In other words, give the employer a chance to properly do an orientation and see if that makes a difference in a decision to stay or go. If there isn’t support forthcoming, walk away at the end of next week after having given them a chance to address shared concerns.

Now to you and me, it might seem like a no-brainer; it’s only a day after all, so don’t quit. However, you and I might be looking at this rationally whereas they are in the job, experiencing the turmoil of the situation they find themselves in, and we can’t fully comprehend the emotional rollercoaster that they are feeling. I was told by this person that they have headaches, feel like crying and can barely hold it together, can’t eat and feel entirely incompetent.

I didn’t make their decision for them. Oh eventually I did say what I’d do in that same situation, but I made it clear that the choice I’d make would be the right one for me only, not necessarily the one they might or should make to be right for them. I also said that regardless of the choice they made, I’d still be in their corner, still respect them either way, and think no less of them should they quit. I even went so far as to ask them if they’d quit if I told them to, and the reply was, “I don’t think I’d do that just because you told me to.” Between you and me, that’s a wonderful sign that she’s still thinking for herself.

In the end, no decision was made. Today however, a decision must be made to quit or go in and survive the day, get past the weekend, and see what next week brings. The one thing I did contract with them was to let me know either way today what they decided to do. I have my guess as to what they’ll decide and we shall see.

To really empower someone, you have to let them make their own decision. This isn’t a child who we as a parent would make decisions for and protect. This is an adult who in struggling to make an important decision, will grow from the experience if left to make the hard choice themselves. My part in this has only to be a sounding board, a voice of objectivity so they make a rational rather than emotional decision.

Making tough decisions for ourselves make us stronger and wiser.