Finding A Job Is Like Finding A Spouse

One of my regular readers made the comment that she would be cautious about advising others to try a variety of jobs for fear of being branded a, “Job Hopper”. This was in response to my belief that trying out a variety of jobs when you are young is a good idea in order to get experience and find what you like and dislike.

It strikes me that there is a strong similarity between trying to find the job or career that is perfect for you and trying to find the perfect person to go through life with. While I agree that many people go through life happily single, most have dated or contemplated our perfect partner. Look at finding a job and a partner, and see if you too don’t see the similarities.

For starters, I imagine it’s rare these days for a teenager in the developed world to be advised to only date the person they will spend the rest of their life with. While that happens, more often than not people go through a number of relationships. When we hit our 20’s, we may be more careful, and even if we are still experimenting, we know those we date might be looking for longer term commitments – or a life-long commitment. You might have friends or family trying to help you find the right partner too. They’ll look for people who will meet your needs and be a good fit; the criteria for that being whatever they have learned is important to you in a partner.

So now is finding the perfect job much different? Well, it’s possible but hardly likely you will be advised that your first job as a young teenager is where you will work until you retire. You’d be wise to try different jobs, think about what makes you happy learn some skills, discover new jobs. Then as you get into your 20’s there comes a little more self-imposed pressure on some people to narrow down all the jobs in the world to a few, and eventually determine a career path.

You see defining a career path or field in which to work is hard unless you’ve done a little research, perhaps talked to others doing the jobs now, or possibly even tried the jobs as a coop student or intern. A job that seems like a fit might turn out to have aspects to it that don’t sit well with you after taking it, and you might quit that job and try another. Rather than job-hopping, this process helps you learn about yourself more than it does the jobs themselves. You’re gaining knowledge and perspective that future employers are going to benefit from.

In my own case, I was in my 40’s when I started being an Employment Counsellor. This job is an ideal fit for someone with my background. However, one reason I’m an effective Employment Counsellor is because of the path I took to get here. I’ve worked in Retail, Recreation, Social Services, Municipal and Provincial Government, been self-employed, worked in the not-for-profit and profit sectors too. All those experiences help me when speaking with others because I can look at things from a wider view – often the view of the person I’m helping.

Had I only come right from school in my early 20’s and taken the same job I have now, I may or may not be effective, but I’d have some growing to do as an individual to gain the perspective and insights I have now. I obtained those insights from doing other things.

And finding the perfect partner? You could get lucky like my wife and find your life-long spouse with the first person you date – it does happen. Or you could as in my case, date a few different people in your youth and then find the right person. Either way, don’t you hope that both your job and your partner bring you happiness, and that you find yourself invested in both?

Now some would carry this analogy further and say that you can lose interest in both a job and a partner and need a change. I suppose that’s true – however I’d counter that I’ve never agreed to stay together for better or worse with an employer forever! Fortunately, I’ve just celebrated 32 years of marriage in August, but 32 years in one job is something I’ll never accomplish.

My point here is really that zeroing in on the right job has some similarities to finding your partner. Is it exactly the same process? No. Should you fall in love with someone and go all goofy with your heart leaping with every phone call, your every waking moment thinking of them – that’s not likely to be your work experience. That being said, if you are waiting after being interviewed to get THE CALL, you can be just as excited and then jump around the room when you get offered the job. So maybe it is similar.

Consider auditioning different jobs as learning experiences. Sure you don’t want a reputation as a Job Hopper, but you don’t have to sit and wait for the perfect job to fall in your lap either. After all, employers want experience don’t they? How are you going to be ready with your experience if you don’t do other things in the meantime?

Position yourself to be ready when the right person and/or job, comes along!




How Do I Find The Right Job?

More and more unemployed people I listen to are telling me something similar. They are stuck looking for work because they are stuck trying to find that one job out of all the jobs in the world that they will absolutely love. As they haven’t felt any real passion for any one job to date, they are struggling trying to find the job that will bring this to them; in short, they’ve stalled.

Is there a mistake however in believing that for every person on the planet there is only one kind of work that is the perfect job? Do we all even need to have a, ‘perfect’ job in the first place? How about we notch it down a tad and have a very good job or even lower so we can feel we have a good job? Would you be okay with a good job? I bet many would settle on that.

This begs the question, “What is a good job?” To answer this, it’s necessary to understand that you’ll get a different answer depending on who you ask. Some (but not all) of the factors that make a job a good job might include: stability, security, short commute, supportive environment, benefits, safe working conditions, enough income to pay the bills and still have money for the fun things in life, opportunities for advancement. Any one of the above however will never be agreed upon by everyone you ask.

Truth be told it doesn’t matter if we come to an agreement or not on what makes a job a good job. What matters is what YOU think makes a job a good job if YOU are the person looking for one. In other words, were I working with you, I’d be making a poor assumption if I imposed my own idea of what makes up a desirable job on you.

While you might be the kind of person who values finding a permanent full-time job, of greater value to someone else is finding a job that is a one-year contract. They don’t like being tied down to a job forever. They like going from job to job, employer to employer, contract to contract. They enjoy meeting new people, the variety of work, being appreciated for filling in holes in an organization during maternity or paternity leaves. These kind of people perform better over the short-term and a year is the perfect length of a job before they move on. Temporary agencies are a welcomed source of employment for them and they love it.

I will say one mistake I think many people do make is choosing to stay unemployed until they become aware of that one job that will be perfect for them. If you are reasoning that it doesn’t make sense to work in a job you aren’t entirely passionate about because it will take away the time you could be spending looking for that one perfect job, that to me is an error.

The most obvious reason this is a mistake in judgement is that if you prolong your unemployment by choice, you will risk developing some poor behaviours and your lack of work history will not impress that employer you eventually want to work for. Any hope of developing transferable skills you could take from one job to your dream job can’t occur.

A lot of people only become aware of the many kinds of jobs out there through the contacts they make in their work. Most people in fact learn of the different kinds of jobs through someone who they meet at work. If you have co-workers, supervisors, meet people in other departments of a company while training, or network with staff of other companies, that’s a lot of people who might casually speak of other people in other jobs and one of those might be what you would really enjoy. But you have to be working to have this wealth of contacts. You won’t run into these people and learn of these other jobs isolating yourself from the workforce.

There is some merit in working at a variety of jobs. Take a job, determine what you like and don’t like about it. Take another job, do the same. Eventually you learn about yourself and what for you personally is attractive and what you want to avoid. You’ll also learn skills along the way in every job you take. These skills are going to make you more attractive to employers.

There are many jobs I believe that will make you happy and which you’ll enjoy doing, not just one. Instead of fretting over making a bad choice and becoming paralyzed, best to work at a job with a short-term vision, learn some new skills, brush up on your existing skills, meet and listen to the people there about what they do and learn of other jobs. You can still keep your eyes and ears open to other possibilities.

I only took my current job as an Employment Counsellor in my late 40’s. I didn’t even know such a job existed quite frankly until I was working for my current employer in another role. Had I not taken that job, I wouldn’t have discovered this job.

Don’t fret about what you want to do with the rest of your life; what do you want to do with the next year or two?





Isn’t It Time You Got Going?

I am confident that a number of you reading this have one or more things in your life that you know you should be doing, but you’ve been putting it off. In fact, some of you – some of us – have quite a few small things that have been relegated to the ‘someday I should get around to doing that’ file. The more little things you put off, the easier it is to put off the big things – the pattern being already established.

I was listening to a few people having a conversation recently, the topic centering on politics. There was a general agreement that politicians know what they should be doing but choose not to act, instead burying their heads and not making the tough decisions needed. That discussion had me wondering just how different; or how similar politicians are then to you and me. After all, don’t you put off making the tough decisions – the major ones, just saying what you need to say to others to satisfy them temporarily but taking no real action on some of the things you yourself know you should be doing?

Yes, I see this in myself and I see it in you, (you being the people I either speak to, observe or have online conversations with around the globe. People will either tell me they’ve putting off making real change in their lives for years when they know action was probably the one thing they needed to do but didn’t, or they tell me after they are well on their way that they knew they should have started sooner.

So why do we procrastinate? Isn’t it time you and I got going? For some it’s losing weight, finding a job, asking someone to marry us, starting that business, buying that first home etc. You can replace any of the above with whatever you’ve been putting off; making peace with your family, forgiving someone or applying for that promotion.

Here’s reality: your time is finite. No matter how many minutes, months, weeks or years you have left to live, whatever your life expectancy is, it’s becoming less with each passing day. So with each passing day, the time you have left to enjoy the benefits of whatever you’ve been putting off gets shorter, and the length of time you live wishing, wanting and regretting gets longer. Why live regretting when you could live celebrating?

So are you worth it? ‘It’ being the work it’s going to take of course. After all, if you’ve been putting off actually doing whatever it’s going to take to obtain your desired goal, it’s a safe assumption that the effort required is what’s been holding you back. Up to now you must have believed, (and maybe still do) that the goal while nice hasn’t been worth the effort and that your current circumstances are preferable to the effort it would take to change your life for the better.

So let’s look at a career or a job as an example. If you have a job or career that you believe would be satisfying and improve your current circumstances, sit and imagine yourself in that role. Do it now for a moment. See yourself in that job, and see yourself successful. See yourself accomplishing things; making others lives better, bringing in profits, improving your own life, whatever you wish. As you imagine this job or life, do you find yourself picturing yourself with a smile and being happy? Now are you generally smiling and happy in your present life as you are?

We do have the power to change our circumstances. It is knowing we have this power to choose and act on our choices that causes us to regret action not taken, while others are thankful they did.

The argument for getting moving is pretty simple. If you didn’t really want something, you wouldn’t be thinking of it constantly and it wouldn’t be causing you any worry or longing. You also wouldn’t be experiencing that mental conflict; wanting it but doing little or nothing every day to make ‘it’ happen, whatever ‘it’ is. If you acted and took steps to achieve this goal, the mental conflict and turmoil would diminish and some pride in doing something about your longing would replace it. Feeling good is better than feeling bad, and you’d feel good moving towards your goal and waking up each day knowing you were closer to it than yesterday.

What you want takes work and you’re going to have to motivate yourself to get going and keep going if what you really want is going to come about. No one is just going to show up at your home without some effort on your part and hand you your Degree, make 40 pounds disappear, hand you shiny house keys or give you an employment contract to sign without work on your part.

It boils down to this: you can choose the status quo and live your life as it is being content (which you aren’t) regretting not having done something. Or you can make a decision to shake off inactivity and DO THE THINGS that move you in the direction of what you want. You make a choice each day and while you get the chance each morning you rise to choose between the two, no one knows how many mornings you have left!

Isn’t it time to get going?

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False Starts, Decisions And Destiny

Remember back when you looked at the calendar and promised yourself, (and maybe others) that come September you’d start looking for a job seriously? Well its August 26th today and my question therefore is how much are the promises you make worth?

Maybe your rationale was that your children would be back in school come September and you’d have this big block of free time during the day to seriously look for work. Maybe you just thought that spending your summer doing your own thing was a priority. Is it possible however that you really just didn’t want to look for work and saying you’d start in September delayed the inevitable and now here you are no more motivated to look for work than you were before but September is looming?

Look, it’s time to stop making promises with your fingers crossed behind your back. The only person you’re fooling is yourself. The longer you wait and procrastinate on the decision to get serious and look for a job the harder it will be to get going. Stop being naïve. If you really aren’t motivated to even look for a job, how on earth do you think you’re going to hold down a job – ANY job? Jobs come with responsibilities and you’ll be depended upon to be at work on time day in and day out. Self-discipline my reader.

Now the good thing about being human is we have this wonderful power called decision-making. We make decisions every day and those decisions can either benefit us or cause us to wish we had made an alternative choice. Looking for a job or putting it off is one such decision and there are consequences either way. You could end up with work and the income, rise in self-esteem, sense of purpose it brings. Or you could end up looking at the clock before you go to bed and saying, “Maybe I’ll start tomorrow.”

While every single day is a fresh start, a chance to make something happen that we didn’t the day before, if you rack up too many days of inactivity and put off too many days without taking any action, it becomes increasingly difficult to change your routine with any real momentum which you’ll need to succeed. Most of us would agree that an unemployed person who hasn’t been seriously looking for work for some time is likely to go through what is referred to as false starts, despite their intent to now look hard for a job.

So what’s a false start? A false start is when someone makes early attempts to break a pattern of experienced behaviour. The person might say they are ready to start looking for work, but because that in itself is work, the person is highly likely to start with good intentions, then stop just as quick when it gets tough. So even making a resume might be so frustrating they start and pack it in after an hour. Then they start again and do a bit more than they did before but then quit a second time.

This, ‘start-stop-start again stop- start again” process is full of false starts. Each attempt however is an indication that the real authentic start is getting closer. Think of it like trying to start a motorcycle where it takes a few tries, or how likely it would be to start a car that’s been under wraps for a couple of years. Not likely it just purrs to live on the first turn of the key.

If you really want to make a change and get a job, it cannot happen unless you yourself want it bad enough that the wanting of the job is more than the desire to give up. So if you’d really rather be at home on the couch, playing with your young kids, a video game or doing nothing in particular, you’re chances of just switching on the, “Get a job” mentality are pretty low because you don’t want it bad enough. It just isn’t the priority for you that it is for other people.

Yesterday a 21 year-old woman came in all excited and told me she just got a job with a fast-food chain. Impressive? Perhaps not, until you stop and think about where she’s been, what her history was before getting that job. Someone overhearing her excitement told me when she left that he was mad just listening to her get so excited over a minimum wage job in fast-food. I suspected he was jealous of her innocence in being excited where he felt jaded, jealous of her employment but more than anything jealous of her optimism. She was on her way to work and eventual financial independence and he was sitting just watching it happen to someone other than himself.

So you have the gift of today to do something different from yesterday again. How fortunate for you! At the end of today, will you have done something that tomorrow you’ll be thankful you did, or will you start tomorrow kicking yourself for having wasted this day? You choose. Your destiny (sounds dramatic doesn’t it) is in no one’s hands other than your own – and every sports or super hero always dreams of having the turning point in their hands so they can change the outcome. Seize the day – TODAY – as your chance to get going.

Be The One

Have you had the benefit of someone in your past who really made a positive impression on you? Someone perhaps who you admired because of how they went about their life, the actions they took, the things they believed in? And furthermore is it possible that one of the things they believed in was you?

Some people you know never get that experience. They don’t have the benefit of nurturing parents who create a caring and loving home and pass along the early lessons which are the building blocks for positive growth. No instead of placing value on inclusion, giving back, leading by example, sharing and education, they teach looking out for number one, taking what you can get and the school of hard knocks.

To be fair, most parents do believe they love their kids. Some are overwhelmed with the responsibility, lack the skills required to really be positive role models because they never had the benefit of positive ones in their own upbringing. They pass on what they know because it’s all they know, and they lack the resources to learn anything different.

By the time many young people are conscious of themselves, society at large and where they fit in, they’ve already been largely identified as having potential or not, from good homes or not, and the labels for good or not are being affixed. The future for such a young person is largely influenced by which social class they are born into, their location of birth, the opportunities they are afforded and their genetics.

One key factor as well in affecting someone’s potential is the appearance in their lives of someone who truly cares enough to provide some ethical or moral guidance; often unlooked-for and unexpected. Now it could be a teacher, a big brother or sister, a neighbour, shopkeeper, social services agency worker or, well…maybe even you or I.

In the case of a formal arrangement, there are groups who pair up young children and teens who could use some positive role models with older adults. These groups hold events, encourage interaction on a regular basis and hope that just time together will influence for good the young developing child who could use the benefit of a nurturing guide.

Formal arrangements are fine for some. Often; more often actually, we are influenced by those around us who we interact with on a more random basis. The teacher whose class we find ourselves in might be such a person. Seeing something of interest and value in a child who can’t see it themselves yet, and providing that same child with the opportunity to explore and experiment with whatever talents they might have in small doses without trampling and squashing out that gift.

What though of you and I? After all, maybe in the work we do and the lives we interact with because of it, there are opportunities each day to connect with people and possibly lay some foundation for a relationship. Maybe it starts off with a few positive interactions, casual offers of help or even just being available. Some people who have had the benefit of a mentor or guide can think back very clearly to their very first encounter with the person, while the mentor has no recollection of that initial contact whatsoever.

This difference is largely attributed to the fact that many people are so use to being passed over, talked down to – if talked to at all or being ignored, that it is a memorable event when someone engages with them who doesn’t necessarily want something in return. How significant it is then to constantly be aware of the potential you and I have each day to influence for good or not, and to look for the opportunities of engagement.

Now I myself know the faces of those whom I’ve had the benefit of positive engagement with in the past. Often I wasn’t aware enough in the time I had with them to appreciate or thank them. As we grow and age, people come in and out of our lives, sometimes reappear and sometimes leave for good. It’s not essential or required that we hunt them down years later and thank them when we realize their impact on us. In fact, many of them know instinctively at the time they are influencers of good and that’s enough for them. That’s part of their make up.

You and I though? We don’t need a formal education or a fancy job title. We don’t have to have a big pay cheque or a shiny new car. To be an influence of good, to be thought of later as ‘the one’ who believed in me when nobody else did; who saw something in me I couldn’t see myself – to be that person, could you do that?

I believe we have these chance encounters on a daily basis. Maybe it’s sitting down distraction-free and really just listening to someone with your full attention. In a digital age with technology at our fingertips, that may be shocking to some people just to have someone give them 100% of their attention.

Maybe too it’s just saying, “Sure”, when someone says, “Have you got a few minutes?” or just going about your own work with a moral compass as your guide. Who knows? Listen to others this week and look for the opportunities. See if you don’t find yourself in a situation where yes, you in fact, might just be the one.




Want To Quit But Afraid To?

There are a significant number of employed people who are dissatisfied or hate their jobs intently to the point where they are strongly thinking of quitting. Some of these people actively job search while they are employed, while others haven’t got the energy to look for a new job and simultaneously perform a job they have little motivation to continue with.

So here you are in your job, dissatisfied to the point where thinking about going in to work seems like heading off to some kind of prison sentence. I mean you don’t want to think about going, let alone actually go in, but there you are until something new comes up, and hating every moment of it. How did things go so bad? Surely at some point you presumably took the job with some kind of enthusiasm. Where did it all go wrong?

Some people feel trapped in their jobs – they are consciously unhappy and want a way out with a soft landing, but can’t just up and quit. It could be that the security of income, especially in situations where your decision would impact on others – such as a partner or children has you immobile. Maybe it’s the mortgage, the car payments, the cottage or your lifestyle you are afraid of losing if your source of income should be cut off.

The added moral dilemma is of course that you know you are unhappy and haven’t found a way as yet of doing anything tangible about it. If you are honest, you also probably know your attitude and demeanor are negatively impacting on those around you. Could be your anger is coming out quicker, your patience has a shorter fuse, things set you off that in the past you brushed off, you smile less often and you’re just not that fun to be around. When you say you can’t afford to quit, maybe for all these reasons you can’t afford to stay either. Now there’s your dilemma.

So now it’s a question of priorities. After all, you’re seeing this scale with your lousy job on one end and your happiness and all the things you could be on the other. If you could replace your job with something much more enriching, you’d have perfect balance instead of having this job you loathe weigh you down. And it really doesn’t take much you think; you just hand in a note stating you are submitting your resignation and you’re last day will be such and such. Just thinking about it is liberating!

However, (why is there always a ‘However’?) there still remains the problem of no job to replace the one you have, and no stable income therefore either. Hmmm….yes that is a tough one.

It’s possible that you sit down with your stakeholders; those in your immediate family and see if quitting your job would have their support, especially if your actions are going to impact on them financially. Honestly, they might surprise you and be relieved that you are finally going to DO something and quit! They may be willing to tighten up the entire family budget if they get their old dad or partner back – the one who used to smile and be a positive person.

You should at any rate determine what financial benefits you might be eligible for should you resign your job. A few phone calls to the agencies providing financial aid to unemployed persons will help give you some idea of your eligibility if you quit under certain circumstances. It costs nothing to inquire. Maybe a note from the doctor stating your mental and physical health is at stake would be good supporting evidence?

Not always, but sometimes a good talk with the employer is recommended too. After all, employers want and need people who are committed and at the top of their game. If your unhappy and doing the minimum, might they include you in some future round of layoffs doing you both a favour? Sounds odd but if things are this bad, getting laid off might be a blessing.

At the very least, start looking seriously for other work. Your current employment may look attractive to a new employer, and you should start to get a handle on what jobs are out there in your field, unless of course you’re leaving the entire field for something new. Then some research into other lines of work entirely is in order.

When you quit, be sure to do so with some grace. Life has a funny way of bringing people back into contact with each other. Whether its returning to work in the future to the company you never thought you’d work for again, or finding out your boss is on the Board of Director’s for some non-profit group you might work for, you could need a positive end to a relationship gone bad. Even a reference will have you wanting an uneventful departure. Save all those nasty things you are thinking for the car ride home!

A fresh start is liberating and invigorating. You will no doubt find some new energy in the job search process. Yes, it’s scary and has no guarantees. If you don’t jump sometimes however, you’ll never know what you might miss out of fear.

Whatever you decide, you’ll have to live with the consequences of your decision – stay in a job that’s negatively impacting on you, or take a chance with the possibility of saving yourself.




Your Damaged Psyche And Mental Fitness

That prolonged job search you are in right now might be doing serious damage to your psychological process; how you view the world, your self-ego and overall mental fitness. Of this you may already be aware, but I suspect no matter how much you think you have the whole picture, there is much more going on you are unaware of.

Just as a wonderful end result often has many small steps and one thing builds on another until you ultimately reach the prize at the end, so too is the slide that can result in full-blown depression, serious mental illness and social anxiety. My hope is that you recognize enough in yourself where things aren’t healthy and you will seek out professional help.

Everyone generally concedes that looking for work can be stressful. If you have a job, there is security in knowing you have a source of income while you look for another position, but you have the internal conflict of continuing to physically work with a company that you’ve mentally already left. When you make the decision to look for a job somewhere else or sometimes even another position with the same employer, you can’t help but contract some of your full-blown enthusiasm for the job you have at the moment. You’re just not 100% invested in any long-term objectives the way you would if you were in for the long haul.

So it’s no wonder that your energy is divided now between your current job responsibilities and all the things associated with finding new employment. Scouring websites, writing cover letters, modifying resumes, sending emails, making phone calls, setting up meetings: are you doing these on company time with your employers permission, on company time without their knowledge or consent, or maybe trying to do all of this outside of work on your lunch and after hours? Energy divided when you only have the same amount of energy to begin with means your work is not at its high level of excellence.

Of course, if you are entirely unemployed you don’t have the problem of dividing your energy between a job you have and looking for a new one. However, without discipline you have the stress of being easily distracted from the ‘work’ of looking for a job and the relative pleasure of reading a book, lazing on a beach or lounging around the house. Your available energy is also finite and if you allow your focus to drift in other areas, your psyche can be damaged through guilt because you aren’t looking intently on top of your unemployment.

Even the best of us who should know better can find ourselves side-tracked into doing other activities when we know we should be job searching; we justify it at the time using some perverted logic and then later feel the guilt of knowingly having put off what we needed to be doing if our situation is going to change.

One feeling you might be having is that the world is continuing to turn, the clock still ticks with every single second, the world in fact seems to be functioning very nicely whether you are part of it or not (with respect to having work and contributing). All of a sudden, you might feel displaced, invisible, not needed or even missed.

If you are lucky, you’ll realize that only you are 100% invested in your eventual future employment, and only you can really do all the things you need to change your unemployed status and so you shake things off and find both the motivation and energy to get down to work. If you are less fortunate, this isolation and lack of seemingly even being missed can trick you into possible self-pity, hopelessness, isolating yourself and justifying it saying things like, “Nobody misses me anyhow.”

This latter response is dangerous to your psyche; how you see the world can become so distorted you might rationalize in an unbalanced state that the world wouldn’t miss you if you physically checked out in addition to having socially checked out – and thoughts of ending it all start becoming more common.

Unfortunately mental fitness isn’t as easily detected as physical fitness. We can look and see someone who is obese, sneezing, sluggish, frequently missing time due to physical illness etc. Less obvious are the signs of mental illness, especially in the early stages where someone might be going out of their way to appear upbeat, ‘normal’ etc. So where someone might downplay a cold or a headache, someone else might smile more to compensate for mild anxiety or stress.

Getting help from a Mental Health professional (and I’m not one of them so no self-promoting here) is not only a good idea, it’s downright critical. You might as I said earlier not even be entirely aware yourself that you aren’t your normal self. The extent to which your normal balance is off due to your stressors, might have you thinking that your 10 degree shift on the old balance meter is actually your ‘normal’ setting – but it isn’t.

Getting in touch with a Mental Health agency can be a boost to your self-image and self-esteem. You’re taking a step to get a mental health check-up if nothing else. If there is a problem, you’re on the way to addressing it before it gains momentum and becomes a bigger problem. That’s not a weakness my friend, that’s wisdom.



Talk With People In Jobs You Might Like

Some common advice given to people who are looking at a number of career options is to go out and ask people currently doing those jobs a number of questions. The hope of course is that by asking people questions about their jobs, you will get an honest idea of what the job is really like, (both the pros and cons). This information can then help you determine for yourself whether it would be advisable or not to pursue that line of work.

So supposing you took this advice. Would you know what questions to ask in order to get the answers you really want? When I say the answers you want, I don’t mean just hearing what you want to hear, I mean gathering the information you really need to make an informed decision on the appropriateness of a career for yourself.

Before we look at some of the questions you might ask, let me suggest one key thing you do. Make an assessment yourself of the person to whom you are posing the questions. If they appear bitter, tired, beaten down or even resentful of the situation in which they find themselves, their advice will be tainted. On the other hand, if they’ve been in the job only a few months, they may be in the ‘honeymoon’ phase where everything is wonderful and they themselves don’t have a full grasp of the job in its entirety and some of the heavy workload might be still awaiting them. So their advice and perception of the job even though they are doing it might be limited

Let’s assume then that you’ve contacted someone doing the job you might be interested in and you’ve requested 20 minutes or so of their time. You are now preparing for that interview in which you’re the one asking the questions. Do yourself a favour and go to the meeting with your questions written down in black and white. Don’t count on inspiration to hit you while you are there although you may come up with questions on the spot based on what you see and hear.

One question might be, “How did you get started?”, but I’d rather suggest the question, “How would you suggest someone today get started?” The first question might take you back in time 35 or more years, and their answer could be a long personal reflection. What you really want to know is how YOU would proceed today if you opted for this job.

“What do you like and dislike about the responsibilities of your position?”  Keep in mind as you listen that it is probable that just because the person likes or dislikes some aspect of the job, you yourself might feel the same or differently. If something strikes you strongly, you could zero in on that and ask what it is about something they have mentioned that makes it a like or dislike. It might be the way in which they approach the task not the task itself.

“What does a typical day look like?” The answer you get to this question is really the best chance you get to see the job for what it is. The answer you get might vary depending on the time of year you are asking, whether the job is routinely the same each day or not two days are alike. If you like consistent days that all look the same, you might be cautious about a job where the activities you do are always changing and evolving.

“What are some of the personal qualities of people who are successful in the job?” Here you are hopeful of comparing your own personal qualities and attributes with those the person describes. If you are creative, spontaneous and an independent type, you might find it revealing if the person says you have to be a real team player, work according to a structured plan and work within the guidelines of set procedures. Your creativity might be stifled or encouraged, so if it’s important to you, best you find out now!

Now after some questions about the job, the environment or culture, turn to whatever is really critical for you. If you are a single parent, you might desperately need job security or benefits. If you’ve been mistreated in the past, you might need a nurturing supportive atmosphere in which to work. You might be bitter about missing promotions because the company you worked for in the past went external instead of promoting from within. Ask the question(s) that matter most to you tactfully and respectfully.

As you listen to the answers to all the questions you ask, keep in mind this is one employee and one company. You will be well-advised to ask several people the same questions to get a balanced well-informed idea of the job or the company you are thinking about working for. Mind you manners, that the person for making their time available for you, ask them for others they might suggest you speak with, and whatever you do, sound and look interested in what they have to say!

Many people skip this entire process when job hunting. Fear of asking, being rejected, taking initiative – who knows why really. This is still a low investment, high return use of your time. You might get a tour of the place, a request to look over your resume from someone in the job you’d like. Who knows? It’s all good!







Plan Backwards; Move Forward

So there I was in front of 16 unemployed people yesterday. I was wrapping up a 7 day Career Exploration workshop I was co-facilitating with a colleague, and we were down to coming up with a plan to move from their unemployed status to reaching their individual career or job goals.

Having identified barriers to success, I was at the point where we were collectively discussing the steps necessary to eliminate the barriers. After all, eliminate your barriers and then you’re closing the gap between wherever you are at present and where you ultimately want to be.

One of the barriers someone self-identified was the lack of grade 12 education; which in 2015 is pretty much the bottom of the barrel from most employer’s points of view. Without it, your relegated to entry-level minimum wage jobs much of the time and the prospects for advancement reduced.

So I asked the group if we took the lack of grade 12 as a barrier we wanted to overcome, what would be the first step to eliminate that barrier. Their answer was a unanimous, “Go to school and get your grade 12.” Not entirely unexpected but the wrong answer. You see this answer is just like telling an unemployed person that the steps to resolve their dilemma is, “Just get a job.”

The problem you see is that if you write down, “go to school and get my diploma” as the step to resolve your lack of grade 12 and then turn your attention to your other barriers, when you DO want to put that plan into action, you’re no closer to knowing HOW to go about getting your grade 12! After all, you don’t really just go over to the school and ask for your diploma and then get it. We know all that.

And this is where so many get stuck by traditionally planning forward. It seems to make sense to plan forward, and that’s why so many plan this way and so many fail miserably. The logic says, “Here I am, I want to get my diploma, what’s the first step? But no matter whether you are wanting to address the lack of grade 12, a poor resume, literacy, criminal record, a lack of proper interview clothing or even figuring out what your career goal is, forward planning will often get you stuck, not knowing the steps you need to take.

Look at things using backward planning however. So the first thing I asked the group was to imagine themselves being handed their grade 12 certificate, and I wrote that on the board. I wrote all their replies on the board from under the goal achievement. Here’s what the question and answer exchange looked like:

“What happened just before you got the certificate?”

“I passed all the necessary courses.”

“And before that?”

“I was in the classes.”

“And before that?”

“I signed up for the classes by registering.”

“And before that?”

“You have to attend an orientation over at the school.”

“And before that?”

“You have to find out when the orientation sessions are by calling them or going to the school.”

“And before that?”

“You have to decide you want your grade 12 bad enough to go back and get it.”

And that last statement brought us back to where we were sitting together in the room – to that moment; their present.  With all those 7 steps laid out on the board as they said them out loud, they could quickly see that from where they were the first step was to decide they wanted their grade 12 and wanted to do something about it. They could see all 7 steps required, with the 7th step being handed the diploma.

The next thing we did was put some timeframes beside each step. “How much time is required to decide you want your grade 12?”, I asked. “Already done” someone said. And the group assigned a timeframe of a day to call the school and find out when the orientation sessions were all the way up to six months to actually attend the classes. It turns out they figured 7 months from step 1 to step 7 was required for one person to achieve their goal.

By utilizing the backward planning concept, the group became aware that what they had in the end was a workable plan that was realistic, had definite timeframes and they could see that by following the steps they’d eliminate their barrier. Now I have to tell you that I presented them with a list of potentially 20 barriers. Most people in the room had several barriers and each one requires its own backward planning process to identify the steps needed to eliminate it.

Here’s the beautiful thing that’s going to sound attractive to YOU. While eliminating a barrier sounds great, taking 7 months to do it might seem a long time. But if you break the barrier into smaller steps like I suggest, your self-esteem will rise with each small step you take. So even when you just call the school to determine the next orientation date, you can check off step 1 and say, “I am one small step closer to my goal.” The longer steps work the same as you remind yourself, each step is part of your bigger plan.

When you work out your plan, get someone to look it over and confirm you’ve got all the steps covered. Like anything new, it takes a little time to get the hang of it!

Change, Career Planning and Action

Do long-term goals that represent major changes intimidate you and leave you overwhelmed at where to begin? For some people, it’s like making a decision to get off the couch one day and being expected to run a 10km race the next. Better to stay on the couch where you can avoid the high probability of failure and more feelings of not measuring up.

The keys to achieving real change when broken down are much more manageable and most people are able to progress through change if guided and provided with tangible results that show movement in the right direction.

One of the first things required for change is ownership. If you yourself want changes in your life, that personal motivation to change originating from your own point of view will help sustain you when the time get tough. You’ll be able to look back at those times and remind yourself why you wanted change in the first place. On the other hand, if you are trying to initiate changes in your own life because other people think you should change, you are less likely to stay committed to change when you face challenges.

So if you want to change your unemployment status, or you want a better job; more security, higher income etc. drive the change from within and you’ve a much higher chance of sticking to change later on when you’ll be tempted to revert to your old routines and habits.

The second thing to realize is that the very nature of change is that things can’t remain the same. This is the very essence of change. In order for change to occur, previous actions need to be altered. If losing weight is a goal, your food intake needs a reduction, your activity level needs an increase. If employment is a goal, your daily rituals need adjusting, more priority time devoted to job search activities will have to replace your relaxation time, television or internet social time as examples.

Planning before you act has to occur; unless of course you deem planning as an action itself – and I’m okay with that! In other words, you just can’t say, “I want a job” and then poof it happens. Wanting a job is good, but planning on how to achieve it makes achieving it in the future much more likely. This stage is essential in order to assure yourself that the time and energy, the activities in which you engage; they are all focused and work toward the common goal of gaining employment.

Now planning is best done backwards. In other words, see yourself in the job you want. What does that look like to you? Got an image of yourself at the desk in the company you want to work with or on the assembly line, or at the summer camp you are employed with? Great. Now ask yourself what was happening just before that picture? Was it a phone call welcoming you to the team or a letter you got, possibly an email? Before the job offer, was it an interview or the 3rd interview you passed? Before that was it the research you were doing on the company, the position, the people who worked there you wanted to join? And before the research was it the resume and cover letter you penned that started the formal application process? Maybe even before the resume and cover letter your 3 years of school were required, the initial research into the field in general and an application for financial assistance with your school registration?

You see planning backwards keeps happening until you end up at today. Then when you look at the steps you’ve written down, you look at it from today moving forward and voila, you’ve got a workable plan that if followed will put you in the position you want. Of course I’m simplifying it, and you’d be wise to have others look at your plan who have the skills and knowledge to tell if you are missing anything significant.

Now your plan might have 9 or 10 steps; some of those steps (like school) taking 3 year’s to complete. Other steps (like registering for school) might take an hour. Don’t be discouraged at the length of your plan. Some people find out in their 50’s about planning for the first time and wish they’d had the foresight to plan when they were back in their 20’s.

Having a plan is great of course but the most important step is putting the plan into action. The beautiful thing about plans is that they provide a blueprint of getting to where you want to be from your starting place of where you are today, but be open to modifying your plan and re-evaluating it along the way. This doesn’t mean the plan loses its value or purpose, just that the plan is not set in stone and you can adjust it to suit your emerging and changing interests as you gather more information.

Without any plan, you may question your direction, your purpose in life, and what you ‘should’ be doing instead wherever you find yourself. You may feel aimless, lacking direction and focus, and planning can eliminate that. Always remind yourself that planning is just that – making a plan. Those who have one are not always happier, but they do know where they are going!

Change? Plan your plan then act on it!