Does Your Job Make Life Better?

What purpose does your work serve? I mean, does it improve the quality of your life? What about the lives of others? I put it out there that if your work is not making your life better, you should be looking for something else – and fast!

This idea of making your life better in some way isn’t new. Whether it was the Industrial Age, The Crusades, why even all the way back to the early days of human civilization, people have always engaged in work activities that improved their quality of life. Going to war to preserve their lifestyle or freedom, creating some invention that would improve on whatever people currently had – it all made their lives better.

Okay so let’s look at us; you and me. We’ve got this general pattern where we depend entirely on others early in life and then develop into young people with hopes and dreams, testing our independence until we fly the nest and start relying on ourselves. We  make our own choices, and with each choice there are consequences great or small. Every choice we make seemed like a good idea at the time, and we made those choices to make our lives better; for the moment or long-term.

So is this why we become unhappy if we realize that our daily jobs don’t bring us the satisfaction and some sense of pleasure? The job itself may not be a fun one, but we justify continuing with it if what we get out of it improves our lives in some other way. Hence the money factor. Take a job not many would willingly do for the work alone, and attaching money to it will at some point attract enough people to perform the work you want done. Offer too little and you won’t attract the skilled people to do the work and the quality of the work will suffer.

Some Career Coaches or Employment Counsellors will inevitably ask the people they work with, “What would make you happy?” You see we get it. If you could share with us the work, job or career (substitute your word of choice) that would make your life better, then we could help you define the steps required to take you from your present situation to the reality of having the dream job you want. With the attainment of the job, you’ll be happy; your life would be better. So goes the theory.

The problem for many is they can’t answer the question, “What’s your dream job?” They honestly don’t know. It’s for this reason many people feel conflicted, confused, anxiety and ultimately voice this in statements like, “What’s wrong with me? I should know by now!” or the classic, “Everybody’s telling me to just get a job but I don’t know what I want to do.” Figuring out the, ‘want’ is really trying to figure out what would make life better.

After all, if you and I are going to invest 7 or so hours a day in some activity 5 days a week, presumably that investment of time should make our lives better. If the job we take doesn’t make life better, why are we still doing the work? Ah but then maybe it’s how we define a better life that is the real crux of the matter. If we hate the actual work we do with a passion – the exact opposite of what an employer typically asks for, but the job provides us with money that we then use to pay for rent, food, possessions and our lives improve on our personal time, some of us can then justifiably state that the job we hate makes life better.

Not all of us feel this way however. Some believe that the work they do is such a big part of their waking lives that it had better not only pay well, but the work itself has to bring them joy. The job has to be one they’d find fulfilling. However while some get out and try job after job trying to find  the right fit to improve their lives, others don’t. The ones that don’t make a decision not to do any work at all until they are fairly certain the job will bring them happiness. Not having ever done the work, they use their imagination to visualize themselves in a job, and with this limited knowledge or perception of what they believe the job to be, they make a decision to work or not in that job; usually deciding not to.

Researching a job or a profession is good advice to give you data you may find helpful in making a better informed decision on whether the job will make you happy or improve your life. All the research in the world can’t tell you how you’ll really experience that job however until you plunge into it. There are many variables like the supervision style of the person you report to, the comings and goings of co-workers that will affect the atmosphere, culture, location, hours of work etc.

If life is the best it can be keep doing what you’re doing – job or no job. If life isn’t as good as it could be with the work you currently do, and presuming you want it to be better, get going; you’ve only got so much time to improve your life through your work.

What do you think people?

A Nod To Receptionists

Let’s pause a moment shall we and give a nod of appreciation to those who provide front-counter reception excellence. These men and women are often the first point of contact for customers and clients, hence they shape the first impression people have walking in your door.

How much thought do you give to the people in your organization who occupy this role? Do you even know their name? What exactly do they do all day? Do they essential or do you feel anyone could sit there and be successful?

I suspect if you compared the job descriptions of Receptionists across a number of organizations, you’d find common functions such as: greeting people who call in person or phone in, directing calls, notifying employees when people appear for appointments, accepting deliveries from couriers etc. Just as probable, I imagine you might find each performs functions in their organization which others with similar titles working elsewhere do not.

For example, you might find a Receptionist in an organization has the responsibility of accepting and distributing mail to staff via their mail slots. In a larger company, such tasks might be handled by staff working in a mailroom; where the sheer volume of correspondence cannot reasonably handled by a single individual greeting the public.

When you take on the role of Receptionist, you take responsibility for interacting with whomever walks in your door or is on the other end of the phone line you pick up. Whether they are angry, bitter, pleasant, happy, hopeful or any number of other states of mind, the Receptionist deals with them all.

And  job applicants? Job seekers view the Receptionist as the Gatekeeper to be by-passed in some way; be it through building an ally, circumventing through deception or charming them with wit and friendliness. Some see the Receptionist as a lowly peon; their function solely to run and fetch the important people with whom they wish to converse.  Contrast this with the person who approaches the Receptionist and pours out their business leaving it for the Receptionist to determine who in the organization would be best to speak with the individual.

We expect our Receptionist to be smiling, welcoming, pleasant of voice, helpful and gracious in receiving those into the lobby area. Their interpersonal communication skills therefore must be top notch. If the role they occupy requires they file documents, type correspondence or log visitors, we require of them multi-tasking abilities and computer proficiency. It is also a position that requires sound judgement; can they handle the person at their counter themselves or do they call in others for help – and if so, who and at what point in the interaction?

The really outstanding Receptionists play a vital role in calming down emotionally charged visitors. Through conversation meant to distract or delay, a sympathetic ear, an offer of a beverage etc. these folks often de-escalate clients and customers which benefits the people the client or customer is about to meet. Do it well and staff themselves may never know the role the Receptionist played in making that face-to-face meeting run smoother.

If we care to admit it, they often get trapped too. They cover for staff who are late, who have neglected to advise the Receptionist of their appointments at all. They cover for staff on extended coffee or lunch breaks, poor employees who routinely keep their clients waiting or situations where someone is behind in their meetings. It’s a fine line between commiserating with a client kept waiting and supporting their other customer – the staff they support.

Some Receptionists have to endure the customer who opts to pass the time flirting with them, or having nothing better to do than share their life story. There are still files to file, phones to answer, documents to type, mail to sort and data to be keyed in. Everyone wants their full attention, being THE customer. There are couriers requiring signatures, the lost needing direction, the children needing distractions, the magazines or literature to straighten and routinely update. There’s the fish someone thought would be calming that need feeding, the plants that need watering, the coffee or tea machines that need supplies replenished.

The job is an ongoing balancing act, day in and day out ensuring that everything runs smoothly. As the most important person in any organization, the customer or client must deal in some way – briefly or regularly with the Receptionist. And yet, despite the importance of the role, there are some who see this person as, “just” the Receptionist. It isn’t fair but the only time some people really take note of the person acting as the Receptionist is when they are on vacation, off for a day and someone else fills in, or there is a problem. Then everybody has an opinion about both the role and the person who fills it!

How about today as you read this, you say a word of thanks to he or she who makes a living in this role? A word of appreciation, their beverage of choice, a thanks for how they handled a tricky customer or client.

It’s a good idea to remember that a Receptionist might not show up on your list of team members, but he or she is the first point of contact when your clients or customers arrive. Not a bad thing to remember. Express your thanks for a job well done.

Hired: A Renewed Appreciation For Work

It’s not as easy for many people to get a job these days as it was in the past.

Headlines are full of company closures, layoffs,  line reductions, shifts being eliminated or company relocations. Despite all these stories however, there are always a number of people who quit anyway expecting to buck the trend and find their next job in short order.

It’s not hard to imagine why some people in job-hungry times still gamble with their financial independence and quit their jobs. Essentially, those who do think back to their personal history and make a decision to go job searching based on how they experienced the hunt for new employment in the past. They believe if they didn’t take too long to secure a new job in the past, it is unlikely they’ll have much of a problem getting one now in the present.

When the economic climate changes however, companies find it necessary to cut back on their workforce, take measures to reduce their expenditures and hold off on previously planned expansion initiatives. Were we talking of a single company or two in this situation, not much impact would be felt. Yet when you consider this is the story for many, the impact on job seekers as a whole makes finding work harder. The reality of the times has changed from what the job seeker previously experienced.

All of a sudden the individual who quit their job finds it  harder to find new job leads and get hired than in the past. Their unemployment stretches out longer, the pressure to find income rises and the prolonged unemployment is a new experience. Many don’t know how to respond effectively; be it budgeting or how technology has impacted the way job searching is done.

Often during an extended search for new employment, a job seeker will think back on the job they quit with some regret. In retrospect, they often feel that if they could do it again, they would have held on to that job while they looked for a new one instead of just quitting outright. At the time however, they never thought for a second that their inability to find their next job would take so long.

This change in attitude has one clear benefit; the appreciation for the next job if and when it does come around. This new-found appreciation in some makes them a better employee to work with, perhaps a little less confrontational, a bit more team-oriented and more inclined to act in  ways that will keep them employed – i.e.. their production levels rise.

Don’t think that I’m describing everyone in that previous paragraph. No there are many who don’t really change much once they are employed again. These folks will revert back as soon as they are hired, or just after their probation to the person they have always been; thinking and acting pretty much the same. The impact of their unemployment seems to make them bitter, jaded and hardened instead of appreciative. Now they  look out for number one – themselves; an employer drops to a distant number two.

I interact on a daily basis with a large population of the unemployed. Generally speaking, older job seekers are looking for that one break – that once last chance to demonstrate how appreciative they’ll be and how hard they’ll work. They see the window of opportunity closing quickly because they have a finite number of years to work left, and with a prolonged job search, that window is getting smaller.

Younger unemployed people on the other hand don’t feel the finite period of employment to the same degree. They may be in their 30’s and have another 30 years to go and believe they’ll have 4 or 5 more jobs so the pressure is felt less when talking of the sheer number of years remaining to work.

If you have ever been out of work for longer than you would have liked, you can probably mentally and emotionally re-visit that unemployed period relatively easily if you allow yourself to remember what it felt like. Many don’t want to recall those feelings for obvious reasons; it was a period of low self-esteem, struggle and increased frustration. Recalling the emotional and financial turmoil can however remind us of how appreciative we should be for the work we do now, and for the income and sense of purpose we have. This recall can also help us feel increased empathy for others who are experiencing now what we felt in the past.

Ask yourself however if you have slid somewhat back into a sense of entitlement; have you’ve abandoned that sense of appreciation for the job you have now in some respects because you’ve managed to hold on to this job for a period of time? Would  you go about your work with more enthusiasm, productively and appreciation than you currently do were you just recently hired? If the answer you give yourself is, ‘yes’, maybe you might consider working in such a way that you keep that previously held sense of appreciation front and center in your mind.

Appreciating our jobs comes when we realize it isn’t just the job we are appreciating but how we feel overall. Work provides income, stability, purpose, a daily routine, security and keeps us engaged with others among other benefits. Work combats isolation, desperation, low self-worth, dependency, stress and loss of purpose.

You may not love your job, but appreciate its benefits.

Morphing Into A Specialist

Consider your workplace and the people you work alongside. Thinking now of your co-workers, you likely view some of those people as having grown a reputation as being a specialist in some area of their work. Perhaps you count yourself among them. How does a person become a specialist, an expert or recognized authority?

For many, it’s a case of knowing exactly what they want and signing up for specialized training beyond what they and their co-workers normally receive. This training results in the person obtaining formal certification; recognition of their academic expertise.

However, there are a vast number of people who have developed experiential expertise; expertise accumulated from extensive exposure with a certain population, topic or interest. So these people find themselves being sought out for consultation by others, regarded as an authority on a subject, and become the go-to people. The interesting thing is that they themselves may not have planned to be regarded as an expert; they may be initially surprised that others keep coming to them, but then it dawns on them that they have in fact a knack for whatever it is, or whomever it is that they excel with.

Hence you could have a Financial Consultant working in a large organization; providing investment advice be regarded as the right person to refer certain clients to over others. You have speakers in an organization get the nod over their peers depending on a group or topic; pegged as the right person to connect with that population.

So are you a specialist in your organization in some regard? You may have the same title as your peers, the same salary; but are you regarded as having a particularly well-developed skill in some area over your peers?

The advantage (and there are advantages) in being regarded as an authority or having a particularly well-developed skill set in some area, is that you become more valuable to both your organization, your customers or clients, and to your fellow employees. So if your co-workers are challenged with a client and you have high success rates in dealing with clients like them, they may come to you and draw upon your experience. You may excel more often when it comes to dealing successfully with those who present with similar challenges.

Sometimes, you can keep your ears and eyes open and identify opportunities to seize on where your peers universally dislike or avoid aspects of their work. They may be more than willing to pass on what they perceive as difficult or undesirable clients who share common attributes, even taking two or yours to divest themselves of the unwanted one. In such a case, you could gain a reputation as handling well what others see as difficult, and you’ll be appreciated for it.

Suddenly you could find yourself being the one who gets the nod when it comes to attending courses, seminars and going to conferences that provide additional learning opportunities for dealing with hard-to-serve populations. Then after attending a few of these, not only do people in your organization see you as an authority, but employees from other organizations at those events start to regard you the same way. You may wake up one day and suddenly realize that without really planning it, you’ve morphed into a specialist.

What might then occur to you is that because you have developed a knack for working with a certain population, you find yourself wanting some further formal education to obtain some academic accreditation. This opens up the idea of night school or taking a leave from your workplace. If you look into it, you might even find that your employer is willing to pay for all or part of your educational development as they would get a higher return on their investment upon your return to the workplace.

For many this is how they evolve, stay fresh and grow. If you sat down and had a conversation with these people, they might tell you that they never really set out to become a specialist; it kind of snuck up on them and took them by surprise.

The wonderful thing about this entire process is the personal growth that occurs. The more you are identified as a leading authority or have some unique insight, the more likely it is that you will discover opportunities which you previously didn’t know existed. Hence, you could compete in the future for a position you wouldn’t have thought possible or perhaps even known existed. The other possibility is that your organization might actually create a position around you which only is being created to both recognize and take advantage of your well-developed expertise.

If we take this idea even further, it may turn out that you wake up one day and wonder if you aren’t in a position to actually break away from the organization you are employed with and set up your own entrepreneurial business. Your expertise might be in such demand that running your own business is in the cards.

Have a look around the organization you work for and see if there are opportunities to seize upon. Based on your present skills, interests and those of your peers, are there areas in which someone could capitalize upon and with a little effort be the go-to person, the expert, the specialist? Perhaps that person could be you!

Getting Comfortable With Cold Calls

Cold calling is perhaps the most universally hated activity a job seeker undertakes. Let’s define cold calling as contacting someone you may or may not know who isn’t expecting your contact.

The traditional rationale for making these contacts is that you may learn of a job opening you were previously unaware of so you view cold calls like this:

“Hello, are you hiring?”

“Not at this time, no.”

“Oh okay, thanks anyway.” Click.

If you see the cold call like this, no wonder you’re apprehensive! After all there’s going to be a lot of rejection if this is all you see to cold calling. The logic of those who hate cold calling is: A) I find calling on people I don’t know stressful and uncomfortable. B) I don’t want to feel stressed and uncomfortable. C) Therefore I won’t do cold calls.

I counter this thinking with A) I find it stressful and uncomfortable to call on people I don’t know. B) My need for a job is greater than my fear of calling on people I don’t know. C) Therefore I will make cold calls.

Take heart. Let’s expand on both the people you could contact and the purpose of cold calls you could make. See if you find yourself feeling slightly less apprehensive.

  1. Start off easy by contacting someone in-person or over the phone who you used to work with or for; see if they are willing to act as a reference. Tell them you are job searching, what you are looking for, and advise them you’ll send them an updated resume so they have an informed idea of what you’ve been up to. Be sure to thank them.
  2. Call a company you are about to apply to with the intent of getting the name and job title of the person who is receiving the applications. This may be information the Receptionist can provide, and you can mention that you would like to ensure it is professionally addressed to avoid the over-used, “To whom it may concern.” Be sure to get the name of the Receptionist as you’ll want this for follow-up calls.
  3. You may wish to drop in unannounced or call prior to arriving on the premise of collecting any brochures, annual reports, company marketing documents or even possibly a job description. Be sure to identify yourself by name and as a job applicant. The fact that you dropped in or called to request this additional information in preparation for an interview may be passed on to the decision maker who is compiling the short list of people to interview.
  4. You might contact one of your LinkedIn connections who works at the company you are about to apply to. They might be willing to pass on some of their knowledge of the company such as the culture, atmosphere, what the key characteristics the position really requires. If you believe it’s not what you know but who you know that gets people jobs, then get to know some of your contacts!
  5. Calling on a person working in a job similar to one you would like and requesting a conversation with them is another option. I myself have been contacted and ended up meeting face-to-face both for general job seeking advice and to talk about the position I currently hold. Sometimes I’ve met these people in a local coffee shop on my lunch hour, sometimes those meetings have been at my workplace. For the price of a cup of tea, I’ve sat for 45 minutes and had a conversation where my brain was picked.
  6. Okay yes you can contact a company and ask if they have a job opening for the job you are interested in. Be prepared for a negative response or being re-directed to their website to apply online, but it could work!
  7. One of the very best cold calls you can and should make is to reach out now to some of your social media connections before you go start job searching. By establishing a basic relationship with those people now, you will find it easier and less stressful in the future to approach them when you do go job searching. Identify potential employers, find people in positions with that company doing work similar to the job you would perhaps like. Now contact them, connect with them, engage in conversation either online messages, phone or in-person.

Okay so my point is there are many different methods and purposes to cold calls. It’s not only about phoning to ask if they are hiring and then hanging up when they tell you they aren’t. Like most things in life, the more you do it, the less awkward it becomes.

A good idea is to write out a script; a rough idea of what you’ll actually say such as:

“Hello my name is Kelly Mitchell, may I first ask who I’m speaking with? Hello Jane I’m in the process of putting together my application for the advertised Employment Counsellor position and was would appreciate the name and title of the person to whom I should address my cover letter. Thank you very much Jane, you’ve been most helpful. I hope to speak with you again very soon.”

Make sure you know what your goal is before you pick up the phone. Anticipate roadblocks and possible strategies. Do make sure you have a pen and paper handy to write down information. Good luck.

Activity: Listen To Your Words

Pay attention to the words you speak in the coming day or two and see if the words and phrases you use in everyday speech are revealing more about you than you had thought.

For starters, you should be cautious of the word, “just”. This word suggests you have a poor opinion of yourself; that you have low self-esteem, and you aren’t living up to your potential. All that from one single word? How is that possible you ask? Look at these two sentences:

  1. I’m a Receptionist.
  2. I’m just a Receptionist.

The first three word sentence is an assertion or statement of fact; I am a Receptionist. The second sentence on the other hand, with the insertion of a single word four letters in length, ceases to become a statement of assertion and pride. Now you are implying that the position of Receptionist in your view is a lowly one, and it almost comes out like an apology; “I’m sorry but I’m just a Receptionist.”

By the way, don’t get hung up on the title of Receptionist. This has the same impact if you say, “I’m just a Line Cook”, I’m just a Manager”, “I’m just a Musician.” You can’t utter the sentence with the word, “just”, inserted and not have it sound like you are downgrading both the position and yourself.

Another word that creeps in silently but betrays you if you use it is the word, “if”. Suppose you are job searching. You might catch yourself saying, “If I get an interview…”, “If I get a job…” The far more assertive statement is, “When I get an interview…” When I get a job…” Removing the word, “if” and substituting it with the word, “when” changes your sentence from a possibility to a certainty. “When I get an interview”, communicates your belief that it’s not up for debate whether you will or won’t get an interview, it’s just a question of time. The word, “if” suggests you might get an interview but you might not – you’re not sure.

Another word I see many people use in their cover letters that betrays them is the word, “believe”. Now if that word stood alone, it’s a good word, and has been used successfully by many people as their creed or motto. It implies that if you believe, then what you want will come about. Fine. However, watch the word in action in the following sentence and tell me now how it changes your perception of someone’s self-confidence: “I believe I am the right candidate for this position.” The way this could be read is that you believe it but it may not be the case. Remove the first two words of that sentence and you get, “I am the right candidate for this position.” That’s assertiveness – not aggressiveness or boasting; it’s a claim you’re making and you then back it up with examples of that market yourself positively.

There is a slang word that has slipped into everyday language so frequently, a growing number of people don’t even know that using it reveals them when they speak. They continue to use it which can suggest a limited vocabulary which in turn could suggest a low education – possibly less than grade 12. The word is, “youse”. “Youse have a great company”, “I’d like to work with youse guys.” The word doesn’t exist; stop using it.

Did you notice in the last example I used the word, “guys”? I find it amusing and interesting that someone can speak to a group of men and women, or indeed a group of women exclusively, and then say, “I’ll see you guys later.” Save the word, “guys” for males. Consider using, “people”, or “all”, or even just remove the word, “guys”. “I’ll see you later.”

The use of the word, “guys” indicates a familiarity or friendship when used in the context above. You may not find that using it in all situations is appropriate or welcomed. “I’d like to work for you guys”, doesn’t communicate a professional respect for the employees you are speaking with. It detracts from your self-marketing and you may actually create the opposite impact on your listeners where they want to distance themselves from you and the assumption of casualness you are making. Next you’ll be telling the interview, “I’ll be waiting for your call pal.” DON’T DO IT! I’M KIDDING.

Finally, try to catch yourself using or forgetting to say the words, “please” and, “thank you”.  When someone does something for you – anything from opening a door, being your reference or granting you an interview, express your thanks. No gushing suggested, no boot-licking, just common personal and professional courtesy. If you request something of someone, use the word, “please.” “Would you please stand as a reference for me?” Could we move the meeting to Monday please?” “Is it possible to have an afternoon interview please?”

Language skills are vitally important to how others perceive you; they are a part of your brand. Your use of words can accelerate your career or hold you back, prompt a job interview or keep you from meeting with an interviewer.

Listen to yourself and listen to others around you. Language is a learned skill. Work on getting some words out of your vocabulary and other words in. Like anything else, you can improve on your language skills with practice.

Embrace The Struggle

“Anything worth having is worth fighting for.” Ever heard that expression? When you are going after something of value, it is likely that you may face some adversity, some problems; how you react to that adversity is going to determine if you continue to move forward or stall.

You may have in your childhood wanted a toy that was all the rage at the time. You asked your parents for it, only to be told it costs too much or you didn’t need it. At that point you either slumped away feeling disappointed or you vowed to get it somehow and started setting aside your allowance. Perhaps you kept asking again and again until you got your toy or had the money to buy it.

As an older child, you may have been asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, but as soon as you told people, they either laughed or said, “No. Choose something else.” Did you give in? Did you hold on to that goal of yours and fight for it, pursue it even though others said it would never happen?

You see struggling for something you really want happens to all of us. Those struggles can be slight ones of inconvenience or they can be monumental ones. Every so often you’ll come up against barriers to your desired goals that take some real ingenuity to get around. If you aren’t entirely committed to your goal, the struggle to keep moving forward doesn’t seem worth it, and so the dream fizzles, movement stops.

Now on the other hand, there are examples around us on a daily basis of people who face multiple barriers to obtaining their goals, and yet somehow, the desire they have sustains and strengthens them. You might find yourself admiring these people, wondering aloud where they get their perseverance from when logic says they should just give up. They just want it tremendously – whatever, ‘it’ is.

But what of you? Have you settled far too often? Have you found yourself in situations where you have changed your career goal because the effort to keep moving toward your goal just seemed way too much bother and inconvenience?

Perhaps the career you really want would involve returning to school, taking on added debt, and the thought of 3 years in school and $20,000.00 of accumulated debt is so stressful you opt not to do it. You justify your decision as best you can, but when you are really honest with yourself, you know you are falling short of what you really want to be doing.

Well, that’s one example of avoiding the struggle. I would argue that barring a major disaster, you’ll still be alive and thinking 3 years from now, and at that time, your decision to give up on your goal because returning to school wasn’t something you wanted to do will be one you regret. You’ll lament more than once or twice, “If I had gone to school three years ago, I’d be graduating now and qualified to be a ______.”

Sometimes it’s our family that stops us in our tracks. “No son or daughter of mine is going to be a ______________ and that’s the end of it. Forget it. End of discussion and just get that idea out of your head.” Yikes! Now you may feel conflicted between wanting a career or job so bad on the one hand and pleasing those you revere on the other.

If you want something bad enough you’ll find a way to push past the obstacles and keep reducing the distance between yourself and your desired goal. If you don’t want it bad enough, you’ll give in, you’ll bow to the pressure, you’ll stop generating possible solutions and then working hard on removing the obstacle. Now your obstacle could be numerous things: a prison record, insufficient education, relocating, suddenly becoming a single parent, drug dependency, not speaking a required language. There are way too many others to mention here.

Identifying barriers is the easy thing to do. Identifying solutions takes some more work, but the biggest and most difficult thing of all is committing to actually taking the action required in removing those goals. This is where most people fail. The physical and mental struggle required just seems too exhausting and so most take the easiest way out and stop. These are often the people who will tell you, “My dream job is actually ______ but….”

There are a lot of people mind you who don’t have the gift of a dream job. They never long for a specific career. They fall into jobs that they feel okay or happy doing. What is lamentable and sad are those who do have a dream or longing for a certain career but decide that it is less stressful to not even try to obtain that goal and so they never begin.

You do need to own up to one basic truth if you have a goal but aren’t doing anything to push past your barriers; the one person who is stopping you from eventually realizing that dream occupation is yourself. Oh it would be lovely if it weren’t you I know. Yes, so much more convenient to blame your mom or dad, where you live, your upbringing and such, but now you’re an adult.

Want it bad enough? Embrace the struggles required to get it.

Phone Do’s And Don’ts

Many who are looking for jobs these days are doing their very best to make a good first impression when they meet employers or employees of companies they wish to work for. They take great care in their appearance, the clothes they wear, the smiles they form, the handshakes they offer. But this really isn’t the first impression the job applicant has made on those in the organization.

Prior to walking into the lobby of a company for your job interview, you have likely submitted an application, with or without a cover letter. You may have therefore made an impression at that point. You also may have prompted someone in the organization to check out your social media presence – whether you planned on them doing so or not.

However, before you walked into the company lobby, you may have also had a conversation on the telephone with someone from the company. Brief, moderate or extensive in length, if you made or received a call from an employee of the company, that person started making an assessment of you. Now it’s true that this phone call for some follows the submission of your resume and cover letter, but for others, this phone conversation occurs as a first step in contacting the company. It may not be the first impression you make on the person interviewing for a job, but it may be the first impression you make on someone who works for the company such as the Receptionist, or the person designated to set up the interview appointments.

So let’s look shall at some of the things that you can improve upon in order to make a consistently positive first impression.

First of all, answer your phone. Nothing is more frustrating for someone in an organization than to phone someone who is interested in working for them, only to have the phone ring and ring without ever being picked up or switching to some answering service or device. If you are the kind of person who sits by their phone and lets it ring and go to your answering service so you can first screen the unfamiliar number and find out who is calling you, stop this practice. You’ll likely phone back immediately not wishing to miss an important call, and then it becomes a first assumption that you are screening your incoming calls when you could have picked it up and that’s bad form. They’ll wonder what you’re hiding, and whether you would continue this practice on the job if they hired you.

If you do have a recorded answering machine or service, record your message sounding upbeat and professional. Smile as you record your message, ask callers to leave their name and number, a brief message, and inform them you’ll get back to them quickly. Avoid background music, don’t use your infants or children to record messages, and don’t record anything offensive, racy or rude.

Now when you do answer your telephone, don’t sound suspicious of callers, refusing to identify yourself until the caller identifies themselves first. They called you after all. If you do opt to not confirm who you are before knowing the identity of the caller, at least sound polite and positive until you know who the caller is. You are building this first impression, and it’s a good idea therefore to assume EVERY call is a potential employer calling you when you are actively job searching. If you find out it’s someone you don’t want to speak with, you can still terminate the call with some measure of civility and good manners.

Where possible, it is also a good idea to eliminate distractions before you pick up the phone. If you are watching television or listening to music, pause or mute the sound before you pick up.

Have a pen and paper by the phone at all times. When you’re job searching, you’ll get calls requiring you to take down phone numbers, addresses, instructions on how to find buildings, or things to take with you to interviews. You may also be relying on other people in the house to take phone numbers and names for you. Don’t rely on their memories to recall important phone numbers or names. If you make a call, don’t make the huge mistake of then having nothing to write a message with or one. That says volumes about your lack of preparedness and organization skills.

Okay so far? Now when you do answer your phone, resist your urge to answer with an impatient, “Yeah?” followed by a quickly worded apology when you realize suddenly it’s the employer and not your BFF. The ‘real you’ is the person who first answered in their mind, and the phony you is the polite, courteous person you suddenly switched to. So now they don’t see you as genuine.

Finally use your manners. The words, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ never go out of style. Good manners are something an employer hopes they don’t have to teach you, and if you demonstrate good manners to them, they will feel better about having you interact with their customers or clients and protecting their good reputations in the process.

Your phone is one tool in the job search process that can either help or hinder you. Ensure you pay your phone bills and can afford a lengthy phone interview if you use a subscription service too.

Responding To New Technology: There’s Cautious And There’s Glacial

How well does your organization embrace innovation, change, technological improvements and emerging trends? Are you able to respond quickly and take advantage of how your clients and customers communicate and prefer to do business or do things move so slowly you’re looking forward to unveiling the Commodore 64 next month?

I had a chat with a man who works for a large company in the private sector. He’s exploring a senior technology opportunity with a government body and is frustrated to learn the layers of approval required to make technological changes. He has a long history of working in the private sector and shared how quickly the company he was with seizes growing trends and changes literally overnight upgrading their technology and how they do business with their customers. The company he’s with is an extremely large organization with various branches and physical buildings in many locations. It’s big and has a progressive philosophy.

This past week, I’ve heard from two people in different organizations who both discussed their frustration with the limits placed upon them to use current technology as they go about their work. Their frustrations really centered on knowing there are existing technologies which their customers and clients use on a daily basis, but the organizations they work for will not permit them to conduct business using those same methods of communication.

Now I like to look at things from the point of view of the end-user; the client or customer. How does my target audience currently communicate? Where do they congregate or get together? Do they generally prefer one social media platform over another? How would they like to communicate with me and me with them, in order to communicate effectively? If I think of things this way, if I take the time to find out by asking my customers or clients, then I may advance my business, reduce frustrations of my end-users, speed up customer response times, and perhaps reduce the need for multiple communications over the same issues.

A concrete example perhaps? Suppose a business relies upon customers to use the telephone to contact front-line personnel. Customers may have to leave multiple messages, may grow impatient waiting for service, may end up dealing with others to whom they have to explain their situation from the start several times, growing increasingly frustrated during the process. If the customer was permitted to email their question, or use technology to both create and then track their question or problem, they might be less inclined to make multiple calls or deal with multiple people, slowing down the system while 2 or more people attempt to respond to a single issue.

An effective and continually updated website can also go a long way to giving customers and clients alike the information they might be seeking. This service might result in no phone inquiry at all, as the target audience has a way to gather the information they are seeking on their own.

The availability for customers or clients to independently obtain information on their own empowers your target audience. The information is currently there for them to pull in at their leisure. Now you have an informed customer or client, and you have freed up time for your front-linen personnel to turn their attention to other tasks they perform to serve your customers or clients. Everyone wins.

The same is true when it comes to using technology in other ways. I went to a presentation on innovation not long ago and the facilitator handed out paper copies of the PowerPoint presentation. I was put off right away. Paper copies and PowerPoint don’t reek innovation. The printed slide shots were tiny, the font hard to read, and I thought of all the paper used in those handouts. Why not just provide a link to the presentation source stored online? Or email a link to the presentation and update it to a Prezi or some other fresher medium.

I understand the concept of being cautious. Caution is well-advised in order not to create more problems than you solve. The benefit of being a trend-setter is you create new breakthroughs and the benefits of being a follower is you reap those breakthroughs without the pitfalls of problems as they are ironed out by the time you use them. The downside of being a trend-setter is that you may go in directions and nobody follows. The danger in being a follower is you are always behind the present if you move too slowly. By the time you get around to using email, it’s not being used by your customers or clients and they’ve moved on to other ways of communicating.

There are many intelligent people responsible for such areas as technology and how it will or won’t be used in an organization, how customers will or won’t be communicated with. I don’t pretend to know more or better than they about their area of expertise. But the two people I spoke with this week are front-end employees who use the communication and presentation tools in their organizations to interact with their organizations end-users; their customers and clients. If the customers and clients are frustrated, a coordinated response to improve service surely would be a goal to embrace by all.

Technology should I believe serve those who use it, rather than impede users going about their work. Exercise caution but beware glacial change.

Taking A Job You Don’t Want

Many people have accepted jobs which truth be told, they weren’t all that keen on in the first place. Perhaps it was after a long job search that appeared to be going nowhere and the constant rejection was too disheartening. Maybe it was a desperation for money to pay bills, or just a short-term filler job until something better came up.

Taking a job you don’t want can either be a terrible mistake or an excellent idea; it’s essential for your self-esteem and how you perceive yourself after accepting it that you clearly understand the difference.

First a situation that makes taking a job you don’t really love an excellent idea. Suppose your dream job requires you to own a reliable vehicle. Up to this point, you’ve managed to get along quite nicely using public transit or just walking everywhere and you lack the funds to buy one right away. Taking a short-term job outside your desired field is a good idea. Such an entry-level job will be easier to obtain than the position you’ve been really striving for, so the money will flow quicker into your hands. You can put aside money for the car, and therefore better compete for the job you really want faster. When you quit that job it won’t affect your reputation as its outside your field.

On the other hand, a terrible mistake can be made by the job seeker who becomes desperate and frustrated with a prolonged job search. Instead of gradually broadening the kinds of jobs they will look at, they leap into the, “I’ll do anything” mode, and before they know it, they’ve interviewed and accepted a job that is a long way from what they originally set out to do.

Now the consequence of this kind of misguided action is that while the person has a job, they will be immediately unhappy with it, question why on earth they accepted it, and know they’ve made a poor decision. How can this be you ask, when only a few days before they were adamantly stating they’d take anything? The truth is that a few days ago they didn’t have a job at all, so any job is an improvement. Now that they have a job, they want a better job; a better fit.

It’s the validation really that they were seeking. After all those rejections, any job seeker would welcome someone out there in a position to hire pegging them as desirable and needed. When someone says come in for the interview, they reason that any interview is good practice. When the job offer is made, they feel grateful for the interviewers confidence in them, and feel obligated then to say yes. Problem is that walking out the door of the company after accepting, they feel they’ve made a mistake, the job is wrong, and instead of feeling relief, they feel conflicted.

In many ways, applying for jobs that are just bad fits is understandable. How long should you hold out and go for the perfect job anyhow? And if you do broaden your search, should you go from looking for the perfect job to considering an excellent job? Then how long do you go from looking for an excellent job to a very good job? A good job? An okay job? Too many people go from looking for their dream job to an okay job right away. That’s the critical error.

If you can find some value in the jobs you are looking for you can rationalize your actions. So maybe the job would: 1) put current work experience on the resume, 2) give you future references, 3) be the new, ‘last job you worked at’ especially replacing your current last job if you’ve been fired, 4) get  you back in the routine of sticking to a schedule or 5) build your self-esteem if it’s been years since you had paid employment.

Settling in to the wrong job does run the risk of stalling your skill development in the areas you need to keep up with in your ideal field. So in other words, driving a taxi won’t help with your accounting skills if that’s your dream job. The taxi gig will bring you money, but it’s likely you’ll sit there driving thinking, “Oh no, what have I done? How did I end up behind the wheel?”

It’s essential in my opinion to see that we are all different. What is right for me may not be for you and therefore the choices we make might be right for both of us yet very different. I’ve taken jobs in the past I knew were entirely wrong from the beginning, but there was a purpose in those jobs at the time which helped me justify those moves to myself and my family. They were short-term jobs and served our needs so I did them well.

When considering a job outside your field, realize that’s it’s not a life sentence. You can still break free of that job and return to seeking your career of choice but with a little less desperation having some income in your pocket.

A word to you if you know someone who is working in a survival job. You can’t know all their private thoughts and past circumstances that brought them to their present reality. Therefore tread respectfully when you feel the urge to tell them what they should be doing.