Editing Another’s Work: Your Opinion Requested

Can I get your opinion on something please? I’d really appreciate it if you’d share what you think by adding a comment when you get to the end of this piece. The issue I’m raising is whether not it’s helpful in the end to write or edit a cover letter for a job applicant; when that job applicant is applying for a job in an office setting where they will be doing a great deal of letter writing. What do you think?

Yesterday I received a lovely email from a woman who recently went for a job interview. She was telling me that she and another woman I’d been helping were both up for employment with an organization where they’d be working in an office setting. She attached a thank you letter she was about to send and asked me to look it over for any errors she had made; acting on my suggestion to follow up interviews with a letter of thanks to separate herself from other applicants who do not.

Now the interesting thing to me is that one the one hand, I applaud her wisdom in getting another pair of eyes on her document in order to make the best impression possible on the potential employer. On the other hand, the employer is going to look at the cover letter and base part of their hiring decision on her ability to communicate clearly; so should the sample they read truly be her own or her thoughts with my editing abilities? I want to give the woman the best shot possible at getting the job, but I empathize with the employer too, who is trying to come up with the very best new employees they can.

In her typed cover letter, I found 4 mistakes. The most glaring perhaps was right there at the top of the page where she had entered the date as, “December 29, 2015 2015”. I was disappointed to see such an obvious lack of poor proofreading. I wondered had I been the employer if I’d continued to read her letter or stop at that point and reject the rest along with her as the applicant. Yikes! After all, it’s a mistake to enter the year twice, but it’s a second mistake to miss correcting this. It might even be a third mistake if she failed to proofread the document herself – especially one so important. Or was she just asking me to be her proof-reader?  I won’t be able to help her out should she land the job!

By now you are starting to form your own opinion on this matter. Remember, I’m hoping you’ll add a short comment and let me know which way you lean. When working with someone face-to-face, I’d point out these things by asking they read the date and hope they catch things on their own. If they find the mistake, I’d hope they correct it and learn from the proofreading. However, knowing that people often miss their own errors, sometimes I have people read out loud what they’ve penned, and then they either catch it themselves, or they actually read what they intended, not what they actually wrote; thereby missing the error a second time. In such a case, I have them re-read it again until they do catch it.

However, in the case of providing the second set of eyes using email, I chose to correct the document in the four places I noted mistakes, and sent it back corrected with my comments. I mean I applaud the cover letter effort itself which not everyone puts in. I want to encourage her to have someone else check her writing too; it’s just that I don’t want to misrepresent herself to an employer. So I guess it’s an ethical dilemma.

Now to be sure, this person has great interpersonal skills, a lovely attitude and I imagine would be very good in many respects for the job she is competing for. Aside from the mistake with the date which is clearly something she’d normally not do, the other three mistakes had to do with phrasing sentences as English isn’t her first language. I can clearly tell what she intended to communicate; it’s just the actual sentence structure that was off. This is a tougher issue to help with.

So were you in my position, (and perhaps you are if you like me, help others with their employment search), what do you think? Would you have done as I did and corrected the mistakes, pointing them out? Would you have told her that four errors exist, told her where they were and asked her to find them herself? I’m curious. By all means, chime in!

Keep Up Your Job Search

We’re at that stressful time of year to be out of work in Canada; the combination of Christmas, the shortest days of the year, poor weather and unemployment has the potential to really bring people down. Those short days mean you often wake up and travel to work in the dark and drive home in the dark. In a matter of weeks the bills from the holidays will arrive, or if you were frugal, you’re feeling the guilt of being a Scrooge. Adding insult to injury, you might find that other people are going around with a good deal of happiness as they answer the frequent, “So how was Christmas?” question.

Like every other moment in your life, you’ve got a decision to make; do you pack in the job search and give up until March when the snows typically recede, or do you somehow find that energy somewhere deep down inside and kick your job search up a gear?

Knowing I’m an Employment Counsellor, you can probably guess which approach I’m advocating for. There really is never a bad time to job search in my opinion, but the reasons for job searching at any time of the year vary. You see because it’s competitive out there with so many people looking for work, many job seekers will actually remove themselves from the process of job searching at this time of year. Despite being unemployed, they get down because of the factors I laid out in the opening paragraph and stop looking.

Some people give themselves a holiday from looking for work between Christmas and New Years and then rationalize their behaviour even further by staying indoors if the weather looks nasty. Snow and slush, winter winds, dropping temperatures; there’s every reason to just stay inside and hibernate.

However, there’s an advantage for you who are unemployed if you have the wisdom and the motivation to seize it. History is full of examples of people who found something inside themselves and pushed on when everyone around them gave in and gave up. So if your family or friends are giving you their advice to take a break from your job search and pack it in for a few weeks, be cautious about accepting that advice and giving in. Fight with everything you can and ask them instead not to go soft on you when you need their encouragement the most to keep going. After all, if the people who are looking for work and competing for jobs with you are sitting at home with their feet up watching television, this is precisely the break you need to get an edge up on them!

“No one is hiring at this time of year; employers are all on vacation anyhow.” This is the kind of bad advice your mom might give you because she is so concerned about how stressed you are, how haggard you look, and she means well but unfortunately is misinformed. If you make a hot chocolate and sit down to relax with her and find your smile you make her feel comforted for a bit, but you don’t change your unemployment status doing this. It’s a smokescreen of illusion; this happy picture of you sitting content.

This is the very time to scour the job boards of both the companies you wish to work for and the employment job sites. These are the days when you’ll find Employment Counsellors more accessible, able to spend more time with you, and to really portray yourself as a serious job hunter, which in turn makes helping you even more attractive to those like me in the business of helping you find a job!

On the nastiest of days with the winter winds howling and the snow accumulating, or the freezing rain pelting down, you still have choices if you’re not going out. While employers may or may not be holding interviews, they certainly may still be gathering the applications of people from which to make their short lists, and they then call these folks in for early January interviews. Wait until January to start applying and you’re showing up to the party too late; only a few skeptical offerings are left.

Use New Year’s Eve parties as your chance to socialize and mingle, but also as a chance to network and develop some contacts. Conduct yourself with some class and avoid over-indulging in the spirits so you keep your wits about you because just like Santa, you never know who else is watching you!

Also use this time to register for any free or inexpensive training in January. Take a 1 day course for example in the first week or two of the New Year and by adding it to your resume, you’re one of the first people to have 2016 on your resume in 2016 which keeps you relevant.

In addition to actually applying for jobs, you can be taking stock of your skills, updating your resume, contacting references, working on eliminating some of your job search barriers, upgrading your education, looking into volunteering, look at some online cover letter samples, and that’s just the obvious things that come to mind.

The hardest part of job searching is staying self-motivated and fighting through frustration and the anxiety that comes with being out of work. Whenever you find yourself ready to give up, remember why you started looking in the first place.

Give A Gift To Someone In Need

So you’re out in some mall looking for that perfect gift that someone on your Christmas list would appreciate. Or perhaps you’re sitting in your favourite seat at home tapping your fingers and wrestling with the thought of what the people on your list, ‘need’. If you are like many people I know, many of those on your list don’t, ‘need’ much at all.

Each gift received not only comes with the ribbons, bows, wrapping paper and scotch tape; each gift comes with the message, “I am thinking of you.” The gift may be homemade or store-bought, expensive or not, but still each one says, “I think enough of you that I wanted to present you with something to let you know I appreciate you.” Well something like that anyhow.

Sometimes the gifts we give are given to people we’ll never know personally; people we don’t necessarily want to know personally, but we give them just the same. Take the financial donation or food donation you make to the local food bank; the clothes you donate to the Diabetes Foundation, the change you throw into a Salvation Army kettle or some other charity box.

Maybe – just maybe mind you – you’re like the little drummer boy who doesn’t have any money or items of value to give and you wonder, “What could I do?”

And so, here’s some ideas for giving both during this festive holiday season and for other times of the year.

First and foremost, one of the easiest and free things you can do is acknowledge the presence of the down-and-out, the destitute, the poor, and the homeless when you see them on the street. You and I both know they aren’t invisible. You know they are there because you look everywhere but where they sit or stand as you pass them by without a glance. Maybe just having the courage, assertiveness or whatever it is that you need to look them in the eye and actually give them a slight smile would help them feel visible. Sure it’s a small thing; but it’s a start.

When I was in Toronto this fall I was out with my daughter and some people were handing out free bottles of water on the street. While I drank mine down due to my thirst, my daughter hung on to hers for a few blocks and then without breaking stride set hers down beside a sleeping man on the street. Again, not much, but he awoke with something he didn’t have when he fell asleep.

You can also hold back on your judgement of others; we don’t know what they’ve endured or continue to endure. Even when the decisions they make contribute to their current plight and we would rather they made better decisions, we don’t know what events in their past have shaped their present. They probably have multiple problems, some of which are of their own making. Maybe a little tolerance, a little support, or even holding back from voicing our opinions would be a small start.

You can volunteer your time too if you’ve got it to give but draw the line on contributing financially. Yes, you can join a non-profit organization, contribute your talents in bookkeeping, leadership, organization etc. Helping to guide an organization, support the people who staff it and the users who benefit from its services; do it and if you need something for yourself, add it to your resume. Why not?

If you run a cleaning business, offer free cleaning for people who have job interviews coming up and can’t afford your services because they are jobless at present. If they get a job, think how much they might appreciate your help. If you have that, “why don’t they just get a job?” mentality, you’ll actually help them get one and pay their taxes if your motivation must be so inclined.

You can opt to be more courteous too. It costs nothing to give up your seat on a bus or subway, to actually smile instead of frown, to actually look at people and talk instead of walking around with a perpetual frown. When you enter a fast-food restaurant drive-thru, thank the person who takes your money and gives you your food. Break up their monotony with a ‘thank you! Have a nice day!” or ask them where their smile is. You’ll get a smile immediately and make their day.

That harried check-out Cashier who gets verbally abused by customers who think they alone should be served first and hold up the line examining their bills to make sure they aren’t overcharged? Why not thank them for doing a great job and telling them to forgive that rude person. These folks usually make minimum wage and are people too.

It’s not hard to think of all the small things you; you and I, could do to make the lives of others around us just a tad better. If you see a couple with a dog on the street trying to get by begging for change, don’t forget the dog. If you pass them every day, drop off some dog food every now and then – something they can easily carry. That’s just cool.

When you do any of the above, you send them the message, “I’m thinking of you – you’re not invisible.” Good on you for your act of kindness. You never know what your small act might mean.

“Um, Ah, If I Wrote Like I Talk, Then Like, Ah…”

Can you imagine how painful it would if we had to communicate in writing the words we actually speak? Come to think of it, this might be precisely how educators go about transforming the horrendous language skills some people have.

I was conducting a mock interview not long ago with a person who was pretty sure their interview skills were top-notch. While they had great content to share from their present and past to prove they had the experience to compete for employment, what they also had was a constant use of the words, ‘like’, ‘um’ and ‘ah’. At one point, I actually realized I had shifted from evaluating the strength of their answer to counting the number of times they used these three words.

So why do people consciously or unconsciously overuse these words? I believe the words, ‘um’ and ‘ah’ are used most often to hold the speakers place in the conversation, while their brain accesses memory files and arranges their thoughts in a meaningful way so that when the spoken words are uttered, it sounds coherent. It’s as if the person is saying, “I’ve got something else I want to add, just give me a moment to organize things in the way I want to share them; here it comes…right, I’m ready.”

Every now and then this kind of behaviour creates for the speaker a real unexpected problem. The overuse of, ‘um’ and ‘ah’ can cause a person to finish a thought and then the mouth almost instinctively throws in one last, ‘um’. The listener’s interest is piqued as the speaker has something further to add, so they themselves go silent and wait with anticipation to whatever is about to be said. The problem? The speaker who uttered the dreaded ‘um’ has nothing further to add whatsoever, and so lamely says something like, “Ah, it’s okay.”

What I find most interesting myself as someone who is often on the receiving end, is that the speakers either know they have this habit as others have mentioned it to them, or they are completely oblivious to this habit. They may say therefore, “I know, I know it’s a bad habit; everybody tells me!” Or they say, “Really? Wow! I had no idea!”

Here’s the thing about your language skills: you communicate much more than words alone. When you listen to someone, words combine with tone, body language, voice intensity, vocabulary, facial expression, eye contact etc.; all of which strengthen or detract from the content of the message you are delivering. If for example someone says, “Help me please, I’m desperate” and has a strained expression, their words are barely audible but intense and their eyes a wide and fixed on ours, – we do not doubt their plea. However, were they to say, “Help me please, I’m desperate” while shrugging their shoulders, grinning ear to ear and the words uttered in a mocked tone, then we might be left with an impression they aren’t really serious.

It’s the same when we overuse the word, ‘like’. “Could you like, help me, ’cause like, I’m – you know – like, desperate.” Is the visualization in your head right now of the person uttering this sentence a young, poorly educated female? If I told you it was really a university educated senior management person in the commodities sector would that image seem genuine? No probably not. So how we communicate does conjure up things we associate with people who talk a certain way.

Therefore others who hear us make assumptions about our education level, our professionalism, our income level, our intelligence; all from our vocabulary. Lest you think that it is wrong of people to make all these assumptions and judge you based on these alone, don’t exclude yourself from judging others based on the same criteria. As we listen to others speak, our minds take in all this data and access past memories and experiences we have had dealing with others who have appeared to us to be similar. In a matter of seconds, we think, slang = casual, overuse of ‘like’ = valley girl, overuse of ‘um’ and ‘ah’ = slow thinker. Of course these associations might not match your own experience, but they might match other people; people who are interviewing you for a job, or deciding whether or not they can help you in some way.

One way to change how you are perceived if you wish to do so in the first place of course, is to simply pause and be silent instead of using the dreaded, ‘um’ or ‘ah’. Silence is actually very effective when used in speech as it shows you are reflective.

If something is similar to something else, by all means say that this thing is like that thing in a comparative sense. However saying, “This apple is like amazing!” isn’t any more effective than just saying, “This apple is amazing!” The word, ‘like’ in this sense is unnecessary and inappropriate. Do yourself a favour and stop overusing it and using it in the wrong context.

The wonderful thing about your language skills is that unlike so many barriers to employment or promotions is language is entirely within your control to use and improve. Not only should you choose your words wisely, you can improve your skills in this area as you can with any other skill.

Then, you’d be like, totally amazing.

How Welcoming Is Your Recorded Greeting?

It’s hard to imagine anyone reading this hasn’t at some point dialed a phone number and experienced a recorded greeting rather than connecting directly with the person they were calling.

More than likely you listen to the person reciting some kind of a script that says, “You’ve reached so-and-so, I’m away from my desk or busy, please leave a brief message including your name and number and I’ll return your call.” Some people identify their job title, the organization they work for and the date. Sometimes you hear further instructions, such as in the case of an emergency or other helpful numbers.

Having had experience myself on both ends; (listening to others and making my own messages), like you I suppose, I certainly get a vibe right off the bat as to whether the person I’m calling is positive, upbeat and engaged or bored, barely awake or checked out.

My wife is a great example of someone who always sounds enthusiastic and upbeat. Even though she leaves the same basic message on her phone each day, she changes it up so callers know whether she’s available that day, in meetings, out of the office and who to call if you need to speak to someone and can’t wait. She even says that the other person she’s referring you to will be happy to take your call and provide assistance. When she leaves her greeting, she smiles and while you can’t see that smile, it sure comes across to the listener who’s calling.

Me? I too leave a message that’s upbeat and shows some personality. I know it works because when I do speak to people who have left messages for me, they often chuckle and make some positive comment about the message. When I in turn listen to their messages they are leaving for me, I hear them similarly laugh a little and they almost always sound positive in the process.

I remember in my days as a Caseworker with a large caseload of social assistance recipients leaving a unique message on my phone every day, and having fun in the process. I figured that many of the callers who didn’t reach me live would listen to the message I left in its entirety before leaving a message, and that most of those calls would be people needing me to do something to provide financial assistance. In other words, I thought about the majority of people that would call, and envisioned the state of mind they would be in. No client would for example be calling just to say hello and see how I’m doing like a friend might.

So in picturing my majority of callers, I thought about that message and thought that an upbeat, positive voice on the other end, smiling and enthusiastic might just put a smile on their face too, and in so doing, might even release a few chemicals reducing their anxiety and stress. It worked. Well it worked for the majority. There will always be sour people who go about their lives just looking for happiness to squash in the hopes of bringing others down to their level instead of deciding to elevate their attitude.

I had people calling me and laughing; happy to hear a voice with some personality in it even though the nature of their call was serious. Sure I would help them; they came to know that. So the issue of receiving help if it was in my power to give it wasn’t the issue. So I figured why not speak with someone for help who is positive, happy and upbeat instead of someone who sounds monotonous, robotic and devoid of some personality? In short, I was branding myself each day with that message on the machine that while providing the same essential information was done with vitality and varied.

Mondays for example I see as the start of a new week with new possibilities and a chance to start fresh. Tuesdays is a day to build momentum for the rest of the week. Wednesdays is the day you can evaluate how you’re doing and you’ve still got time to make the rest of the week a positive. Thursday is the ‘hang in there’ day; or the day to make sure you don’t overlook an opportunity because you’re concentrating on the arrival of Friday. Friday itself is a day to sum up the week, finish with a burst of energy.

Holidays? What a great reason to vary that plain old message. I still use accents and an assortment of voices to wish my callers a happy Valentines or St. Patrick’s day. At Christmas the voice callers hear sounds remarkably like Santa inviting callers to leave a message for Kelly and that he’ll get back to them soon. Halloween is fun to because…well….you get the point.

Look, what I’m saying is that injecting a little personality into your morning greeting takes so little effort and the return can be impactful on your callers. I know I’d rather start a conversation with someone who is light and happy, smiling and chuckling a little rather than having someone just launch right into their needs with anxiety, trepidation and be so matter-of-fact.

Different environments dictate how you should leave a recorded message – I get that. I just think it’s important to envision your audience and put yourself at their end.

“Why Don’t I Fit In?”

“If we stripped away everything you present to the world, what would I be left looking at?”

This is a question I occasionally ask of people I’ve been assisting to find employment; people I’ve known for a while when I’m trying to find out more about them and discover barriers to employment. Upon hearing the question, some go to the obvious; make some comment about being naked and laugh, some pause to think, while others say, “I don’t know, I’ve never been asked that question before.”

If I wait a few moments without saying a word more, they realize I’m expecting an answer on a deeper, more personal level, and then what comes out is often quite helpful. You see, the person we present to the world for some is the person we really are. We are authentic, genuine; consistently the same person both on the inside and outside. There are however many who for whatever reason, work hard to ‘become’ someone else; they take on traits they only assume in public or at work. They are seldom really comfortable when around others, always trying to find ways to fit in, to be comfortable, be accepted. They put out a tremendous amount of mental energy, strategizing who to talk to in a group, what to say, worried about how they’ll be perceived, what people will think of them, etc. It’s exhausting.

These people are really just trying to do what others appear to do naturally; gain the respect of others, be included in the workplace or social gatherings. Have you ever found yourself thinking someone doesn’t quite fit in at work? They appear to be trying too hard to be liked; in workplace social gatherings they often end up alone or included out of necessity instead of by choice. They appear to be alone even in a group of people, standing off to the side, or while they appear to be mingling, if you followed them closely, you’d see them circulating with a series of brief conversations and they may be among the first to leave and get back to their work.

For these kind of people – and you may be one of them yourself – the importance of recognizing and understanding this behaviour is integral to finding the right work environment, giving the person the best opportunity to be successful. It’s fair to say that when applying for jobs, most of us don’t list fitting in as one of the deciding factors in whether we should or shouldn’t apply. Yet once hired, we do want to fit in; and while fitting in means different things to different people, we will likely be happiest and find it comfortable if our need (high or low) for social interaction is similar to the other people who work in the same space.

Perhaps you’re the kind of person who on the surface appears confident; who others would say initiates conversations with people. That’s good. However, you may at the same time be the kind of person who after a few minutes finds continuing the conversation and finding mutually interesting things to talk about hard work. While the other person is talking, you’re only half listening; you’re brain races to find things to mention of interest the moment they stop speaking. You fight to remember a local or national news event, something amusing, what someone else said that others found interesting. You’re good in the short-term, but soon feel uncomfortable and make an excuse to circulate, start again with someone new, and you feel relieved when everyone returns to work where you feel the stress of mingling subside.

Now sharing this reality with an Employment Coach, a Mentor or Employment Counsellor is extremely useful if you want to land a job where you’ll succeed. It is of vital importance. It’s not enough to look at a job posting and only look at the qualifications and responsibilities and then apply. If you go about looking for work only doing this, you may have found that while past jobs are ones you could do, you found yourself saying again and again, “Why don’t I fit in? Why can’t I be like the other people? Why am I so awkward? What’s wrong with me?”

Truth is there’s nothing wrong with you; perhaps you’re approaching the situation asking the wrong question. The question, “What’s wrong with me?” I’d replace with, “Is this job I’m qualified to do with an organization where the culture and the atmosphere work for me?” So this becomes one of your questions at the conclusion of an interview; “Tell me about the work atmosphere in the area I’d be assigned to”, or, “Describe the social interaction among employees or is a ‘task-oriented’ culture favoured?”

Remember, it isn’t only about finding a job but, the right job and the right employer. Ignore the culture of a company and you’re gambling on the fit. A good interviewer can sense when you’ve got the skills but your personality doesn’t mesh with their chemistry. Being rejected in such a case may be the best thing for both them and you in the long run.

Consider thinking of this when finding your next job; some people choose the work atmosphere over the actual job in fact, or pass promotions because the ‘fit’ is so good where they are at the present.

Change Career Or Play It Safe?

Should you launch yourself into a new career you’re passionate about which will require a return to school for a year, or is it wiser to play it safe and pursue a job you already have the skills with which to compete for? Got your answer? Do you pause in your assertion and change your point of view if you were say, 55 years old?

And so it was that yesterday afternoon I was engaged in a conversation for an hour and twenty minutes with just such a woman. She is unemployed and has an extensive background working in office administration. She and I were meeting to summarize her involvement in a two week intensive job finding program and our talk had circled around to looking forward and developing a plan for the immediate future. Last Friday, as she and the rest of the participants walked out of the room she had said, “You know what I really want to do; what I’ve always wanted to do, is be a ______________.”

Now I’ve intentionally left blank what she said next. The reason is that I wonder if it really matters for the purpose of this discussion. To really answer the question of whether or not pursuing a career which would involve a return to school at 55 is a good or poor idea, you need more information; well I know I do anyhow. Issues like her physical health, mental commitment, finances, family support, obligations, demands of the career in question etc. are all critical pieces to look at. Now there may be some that would say none of those matter at all; at 55 no one should return to school and take on debt because there’s only 10 or so years left to work as it is and returning to school for a year would mean there isn’t enough time to generate the income needed to justify the debt. Well, I’m not one of those people.

Quite frankly, I wasn’t going to make my opinion known to her one way or the other. No, I decided what I would do is take what she shared, add some thoughts to her thinking and then give it back to her for her to mull over. It’s her life after all, not mine. The most important contribution I did make was the pressing need to make a decision now and no longer put it off. After all, at 55 years old, if it’s not too late to invest in a new career, it will be soon.

You see she already laments the passage of time and the lack of action on her part to go for it. Those feelings of, ‘should I or shouldn’t I?’ have gone on far too long. What keeps pulling her in that direction is the passion and happiness that she envisions working in that position would bring out in her. What keeps her from seizing this opportunity with both hands are the day-to-day sensibilities that say, ‘be practical, play it safe.’ Ever been there? Known what you wanted; really wanted mind – but not had the courage to jump in because the obligations and responsibilities you have compete with your dreams?

It sounds like a cliché but we all look back at our life decisions from time to time. We wonder if we did the right thing, how life would have changed had we made a different decision. Like the winning the lottery, we wonder how our lives would have changed for the better or worse had we only had the courage to leap. Now because we made the decisions we did it doesn’t matter much in the one sense as we can’t change the past. In this case, a good analogy is like moving along a highway and having four exits to choose from to visit a town, and we’re on top of the fourth and last one. Do we turn off or keep driving straight ahead? (No U-turns allowed!)

You and I; we only get one shot at this life and time slips away with every day making it a precious commodity. As I pointed out to her (telling her what I knew she already knew), she either has to decide now to return to school, invest in herself and pursue her passion with everything she’s got, or go after her administrative job and find satisfaction in that. An office job working for an organization would be the most secure and sensible thing to do, and no one would probably question her decision. To pursue her passion, she’d raise more than a few eyebrows, be the oldest in the class at College, and upon graduation have to compete with younger, more energetic graduates for work.

One thing I did suggest to her that she hadn’t considered is the idea of defining a niche target audience matching her own demographic; appealing to folks her own age, marketing herself to meet their needs which she’d be seen to closely identify with. That, she found appealing.  I shared that whether ultimately successful or not, the decision itself to return to school and pursue her passion, (if she indeed makes this decision) was the right one for her at this time. In other words, if she doesn’t gain a career out of it but loves the learning process, she still wins.

Tell me if you will, about options you’ve had, and the decision-making process you went through.

The Career Success Equation

What motivates you? Probably a number of things when you think about it; your children, money, the desire to acquire something you hold dear, some philanthropic desire to do good – maybe revenge. Not all the things that motivate us are inherently good, yet they motivate us nonetheless.

Whatever the source of our motivation, the benefit is that we are spurred to act; to move with purpose in achieving our goal(s), bringing into our reality the thing(s) that we hope for. Want something badly enough, and we will take the steps we deem necessary to eventually realize the thing(s) we wish for. When we reach our goal(s) we obtain not only the thing(s) we wanted, but a measure of happiness.

There are problems which threaten this equation of identifying what we want, planning to get it, acting the plan, achieving the goal and the happiness that goes with it. Let’s look at what goes wrong when we fail to bring about the end goal of happiness as it pertains to a career.

It’s possible we don’t know what motivates us; we have yet to identify the career that we predict will end in happiness, therefore there is no plan to put in place, nor any actions to take because the goal itself is not defined. Without knowing what it is we want, we can have all the resources in the world, but we cannot put them to use because the motivation just isn’t there without something to apply those resources to. The result is that we float along, witness time passing, feel anxious because we should have some purpose; something to strive for and achieve of value, but it eludes us. We know we’re in the wrong job.  Without a goal that holds meaning, we may feel failure and anxiety just not being able to figure it out. We are if you will, still trying to determine, “What do I want to be?”

Identifying what it is we ultimately want as a career is essential to bringing about our happiness. If we lack the resources to devise a plan, the action we take may be hit and miss; with a great deal of energy spent doing things that bring us no further to our goal. In other words, if the blueprint or steps to achieve the career goal are not clearly identified, it is unlikely we will move toward our goal with any clear direction. Our path is fraught with false starts, wasted time and disappointment, threatening our belief that the achievement of our goal is possible.

Even when we know the career we want and we have the resources to put together a plan to make it happen, there is still no guarantee that we will ultimately succeed. It may well be that we lack the next crucial step; taking the action required to act on the plan. We may feel a career as an Interior Designer would bring us great happiness, and we may know that a return to school is the way to go about getting the required education and training to bring it about. However, we may also fail to act; anxious of the debt we would incur to return to school, fretting over the fear of ultimately failing.

Ironic as it is, there are those who know exactly what they want, and they are intelligent enough to know how to turn that want into reality. However, they fail to act because a small but very influential part of them whispers, “What if we’re wrong? If we go to school and get the education needed, there’ll be nothing to stop us from doing what it is we believe will make us happy. As long as we don’t act the plan, we’ll always have the knowledge that we know what we want. If we act the plan and we’re wrong about this career in the end, then what?” And so this nagging doubt leaves them paralyzed to act and they go about their daily lives with guilt; unsatisfied with the present and living with a dream.

To realize success, we must have a goal, develop a blueprint, gather the resources needed and finally act the plan. So we must have an employment goal that we project we will bring us happiness; something we will be meaningful and put a smile on our face. We then devise a step-by-step plan to move us from where we are to where we want to be. We must then act on the plan, knowing that with each step we achieve, we create movement toward our goal, decreasing the space between where we are at any given moment and our end goal. In acting the plan, we use the resources available to us, and we problem solve as we go, gathering needed resources to overcome our barriers as they present themselves.

As to our goal of being an Interior Designer, why not make it happen? As we feel passion for design, we are confident this is our career of choice. We investigate design courses and schools with reputations for excellence. We apply for funding to assist with our education and invest in our future happiness, excelling because the content is meaningful. We graduate and stand with pride at the end, happy as our goal of becoming an Interior Designer is realized.

Real Ads; Real Problems

Ever go online and look at job ads to see who is hiring and who is looking for work? When I do, without fail I see ads from people who haven’t even got a small chance of getting hired.

I find myself wishing I could get these people together in a room and help them out by sharing some job searching basics. I envision starting such an event by shouting as loudly as I’m able, “You’re doing it wrong!”

For example, just now, I read an ad posted by a woman who stated she is looking for work. Her two line ad says she’s pregnant, looking for a job working from home, and she doesn’t want to put money out to get money and she’ll do anything. That’s the entire ad. Anything? Really? I doubt it. This is a vague appeal to someone who will pay her to do something from her home but there’s no hint of what skills she has, whether she owns a computer with internet access; even if she has a phone. Presumably she has a computer to place the ad, but maybe it was posted by someone else in the home and she doesn’t have access to the computer all day herself. Who knows?

I looked at another ad posted by a 26 year old person who says he’s a Line Rigger by trade and has been doing that for 6 years but has no chance of growing. He wants to change jobs and he’s attached two pictures of his resume. Both pictures are fuzzy and unreadable, and the second page photo is actually a horizontal view of a vertical document. I’ve no idea what he’s interested in but he’s waiting for an employer to call him up and offer him a job. Yep…good luck with that.

Finally there was an ad from a guy who is detail-oriented; finally, someone who is sharing one of their skills. The problem however is that while he’s detail-oriented, he typed it like this: ‘detaile orientted.’ If I was an employer I couldn’t email him back fast enough; he’s exactly what I’m looking for. Not!

Look, if you are using a local classified service to market yourself, you have to present yourself in a way that makes you attractive to employers, and you must know who you are appealing to. If you don’t know what you want, how on earth do you really think someone who doesn’t know you at all could figure it out for you? That’s your job, not theirs.

Now the people who are looking for work that I looked at are not the only ones failing miserably. I turned to a few ads posted by people and organizations looking to hire. I think some of these people are going to be pretty frustrated and disappointed with the people that respond to their ads and they only have themselves to blame.

Take this ad looking for someone to look after their 3 boys. The ad starts out saying they are looking for someone to provide care for the boys and that no housekeeping is expected. However later in the ad it mentions that laundry, tidying up, light dusting and kitchen clean-up is required. So this housekeeping; is it required or not? I’m confused.

I also saw an ad for Child and Youth Workers to provide overnight extraordinary care in a residential setting. The ad requires applicants to have a driver’s licence, car, criminal reference check, vulnerable sector check, clean driver’s abstract, first aid certificate, degree in a related Child and Youth discipline, and be available for shifts 24 hours a day 7 days a week. In addition, applicants have to be prepared to deal with physically aggressive youth, take training in physical restraint, and the organization expects the person to have 2-3 years’ experience. Fair enough, that’s a lot of expectations but I applaud them for ensuring the people they hope to attract are highly skilled and the best out there. So my issue with this ad? The organization is prepared to pay $13.00 per hour. Great pay if you’re in an underdeveloped country, but when the minimum wage is $11.25; well…you get what you pay for. Shame on this organization for undervaluing the people who are expected to provide extraordinary care.

So then I envisioned these employers and others like them all in a room where I could run a two hour session on how to find the right people. How would I start that session? I’d yell at the top of my lungs, “You’re doing it wrong!”

I know that not everyone has the ability to market themselves the best they can; unfortunately some never will. If you know of someone who is putting an ad on the internet looking for work, do them a favour and have them pull it down. Quite frankly, some of the ads expose the poster to threats of exploitation. Drag them into an employment office.

As for some employers and the wages you’re offering, do a re-think. Don’t lower your expectations and fail your clients, provide a fair living wage to match your expectations. Just because there are many people out of work shouldn’t give you the latitude to exploit the desperate.

It’s not hard to find the right people or the right job – IF you market each correctly.

Improve Your Odds Of Getting Hired

There are an awful lot of job seekers who think they have a good grasp of the jobs they apply to, when in fact they obviously do not. You could be one of them! If so, your chances of successfully getting and passing interviews, passing tests of your competency, getting hired and then keeping jobs are extremely slim – and you’re wasting both the employers time and your own!

I keep chatting both with job seekers and with employer’s, and while I’m not the only one doing this, I’ve got to tell you, if you could hear the things I hear, you’d be surprised.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is not meeting the essential requirements of the job; assuming incorrectly that once you get the interview, you will wow them with your appearance and charm and talk them into hiring you. Sorry, you’re not making the short list to interview. When they say you must have a post-secondary degree or diploma, don’t apply if you don’t. If they say post-secondary education is an asset on the other hand, then it’s a bonus if you have it but not essential. Know the difference!

If the job posting calls for 5 years’ experience and you’re fresh out of school, this means you are an entry-level job seeker considering a job requiring more than you can currently offer; you’re going for a job you aren’t qualified for in other words. You need to refocus on applying for an entry-level job in your field. The on-the-job training and support you need is not going to be provided by the company looking for someone with 5 years’ experience. When applying for a job requiring 6 months to a year experience, this is not the time to put down that you have 25 years’ experience in the industry. No, that isn’t a bonus; you’re over-qualified.

One sure thing you can do to annoy an employer and clearly demonstrate your inability to follow clear directions is to apply for a job in any way other than that specified by the employer. If it says to apply by email, don’t deliver your application in person or fax it over. They want an electronic version of your resume for a reason. If you can’t follow this simple and clear direction, you’d likely ignore clear direction if they hired you, and they won’t.

As for some test of your competency, all those written questions they have posed to you have been thought out and asked for a reason. Don’t leave questions blank or write the word, “pass” (What were you thinking?). Follow the instructions – answer the questions.

People at interviews make similar mistakes. You can’t expect to be hired by the employer if you deem a question they ask you dumb. What to you is unusual or yes even dumb, serves some purpose and just answer the question to the best of your ability. I’m not referring to illegal questions like age, marital status or religion by the way. Make sure your reply doesn’t insult the interviewer. If they ask you, “Tell me about your office administration experience”, don’t say, “I think requiring office administration experience is a mistake. I can pick it up as I go.” You clearly have no idea why this is essential and you’re also insulting the employer and every other applicant who put in the effort to get some formal education and then acquired the experience before applying.

One interviewer I was speaking with recently told me that he’s had a couple of people do something unusual in the last two rounds of interviewing that he hopes is not a trend. All applicants get asked the same questions and two of these applicants replied with some version of, “Well, I’d rather talk about…” They chose not to actually answer the question at all, even when directly asked a second time, essentially removing themselves from the selection process.” The question wasn’t illegal, nor was it one of those odd questions designed to catch you off your feet. Answer the question asked.

Now another key mistake is failing to correctly understand what the job actually is that you are applying to. Job titles may be ambiguous. You can look at 6 “Customer Relations Officer” postings, and you’ll see vastly different requirements and responsibilities in each. So firing off the same resume and cover letter to each isn’t going to get you six interviews; far likely not even one. What a waste of your time. Failing to understand the jobs you are applying for and failing to send individualized targeted resumes to each is only going to prolong your job search and have you blaming everyone but yourself.

One last thing I will pass on to you from a woman who interviews new applicants for a living. She told me that people rejected for interviews continue to send in the same resumes for employment in the future without upgrading their education or getting the experience they lacked in previous applications. If you don’t get to the interview stage, you’re not marketing yourself well enough and need to find out why. If you constantly see a job advertised for that you are applying to, find out what you are lacking.

The key to success is to clearly understand the jobs you apply to and match your skills and qualifications to the employer’s needs. Change your perspective and look at how you present yourself from the employer’s point of view.