Your Objective: Be Memorable

Let’s talk about customer service. It’s something we have all experienced, and I’m guessing you know when you’ve received excellent, mediocre or poor service.

When we’re on the receiving end, I feel pretty confident is saying we all hope to be treated and served by knowledgeable, friendly people in a respectful and helpful manner. No one I know intentionally seeks out help from those who are likely to provide inferior service. So it’s clear that during and after our interactions, most of us can tell what makes an experience excellent, mediocre or poor. It is surprising then that while we can easily identify levels of service in others, employers often say it is difficult finding people who both know what customer service excellence means and who provide it. So is it that some people make a conscious choice not to provide the best service possible?

Maybe the secret is in the job titles. Some job titles make it clear that customer service skills are tied to the position; Customer Service Representatives, Customer Relations or Client Services positions. We would expect to find customer service skills first and foremost if we looked at job postings like these. Further, we would not only expect to see that customer service skills are essential to the jobs; we’d expect a superior level of customer service would be insisted upon by the employer.

With other job titles such as Caretaker, Teacher, Paramedic, Butcher or Florist, customer service skills don’t immediately come to mind when thinking about the required or desired skills for the people who hold them. However, providing customer service excellence in these roles can be the difference between excelling in the job and possibly losing it. The specific technical skills of course are paramount requirements no matter the career or job. Yet some people are so focused on the technical skill requirements, they neglect to hone or improve upon their customer service skills.

Now it’s not good enough to tell yourself, “Treat others as you’d like to be treated”, because not all of us have similar expectations when it comes to how we’d like to be treated. For example, you might be happy with a Florist that asks what flowers you want, arranges them and sells them to you. However, someone else might expect to have the Florist make suggestions, provide tips on keeping flowers looking their best longer, and offer to wrap them both in clear plastic and a protective outer wrapping if the weather is cooler so they don’t spoil. Depending on the person, either Florist might be judged to provide good customer service.

What is it though that separates customer service excellence from good customer service? I believe it is tied to having the people you serve walk away having had a memorable experience. It is because we have come to expect good customer service that it really doesn’t stand out when we receive it; it simply meets our expectations. When service exceeds our expectations, it becomes memorable; and by association so do the people who deliver the customer service excellence.

If employed, think about the job you do now. If you are insufficiently motivated to perform your job well, this entire piece is probably lost on you unfortunately. Not interested in providing even good customer service, it’s highly improbable you’ll see the payoff in putting in the effort to excel. You might defend your average service by saying that increases in salary aren’t tied to great service so why bother? You may even lament that the employer frowns upon doing more so sticking to a script is all you can do. Well I respectfully disagree.

Look, you’re at this job of yours for 7 or 8 hours a day; you may even be with your co-workers more than you are your family. So if you’re spending all this time in a job day after day, week after week, why not throw yourself into the job with enthusiasm and make your experience there the best it can be? What is it YOU can do that will stand out in a positive way, and make the experience of those that you come into contact with truly memorable?

I recall one time I went to get my hair cut and was initially disappointed that the Stylist wanted to cut my hair first and wash it afterward. “Isn’t that backwards?” I said. She told me that she always washes it last to remove all the fine hairs so they don’t fall on my clothes, and the scalp massage that happens during the wash is a nice way to end the haircut. Now I insist on this all the time. It feels great and I think of her every time I head out for a haircut. She became memorable and I return to where she works and hope for her every time.

On a personal note, I have a co-worker I’ve known for years. Late last year they said something to me that resonated and stays with me. “You’re the best of us. You’re always doing more, you’re so positive and you put in so much effort. I envy you. You’re awesome man!” The way I go about my job delivering customer service has made me memorable and I’m grateful for and humbled by his supportive words.

Make customer service a daily priority as many of us do and you’ll be memorable too!

Sustaining A Full-Time Job Search

If you are out of work, it’s likely that you’ve heard at one person remind you that looking for a job is a full-time job itself. I imagine there are times you actually go at it with a high degree of determination too, but if we’re totally honest here, you probably would acknowledge that you’re not actually job searching 7 hours or more a day, 5 days a week, 4 weeks or more a month.

This isn’t a criticism of your effort, nor meant to be a jolt to get going and take things seriously. It’s extremely rare to find anyone who can reach and maintain such a high level of intensity a full-time job search requires. After all, there are going to be setbacks, rejections, employers who won’t even acknowledge your application, resumes and cover letters to write, additional costs to get around and….well….let’s not overdue the obvious and just cause you even more stress. The bottom line is that it’s challenging to go at any one thing full-time all the time without some measure of progress.

The key in my mind to staying focused and energized during a job search lies in the variety of activities you actually undertake during each day. This I believe is where so many who look for employment fail miserably; especially when they are working on a job search independently. Allow me to explain.

From my observations and discussions both with job searchers in person and via the internet, many people go about looking for work in the following way: 1) look for work on a job website, 2) make a resume for the job, 3) send off the resume, 4) repeat. After doing this for some time, the same people lament that there are no more jobs to apply to that they are qualified for, so they stop the job search out of frustration until the next day and see if there are more new jobs to apply to. Many of these people are looking for new websites, thinking that there must be some websites that have many different jobs, but try as they may; they just find the same jobs in a multitude of different places.

The problem with the above isn’t that the person is looking for different websites, it’s that sitting in front of the computer scouring the web for jobs isn’t part of their job search; it’s their entire job search activity.

You’ll find yourself more motivated and the unemployment period much shorter if you go about looking for work using a variety of activities rather than just one. So in addition to sitting down in front of a computer, I’d suggest adding the following to your job search:

  • Compile your references
  • Contact previous employers for openings
  • Research companies you want to work for
  • Use LinkedIn to connect to company employees
  • Update your LinkedIn profile
  • Sign up with a Temp agency in your field
  • Schedule a little fun time during your day
  • Get out of the house and network
  • Exercise your body and your mind
  • Hydrate with water and snack on health foods
  • Give an updated resume to your references
  • Write a thank you note to your references
  • Clean up your social media web pages
  • Take a WHMIS or First Aid course

Now, there are many, (And I do mean many) other things you can do to round out your job search. This list is actually very short. You should also use your phone and call up some employers directly and take the initiative to request a short 20 minute meeting where you go on a fact-finding mission and become the interviewer. This is an information interview and you’re not actually looking for them to interview and hire you but rather, you’re networking, getting some insights into the field and will later use those insights to improve your chances of employment.

Short-term courses like a first aid course will add to the section on your resume where you’re listing your professional development, and provide you with tangible evidence that you are in fact accomplishing something during your job search. In a future interview, if you’re asked what you’ve been doing since your last job, you can point to this and say you’ve updated some skills. Yes this training will cost you some money; it will cost you more to do nothing however so think of this as an investment in yourself.

A variety of activities keeps you fresh and your brain stimulated. Schedule your day into a routine where you check your email at the beginning, middle and end of the day. Build in some short breaks to read a chapter or two of a book you enjoy. At least once a week, get out to some networking activity; a training event, drop in to an Employment office for some people contact. The suggestion I’m making is to tackle your job search using a variety of activities so your brain stays stimulated as you move from one thing to another instead of expecting yourself to do the same one or two things for hours on end day after day and remain committed.

Varying what you do to look for work isn’t any different from varying what you’d do in a job during the day. Employers build in formal breaks so their employees return to their work with energy and focus so you should too when looking for work.



So Desperate To Work You’ll Do Anything?

Have you ever told someone that when it comes to work you’re so desperate you’ll do anything? Okay so you and I both know that this isn’t actually the case. There are jobs you won’t take because they don’t pay enough, the location is too far away or the job itself is too dangerous or menial. Still, there are people who everyday say to somebody in a position to help them find a job, “I’ll do anything.”

The very key to why this approach almost never gets the person the result they want lies in one word that’s contained in the opening sentence of this blog; ‘desperate’. Here’s the thought process that I as an Employment Counsellor go through each time I hear someone make the statement, “I’ll do anything.”:

  1. You’re saying this because you’re desperate.
  2. If you get this job, you’ll no longer be as desperate.
  3. As you’ll no longer be desperate, you’ll want something better.
  4. Because you’ll want something better, you’ll quit.
  5. Because you’ll quit, you’ll be right back here repeating history.

Employers know this as well. People who are desperate to work don’t usually make good employees. You can make the argument of course that someone who is truly desperate will do whatever it takes to hang onto the job they get; they’ll be dependable, work hard not to mess up and be as productive as they can because they need the money. That’s one point of view, but it’s not the reality that the employer and employee experience the majority of the time.

Look at two employers; a good one and a bad one. The bad employer hires an unemployed, desperate person and decides to exploit that desperation. They may pay them under the table or worse promise to pay them and then string them along with excuses like money is tight and that they’ll get paid next week. The money never comes of course but the employer knows the worker is desperate and so they squeeze every hour they can out of the person until they quit. Then the bad employer looks for another desperate applicant and repeats the process; essentially getting free labour in the end much of the time.

The good employer on the other hand has no such intentions of treating the employee badly. They take on the desperate worker, invest time and money into training them with the expectation that the person will get better on the job over time, and eventually come to truly be 100% productive – usually after a five or six months or more depending on the job. However, what they experience is that despite their willingness to invest in training the new employee, the employee often quits after only a short time. As the job was never really wanted in the first place, they never stopped looking for other jobs. They hate themselves when they wake up in the morning and hate their present reality going to this terrible job, and not being quite as desperate as they once were when they had no job, they just don’t show up and quit.

Therefore, it is highly likely that the good employers don’t want to repeat the mistake of hiring desperate people who are wrong for the job in the first place. They’d rather hire people who are cut out for the work and really want to do a certain job as evidenced by their past work history. They think, “If I hire this Accountant to pick mushrooms, they’ll probably quit soon because they’re really going to keep looking for a job as an Accountant. When that happens, I’ll be looking for another Mushroom Picker in 3 weeks or less.”

Look, I understand that what you mean when you say, “I’m desperate; I’ll do anything”. You’re really saying, “I’m open to considering many kinds of work that I haven’t before, until I can lock down the kind of work that would ideally suit me.” When you’re feeling desperate, it isn’t the best time to make a big decision; such as finding employment. Little decisions like whether to have cereal or a bagel for breakfast? Sure; go ahead. Making a decision to apply for work you find on a job board, that up until you read it you’ve never seriously considered or even thought of before; no! This is a bad decision. Even if you get the job you’ll immediately feel bad; you never thought you’d sink this low, you hope no one you know ever sees you at work, you didn’t go to school for this, they money isn’t worth the hard labour etc.

It’s important to understand then that good employers aren’t likely to hire desperate workers while bad employers are more likely to do so. Therefore saying you’ll do anything increases the odds of landing with a poor employer and the job will be a poor personal fit. It’s now a lose-lose proposition for both you and a good employer.

A better decision when you’re desperate is to seek out the help of an Employment Coach, Employment Counsellor or Career Counsellor. I don’t mean to self-promote here, but things aren’t working out doing things the way you’ve been doing them. What’s to risk by getting some objective help from a trained professional who can help you get more than just a job; they can help you get the right job.


So you want to work. As much as you need a job, you’re feeling a great deal of pressure weighing down on you from the other things going on in your life. If you could eliminate all those other things and just focus on your job search alone, it would be so much easier. Life however isn’t like that is it?

Maybe you’re stressed about:      Debt    Addictions    Depression    Mental Health   

Childcare   Plan Dinner    Food shopping    Housing   Dentist    Doctor     Makeup

Gas or bus money    Garbage Day   Low Energy    Remembering to smile

Unsure of career   Low self-esteem      Doubt    Confusion   Body image

Abuse   Alone    Isolated     High Expectations    Fear   Uncertainty ETC.

Thislook like what you struggle with each day? So on top of all these stressors, you’re looking for work. I get it. Work would definitely help with your finances and maybe more importantly help with your self-esteem by giving you that sense of identity you’ve been missing. It’s all just so confusing when you feel pressure coming at you from all sides; especially from family and friends who you’d think would be empathetic to your situation but as much as they think their being helpful, it’s like their just adding fuel to the fire every time they say, “Oh you poor thing, what’s the matter honey?”

Don’t you just want to really tell them? I mean really lay it out and say, “I’ll tell you what the matter is! Here’s all the stuff I’m dealing with at the moment and just so you don’t feel left out, YOU’RE part of the problem! AHHHHHH!”

However, if you did that – told them what’s really going on, they’d look at you like you’ve really lost it and then you’d end up feeling worse and apologizing – just one more thing to add to your list of things you’re doing wrong and have to fix. But that’s you isn’t it; The Fixer. You’re so good at fixing other people’s small problems and issues but haven’t had much success fixing your own. They come to you (now that’s irony) when they have these problems because you’re the one they dump on and you’re such a good listener. So uh, who are you sharing your burdens with?

You know, stress itself isn’t bad or good; it’s just…stress. On the positive side, stress can alert us that something is wrong and give us the impetus to change course. If someone jumps out of an alley in the dark, we feel immediate stress and we run away with a burst of energy until we reach safety. Whew! With the source of the stress gone, our body and mind revert back to normal and the adrenalin we produced subsides. Stress can be good! We’d prefer the stress of the first day at a new job to the stress of looking for one. Much better to be stressed about, “Will they like me? Did I wear the right dress?” instead of, “I hate making resumes. Why won’t someone give me a chance?”

The reality is that some of us cope better with things than others. This isn’t another thing you’ve failed at by the way. Learning how to cope or deal with stress can be learned and you can make some changes that put yourself more in control. Honestly, some things in life are beyond your total control, but you never lose the power in how you react to these same things. If you feel you don’t cope or react to stress very well, one of the very first things you can do to make some progress is recognize that changing your approach might be part of the answer. In order to try a different approach to dealing with stress, you can get some suggestions from others who provide this expertise. Seeking out such experts for help isn’t an admission of failure. View seeking out help from qualified experts as a positive step. If you’ve been reluctant to do this in the past, maybe being open to someone else’s suggestions is worth trying.

Something you can do is probably something that will seem unpleasant at first. Write down the things going on in your life that are the sources of stress you are experiencing. Even if it’s a long list and you think you’ll just feel worse looking at it when you’re done, getting this list together will help you identify the things you want to tackle. This will alleviate the feeling of feeling stressed and not knowing why. The list will also help others who you may turn to, as they try to fully understand what’s going on and how they might help give you some suggestions from an objective point of view.

In the short term, some fresh air and mild exercise are a good start. Breathe deeply and set aside some time for things you do find enjoyable – as tight as your time might be. If you can, find some things that make you laugh like a funny movie or being with your best friend who can bring a smile to your face.

On another note, ask your Doctor to recommend a professional to share some of your stressors with.  Speaking with an objective, well-trained and experienced professional who is skilled at listening and offering supportive ideas may just be a great idea itself!



Think Of The Implications Before You Click, ‘Like’

It happens innocently enough; you’re scrolling through your social Facebook feeds, looking at the various pictures and posts shared by your friends and then you see it. There on your screen is a post you find offensive but one of your friends has clicked on the ‘like’ button. You think, “How could they like something like that?!”

I’ve come across two such posts within a few days of each other, liked by two different people I count among my friends, and I’m perplexed in both cases. Both posts were similar in that they both were derogatory and directed at welfare recipients. The first one I saw read in large print, “Welfare isn’t meant to be a career choice.” The second said, “Welfare applicants should have to take a drug test. ‘Like’ if you agree.”

Both posts got shared with me because my friends had ‘liked’ them and they passed to me. In both cases, I see some bitter irony. One man has a family member whose full-time job is assisting welfare recipients by providing them with financial support. In the second post, the friend who shared it with me has a family member who is in a senior municipal management position and the municipality distributes social assistance. Are both these men’s opinions theirs alone or are they also opinions held by their family members? Oh and one of the two has himself been a recipient in the past of financial support!

Obviously the people or person who first created these posts feel that those on welfare should be restricted from receiving aid if they have drug issues, and everyone should have restrictions on the length of time they can receive benefits at all. I understand the idea of free speech; the principle of being able to share what’s on your mind and have your views heard. Here’s some more irony however; I replied to the first post about people making welfare a career choice, and the original poster must have decided my dissenting voice should be silenced, as my post was deleted from the thread.  Free speech goes both ways or it’s not free speech. Is the person deleting my view so insecure that they can’t tolerate a debate or differing view?

But it’s easy isn’t it; this clicking of a ‘like’ button?  Sometimes we move so fast on the scrolling that we read something and click, ‘like’ without stopping to really think about the implications. That’s a possibility for sure, and maybe my two friends did just that. On the other hand, they’ve made their views known, and this is one piece of information I learn and add to others that forms my overall opinion of them. When we see under posts, “John Doe” likes this we might even feel compelled to ‘like’ it too because John Doe is our friend. This is a lemming-like mentality however; we may want to be liked so much ourselves that we’ll do something as innocent as clicking, ‘like’ to be seen to be similar to our friends; peer influence and pressure.

There will always be people who post these things believing that they are only saying what ‘all of us’ feel. They get a lot of ‘likes’ too. I wonder though if the people who clicked ‘like’ were actually asked in person to comment on such statements if they would answer the same or differently?  What if Facebook evolved to the point where you could click on a feature that showed you all the things you and your friends liked? Imagine your profile included not only your name and picture but a summary section titled, “Here’s all the things John Doe ‘likes’”…

Somehow I think to see a summary of all the things we ‘like’ might be very revealing; revealing to us, our friends, perhaps employers too. Suppose that as a general hiring process employers visited social media, keyed in your name with the intent of seeing what you believe, what you stand for and your perspectives. After all, social media isn’t some private thing we all engage in; social media is public. So if it’s public, you knowingly consent to having your views, beliefs and ‘likes’ seen by anybody – and you’re comfortable with that. It hardly seems intelligent to say that it is somehow unfair for employers to screen your Facebook page, but anybody else is free to check out the things you make public.

So, following this logic… If the people who ‘like’ the idea of welfare applicants having to take a drug test before they qualify, I’m guessing they also, ‘like’ the idea of employers trolling their personal but public Facebook pages to see what they really believe before they qualify for the jobs they apply to. Seems perfectly logical. Do you agree or have I missed something?

What we post online that could come back to bite us is generally referred to as Digital Dirt. If you have pictures, comments and content that you think might be looked upon badly and you wouldn’t want an employer to see your views, clean up your own digital dirt. Just making something private on your own page doesn’t make it private if shared by your friends on their pages. Oh and if you think employers don’t have the right to check out your public social media pages you’d be wrong. They do have the right, and they do.

‘Like’ this post?

Tips For An Easier Job Interview

Many people fear job interviews. What will they ask? What if the mind goes blank? Let me help you feel more confident, be more prepared and be a strong candidate. 

Let’s assume you have already submitted your resume and because it matched up well with the employer’s needs, you have been granted an interview. You’re at the stage where you’re now preparing to interview.

Pull out the job posting. Note that it has two major sections it communicates; the job responsibilities and the job qualifications. If the job posting you applied to is short on either one or both, visit the company website, search online for similar job postings; in short, do your research to flesh out both what you’ll be expected to do in the job and the qualifications based on the level you are applying for (entry, mid, intermediate or senior).

Presumably you have the qualifications or they wouldn’t have invited you in. Don’t neglect to look them over, but concentrate on the job responsibilities right now. Look over the job posting see what you’ll be expected to actually do. Some things are going to come across as more important than other things. If it says for example you’ll do, “general office duties”, that’s not as significant as, “answer multiple phone lines, administer, set-up and organize electronic client files”.

Looking at the job responsibilities, first list the key or core responsibilities and make a second list of the less critical ones. Here’s one key thing to now understand: the interviewer(s) are highly likely to want to hear about your experience and expertise when it comes to the key or core job functions. It follows then that the questions they would be likely to ask you are going to be about these key functions.

So if the job posting called for superior problem-solving, leadership and negotiation skills, we can reasonably predict in advance the questions asked will have to do with these three items. Here’s another key preference of those who interview: instead of asking you questions about how you’d act in the future, they are almost certain to ask you about your past experiences. Past experiences are the best indicators of how you’ll likely act moving forward, whereas asking you how you might hypothetically act in the future just gets the interview answers the applicant guesses they want to hear.

So knowing that they are going to ask you about your past experiences, there are some important things you can do to prepare. For starters, you need an example of the core things they listed in the posting. So here’s what you do:

1.       Skill: Problem Solving   Example: Moments before the client arrived, retrieved the password- protected files from an ill co-worker and imbedded them in the  presentation. 

2.       Skill: Leadership            Example:   You empowered an under-performing co-worker who modeled your behaviour and by doing so mastered new sales techniques.   

3.       Skill: Negotiation           Example: Negotiated a trade deal with a supplier, reducing costs by 18%.

In this case there are 3 key job requirements, and for each one there is a specific example you’ve recalled that you can use to demonstrate for the interviewer(s) that you have the needed experience. You need to flesh out the stories associated with each example, and the best way to do this is to employ what is called the STAR technique.

Situation, Task, Action and Result are the 4 components of the STAR Interview technique. As you begin your answer, describe the situation you were in, what had to be done or the problem that had to be overcome. Move on to the action you took to resolve it and then finish by stating the positive result.

For each answer or story, don’t memorize the entire answer – that’s too stressful! Instead, come up with a key word or phrase that will trigger the story in your brain when you need it.

So you might think:

1.       Problem Solving: Locked password

2.       Leadership: Mentoring peer

3.       Negotiation: 18% cost savings

The trigger words, associated with the skill or experience you want to access in the interview, will make it easier for you to recall those great stories when you need them. If needed, you could write down the trigger words or phrases on a small card put in front of you at the interview. If you feel stumped, a quick glance at these apparent odd phases or trigger words will help you access the memory files that house your great proof stories. Each story is delivered using the STAR technique.

I point out here that you are in fact, making very good educated guesses at the questions they’ll ask; and you’ll be right more often than not. Therefore, knowing the questions in advance, you can best prepare solid answers to prove you have the required skills and experience. This technique sure beats going in blind and ‘winging’ it; counting on your ability to think on the fly and provide your best answers.

Try it now by looking at a job posting, pick out the key or core experiences and then think about your past jobs and where you may have demonstrated the very thing they are looking for in the right candidate. Learn this process and you are well on your way to feeling more confident going into an interview, and you’ll interview better as a result.

Thank You My Peers; This One’s For You

I want to pass on my sincere thank you to you, my colleagues who work on a daily basis advocating for those who are on social assistance. This article is specifically directed to you; as it’s all about you and the great work you do. If you like what you read, share it –not necessarily on the net; maybe with your co-workers who might miss it otherwise. Share it with your family if they wonder what it is you really do all day; your kids if you suspect they don’t have a clue about the impact you have and the tremendously important work you do.

What this isn’t is a self-serving post slapping us on the back broadcasting, “How great we are!” for anybody to hear. You know as well as I do however in the value of receiving encouragement and acknowledgement.  We dole that out all day long! So allow me to extend my 900 words of thanks and for a few moments this day, allow yourself to just read and be acknowledged.

Don’t you love those ‘light bulb’ scenarios where you see that exact moment on the face of someone you are working with who suddenly grasps what it is you’re sharing? Of course you do! It is precisely because of your intervention that they suddenly ‘get it’; ‘it’ being something that helps them move forward. Because of you, they not only know something intellectually, they understand it and own it when that moment happens; learning just transferred from you to them. Well done!

These are pretty great people we work with and for aren’t they? They have the survival skills to get by on what amounts to less than minimum wage in many jurisdictions. While many people in the general population wouldn’t remotely consider working for less than half the minimum wage; you and I know that the people we serve have no choice but to accept less than half those wages. Not only do some in society begrudge them this meagre amount to live on, those same people expect social assistance recipients to smile, be in good health, get around and look for work, get an education – but not if they can get off assistance without it of course – and keep themselves dressed and groomed smartly. Best they are thankful and don’t have a poor attitude or show discouragement either.

We however are the sensitive ones; the compassionate ones. We aren’t just bleeding hearts. We are wise enough to know holding other people in judgement for how they live their lives and the choices they make is wrong. We’ve come to understand that these social assistance recipients are… well… people. We know how intrinsically essential we become in their lives because they tell us don’t they? Not all of them of course, but many do express their gratitude and thanks. They know we are in positions of power and can help move them forward or make things more difficult. The best of us, – you of course – take that responsibility on each day with each person you interact with and sometimes we do it so naturally we think it’s no big thing. It’s huge!

We are their role models; we may be the sole person in their lives who treats them with respect and dignity. We may be the lone person who actually sees something of value in them and most importantly believes in them. I don’t exaggerate. We know how fragile some of these people are, growing up in broken homes and enduring abusive relationships. We have to walk that fine line between caring enough to be helpful and not over-caring to the point where we suffer compassion fatigue and burn out.

How many decisions do you make in a day? Now how many of those decisions impact directly on someone whose situation is so fragile that holding their assistance or releasing it means the difference between being housed or on the street? We know only a fraction of how stressful it must surely be to constantly live fraught with the worry of whether or not the cheque will arrive in time to pay the rent.

You do tremendously important work and are in a noble profession. You are simultaneously a source of finance, a figure of authority, role model, teacher, mentor, advisor, guide and helper. And sometimes – in the moments when you’ve got a pile of work on your desk and numerous phone calls to return, there you are just listening on your end of the phone to someone who just needs your ear. Frustrating at times? Absolutely when there’s so much to do and a computer system that demands your attention. But you do it nonetheless.

You and I, we’re pretty fortunate to be in such a position. Were it you and I on the other side of the table needing help and being ignorant of all the help available, we’d be so grateful to have an empathetic and caring person to help us.

A humble and sincere thank you wherever you work on this globe of ours when you toil on behalf of those who often don’t have a voice of their own; or rather their voices speak but are not heard. You are doing great work and the impact you’re having is cumulative; you may not see the progress at first, but its building. Think of how many lives you make better every day!

Are You Contemplating A Leap?

Something interesting suddenly struck me recently and I wonder if you too have had a similar experience; possibly like me, you weren’t entirely aware of it yourself. Or it could be that I’m just realizing it myself and slow getting to the dance!

What I’ve become aware of is a large number of the conversations I’ve been a part of, and the musings I’ve read of others centers on men and women in their late 40’s and early to mid-50’s who are openly contemplating exactly what to do with the balance of their working lives. Now in retrospect it may not be a new phenomenon.

The difference I suppose is that historically there were fewer types of jobs to choose from in the past. With fewer choices available, most people who hadn’t reached retirement had a choice between the jobs they currently had and doing a similar job for another company or becoming an entrepreneur themselves. Most you understand stayed with companies for decades and it was the norm to retire from these employers.

Fast-forward to 2016 and there are more jobs being created than ever before. Technology alone as a single sector has created job titles that didn’t exist just a few months before. Go back a generation and there are even more jobs that didn’t exist because the environment was different. There were no Information Technology jobs because the technology hadn’t evolved to the state it is today, and home computers didn’t even exist.

The consequence of more types of jobs existing today is that there are more choices than ever from which to choose. Add to this that because we are living longer than in the past on average, we have more time to spend in retirement, and we may want to work longer in life to both pay for a longer retirement with less income, or just keep involved longer in our work lives.

Whatever the reason, my sense is that these conversations people are having about exploring employment or work options into their 50’s and 60’s  when they’re in their late 40’s to mid-50’s is becoming more popular. It’s not that people are always disenchanted with their current jobs and have lost interest; although I know of some who would say that is exactly their issue. For some, it’s a desire to do something different; a last chance perhaps to do something they’ve always wanted to do or they finally feel a now-or-never mentality.

Now when they arrive at this point of their lives where there is an urge to explore options, the options available largely are confined to whatever skills and experience the person has in their life inventory. Those of us who have worked in a single sector all our lives may on the one hand have less choices available than those of us who have worked in positions across several sectors. Those who have continued in their adult lives with upgrading their education may be more attractive than those who haven’t to potential employers.

Let’s also say that there are some people who are just more comfortable taking risks than others as well. If you have a conservative nature you may think the person quitting a stable, well paid position for some new venture is foolish, off their rocker, gambling with their retirement savings. On the other hand the person who leaps may be feeling they’ll die on the inside and live with regret wondering, “what if” throughout their retirement if they don’t find the courage to jump into something new and invigorating, mentally stimulating.

This isn’t where I’ll wade in on what is right or wrong – that’s for those individuals to contemplate and arrive at decisions they literally have to live with moving forward.

I do think as I say that the quiet musings or open discussions are just becoming more prevalent of late with the people in my network. Is it a restlessness of spirit perhaps; normal checks and balances that happen throughout our lives and nothing more? I suppose one might say that generally our teen years are about setting us up for emerging independence from our parents. Our 20’s are for exploring people, the world and ourselves, our 30’s are for establishing our futures, taking on responsibilities, finding roots to hold onto. Our 40’s enrich our lives and we reach our potential. Our 50’s we start looking at our work lives and see for the first time a window that’s just starting to close. In our 60’s we have far less compunction to re-invent ourselves and start anew; less willingness to gamble the nest egg. I don’t necessarily believe this work-related timeline is the absolute way it is for everyone.    

I’d love to have you weigh in and comment on where you are in your life at the moment and what musings – quiet or otherwise you are mulling over. Is there something stirring in your consciousness and if so, what’s driving those thoughts for something else? Are you afraid, excited or confused about the growing state of flux in which you find yourself more often these days? What considerations do you have to take to change?

Change can be liberating, threatening, give you your sanity back, put a smile on your face, fill your retirement with memories or empty your bank account. If you continue the course you’re on, will you be okay with the choice you’ve settled on?

A Workshop Facilitation Problem

Today I have a choice to make, and it’s one I’ve been contemplating and confounded by all of last evening; I still don’t know what I’ll decide. This is the kind of dilemma every Workshop Facilitator has the possibility of being confronted with and those in the workshops themselves will never have to face, but will certainly be impacted by.

I’m starting in the middle, so let me back up to yesterday morning right about this time. Here in Ontario we got snow which caused delays in people getting to their destinations. I myself arrived 15 minutes later to work than I normally do, but as I always allow 30 minutes leeway, I was still 15 minutes ahead of my 8:00 a.m. official start. So the usual 1 hour drive took 1 hour and 15 minutes. All the way i, I had one prevailing thought; “How many people will show up for Day 1 of the workshop?”

The workshop I’m running is a 10 day intensive job search for 12 unemployed people on social assistance. In order to attend, they can’t refer themselves; either I or one of my colleagues must refer them to me, and I go over ahead of the program what they are in store for. Gauging their interest and commitment, I then select 12 who in short, need to want a job more than I want it for them.

Well of course there was a problem with attendance or I’d be sharing something else. 5 showed up by the 9:00 a.m. start time; 1 called to say he was running late and would be there shortly and arrived 20 minutes in. Of the six remaining, 1 called in with the flu, 1 had a flat tire on the way, 3 emailed to say they had job interviews in Toronto and would gone for the entire day, and 1 didn’t call in at all. When I reached the last fellow, he claimed the weather kept him from coming and he “was going to call” but never did.

So here’s the situation in which I find myself. Literally 6 of the 12 weren’t there for the first day; a day in which I had those present introduce themselves and me to them. We covered expectations and I handed out resources both electronic and manual. We went over resumes as a group and had a quick visual look at the ones of those in attendance so they could contrast theirs with the format I’d like to see them use.

Under normal conditions, I’d move ahead to day with a short ½ hour talk on some job search subject and then release them all to job search. However, if Day 1 takes from 9:00 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. to set everyone up for the two weeks and get them mentally prepared, I’ve got 6 who should similarly need that same time today. However, I’ve got 6 who did show up and expect to move ahead and throw themselves into job searching; each meeting with me individually for guidance and help starting this morning while the others job search.

Now if I was missing one or two on the first day, I’d have them briefly introduce themselves and the group to them, and I’d get them up to speed in an hour. But half the class?  So I ponder the predicament I’m in. If as they claim, 3 were at job interviews in a neighbouring city on a snowy day where travel time was slowed, they have excellent reasons for being absent. The flu victim and the one with the flat tire both have claims beyond their control; although I do wonder why a flat tire would keep a person away the entire day. The only one with no excuse is the person who blamed the weather but didn’t take the responsibility to contact me and leave a message.

No matter the reason, I’m potentially standing in front of 12 people in 3 hours and 15 minutes, and I’ll have to know what my plan is for the day. Just as the weather tested their decision-making skills yesterday, their decision yesterday tests my own decision-making skills today.

I share this situation with you my readers, because some of you are also Workshop Facilitators and we can learn from one another. Ever had this problem? In talking with my peers at the close of the day yesterday, some would have refused the guy who didn’t call at all from attending the session entirely. That however I personally reject in this unique situation as even were I to ban him, I’d have 5 who still need some kind of orientation so what’s 1 more? He is on a short leash however (if that metaphor isn’t too offensive).

I also share this because if you are a client attending workshops, you hear a side of things that you may not have given much thought to. Those of us running such workshops do care, we plan them out with your best interests in mind and each day has something meaningful to learn. If you lose a day, not only do you mess things up for the presenter, you can’t learn in 9 days what 10 were scheduled to share. You’re short changing yourself.

We shall see how the day unfolds – and how many show up. Whatever decision I make will depend in large part on that.

1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8. Done!


“Son you’ve got 8 seconds to tell me why I should hire you.” 


“Six seconds left…”

Sounds like the dialogue from some cheesy film from the sixties, or a who-dunnit novel only we’d have to substitute the word, ‘hire’ with ‘let you live’. 

This isn’t however some novel or television movie; nor is it from the past. No, this is the reality for many job seekers when someone in the hiring company is looking over a resume – in the absence of the job seeker themselves mind – and it’s today’s reality. This 8 second minimum look of course is the first perusal; the quick scan to see if your application is worth more of their valuable time. Of course before this 8 second look over, it may have already had to get past the computer scan the employer put the resume through to even get this brief look. 

If you don’t think that the employer is being entirely fair with this quick once-over of your resume, think again. Yours of course isn’t the only one they have to look at. There may well be 75 resumes or more all nicely arranged in a pile on his or her desk to go through. This person has a responsibility to find, interview and hired the very best person from the numerous ones before them. 

Now to aid in this selection process and narrow down the choices, companies are turning to technology. Employers these days want to interview the cream of the crop; the best of all those who applied. How they use technology to help themselves starts before the first resume is even received. They start the selection process by identifying exactly what the very best candidate would have to have in order to be hired for the job they are posting. 

The folks in Human Resources -who may in on the interviews with the actual Supervisor or Manager – speak with those in the Department where the new hire will work to get a clear idea of both the mandatory and desirable skills, qualifications and experience being sought. These make up the guts of the job posting; in other words the posting will clearly state in not so many words, “If you want to be selected for an interview, these are the things we’ll be looking for on your resume. The more you have, the better your chances.

Yes it’s these key words and phrases that the company will then program into the ATS (Applicant Tracking Software) system in order to divide the resumes into those that fail to mirror the posting, and those which are closest to the ideal applicant. This latter group gets the interviews while the first group is passed over. 

So now, out of the ones that have been selected as most mirroring the posting, the human eye balls now scan. We’re still not talking about three or four resumes. No the initial parsing or widdling down has still given the employer quite a number to go through. So they do what you and I would most likely do. They look at these resumes, and they look at the other work they’ve got to get done. After all, interviewing job applicants is only one thing on their to-do list. There’s a lot of work to get done so they want to economize their time going through these resumes. 

In minimizing the time spent reading resumes of hopeful job seekers, they still recognize the need to select the best of the best to interview. That 8 second preliminary look just does one thing; “I like so I’ll read more” vs. “Not impressed – No thanks.” 

Now when you compare the amount of time you put into making your resume vs. the time someone is taking to read it over, it hardly seems fair – unless of course you get the call inviting you in for the interview. So knowing this process, it makes sense to put your best effort into making the resume easy to read, and putting your key strengths and best features right up near the top of the resume so the reader doesn’t have to dig or hunt for the core qualifications. 

Constructing your resume with what you can do for them, rather than what you want them to do for you is the key. It’s like you’re saying, “Let’s get right down to it. Here’s what I’m going to do for you; here’s the solution to your problem.” If you can hook them in the opening few lines and with each bullet in your Qualifications section you annunciate your qualifications that match what they want in their job posting, you’ve got a shot at moving on. 

The resumes that scream, “I’m looking for…”, “I want to work for a company that…”, “Seeking a position where I can…” that immediately get rejected. It’s not about you and what you want – never has been. It’s always been and continues to be about what you will actually do for the company in the position they are advertising for. Are you solving their problem, filling a need of theirs or missing the point entirely and talking about what you’re looking for?

Oh and use their language please. Don’t refer to clients if they use the term residents or customers. Extract what’s in the job posting and mirror it in your resume. You’ll find you attract more attention and move to the interview stage.