Job Searching? Make Some Noise

So you’re looking for work. Aside from yourself and your immediate family, who knows you’re back on the job search hunt? Are you going about things keeping your search to yourself or have you let everyone know?

Think about companies that market a product. If no one hears about the product, they can’t look for it because they haven’t the awareness that it even exists. A good marketing campaign would make sure that product is highly visible, you’d be reminded of it whenever you watched television, picked up a newspaper or went online. You’d hear the buzz from co-workers, friends and family, and then you’d get interested and want to know what all the fuss is about. In short, you’d check it out.

The way you go about marketing yourself as looking for work isn’t really any different. Therefore you’ve got to go about looking for a job using an approach that may come as unnatural to you; telling people rather than concealing your job search.

The more people who know you’re looking; and the more they know what it is you’re looking for, the better. Until you get that big break – that inside information on the job you end up getting – you don’t know where its going to come from. It could be that someone you know is in a position to hire you of course, but it’s far more likely that someone you know, knows someone else who provides the lead or gives you an interview.

Now I don’t suggest you have your resume ready for the paper boy, you leave one with the gas station attendant or leave one with your tip at the local fast food restaurant. Those people might know somebody who could help you but the odds are they don’t. That kind of broadcasting doesn’t usually end up being productive and it takes a lot of energy.

As a first step, you should know what you’re after. You need to know in order to communicate clearly with others what opportunities you are open to. The next step is to start with the people you know best in the workforce. If the job you’re searching for is in your current industry, start leveraging your contacts. When you make your connections aware that you’re back on the market, at least some of them will keep you in mind when they hear about openings. Some will even go so far as to check their own internal postings to see if there are any opportunities you might be suited for.

Sharing your CV or resume with them as a tool of reference gives them a reminder of what you’ve done, what you’re looking for and what your qualifications are. Touching base with these people on a regular basis keeps you at the forefront of their mind and could be the difference between hearing about an opportunity before the deadline passes, or hearing about it 3 weeks later at a backyard BBQ because they forgot about you.

Maybe you’re a coy one though. You know, you’re already working and don’t want to broadcast your plans to leave for some other opportunity in case you lose the job you’ve already got. Okay, let’s not tell your immediate co-workers or boss about your plans just yet. Still, there are people you can market yourself to outside your office mates.

It depends of course on what you’re after. Are you wanting to leave the department but not the organization, or are you after a completely fresh start with a different organization altogether? You may not even be searching in the same field if you’re burnt out, seeking a physical change or maybe you’re going to make a geographical move to another city.

Just as a marketing department wants to create a buzz about their product, you want to create a buzz about you. The best way to do that is to market your benefits to those in a position to buy. Think about others needs; their challenges and their goals. What is they are trying to accomplish or what problem are they trying to resolve? Do your skills, experience and qualifications put you in a place to answer their needs?

Now you arrive at the pitch. On the radio or television it’s a pretty polished ad; designed to hit a target audience with a specific message: buy this product and you’ll benefit because it does this or that, saving you time, money etc. Your personal pitch should likewise be targeted to a specific audience. If you hire me, I’ve got the background in this and that which coupled with these skills will result in me solving this problem or addressing this need. In other words, hire me and you benefit. If you can’t figure out exactly what the benefit of hiring you would be, it’s highly probable they won’t figure it out either.

Some job seekers actually have a get-together at their home and make a splashy announcement about their job search. You could do this, but it’s more probable you’ll notify people using a more conservative approach. It’s up to you of course, but I think the worse thing you can do when you’re looking is keep your search 100% private. Ironically, many job seekers do exactly this.

Networking is the key to a successful job search; not mandatory, but it definitely spreads the work and gets others involved in your job search.


Job Interviews And Facial Expressions

When we flex our facial muscles in various combinations and degrees, we produce different expressions, and it’s these expressions that give those who see us clues as to our emotional state. Facial gestures and expressions can communicate our sense of well-being, our mood and personality.

It’s these facial expressions that make us approachable or send the message we’d rather be left alone. We can communicate happiness, excitement, fear, loathing, pride, acceptance, ignorance and any number of other feelings just by changing our facial expressions; sometimes with small subtle movements or conversely with wild animated exaggerations.

This much you probably know already. How aware are you however of your facial expression at any one time? Most of us are pretty good at putting on the right face at the right moment. We get some bad news for example but put on a courageous face when the kids enter the room because we don’t want them to pick up that something is wrong. Or we roll our eyes when someone is boring us with a story but the second they make contact with us again we snap back to a look that communicates deep interest.

You can look at any number of faces and more often than not approximate the right mood or message that person is communicating without them saying a single word. Whether its pain, sadness, despair, anger, joy, elation, surprise, gratitude or longing, we can identify the message because facial expressions are universal.

When you’re looking for work, it is as you know a pretty frustrating experience much of the time. The stress of applying and hearing nothing at all in return or being rejected over and over can start to take over our general mood more often than we’d like. If our unemployment period is extensive, there is a very real danger that the smiling face we used to present to the world becomes replaced with furrowed brows, stress lines and more often a neutral or negative norm.

So this is what we should be aware of and fight back against; the danger of losing our generally friendly disposition and smile. After all, when job searching, we want to encourage contact with people, we need those connections to increase our odds of being viewed favourably by others as a positive addition to their workforce. The last thing we want to come across as is brooding and oppressive just by the look on our face. That kind of message received by those around us would cause many to refrain from approaching or wanting to be around us; at a time of course when we need those very people to give us tips, leads and open doors to opportunities.

It is a real testament to the strength of a person who can go about their job search and sustain a positive attitude when it’s so easy and tempting to share the setbacks and disappointments. Keeping a positive outlook, and a look on our faces as we look for work that looks out on all who see us is a big plus. After all, if you can stay positive, look enthusiastic and communicate this with your face, you should be able to convince an interviewer that you’ll bring the same attitude to the workplace and work with the same positivity when things get tough there.

Throughout your interview, you’ve got a lot to consider and thinking on your feet as questions get asked of you can be challenging for some people. Your face will communicate many different messages to the employer. You will want to communicate pleasure in answering questions about the job because you’re fired up about it. You’ll also communicate being thoughtful as you consider questions and search your memories for the best way to answer. What you want to avoid is looking perplexed, out of your league, intimidated, confused or unsure.

Of course the first impression you make on the people you meet the day of the interview is critical. A genuine smile and giving people your full attention by looking directly at them will communicate strength, assertiveness, friendly and confident. All of these are desirable impressions to make on those you meet. Whatever you do, don’t give the Receptionist a bland or negative face and then instantly turn on the charm for the person who comes out to greet you for the interview. The Receptionist may be asked for their assessment of you, or they could in fact not be the Receptionist at all, but just covering for the Receptionist until they return, and you’re facing the Interviewer all along!

If you wish, a good exercise you can do in private is to size yourself up in front  of the mirror. Get dressed and stand there. Extend your hand as if you were shaking the hand of the interview and smile. In order to see the impact you’re having, you HAVE to look at yourself in the mirror and this will force you to look where you should be looking. If you’re typically shy and look down or off to the left etc. you’ll correct yourself without knowing it just to see yourself.

As an amateur actor, I have spent many a time in front of mirror looking sad, elated, crying, joyous etc. to see what I’m communicating.

Make sure the messages you send with your face are the ones you want to share!



You With The Chip On Your Shoulder

Hey you. (Sorry about that; I don’t know your name.) You with the chip on your shoulder that’s so large no one could fail to notice it. I bet you’ve had a lot of bad breaks over your life that keep adding to it. Maybe it was rough right from your birth into this world and it’s been that way ever since, or perhaps your early years were pretty decent and it was only as you grew up that your life and all the people you’ve met in it have made it a tough go.

Either way it doesn’t really matter right now does it? I mean let’s face it; you’re the kind of person who just wakes up to battle one day at a time. I don’t know you of course, (which is exactly what you’d tell me if I was standing in front of you); yeah you’d tell me not to think I know you either. But just like you, I’ve come to eyeball people and size them up pretty quickly. You do it to survive and get what you need while I do it to size up what they need. We both have to be pretty good at reading people in order to get on.

Anyhow, we’re agreed on one thing I hope; life isn’t anywhere near what you once thought, and it’s not getting better. On the outside you’ll tell anybody who will listen that you don’t need their help or their charity; you’ve got this image to protect of being the lone wolf after all – but every now and then you’d be more than open to some help from the right person. Don’t worry; I’m not going to tell you I’m that guy. I’m too far away from where you are anyhow, and if you saw me, you’d just peg me on sight as some old guy who thinks he’s got all the answers.

Well I don’t have all the answers – no one does. All of us though, have some of the answers; it just depends on the questions we’re being asked as to whether or not the answers we have fit. Take you for example. When it comes to fending for yourself, maybe you’re the go-to guy. You know people on a first-name basis who can get you what you need so you can survive. You get what you take; nobody gives you anything for free unless its stuff no one needs or wants.

I suppose if somebody followed you around unseen, they might from time-to-time actually see that chip on your shoulder ease up ever so slightly. You’ve been known to drop a few bills in some homeless persons coffee cup, stare down some punk who otherwise would have verbally or physically abused him or her on the street as they begged for change. Imagine that, you with your own demons protecting someone else from the taunts and jeers of the better off. You can be intimidating, and when it suits you, you notch it up and that feeds both your power and your view of the world as a cold place.

This much I get – no seriously I understand this much. But it’s draining isn’t it? I mean all this energy to live on the edge, keep up that scowl that looks out and down on just about everybody you meet. Even if you wanted to drop the chip on the shoulder; (and its long past being a chip anyhow isn’t it? It’s more like a boulder now), it’s hard to let people in and take a chance on them because so far anyway, it almost always backfires and ends in disappointment. You’ve tried in the past and been burned; people making promises of a better life if you only do this or that, and even when you give it a shot, they let you down. Things don’t change; people don’t change. You’re pegged as more trouble than you’re worth; a bad one, one to stay clear of, not redeemable.  And every time things go sour, you just add one more layer to your tough exterior in order to protect yourself; you’re a survivor after all and can’t rely on anyone but you.

Okay enough. At what point do you own up and decide that despite the raw deal you’ve had in the past, you are responsible for what happens in your future based on what you do in the here and now? Look at people older than you going through the world with this chip on their shoulders and you’ll see they almost always look older than they really are. They may have bodies that are lean and mean on the outside, but they’re also hollow and thin on substance on the inside. They chose to continue to live with the chip on their shoulders when they stood where you stand now.  You can choose to keep on living the way you are now of course; you’re call and yours alone; always has been and always will be.

Not everybody is against you; the world and what you experience is how you view it and what you allow in. So you’ve been burned before? That makes you normal. Give Life and people in it a chance and you might find you get the odd break; breaking down that chip just a little – making it easier to carry.

Team Player: How To Be One And Succeed At The Interview

Look closely at a lot of the job postings these days and you’ll see, ‘team player’ as one of the key requirements. Just because you’ve worked with a group of people under a Supervisor before does not however mean you’re a great team player; nor even a good one.

It’s important to know exactly what being a good team player requires, because once you do, you’ll be far better equipped to respond to an interviewer intelligently when they ask you to provide an example of your experience working on a team.

First and foremost, when you are required to work on a team, everything you do is less about you and more about the team. As a member of that team, you have an important role to play, but it’s more than just doing your piece in isolation and calling yourself a team member. Get used to the concept of inter-dependence; relying on each other to accomplish tasks, pulling your own weight on projects and offering your help when appropriate to those you work with. Inter-dependence works both ways too; you’ll find there are times when you should call on others to help you out too.

Depending on the job you are in and the work to be done, you may find that being a part of a team requires collaborating not only on producing goods and services but in the delivery to your customers and clientsc. Having a unified strategy in this regard ensures that the experience of your end-users is similar no matter who puts the product or service into their hands. So whether it’s service like home health care and childcare or products like electronics or clothes, how your target audience experiences the delivery should be similar no matter whom they deal with on your team. Allowing for differences in personality of course, I refer to information delivery such as following best practices, company policies, information sharing etc.

One of the best things you can do for your teammates in order to be respected starts with showing up for work. When you are part of a team and you’re not present, you’re lack of attendance requires that others cover in your absence the work you would normally do. People can be absent for any number of reasons; personal illness, family commitments, special projects, vacations, committee meetings, training etc. The bottom line is that your absence on the team means others are doing your work, or your work is adjusted so that less is expected of you – and that means your production drops in the short-term. It’s one thing for a team member to be off on vacation – because every member will also enjoy their vacation time – but it’s another to be off frequently for personal reasons. The last thing you want is to create in the minds of your co-workers that you can’t be relied upon.

One key element of working cooperatively and productively as a team player is to give when its least expected. If you know someone needs to dash out for an appointment right at the end of the day, maybe you offer to be on the sales floor and stay the few extra minutes if a customer is shopping just past closing time. That extra 5 minutes you give will please the customer, could result in income for the store, and will garner some appreciation for you as a co-worker with the person you permit to leave on time instead of being held up. While you don’t do it for personal gain, you hope that the goodwill you’ve shown comes back to you in the future sometime when the situation is reversed.

Good teammates look out for each other. When a colleague is slightly under the weather, distracted by a personal matter, just not at their best, teammates pull together; offering whatever support and help they can depending on the workplace.

You’ll find that really good teammates give credit where credit is due too. Whether it’s an idea, a specialized skill, personal attributes etc. each member brings things to the team that make the team stronger and add to the service or products you produce. A good teammate will ensure that individual members get credit when they are responsible for some creativity, innovation, performing extra work or solving a problem that allowed the group to succeed.

Some people have famously said that there is no ‘I’ in ‘team’, but I believe within each successful team there are several individuals without whom the team wouldn’t exist at all. If each team member is to feel proud of their accomplishments as a team, they must feel personal pride in what they’ve contributed as an individual.

You can predict the likelihood of being asked the teamwork question in an interview by researching both the job posting and the nature of the work to be done. If the job posting has teamwork as a key job requirement, expect the question.

It’s important to share an example of your teamwork where you played an important part, yet be sure not to take all the credit in your answer. What had to be done, what challenge arose and what did you do that contributed to the overall success of the team? Share some specific example, not a vague generalization. Highlight the part you played however, as you’re the one applying for the job not your entire team.

What Do You Want For Yourself?

From the time we are old enough to communicate we get asked questions. In fact, as an experiment, see how many times you find yourself asked a question today or tomorrow. Most of those questions are pretty simplistic, such as what you want for breakfast, when you want to take your break at work, what you want to watch on television this evening etc.

Most of the questions you will be asked come innocently enough, and you’ve probably got the necessary information accumulated in order to answer intelligently. So you know what you want for breakfast, you know when you’re ready for a break at work, and you know what you’re in the mood for in the evening as you sit down to watch the television. How exciting!

What of the bigger questions you ask of yourself? I don’t mean what to wear on a certain day, whether or not to take the umbrella or who to sit with at lunch at work. I mean the BIG questions.

When was the last time you really thought about your life and what you want to do with yours? Let’s face it, most of us go about our day without really thinking about the BIG questions. We’re so focused on what we have on our daily agendas, what we’re having for dinner, what work has to get done, who will be off today at the office, remembering what bills to pay, we don’t often stop and consider what we want for ourselves.

I suspect that many people just get on the treadmill of life and live their lives in a predictable, socially acceptable manner. We go to school, graduate, get a job, have relationships, then settle on a strong relationship with someone, end up with several jobs or careers over a lifetime, retire and hope to enjoy it, then die. It’s predictable, we’re remembered by those we leave behind who knew us, and then depending on your belief system, you go to Heaven, get reincarnated, are reborn etc.

The after-life debate aside, how often do you really give yourself the benefit of time to reflect on what you want to do based on what’s important to you? How does the way you live your life reflect what you once wanted?

Some people do what’s expected on them by others; they go to school, join and then later run the family business, and pass it on. Some are told in school they’ve “only” got the potential to work in the trades (and the trades in the way it is voiced is somehow undervalued vs. a University degree), and therefore they take on an apprenticeship and work in the trades without challenging that view.

How often does someone in their late teens have the foresight to imagine themselves as retired looking back at their work life saying, “That was a life worth living! I’m glad I (fill in the blanks).

Every time we find ourselves out of work or wanting a change in work we get closer to thinking of the big picture. Questions like, “What now?” do come into our minds, but too often don’t we just scramble for a job that approximated our previous one; or choose one that while different in responsibility is really just maintaining our lifestyle. So a labourer finds another labour job, a Healthcare Worker finds another job in the Health sector?

What of you? Have you got dreams – or did you once have dreams you’ve let go of? Maybe you had some vision of what you would love to have done, but before you could launch that dream, you were too far down the predictable path of everyday life? You got into a relationship that made following your dream difficult if not impossible in your view. Now with rent or mortgage payments, kids, r-e-s-p-o-n-s-i-b-i-l-i-t-i-e-s… well, you know; you’ve kissed those dreams goodbye.

Now if you’re happy it doesn’t matter when it comes to dreams and hopes you once had. Truly happy people should carry on. I’d say it’s not only about being happy as you look back nearing your end, but it’s about being happy all through the stages of your life. Are you doing what you want with the time you’ve got?

What if the answer is you’re not happy? Well, what would make you happy? What do you want for yourself? It might well be some wild experience; a life filled with travel, adventure, chaos and physical challenges. It may also be a job in the city sharing your life with someone who loves you as much as you love them.

Whatever you wish for yourself, if it’s not your reality, or you’re not seeing it getting any closer, what would it take to make that dream happen? Does it require more effort, a change in locale, some self-confidence or hard work? Does it take some courage to chuck it all and start again?

If you’ve been waiting for something to get you doing more than just thinking, think of this; time is passing. Take a leap. Do one thing this week other than just thinking; in other words take some action. Have a conversation, download the brochure, book the trip, contact the company; whatever small step you can think of, do it.

Life is too precious and time too short to delay. What do YOU want for yourself?

Make it happen.

“So, How Was Your Day?”

Terrible, bad, so-so, ho-hum, okay, fine, good, pretty good, great, excellent.

If you have someone in your home that you return to at the end of each working day, you might be familiar with the question, “So, how was your day?” Whether it’s your mom, dad, wife, husband, partner, landlord – well, you get the idea; someone enquires how you feel about the day you’ve just experienced.

While we have our good days and our bad days, how would you say you generally reply to the question? There’s “Ah, don’t ask; I don’t want to talk about it” all the way through to, “Fantastic! It was a great day!” Feel free to score yourself wherever you want on the spectrum with whatever phrase you use more often than not.

The ironic thing about this question and answer time is that for some people it’s become so routine that the question gets asked and answered so matter-of-factly like a ritual, that the question has lost its meaning, and the answer lost its impact on the listener except the odd day. It’s a great question to have asked not by someone else, but in fact by you.

How WAS your day? There are a number of things to take into consideration when summing up the day. For most people, we take into consideration the actual work we did, the interaction with other employees and the public, our commute and the ratio of what we accomplished vs. what we expected or had to get done. We tend to merge all these things together almost without thinking and then come up with a single summation of the entire day.

We’ve been asked – and ask of others this question our whole lives. We were asked this question by our parents when we were in junior school, then middle or high school. We ask our own kids these questions too don’t we? When our kids were small they’d tell us so much about their day that was both good and challenging, and then as they grew into teens the replies we’d get would become shorter and shorter; eventually refined by them into a single grunt or monosyllabic, “k” – because saying, “Okay” took twice as long.

We asked those questions of our children for the same reason others are asking the same questions of us now – concern and caring.

I said earlier that it’s a great question to ask of yourself on a daily basis. Imagine that you had a notebook and every day you were disciplined enough to put a checkmark under the headings I suggested to begin this piece. If you looked at the results on a monthly and then yearly basis, I wonder if you would be surprised or find the results predictable. Are you enjoying your days overall or are you coming home at the end of the day from your workplace overall feeling negative or even just so-so?

If you do this kind of exercise, it leads to another question I’m guessing you may have figured out by now. The question is, “Do I want to experience future days like the ones I’ve generally had, or would I prefer to come home daily feeling better about how I’ve spent my day?”

Let’s assume your day is 7 or 8 hours, and on top of this you throw in your commute home. You could be looking at 10 to 12 hours each and every work day; the majority of your time when you factor in 6 or 7 sleeping hours leaving you with 5 to 8 hours of unplanned, awake time to do as you choose. If you make no changes in your job, you’re looking at spending 10 to 12 hours a day coming home feeling pretty much the way you generally do now. How do you feel about that?

If you’re happy keep doing what you’re doing. If you’re unhappy, you have a choice to continue doing what you’re doing and resign yourself to your unhappiness (and many people choose this option unconsciously), or you can choose to change something and then re-evaluate your feelings at the end of the day. So it could be something like keeping the job but changing how you commute. It could be keeping your job but changing how you interact with your fellow employees and the public. It could of course mean that you change your job, eliminate or shorten your commute etc.

Now some readers I fear may be the pessimists that believe jobs are so hard to come by one should stick with the job they hate because it is after all a job; and a job means money. Well that may be THEIR opinion and personal choice, but it doesn’t have to be YOUR choice. There are good workplaces out there filled with positive people and some people love their commute for its personal time to reflect, relax and watch the scenery.  Some people accomplish all the things they set out to in a day because the workload is reasonable.

I am suggesting you take a moment and reflect at the end of the day how you REALLY feel about the day you’ve just spent at work. Try and keep a journal or even a chart on the fridge. If you’re not the happy person you used to be, or want to be, maybe some changes would be beneficial.

So, how was your day today?

You Play Employment Counsellor

Want to be an Employment Counsellor? Try out my job in this scenario and see what you think. In the comment section, share what you’d do in my place.

He is at the same time one of the nicest and most frustrating people to work with as he struggles to find employment. He’s a puzzle of enormous complexity and I’m not sure after the 5 years I’ve known him if I’m any closer to even identifying the pieces that make up who he is and how he functions. Yesterday was yet again a stressful day for him as he laboured in the job application process. He walked in at 9:00 a.m. to the employment resource centre I work at, and he didn’t leave until 2:00 p.m. – 5 straight hours on the computer applying for jobs.

Here are some of the clues that he presents with:

Joe, (not his real name) is a big muscular man who stands about 6’ tall. He’s loud, bald (picture Mr. Clean and you’ve got him), and he speaks his mind with a simplistic view of the world – things are black and white, right and wrong. When he talks about people who make decisions he doesn’t agree with, he will use phrases like, “the guys an idiot”, “he’s stupid”, “well that’s just plain dumb.”  

Joe has a body odour problem despite the fact that from a distance he looks well-groomed and clean. When he came in at 9:00 a.m. yesterday, I pointed this out to him as he and I were 2 of only 3 people who were there that early. He was surprised and said he’d showered that morning, and he couldn’t smell himself. He says he cleans his clothes too, and that maybe it was his coat; it wasn’t.

Now the thing about Joe is that he’s likeable. He appreciates any and all help he gets; and he needs lots of it. He has difficulty remembering his email and password, and over the years my colleagues and I have helped him make many email addresses as he can’t remember his – or where the paper went that we wrote it down on for him to remember. Yesterday was a good day because he produced the email and password on a piece of paper; this is good! Joe couldn’t figure out or remember how to get to his email however; this is bad.

Knowing enough to click on the internet, he was seen typing the email address into the search engine one finger at a time. “What’s your email Joe? Hotmail? G-mail? Yahoo?” I asked. He replied it was “.com” which gives us a clue. After several questions and answers he said it was an Outlook account, and so with some guidance he got there and logged in successfully.

Joe then sighed in frustration; spoke out loud to himself saying, “For crying out loud, why do they move things around?” He was already exasperated in no time, feeling that the layout of his email had changed; which it hadn’t. Somehow however, his recollection of how things looked doesn’t meet how they look now. Even if things had changed, the average person would adapt and just move on in seconds.

On average and with no exaggeration, he asked for help, or complained so loudly to himself that an intervention was required – about every 3 minutes. Just to clarify, he was there from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. – 5 hours – and he needed help about every 3 minutes! He’s lucky as it turns out that it was a quieter day than usual and he could get that kind of help. He’s taken a computer basics class – twice. He’s been shown how to job search 1:1 on several occasions.

I wonder about the connections in his brain that are faulty and not working. Like a lightbulb that flickers on and off, sometimes he gets things he later can’t remember. He knows he’s in for a frustrating day therefore each and every time he comes in to look for work in front of a computer. He can’t remember the most simplistic of steps on a consistent basis. But boy does the man try.

Now he’s not interested in being classified as ‘Disabled’. Smart enough to know he’s got major learning problems, ironically he doesn’t want to undergo that process of being assessed and labelled; even though it could mean getting help that could bring about real change.

When Joe finds employment – which he does – it’s usually a pretty menial job which takes advantage of his strength and size. It seldom lasts long, as Joe speaks his mind and can only hold his tongue for so long before telling people what he really thinks. For some reason people don’t always agree with or appreciate Joe’s perspective.

 Another clue? When attaching his resume to an email, I noted the resume he was attaching was called, “Tires”. He told me he called it this so he’d remember his most recent resume and not confuse it with earlier ones. So whether he’d applied for a Bus Driver, Furniture Mover or Warehouse Labourer, the resume the employers receive will be called, “Tires”. Yes, we talked about this too which only increased his frustration when he understood the implications.

So, there you are. When you work in such a Centre, you deal with whoever walks in and their circumstances. You’re me remember. So what would you do?

Learn To Rise Above

You won’t always be successful, but more often than not you’ll achieve what you wouldn’t have otherwise. I’m talking about trying to rise above whatever frustrates, annoys, infuriates or holds you back.

It’s so easy to look at what seems unfair and unjustified and give up. Worse yet, some people put an enormous amount of energy into building up their own barriers; they complain and seek out others who sympathize with them and support their own negative view. Sad but true is the fact that if all that energy was redirected into trying to change things around and work towards a positive solution, moving forward would come easier and stagnating would be a thing of the past.

Setbacks happen to everyone. Whether it’s being turned down for a job you really wanted, an unexpected expense that you didn’t budget for, running late for the big interview; the world isn’t conspiring to work against you. Let me modify that statement; the world isn’t conspiring to work against you unless you view things this way. Then I absolutely agree that the way you view things, the world is turned against you.

Some people see the good in everything; the glass is always half full. To others, the negative is where they go instinctively; the glass half empty. But can’t you always just fill up the other half of the glass and make the discussion of whether things are half full or half empty a moot point of discussion? And sometimes a half empty glass is what you want – as in the case of that awful stuff they give you the night before a colonoscopy to empty your bowls. Who wants a full glass of that stuff!

Working on daily basis to rise above the petty stuff that you might be going through is a good practice. Little things like your child wanting a ham sandwich instead of a peanut butter and jam sandwich. Why squabble over the issue? Rise above it once you realize their digging in their heels? It’s a sandwich; relax, no big deal. Now you might say that rising above a squabble over a preference for one sandwich over another is pretty minor – and I agree it is. The same principle however applies to the bigger things.

Take running late for that interview you want so much. Running late is never a good thing, but at some point its essential you a) realize your late b) consider what your options are and c) act. Instead of scowling with stress and taking dangerous short-cuts or speeding risking a long delay with a policeman and a fine, consider your options. Maybe you can call the interviewer and reschedule, advise your running late but will arrive shortly and apologize, or you might even find an alternative route that gets you there on time. Rise above the situation.

It seems to me too many people seem to be hitting the panic alarm too frequently and quickly these days; making much ado about situations which in the larger picture aren’t really all that huge. Are we losing the ability to be confronted with problems and deal with them sensibly and rationally?

I bet you can think of a few people who react with tremendous drama when faced with problems. Instead of sitting down and thinking about how to resolve the issue, they go around telling the problem or situation to people all over the workplace. They tell the same story, emphasize the same points, expect you to react with, “Oh you poor thing!” and if you do, they labour on even longer telling their tale. Give them a, “That’s too bad, want a suggestion?” and they roll up their nose and move on to a more sympathetic audience. They don’t really want solutions after all.

When you learn to rise above the small stuff in your life, you are better equipped to use the same solution-based thinking to deal with the larger issues. Earlier I mentioned being rejected for a job you really wanted. Well you can get down on yourself, wallow around and empty the ice cream container in the freezer while you curl up on the couch in a fetal position and feel sorry for yourself. Conversely, you can rise above the setback, proactively seek out some feedback from the interviewer, apply in earnest for more positions, and move forward. The sooner you do this, the less you dwell on the job you didn’t get and start investing in other opportunities you may actually be better suited for.

The same goes when you suddenly find you’re in the middle of a gossip session. You can participate and engage which is juicy and delectably fascinating, or you can rise above the situation and tactfully remove yourself or re-direct the conversation. When you do so, you show good judgement and you rise above instead of being sucked into something unhealthy and unproductive.

Be careful by the way in learning to rise above situations. There is an inherent danger that you may just become a more productive person; become empathetic instead of sympathetic, and you may just achieve more than your used to. Such is the way of people who rise above situations.

Start by seeing things for what they are, not what you imagine them to be. Determine courses of action from which to choose and then act as you see best to be successful.


Respect And Applying For Welfare

If you’ve never had to apply for social assistance you probably can’t fully appreciate how demeaning it can be to many who have no other option.

In Ontario Canada, the first part of the process once you reach the decision to actually apply starts with a phone call. Now phone calls aren’t so bad for most people actually; you’re speaking with someone who can’t see you after all. During this call you give a lot of personal information over the phone and at its conclusion, you‘re given a date and time for the in-person interview.

The shame and embarrassment if it’s going to be felt at all, starts for many the moment they push open those doors and enter the reception area at a local Ontario Works office. Notice the name, “Ontario Works” is proactive and sounds more appealing than the word, “Welfare”. That’s not an accident, but despite the name, many recipients themselves refer to it by the term welfare. It is what it is by any other name I suppose.

When your time waiting is done and your name is called, you and the person conducting the interview move from reception area to interview room. I have to tell you that most Intake Verification workers are real pros; they understand what sitting there being asked normally intrusive questions is like, but ask they must. To every question asked, an answer has to be forthcoming, and while most questions are matter-of-fact, when you’re on the receiving end, many of these questions probe areas one normally doesn’t share – especially with someone they don’t know. There’s no passing on an answer, and if the answer you give is a poor one, you may be subsequently asked again for a clearer or deeper answer.

With questions probing into your financial commitments and debts, bank account numbers and balances, personal identification numbers, details on absent partners in the case of applying with children and all your assets, you can find you’re handing over more than just the facts and numbers. You may feel that with your birth certificate and health card, you’re also handing over your pride, self-esteem and self-worth. It’s not a dignified process; especially if the only personal information you’ve ever handed to anyone is your doctor or a credit card to a cashier.

One of the most difficult things you can hang on to at this point is your respect. Now my feelings are that if and when you get to the point you are applying for social assistance, you should do your best to view this process as a sign of wisdom. That may sound odd. My belief is that you have finally reached a point where accepting some financial support is smarter than not doing so and ending up homeless, in a shelter or on the streets. There you may out of necessity find yourself having to do things you’ve never contemplated just to survive – so let’s not go there.

You know, in addition to applying for and receiving money (which comes from the community tax base), one of the biggest benefits is the help that’s available to move forward with respect to training and skill development. In fact, those that are on Ontario Works for perhaps the first time often are amazed at the range of help that is available that they didn’t previously know about.

Where I work, there’s workshops on acquiring life skills (nutrition, setting goals, dealing with anger), computer basics, resume and interview preparation, how to deal with stress and frustration, building self-esteem and confidence, finding career direction, workplace health and safety training and more.

Of course there are essentially two kinds of people on assistance; those that want to take advantage of the free supports and those who don’t. Whether it’s the chip some carry on their shoulder or the belief they don’t need the help, many don’t take advantage of the help to regain their financial independence. Those that do have the attitude that while unemployed, why not take advantage of all the support they can get – especially as it’s free – in order to compete successfully and get an edge over other job seekers.

Lest you think everyone should be forced to participate in such workshops, I can tell you by experience that forcing someone with a negative attitude to take a course or workshop with the threat of suspending their benefits only makes it harder on the Facilitator of those workshops and the participants who really do want to be there. Those with the poor attitudes could potentially drive off those who could benefit the most from retraining and learning, so that’s not an answer.

Respect is the one thing you can hang onto when you’re on assistance. Respect for the help offered to you, respect for those who have to resort to social assistance that you may have in the past thought were lazy or gouging the system, and of course, try your best not to lose respect for yourself.

It is in trying situations that some people become bitter, resentful and give in to being what they most fear. Others in the same situation choose to respect their decision to get help, to work hard to regain their financial independence and appreciate those who give the help they do.

Self-respect; hang on to it no matter what your circumstances, and ease up on judging those in great need.

Gambling At The Job Board

There are many people who go about job searching by standing in front of a job board and scanning the wall for employment. There are far more people pulling up job search websites on the computer and essentially doing the same thing; scrolling through screen after screen of various jobs. I find this perplexing and a huge waste of time, but surprisingly this is exactly the behaviour many people exhibit when they look for work. Stop doing this! It’s not a good way to find the right job!

When you stop and think about it, it’s like gambling or visiting a fortune teller isn’t it? In the few seconds immediately before you hit the job board, you had no idea what job you would find. After standing at a job board for 30 seconds or so, you really believe you’re suddenly going to have your eyes drawn to your dream job; that one job that is not only something you can do but will be with the perfect employer, paying a fair wage you’ll be comfortable with, and you’ll work in an atmosphere that matches your needs – all within a reasonable commute? Yeah, good luck with that one. It just doesn’t happen like this.

What really happens is people find jobs they could tolerate, and with no research into the company, the culture or the working conditions, they apply. Even if they get interviewed and get the job, it seldom lasts long; the reason being that once employed, the person says, “Okay I’ve gone from no job to a job that’s a poor fit for me personally, so now I start looking for a better job.” The other result I see time and time again is that the person is fired because they don’t perform well, or the person quits the second they feel they are being manipulated and asked to do things they didn’t expect. Then what do they do? They repeat the entire process and stand again in front of a job board having learned nothing. Sigh….

Don’t start your job search scanning a job board. That’s as blunt as I can make it.

One of your first steps in finding meaningful work that you’ll actually enjoy doing and which you’ll do well is to evaluate your skills, education and work preferences. It’s like taking an inventory of you. Don’t scoff and say, “I don’t need to waste time doing this – nobody knows me better than me.” Without even knowing you personally, I will suggest you actually don’t know yourself as much as you claim; you should of course, but I suspect you don’t. For example, what’s your problem-solving style? What are your key work values? What style of leadership do you best function under? Give me your three top transferable skills.

So, did the answers just roll off your tongue or did you just read the questions above without really stopping to think and answer them intelligently? Is this a defensive mechanism of yours you use when you get asked questions you don’t know the answers to but don’t want to admit you don’t?

Look, if you’re used to randomly picking a job off a website or job board and sending them your standard generic resume, let me ask you how successful this has been for you in the past in getting a job that you were good at, paid you well for your time, and which you stayed at for longer than a couple of years? If it’s working for you, then by all means you’re right to continue with this strategy. On the other hand, if this method isn’t working for you, if you’re frustrated just randomly hoping the clouds will part and a sunbeam will illuminate your dream job while the sound of angels reach your ears, do something different. If you keep doing the same thing, the results you get will likewise be the same.

Write down your skills. What are the things you enjoy doing? Write them down. On a map, draw a circle of the area you are willing to work in. Would you move to take a job? If so, how attractive would the job have to be to get you to pick up and relocate? What’s your education level? Would you consider going back to school to upgrade your education if it meant you’d be better qualified to compete for jobs you really want? What would your ideal supervisor be like; hands-on or hands-off? What’s the perfect environment for you; surrounded by creative types, techies, labourers or number crunchers?

These are just some of the many questions you could and should ask yourself long before you actually start looking at jobs on a board or website. If you don’t really know who you are; your strengths, weaknesses, interests and passions, you’re going to find yourself in the wrong jobs more often than not. You really are gambling; playing hit and miss and wasting much of your life in the process, making it all the harder to find the right job by taking the time to assess yourself first.

If you’re young, do a variety of things and find out what you like and don’t like; what you’re good at and what you need to work on. No experience is wasted if you learn from it. If you’re older, take stock of what you’ve done.

Need help? Ask for it.