“Why Do You Want This Job?”

“Why do you want this job?” is typically asked of a job applicant when the job applicant themselves hasn’t come right out and made it clear why they are actually applying for the position. Even when it’s not asked straight to the applicant, the employer is always evaluating your words and your body language in an attempt to find out why.

Look, employers don’t want to undergo a frequent turnover in their employees. When they do, that takes time away from what they’d otherwise be doing, and of course it costs both money to advertise and then train a person. So it stands to reason then that they want someone who truly wants the job and who understands the job so there’s no miscommunication and they know each other’s expectations.

Now you might sit there reading this blog and say to yourself, “I know why I want this job – I don’t have one and I need to work!” That answer isn’t going to get you the job 99% of the time. What the interviewer is really hearing when you answer like that is that you are desperate for work – any kind of work – and have no real investment in the job or the company itself. Once hired and less desperate, you’ll realize this isn’t the best spot for you, and you’ll immediately start looking for a job that better suits you now that you have the security of ‘some’ job. In short, they’ll hire you, turning away other candidates, then you’ll be trained to do the job and shortly in this process you’ll quit. The employer will be left to repeat the entire process and get no return on their investment in you.

There are some people who during the interview itself become very excited about the job but fail in any way to show it. Their voice remains monotone, their body language is so conservative or stiff there’s no hint in it that they are really motivated, and so they are assumed to be fairly neutrally invested in the opportunity. If they land the job, good, and if they don’t land it, well, no big deal really. At least this is the impression they’ve left the employer with. Later on of course when they don’t get hired, they may say how disappointed they were, and if the interviewer was honest, they’d say to the applicant, “Really? I didn’t get the impression you really cared one way or the other.”

Now the best thing you can do is first let your body language show some enthusiasm for the job. Sit slightly forward in your chair, smile and be connected with the discussion that’s going on by looking the people who are interviewing you in the eye. Make sure the tone of your voice varies; stress different words as you talk so that those words are emphasized and you become more interesting to listen to. When you answer questions about your achievements and successes, show by your body language that you are indeed proud of those moments. When you speak of past employers that you got on with well, communicate that happiness with your face the same way you’d look remembering some pleasant memory.

Know why you want the job. Is it about a rare opportunity that brings together your past experience, qualifications and the chance to work in a smaller, tight organization where you can provide leadership and have many responsibilities? Or is this the chance to specialize; focus solely on a few responsibilities in a larger organization, where your expertise and the job description seem made for each other?

Are you out to make a difference? The short commute is a definite asset, as is the chance to bring your creativity to a company known for its openness to new ideas. Maybe the reputation of the organization as a magnet for cutting edge technology or their investment in local charities you support is part of your reason for wanting to be a part of their team. Maybe too you’re just attracted to their benefit package and you just want to disappear into a cubicle there for the next 7 years – no wait! Don’t use this last one – even if it’s true!

The key to answering this question about why you want to work for the company is to know how they’ll benefit from having you onboard and matching that benefit with some need they have you will answer.  So what do they gain by hiring you? Are you a problem-solver, risk-taker, new age philosopher, traditionalist or negotiator? If they need a problem-solver and you’re positioning yourself as a traditionalist who doesn’t rock the boat, there’s a place for you – but not with this company. You failed to do your homework and provided yourself a solution for a problem they don’t have; thanks for coming in.

The key will be found in the job posting; ‘what we’re looking for’ or ‘what you’ll do’. Make sure this is what you’re up for in the first place, and can you really be happy doing what the job entails? Don’t even pursue the job if you know you’re a poor fit. You don’t want to be out of work again in 3 months or less and again job searching.

At any rate, this question of why you want the job should never appear to come as a surprise in the interview; know why you’re there.

Looking For Career Direction?

Just about everyone wonders what they might like to do, should do, or will do in terms of their career. In fact, it’s not uncommon to ponder this question multiple times in one’s life.

The thing is, we usually ponder this question when we are least prepared to actually make a well-thought out decision. We wait until we’re fired, let go or we hate our jobs and then start the process out of desperation rather than thinking about what we might like to do with our lives when time s are good. When times are good and we’ve got the time to turn our attention to the future, we can objectively look at jobs and see the pros and cons; make a better informed decision about what might be next in terms of what we’ll do.

Maybe you’ve made the mistake of hating your job and running impulsively to another, which in the short-term seems like a really positive move, (“I had to get away from that place – the work was killing me!”) but then you realize very early into the new job that it’s not right for you, (“What have I done? I can’t stay here!”)

In the act of running away from a job you hated or couldn’t bear to do any longer, you didn’t make a good informed decision about your next job, you just leapt at what appeared to be something better. However, once the perils of the previous job were behind you, you had time to take stock of things, and the job you traded your old one in for is only slightly better but entirely unsatisfactory.

It’s like a rebound job; the same situation some find themselves in when they finish a really bad relationship and end up in another relationship that seemed the right thing to do but in retrospect isn’t fulfilling your needs.

One of the best things you can do for yourself is take stock of your situation. Look objectively at your skills, your interests, your financial needs and obligations. Ask yourself what would make you happy and what, with your current skills and experience you are qualified to do. Do you want to work for others or for yourself? Another good thing to think about is you’ve got to ask yourself these questions based on where you are in light of your age. How old you are might determine if you look 3 years into the future or 20 years into the future.

Now some people like the idea of career mapping; knowing what you want in the long-term and plotting the job titles and experience you’ll need to ultimately compete for that dream job. Others don’t plan for 20 years down the road but rather go in 3-5 year chunks. These folks find too much future gazing is paralyzing and they can’t honestly respond intelligently to questions about where they will be in their long-term future.

For these people, asking them where they see themselves in 2-3 years is much easier for them to answer; otherwise it just seem pointless to look too far ahead. In fact, if you are in the habit of asking people that dreaded question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, I would advise you to try asking instead of the next 2-3 years and see if you don’t get a better response.

I heard today something that made complete sense to me; with many people unable to afford buying bigger houses, the traditional plan of buying a starter and then selling and buying 3 or 4 homes before landing in ones forever house isn’t on. Now many will buy a starter home and renovate it as their needs and finances allow. This means there could be a boon in renovation work needed in the future, and with that knowledge, anyone remotely thinking of getting into the trades would be well-advised to do so.

That kind of news story, where an economic factor impacts on jobs and careers is the type of thing that could spark an idea in someone who is looking at their future and wondering what kinds of jobs will be in demand in the future.  The radio, newspapers, television, internet etc. are great sources for trends, directions and demographics.

Academic institutions are also usually up on studies and if you’ve got the inclination to do some homework you can find out what’s trending for the next 5 – 10 years. You should know though that many people hear things through chance meetings, looking around and observing for themselves the changes they see, the business that fail or succeed.

You may, as you ponder what you’d like to do, ask questions of people. How did they get started or end up where they are? What’s the good and the bad about the work they do? Sometimes just sitting down and watching the people coming and going out of a building – especially at the end of the work day can tell you a lot about the happiness of the people who work inside. Do they emerge with energy and a smile or do they appear stressed, unhappy as if they just escaped?

There is honour in all kinds of work that others might see as menial; while some prestigious job titles aren’t all they are cracked up to be. Best find work that makes you happy, you’re good at and you pays well; the perfect combination!

Authenticity, Perception And Reputation

When the person you are is the person people think you are.

We hear a lot today about reputations, self-branding, marketing etc. So many people, (and I’m one of them), encourage the idea of self-branding; where you think consciously about who you are and the image you want to project to those you come into contact with.

And companies? Companies are always marketing themselves and their products and services, striving to ensure that the quality and consistency of those messages with each interaction backs up and reinforces the identity of the company behind them. Every time the customer has a good experience the reputation grows and solidifies; and the reverse is equally true if the experience is poor, the reputation erodes and crumbles.

The same is true when people interact with you and then compare this interaction with what they previously knew or thought of you. With this latest experience, those we interact with judge whether what they’ve experience runs counter to their expectations or perhaps reinforced what they expected; i.e. authenticity.

What you should be striving to achieve is a consistent brand where people can be assured that the experience they have with you in the future can be reasonably predictable. When this is the case, people understand and rely on this identity; they not only come to expect that same consistent experience themselves, but they pass on your name and reputation with it to their friends and contacts.

Here’s the thing to remember; if someone has a good experience with you, they leave satisfied because their expectations were met and whatever they anticipated was realized. If on the other hand, their expectations of you fell short, you expose yourself to two liabilities; they themselves may not give you a second chance to deliver, and your reputation as unreliable and inconsistent may be spread to others.

If and when your reputation takes a hit, you have two choices: a) do nothing about it, b) work hard to restore that reputation. If you look around you, you’ll see examples of people and businesses that don’t do much of anything when it comes to damage control. They dismiss the person who didn’t have a good experience as an annoyance, and concentrate on the next customer; the next sale.

Other companies do stop and address the dissatisfied customer or client. They go out of their way to ask, “What can we do to make it up to you?” This is their attempt at really asking, “What can we do to restore our good reputation because you matter to us.”

Like a business, you and I – we have our reputations to build and take responsibility for. When you think of your status in your workplace and look at things objectively, what is your reputation? Are you dependable, creative, sensitive, kind, overbearing, manipulative, approachable, hard-nosed, hard-working, fun? Are you the Jokester, the Leader, the Steamroller or the Fountain of Inspiration?

Depending on how you want to be perceived and how you actually are perceived, you have likewise two choices, a) work to keep your current branding or b) work harder to change how you are perceived so that how you are perceived matches the way you wish to be perceived.

Look, suppose you notice someone going about their work in a different way; taking things a little more seriously, acting responsibly, watching their language a little closer. You don’t have to be an expert in Human Behaviour studies to see that something is up. Could be that the person has aspirations of applying for a promotion in the near future and they’ve been told that unless they show some development and increased responsibility they’ll never get a chance. So what have they done? They’ve adopted some changes which they hope will change how they are perceived, and by continued practice of this change in behaviour, they hope to match the typical qualities of people successfully picked for promotion in the past.

As humans, we evolve and change; we mature, our priorities change, our outlook on things alters and with all of these shifts, it’s only natural that we may want different things at different points in our lives. We may start off ambitious, put in the overtime and work with zeal. Possibly we get comfortable and settle in to our titles, then grow restless later and feel we’re up for more challenges and more money to go along with them. Later, we might re-evaluate and ease back on the driving force we once had and then ride off into retirement.

As people come and go in our professional lives along our own journey, they will perceive us based on what they learn about us when they meet us. Meet us when we’re hungry and working with drive and hunger for more and more and we’ll be tagged that way. Come to know us as we are rounding out our career and they may see us as laid back, set in our ways, going through the motions.

If you feel you’re being perceived as too young or too old, first evaluate what about you is giving off those vibes; creating that branding. It’s not just the gray hair nor the remnants of teenage acne. It’s how we move, talk, act, behave etc.; all part of how we are perceived.

Change if you wish how others perceive you to fit with how you wish to be perceived.


Turn Your Passion Into A Job? Not Always.

You’ve probably heard some people who give career advice suggest that you take something you love and then see if you can find a way to get paid for doing it. There is some merit in this as the work you would be doing on a daily basis would be something you’d enjoying doing and to get paid for doing it would seemingly give you endless days of pleasure, giving you the seemingly the perfect job. I beg to differ.

This past weekend in Canada where I reside, we had a 3 day weekend owing to the fact it was Victoria Day. Where I live, each of the three days was warmer than the day before it, and while the first two days were a nice mixture of sun and cloud, the third was sunny and a scorcher. Here we haven’t hit summer yet, and the May 24th weekend is the signpost that we use to do much of our garden plantings as all danger of frost is usually over with.

Can you see where I’m going? I love gardening. On any given weekend I look forward to waking up and getting out and about the property to see what’s sprouting up, what needs weeding, fertilizing, watering or cutting. Some days I know exactly what I want to accomplish by days end, and other days I find myself looking back on a day where I got things done I had no idea of working on until I got taken with some inspiration along the way. Yes, I really do enjoy spending time gardening.

As late afternoon Monday rolled around; it being the last of the three days off, I found myself showered from the dirt and grime of the garden beds and sitting back looking out at the backyard with my wife. We counted ourselves fortunate that we live where we do, have our health and the serenity that comes from having a nice place to come home to each day where we can relax and enjoy the peace and tranquility of our little piece of the world. What I could not do on my own in this space was haul the massive armour stones that frame our waterfall, nor do I have the equipment to dig down deep and eventually lay out our back two patios which have a lot of curves and required some fine stone cutting.

From time-to-time I’ve thought about landscaping and property maintenance as a career. I know when I create a garden from what was a plot of grass, I feel good inside looking at the finished product and knowing how much improved the space looks. Over time I’ve learned quite a bit about what plants to grow and how to group them so they are attractive to the eye, which bees, birds or butterflies will be drawn in with the choices I make etc.

So a career in gardening, landscaping, property maintenance etc. might on the surface be a good choice for me. Alas my friends, it is not so. For starters, I’m not at the right time in my life to entertain such a career even if I were looking for a change (which I’m not by the way. I love my current job). While I don’t have the heavy equipment needed for some jobs, I know I could rent these things as needed and keep my costs down. I know too that on a small-scale, I’ve got some of the basic tools of the trade; the lawn mower, shovels, rototillers, wheelbarrow, edger, hoe, weed-puller and a pick axe. Pick axe you say? Yep, a pick axe is a great tool for skimming off grass and breaking up hard soil or removing rocks from the ground. Tools therefore would not be an obstacle to getting started.

What I wouldn’t like about the job is that; well…it would become a job. Right now this hobby of mine is mine to do as I please. It’s a little too hot, I stop. It’s a little too chilly or wet, I don’t start. My choice you see; my time. However, if I was to be employed as a Landscaper, I’d feel that very real sense of duty and commitment. It would possibly turn this activity I find so rewarding into a source of income but I’d be disappointed if somewhere along the way this turned into something I had to do rather than loved to do.

Now sure I’ve offered and volunteered my time and knowledge to help with enhancing friends and neighbours properties. This I think is what being a good friend and neighbour is all about; lending a hand.

In my case at any rate, I want to separate my paid employment from one of my hobbies that brings me joy. Were I to go back in time and choose a different occupation I may well have done very well to choose Horticulture and launch a career in that field, (no pun intended) but back then I didn’t even think of this and wouldn’t have known how to go about getting started if I had.  The ironic drawback might be that I’d be so busy improving other people’s properties that my own might be neglected as I wouldn’t have the drive to landscape from 8 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and then come home to work on my own.

What are your thoughts on doing what you love for a living? Is this always a good idea?

Your Day Just Got Changed? Adapt!

So the scene is this: you arrive at work and spend the first 10 minutes getting organized and then just as you plunge into your work for the day, the boss pops around and due to an unforeseen absence on the team, you’re duties change for the duration of the day. Two equally important questions for you; what’s your immediate reaction and does it show?

Despite what we may believe or like to believe about authority figures in the workplace, no the boss does not typically spend their commute into work wondering what they can do to sabotage your day. In fact, their probably just as frustrated having to change people’s work assignments for the day because that means work isn’t getting done by someone –in this case you; work that needs to be done or you wouldn’t have planned on doing it.

What a good supervisor does do is first think about what takes priority for the day and then who is most appropriate to change their schedule causing the least overall disruption to the team. Of course on a micro level it’s you being 100% disrupted which is the cause of any initial annoyance you might experience.

So let’s look at those two questions I posed to you; what’s your immediate reaction and does it show? Any supervisor that asks or directs you to change your daily plans and work on something else knows it will come as a surprise. What they are hoping for is that you trust them enough that the decision they have made has been thought out before asking you, and that you’ll make the change in your plans with a positive attitude. The last thing they’ll need or want is for you to dig in your heels and go kicking and screaming throughout your day. Remind yourself that you’re getting paid all through the day whatever the work is and in the bigger picture apparently someone needs to cover the work of the absent person so the faster you shift your focus and attitude, ultimately the better for you.

Now me, I personally have this happen once or twice a month. I’m on a team of 10 Employment Counsellors; 8 at my location and 2 in another. Years ago I admit I’d be flustered whenever we’d have an absence and I’d have to cover some workshop for an absent co-worker. It’s not like you just walk in the class and everything is smooth sailing. It means quickly getting your resources together that you have in various files, finding out if the person had a schedule all planned out on their desk or not and in the case of an ongoing workshop, you try to not disrupt the flow of information with an entirely different style or covering information you’d like to introduce but isn’t on the agenda.

I’ve come to shift quickly actually over time. Now when I am told someone is away, I actually look at the calendar, quickly size up who is most available to cover the absence with the least disruption to those at work, and if it’s me, I actually volunteer to replace the absent person for the day. If it’s not me, I offer a suggestion to the supervisor about how the absence could be covered moving others around. Hey, it’s just a suggestion, and my supervisor has come to listen to those suggestions because her trust in me mirrors my trust in her. She knows I wouldn’t disrupt the day of a colleague just to plow on with my pre-planned day.

The second question has to do with letting your feelings show. So when you’re given news that your planned day is out the window and you’ve got different duties for the day, despite the fact it can be upsetting, do your best not to roll your eyes, sigh heavily and then get all bent out of shape and start arguing. You’re doing something different and the faster you come around to that point of view the better it will be for everyone – most notably yourself. In fact, if you can make the adjustment with an observable positive attitude, that could come back to help you more than hurt you in the future. Supervisors like staff that can roll with change when they are negatively impacted. So you may find their thanks get extended by letting you go early another day, backing you up in a team meeting with more enthusiasm or possibly some kind of work incentive.

Remember too that whenever you are told that your work is changing for the day, from the minute you’ve been informed, you’ve now got precious time to use to get ready for whatever lies ahead. Whether it’s preparing to lead a workshop like me, or going over client accounts so you’re prepared for those face-to-face meetings, the sooner you get going the better for you.

You may lament to a co-worker in private your frustration for the days change; but do it out of the sight of your supervisor. Sure you can say it’s frustrating but say it’s okay too. Explain what you had planned to do if the supervisor was unaware and ask for time at a later day to catch up or for a junior person to do what they can to help you out.

When you adapt to change you increase your worth; solve a supervisor’s problem and you avoid becoming one.

An Idea For Your Workplace

Do you have a suggestion box at your workplace? Sounds like a good idea on the surface doesn’t it? This provides you and your co-workers with a safe space to confidentially make suggestions which hopefully are intended to improve working conditions, productivity etc. Maybe you’re personally happy to have one of these in your workplace; you may have even been the instigator and feel pretty proud of it. If it works, good for you and your organization.

There are inherent problems with the suggestion box however, and before I present an alternative, I’d like to point this out. First of all, on the input side, the suggestions and ideas put into the box are only known by the person who writes the suggestion or the few they share their idea with. On the output side, the idea or suggestion is only read and considered by the holder of the suggestion box key; typically someone in Management. So are your suggestions and ideas for improvement thoughtfully considered, rejected out-of-hand, mulled over a period of time etc.

The other issue I have with the suggestion box is that none of your co-workers have the opportunity to read and think about your suggestion themselves. It could be that your idea gains momentum when others in the workplace agree. It could also be the case that your idea sparks a thought that builds on your original idea, or in fact causes someone to have a great idea of their own that they’d like to share. The old, “two heads are better than one” saying in action could mean an idea gets developed; morphs into someone new and of course gains support from others.

Now those in upper management that like to exercise constraint and control; who like to be the drivers of change themselves, or don’t like anyone going about even thinking about changing anything aren’t going to like the idea I’ll propose. If they think the suggestion box is a bad idea, well…

Imagine if you will a shared space in your workplace where many of the employees congregate or walk past on a frequent basis. Now what if you inserted into this space a cork or whiteboard where workers could spontaneously post and share ideas and suggestions. Maybe there are post-it notes to pin to the board or it takes some other form, but it’s real, it’s hands-on and it’s accessible. This differs significantly from a website to accomplish the same things. The problem with electronic idea boards is people have to consciously remember to log in and share ideas and secondly the audience is typically smaller as not many will log in throughout a day just to see what’s happening.

So you could post an idea and others in the workplace could do so as well. Could be that some of those ideas get subsequent notes or comments attached to them like, “Great idea!”, “Let’s do this!” or “What if we added…?” The board being owned by everyone in the organization from the front line worker to the CEO, could and I believe should, be a safe space to express ideas for everyone. If it’s just a token board for employees but not used by managers and supervisors, you’re cutting out a vital group of people who will pay token attention to it.

What I like about this in a workplace is that it allows everyone to have a voice and gets people thinking about what could be changed for the better. You know your job better than those who don’t do it on a daily basis. So what would make your job easier, better, more productive? Thinking beyond your job, what would make the daily experience of coming to work be improved for everyone? Imagine you walked by and saw comments like, “bring your dog to work day”, comfortable chairs or a couch in the staff room”, “let’s paint the reception area with murals” or “let’s bring our kids to work for a day.”

A safe space means no killing of ideas or condemnation for those who post ideas we don’t like or agree with. Maybe we have to be reminded that ideas which seem impractical, costly, bizarre or previously tried still have merit for the people posting them. Rather than dismissing an idea as tried before and failed or too impractical, maybe we should ask ourselves, what would that look like? What goodwill would come out of implementing that idea? Would morale shoot up across the department, unit or team if that idea was tried? Would an increase in morale translate into a happier work force and happier workers mean the work would be done with better attitudes and real enthusiasm? Would that enthusiasm be noticed by those we serve and would that translate into greater profits, less accidents on the job, better attendance, a better reputation as a place people want to work? Who knows?

I met yesterday with people from two municipalities where this idea was floated. Someone suggested a sewing circle as that’s her passion. Okay that’s not mine, but I could see some staff sewing at lunch time in a designated area; people at all levels in the company sewing, communicating and improving relationships. That would cost nothing to implement and the returns could be significant when staff return to their work after doing what they find rewarding and pleasurable.

What do you think? Could this work in your workplace?



When Thinking About Your Next Job

If you want your next job to in fact just be, ‘a job’, stand in front of a job board; whether online or in some employment centre and pick one off the wall.

If on the other hand you want your next job to be rewarding, fulfilling, meaningful and bring you happiness each day, don’t start your search using a job board. Here are some of the best things you can do to increase the odds you’ll find work that is the right fit for you at this point in your life:

  1. Assess where you are. Young and just embarking on the search for your first job, in your prime and looking to maximize your earnings or are you nearing retirement and looking for a job where you can finish with a flourish or wind down in grace? What you want, need and are qualified for largely is determined with this initial assessment.
  2. Assess your skills, interests, abilities and qualifications. Ask yourself, “What do I want to do that I am qualified to do?” Listing these four categories and then plotting in the information under each heading will – if you do it honestly – give you a solid inventory of your commodities. As for honesty, don’t do this exercise unless you commit to being honest with yourself.
  3. Know your preferences. Big corporation, non-profit, self-employment, cozy environment, start-up or virtual office; what kind of working environment works best for you on a daily basis? Do you relish conversations with co-workers throughout the day or are you more productive and focused when you work in relative isolation? Your personality and general favouritism for being an introvert or extrovert might reveal a decided preference for your environment. Then again, you may have a social consciousness or environmental mindset that would be nice to see replicated in your future workspace.
  4. Commute. Get out a map and plot your geographic limitations. Are you looking for a job on a bus line within 15 kilometres of your home or are you mobile to the point where you’ll pick up and move across the country or beyond for the right job? Factor in family ties, schools for your children, the love of your life, your hopes to see the world over the next 4 years etc. and arrive at what you’re comfortable with in terms of the physical distance you’ll travel to and from work.
  5. Know your motivators. What’s important to you? Money? Experience? Animal welfare? Poverty reduction? Global warming? Land acquisition? Buying a home? Moving out of your parents’ home? Your children? Knowing what motivates you can help you identify what your next job and the income you derive from it will allow you to do or what you could acquire. If you find yourself happiest in your personal hobbies, is there some way you could turn that hobby into full-time employment and get paid?
  6. Give Time Its Due. Time doesn’t stop just because you’re undecided and confused. If you take time off to see the world, add to the family, find yourself, care for someone or just pause from the world of work, Time itself keeps moving. You’ll find your widening gap of unemployment unattractive to employers the longer it becomes, as it moves further away from what they value; routine, responsibility, work ethic and of course any skills get out-of-date as do your references.
  7. Network. Many people have an incredibly difficult time networking because they stick with what and who they know; avoiding with deliberate action introducing themselves to people they don’t; people who can have profound impacts on their future lives. When you speak with and listen to people you don’t know, you have with each exchange an opportunity to learn something and maybe have your interest peaked which can lead you to have the desire to learn more about that subject on your own.
  8. Experiment. With every job you do you’ll pick up what you like and dislike. Whether it’s the style of supervision, an office vs. a factory floor, indoors vs. outdoors or even business vs. business casual clothing, you’ll develop a personal bias for what works best for you. This information can help you determine what you want more of or want to avoid in future jobs.

As you search for your next job, invest some time in researching the company, its employees and most importantly ensure you have a really good grasp on what you would actually do in the job you are applying to. Too often I’ve watched people take jobs they are genuinely excited about and in a very short period of time they lament that the job didn’t come as advertised. This was the case just recently when a young person I know traveled 3000 kilometres to take on a job and she returned less than 2 months later disillusioned and disappointed that it wasn’t at all in reality what she thought it would be.

So you see there’s a lot more to think about in terms of finding the right job than you might have previously thought. Oh and honestly, there are more factors than these to think of which could be of greater significance to some job hunters. My point is, you can hardly expect to find a meaningful job if you just walk up to a job board and pluck down a job posting and announce, “This is the one.”

Do I Need A Cover Letter?

1.       The employer specifically asked you not include one.

2.       Your ability to communicate using the written word is so poor it would do more harm than good.

3.       You don’t really want the job and can’t be bothered to make a strong application.

These are 3 great reasons not to include a cover letter with your resume when you apply for a job. As far as number 3 goes, why are you wasting any amount of energy actually applying for the job; or the time of the people at the other end who will get your resume?

I often get asked about the cover letter from the people I work with on a daily basis who are looking for employment. The questions I get asked are typically:

1.       Is it necessary?

2.       What do I say?

3.       Do they really read them?

Again I’ll comment on number 3; about half the employers read the cover letter. Unless the ad for the job specifically tells you not to write a cover letter, you’ll be left wondering if the employer you’re sending your resume to falls in the half that reads the cover letter or not. As you can’t be sure, you should include one as a general practice.

Okay number 1 reminds me of the whiny child who doesn’t want to do something and says, “Do I haveta?”  Invariably, he gets an answer from his mom or dad, “Yes you have to and you might as well do it now!” Asking if it’s necessary when referring to writing cover letters is I suppose the adult version of this childhood scene.

Actually a cover letter is not absolutely necessary; but it’s such a plus when done well, and the advantage it gives you is so big over those that don’t include one that it is in my opinion necessary. After all, it’s such a competitive market out there for employment you want every advantage you can over your competition. If they are too lazy to write one, or not proficient in writing an effective one; advantage you!

So let’s look at what you actually say in the cover letter. First off, the point of the cover letter is what? It does a few things:

1.       Introduces you to the employer

2.       Requests in writing an interview

3.       Markets you to meet their needs

4.       Demonstrates your strong interest/professionalism

5.       Sets up the resume

When you are applying for work, your cover letter should be on a single page and in the same font (I suggest Ariel size 12) as your resume. It should include your name and contact information, the date, the name of the person you are addressing, their job title and if in the job ad, include a job competition number so the receiver can quickly sort it with the right job you are applying for.

Ask for the interview right off: “I am requesting an interview for the position of….” Employers will appreciate your assertiveness and they know the purpose of your communication immediately. Don’t dance around, fumbling for every word you can think of that comes close but doesn’t actually request an interview. It’s not pushy or aggressive; it’s considerate of their time and provides direct clarity.

In your next paragraph, get to the heart of the matter; you meet their qualifications, you’d really love to do the job and you’re going to solve their problem, fill their needs, bring whatever it is they are looking for. Be sincere and honest; why are you the best fit for the job and this company? Pull in words from the job posting, and by all accounts use their language. Don’t refer to helping their clients if the word they use isn’t clients at all but rather customers. If they have ‘must haves’ in the posting, stress you have these right up front.

Reference your resume certainly and conclude your letter by again requesting an interview to best demonstrate your strong interest and suitability for the job in question. State a contact number and when you’re done don’t go all standard and type, “Yours truly”, or “Sincerely” – BORING! Be unique and sign off, “With enthusiasm,” etc. Stand out right at the very end. Before you get all excited and hit the send button on your computer, proofread your letter more than once or get the eye of someone who is good with grammar to look it over.

If you’ve referenced the job posting several times as you are composing your cover letter, there is every chance you’ve actually marketed yourself to the very things the employer requires. Good for you if this is the case. If you wrote your cover letter without even a cursory glance at the job posting, you may have a great cover letter that’ so generic, it doesn’t resonate with the people receiving it and it doesn’t do the job it’s supposed to; fire them up to want to read your resume and extend the offer of an invitation.

Now, if by any chance you aren’t sold on writing a cover letter, I implore you to consider moving to Ontario; specifically the Durham Region area where I work as an Employment Counsellor. Yes, by all means I’d love to have those I counsel compete with you for jobs and careers out there. After all, you’d certainly improve THEIR chances of landing those precious interviews!

Job searching? Activate Your Network

Have you ever had someone ask you to keep your eyes and ears open for any employment opportunity they would be qualified for? If you have, how did you – or how are you – going about keeping them in mind as you go about your day? At this moment I have six such people in my circle who have made such a request to me, and more importantly six who I have made that commitment to.

Now I know that as I’m going about my day, I’m not solely responsible for finding any one of the six their next job or career move. I am just one of presumably several people who are keeping our collective ears and eyes open for these people. Well I hope I’m not the only one at any rate!

I think that’s the key actually; spreading the word among your contacts that you’re looking for opportunities and by alerting all your connections, you hope that you get one or more alerts regarding job opportunities you could apply to. By mobilizing such a group of people, you increase the odds of becoming aware of positions you might otherwise be ignorant of. That part of the process makes complete sense and is in the control of the job seeker.

However, as I say in the opening lines of this piece, how do you and I; the ones asked to keep the job seeker in mind, actually go about our days with them in mind so we don’t overlook them when we hear of an opportunity? I know for me personally, it’s always helpful to have in my hands a copy of the person’s updated resume. I want to check and see for myself what their education is, where they’ve worked and what they’ve accomplished. Having their resume within easy reach without having to request it later on can save me the time and trouble to request it, and can be the difference between getting the person notified before a deadline comes up or not.

So picture a folder with in my case, six resumes in it; one for each of the six people who have asked to keep them advised of any opportunities that come up. This folder is easily accessible for me and prevents me from mixing up the people with the employment goals of each.  Standing up thinly wedged between other documents on my desk, it should be relatively easy to locate and most importantly for those six people, a visual reminder so they don’t get forgotten.

Now while I’m very much a fan of technology, I think this is one instance where a physical file on a desk is preferable to an electronic file on a desktop screen. An icon or program that has to be accessed in order to remember the names of people and what it is they are looking for might have its advantages, but the physical 8 1/2 “ x 11” item on the top of the desk wins out for sheer attention-getting value. It’s hard to miss when you sit down and its right in front of you.

Now what’s really useful too is the briefest of notes, assigning a name with a job title. “Jim = Manufacturing Foreman, Omar = Caseworker, Jean = Office, Martin = Project Manager, Olivia = Marketing, Dante = Legal Assistant.” Having such a list makes for a simple and fast review and encourages me to keep these people in my thoughts as I go about my day.

But what of the people reaching out to me for help with their own job search? What responsibilities do they have once they take the step of requesting my aid? Is it enough that they ask for help and then sit back and wait for the help to come? I don’t think that’s enough personally.

First of all, anyone asking for help with their job search owes it to the people now looking on their behalf to inform their contacts that they have found employment in order for the helpers to stop looking. If for example I asked for your help in my job search and after two months of looking daily for jobs for me you contacted me with an opportunity, you’d probably feel that I used you only for my own gains if I said, “Oh it’s okay, I found a job a month ago.” I know if that were me on the receiving end, I’d think long and hard about keeping my eyes and ears open a second time for such a person.

One thing a job seeker also has to do is keep their contacts appraised of any changes in their direction. If you choose a different career, return to school, expand or restrict your job search, you owe it to those looking on your behalf to share that information. You may not have a job, but you do have the responsibility to keep your network advised of what’s going on with your job search so your connections can alter their behaviour accordingly.

Finally, you owe it to both yourself and your connections to build into your job search some networking time. Call up your contacts or fire off an email that extends some thanks and screams, “Don’t forget about me please.” You can send along any updated resume and a short note of thanks every so often will be greatly appreciated.

How To Find The Right Job For You

There are those searching for work that are fortunate enough to know both exactly what it is they want to do and whom they want to work for in order to do it. This certainly presents them with an advantage in that they can work towards their goal with purpose. What of the job seekers however that haven’t figured either the work that would make them happiest nor their, ‘dream employer?’

I suspect there is a massive group of people looking for work at any time who have no master or long-term plan in place regarding their employment. Many of the people I listen to at any rate haven’t identified one.

Recently I was speaking with a young woman who is on the cusp of graduating from a university in the field of Psychology. “Do you know what you’d like to do with that Degree?” I asked her. “No, I don’t. I know I should know, but I don’t” was her reply. This is the plight many graduates feel and her short response highlights two key points; she doesn’t know what she is going to do with the degree and she feels some expectation or pressure to have an employment goal that makes use of the degree.

I remember such a feeling myself when I graduated from university with my degree in Sociology with a minor in Communications. “Where”, I asked myself, “does a Sociologist go to work?” Where’s the building with the sign outside that reads, “All ye Sociologists enter here and do great work”? Similarly the plight for some people graduating with Psychology, Philosophy or any number of other disciplines.

There are in fact many more opportunities today in which to turn that graduation diploma or degree into meaningful related work than there were when I graduated. However, with all these additional opportunities, there is additional confusion. Jobs exist and continue to be created with job titles that don’t immediately make obvious what the actual work to be done is. Take the real job titles of, “Value Creator”, “Coordinator of Interpretive Teaching” and, “Chief Paradigm Officer”. How could one competently know if their particular certificate, diploma or degree qualified them for some such position without first researching each unusual title to see first what the responsibilities each title contains and secondly whether the educational criteria fit?

Turning to those well beyond graduating from schools and programs, there are a whole host of adults in this world who toddle off to work on a daily basis but have no real enthusiasm for either the work they do nor the companies for whom they work. What they don’t have is an escape plan; but if they did, it would be put into action right quick. They stay where they are however until they have something they deem better to go to, yet the irony is they don’t have the time to really seek out what it is they want to go to because of where they are now – trapped in a job they don’t love. This is actually a real life form of voluntary self-imprisonment with an indeterminate sentence of time.

This is a conundrum for the person trapped within; I want out of this job but I can’t afford to leave this job until I have a better job to go to, so I’ll stay in this job. I don’t have the time to really explore jobs to find my dream job because I’m stuck in this job 5 days a week. Nothing can or will change of course because the person takes no departure from their usual routine, so the future cannot change until a change indeed occurs; like getting fired for not performing well in the job they hate or finally quitting just to preserve some small amount of sanity when the person is at the end of their rope. That’s certainly no way to begin a thoughtful job search.

Why is it so difficult for so many to find work that is meaningful and therefore satisfying? You think we’d be able to figure this out.

Here is my personal take on why for some of us it takes longer to in fact figure it out. As humans, we have this capacity to learn from our experiences. We experience something for the first time and we find the experience pleasurable or unpleasant. When it comes to small decisions, it’s relatively easy for us to decide – say upon what we want to eat for breakfast or the clothes we choose for the day. We think quickly about the impending taste of cereal versus bacon and eggs and make our selection based on which we would find more pleasurable; we say to ourselves, “Which do I want more?” and act.

When it comes to employment, we look around ourselves all the time and both consciously and subconsciously take away impressions of what those jobs entail and we also stock away what jobs we deem pleasurable or not. We cannot for example evaluate or consider some job based on title alone because that has no meaning for us unless we’ve seen someone in the role or read about what the job entails.

Those that can’t decide on a career or job they’d find enjoyable just haven’t had the exposure to the right job for them. How do you get this? Try different jobs, speak to people and learn what you like and don’t like until you find the job that clicks.