Ah Vacation Time!

Today is my last day at work before two weeks of vacation time. I can tell you I’m quite looking forward to the days of waking up and not immediately looking at the clock to see if I need to get up or not.

Now most days I confess I’m awake quite early; around 5:00 a.m. even though I don’t have to leave the house until 6:30 a.m. However, I’ve noticed over the past couple of weeks that I’m sleeping later, and one morning recently woke up only to see the clock tell me it was 6:20 a.m. So yes, it will be a welcome change to move from sleep to consciousness and not have to open the eyeballs if I don’t feel like it and just lie there blissfully in those moments between.

I love my job you know. I find it greatly satisfying in most respects, and I look forward to coming into work and helping others as an Employment Counsellor. I confess however that having some time to spend doing whatever I and my wife wish is time I’m looking forward to. And I think that’s the key that is most telling; I’m not looking to ‘get away from work’ the way some people express it. No, I’m looking forward to spending my days doing things we’d both most like to do. In short, I’m not running away from my job as much as I am running towards the vacation.

I think this is the key to strive for in a world where working full-time is the norm. Work provides us with purpose and income; income then provides us with the means to live as we choose. If you are fortunate enough to find a job that suits you and fulfills you, challenges you and stimulates you, then you’re happy to work and find meaning in what  you do. Vacations then become time to spend with family, travel, kick back, relax, see and do things you don’t usually get the opportunity to do.

Contrast this with the person who has a job they feel tied to. The job is a burden, the daily trip to and from work from home a labour and the work itself a seeming sentence. Life seems more a treadmill; get up, get out, check in, work, check out, go home, sleep, repeat. A vacation to someone who has come to see things this way is like being let out on parole. At some point during the early days of the vacation, the person is already experiencing anxiety about the dwindling number of days they’ve got until they return to work and on the first day back they’re looking at the calendar counting the weeks until the next vacation.

That’s no way to live a life don’t you think? Some might argue that we’ve got it all wrong; that we should have 5 months of work and 7 months of ‘vacation’ time. I don’t know about that, and as I’m not going to experience that I’m not going to waste time weighing the pros and cons. In 8 – 10 years I see myself not working anymore at all, and rather than count the years I think I’d rather just enjoy the work I’m doing in the here and now instead of waiting until retirement and then realizing what I missed.

So the question with vacation time is how to spend it. Some choose travel, others the ‘staycation’, some have the entire time scripted and planned while some just play each day as it comes. The point is we get to choose, and choice is a wonderful thing.

In my case, there’s a train ride in the works; it’s all aboard for an excursion of the Agawa Canyon north of Sault St. Marie in Ontario. This is something I’ve been talking about doing for years so it’s nice to know it’s just coming up next week. I do hope the weather is good!

I’m also looking forward to spending some time in…my backyard. No seriously! I have put in many hours making the backyard my oasis with a waterfall, greenery and areas for relaxing and barbecuing. It only makes sense to me therefore to plan to spend some time in that space relaxing. Never understood those that create such places and then when vacation time comes they flee what they’ve created.

I’m not knocking those that spend their vacations on beaches in far off climes, nor those who head for the hustle and bustle of big cities in foreign lands. To each their own. To me however, it’s hard to beat some time either camping, staying around the homestead or doing some day trips exploring the area in which we live.

So how about you? What do you do with your vacation time and more importantly what does your vacation time represent to you?

And isn’t it fantastic when the boss at work comes to you and says, “Well now, this year you get an extra week of vacation time based on your year’s of service.” It’s like winning the lottery! Unless of course, you figured this out already and had been counting the years until you got to this point. You haven’t actually started counting the years until your NEXT extra week of vacation have you?

I spoke with someone recently and they told me the number of years, weeks, and days until they retired. Ouch!

Vacation time; enjoy yours my friends!

How To Get Ahead In The Organization

Not all of us are bound for glory at the top of the organization. Quite frankly, not all of us value being at the top at all. For those however who do want to rise from the rank of the entry-level, there are a few things you can do that will increase your opportunities of moving up. Identify your goal. Rather than letting fate determine where you end up, look at the organizational chart where you work.

Name the job. Identify what for you is be the ideal position to be in that would make use of your skills and satisfy your desire to be in a position that you’re happiest. You’ll do this throughout your career by the way, so if you identify a position that’s really three or four moves away, look closest at the move one up from where you are now in that sequence of upward movement.

Check your skill set. It could be that you’ve already got all the requisite skills required of the job you identified in the step above. If you do, wonderful; you’re positioned to apply with confidence if and when that position becomes available. If however you can identify skills and qualifications you lack at the moment, you’ll be happy to know that although you’re lacking, you have made an important discovery. Now is the time to start looking into how you can acquire what you need. Is it a course, a certificate or degree program? Is it leadership on the job in some kind of project?

Establish a timeframe. This step requires you to realistically step back and look at where you are and where you intend to be and accurately measure the time between the present and arriving where you plan to be. This is a crucial step not to be overlooked. While you can’t predict perhaps when someone will vacate the position they now occupy that you covet, you can make some educated guesses. How long for example has the person been in the job? What’s their age? Talk to them and find out their plans by taking an interest in their career path. Is your company contracting or expanding?

Share your vision. If you’ve got the kind of employer that values succession planning and whom takes a real sincere interest in employee development, share your goals with your supervisor. The boss is in a position to get on board with your plans and can approve training opportunities that will give you the necessary skills that you determined earlier you lack. It could also be that the boss knows more than you do about other employee’s plans and while they are unlikely to share that information for reasons of confidentiality, they can give you good advice on what to do now so you’re ready when the time comes.

Network. This step is often the one that people grumble about. Not sure really why that is, but if you don’t warm to the word, ‘network’ than how about converse, talk, engage, mingle etc. Don’t let the word stop you from doing what is essentially just getting to know and be known by the people who may be in the best position to help you in your career moves.

Be authentic. Can you spot a phony? Sure you can. Don’t be the woman or man who is the office bootlicker. If you flatter others in a disingenuous way, you’ll be pegged a mile off. You don’t have to tell people of influence that they look amazing every day or that you soooo admire them and every decision they make. Do this and you set yourself up to be used and abused. You’ll be known as such an obvious step climber that you’ll be given the worst jobs to do that nobody wants just because in your mind it will look good so you’ll do them without complaint or objection.

Put in the time. Not always, but typically speaking, those that contribute more of their own time beyond what they have to, advance. When you put in extra time you’re sending out the message that by your actions you’re committed. If you are putting in this time and being authentic about it, (see the point above), you’ll probably be doing so at some point because you care and you want results. While more time alone doesn’t mean you do better work or achieve better results, it does send the message that the company is important to you, and you’re not above investing yourself in its success

Get feedback. You need to know fairly early and often how you are perceived by others. Seek out some honest opinions about how your personality and character fit with what the organization is looking for. You may have all the skills and qualifications for a job, but if you get denied it again and again, it’s likely that you’re not seen as a good fit for other reasons. When you ask for feedback make sure you listen more than you speak, and take the feedback openly. If you get defensive and argue about that feedback, people will dry up and fail to give you what you really need most; honest feedback.

Like I said, not all of us want to move up in the companies we work for. Positioning yourself now to take advantage of future opportunities is wise advice though.



Disconnecting On The Commute In

Today as I drove in to work, (a mix of 80% rural and 20% urban) I started by doing what I usually do; turned the radio on to a talk and news station and then sat back and listened. I do this each day so I can arrive at work and know what’s going on in this big beautiful world we live in.

It’s important to me I suppose to know which country some gunman originated in and which faith he’s associated with; which religious group is claiming responsibility for the murders he committed. Then there’s the people who were flushed out into the streets in the wee hours of the morning I guess it’s important I hear about in another city. And of course, I wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t hear about the night club that had a shooting just outside its doors at 2:00 a.m.

Do I need to know all of these events? My usual answer must be yes because this is my daily routine; listen to the radio, stay up on local, national and world events on a daily basis so I can intelligently contribute to discussions at work. Without consciously intending to, I’ve developed a reputation at least with a few people, of being informed about such things. This is usually great advice by the way, so you can network, connect and talk with others in your circles without having to always say, “Gee I didn’t know that” when others are talking. The radio is a great source of information that can turn your experience into, “Yes I heard that. Here’s what I think…”.

If it’s not the radio, some other drivers turn their time into learning opportunities. They have CD’s, MP3’s, Bluetooth – a multitude of services that provide access to podcasts, language development and just about any topic they feel is of interest to them. It occupies their thoughts; the driver is in control of what they hear, experience and learn.

Today however, about a third of the way along my commute, I did something that I should do more often. I disconnected entirely. I turned off the radio and with a couple of windows down, I didn’t control what I heard, I let the great outdoors bring me its sounds. Now in the country drive along a secondary highway, I heard the silence, birds, passing traffic and silence. The silence was outstanding. I became aware that my thoughts were shifting from one thing to the next, it was as if there were conversations going on and all I had to do was let go and allow my brain and its thoughts to wander aimlessly; shifting, moving, in and out, coming and going.

The stimulation was all around me. The sun was dawning over me all along the drive and as I passed through small communities, even pausing at intersections waiting for the green lights wasn’t unpleasant but relaxing. As I moved into the urban city nearing the end of my commute, I heard the beep, beep, beep of construction vehicles backing up, the voices of workers communicating. I heard the sounds of large vehicles as they struggled to move from fully stopped and proceed through intersections; their engines resisting the process of gearing up.

It was a relaxing, enjoyable experience and when I arrived a work and parked the car, I was very much aware of a sense of calm I was in. It had been a great drive in and had taken exactly the same amount of time – no slower or faster. This disconnecting thing was pretty cool.

So what’s this got to do with jobs, with work, with employment advice? Well, perhaps it’s a good thing every now and then to consider disconnecting yourself. Do you really have to be listening to music, the news, a podcast or whatever you do listen to during your commute. What if you disconnected and just listened; let your thoughts tumble around without consciously trying to focus on solving a problem, resolving an issue or mentally going over your daily agenda? You can look at the daily agenda when you arrive at work.

I’m not saying disconnecting is something to do everyday. There’s a lot of time on your commute to be productive, to be inspired and to be entertained. That’s good for you if that’s your aim. Can you disconnect however and be comfortable with the silence and the lack of activity? Have you got so programmed yourself that you can’t go more than two minutes without checking your phone for messages? If nobody texts you even though you’re online can you survive? Hmmm…look around you and there’s a lot of people who appear to need to be connected. Notice their eyes are on a screen in a subway or on a bus when they could be looking out the windows and taken in different kinds of stimulation.

Disconnecting and just looking around on a commute in or back home can change your frame of mind, alter your mood and maybe put you in a better place as you walk in the door at home or work. This is where the connection lies between disconnecting and your workday.

Have you had a similar experience on your way in to work? My experience isn’t life altering, it’s not nirvana realized or paradise gained; it’s just a small change that created a different experience; one for the better.

Try it.

What Do You Want?

What do you want to experience in your life that you currently aren’t? More money? Power? Flexibility? Job satisfaction? A stronger intimate relationship with someone? Knowing what you want can help you realize it. Not knowing what you want can seed frustration, anger, regret and confusion.

So let’s say you’ve identified that you want more income. Having decided on more income you can then move on to looking at your options; taking on a secondary job, applying for better paying jobs, investing your funds to grow them faster etc. The choices are yours to make but they all have one thing in common as they all seek to increase your overall wealth.

When it comes to relationships and wanting a deeper, more fulfilling one, you can opt to put yourself in more situations where you’ll meet more people, you can risk telling someone how you feel, or you can send out the word that you’re on the market and / or join some dating sites. Already in a relationship? You can invest more of your conscious energy in making that relationship stronger.

Now as for your career, again I ask, “What do you want?” Some people are very happy in their life just moving from job to job, doing different things, gaining a wealth of experiences, and of course being paid to do those jobs. For others, this idea of floating along and not having some overall master plan is not satisfying at all. No, some people are happier identifying what it is they want early and then taking the courses and gaining the experiences that will ultimately put them in a position to take advantage of things and realize their long-term goals.

You know I’m guessing the people in your workplace that everyone can easily identify as the go-getters. They volunteer for committees, they move with the right people, they climb the corporate ladder with speed and purpose. It’s like they’ve got a career path all laid out and are acting the plan. Well good for them you say to yourself; and you either mean it sincerely or you say it wishing it was you on that path instead of them.

Of course what we want career-wise has a lot to do with the factors we experience. If we are in our late 50’s vs. our early 30’s, we might not want to invest much time and energy aspiring to reach the top if we’re not close to it. After all, it might be we just want to play out the string, get paid for our work and then retire early enough to enjoy life without having the stress of putting in the extra hours required to impress the higher-ups and get that plum job which we might have under different circumstances reached out for.

Where we live can play a big factor too. Maybe we’re just not into a long commute, we don’t want to arrive early and work late; we’re content with how things are and to make a big corporate leap would mean moving from our cozy urban dwelling into the heat of the city; all dusty, busy and noisy. No thanks.

What do you want? It keeps coming back to these four words. What you want is very personal; there’s no right or wrong answer, but there is a personal answer. It requires some thought doesn’t it? I mean, what do YOU want?

Some people think that just wanting something is akin to dreaming. Write it down they say and it’s a goal. Plan to make it happen by developing some written steps that have some kind of timeframes attached and you’ve got a workable map that will lead you to the goal you’ve described. But there are a lot of people who have their goal in mind and they still make it happen without the benefit of writing it down and mapping out the steps.

Then of course there are those who have no goal in mind other than seeing how life unfolds. If opportunities arise with respect to their career, they’ll think about them at the time rather than plan now to stand at that crossroads. To be honest, in some fields there are new jobs that didn’t exist even a short time ago, so how could anyone have planned to make the move to the jobs that didn’t exist? So there are many people who are content to find something they enjoy doing and just plan to continue doing it until they no longer enjoy it; then and only then do they look around and say, “Okay so what are my options?”

When you’re in school, good advice is to keep all your doors open down the road by getting all the education you can; the degree over the diploma so to speak. It can open more doors down the road; doors you don’t even know exist. But what about post school? What actions can you take to keep your doors open?

Take advantage of learning opportunities your employer presents. Network positively and often. If you get the chance, take the lead at work on some project so you both learn and stretch a little while getting known to those you don’t normally interact with. Keep looking every so often at other job postings just so see what’s trending. Could be a perfect job comes up and you find your next move.

What do you want?


Being underemployed means your that while yes you’re working, you’re in a position that isn’t what you are qualified to do based on your education and experience. It’s likely that you are also underpaid, as you’re working in a job quite possibly that is in another field and at an entry-level salary, because you’re not entirely qualified in that second field for a more senior position.

Still, it’s a job. Needing money to stay afloat and pay some bills, you’ve taken this job on a short-term basis. The good thing about the job is that it keeps you busy and there’s less time to sit alone at home brooding over your lack of success. It’s also good for the self-esteem in that an employer picked you up and hired you so your skills are validated. The people you meet on a daily basis don’t know about your situation and let’s face it, not many of them care quite frankly. Everybody has a story and while you’ve got yours, they’ve got theirs. That’s just the fact of the matter.

Now on the downside, while you’ve got some immediate income, the income itself isn’t sustainable; well not for the lifestyle you had or the lifestyle you’re aiming for. You’re living tight, paying the bills to get by but there’s not much of a social life with such a small reserve of what’s referred to as discretionary spending. Another downside is the work itself; this isn’t what you went to school for in all probability.

Now while you’ve taken on this job for the positives; including filling up a broadening gap on your resume had you not taken the job, you’re worried about the possibility of getting lulled into this new job and not having the time or energy to work hard at getting back into the field you went to school for. You don’t want to be the poster child for the person with two University degrees who is now flipping burgers for a living.

Okay so what to do. Well first of all, the decision to take a job sometimes referred to as a survival job or transition job is or was, yours alone to make. As there are pros and cons, you have to take the responsibility and accountability for having made the decision to accept this job based solely on your own unique circumstances.

I’ve known some career seekers who actually switched to job seekers and it worked out wonderfully. You see an entry-level job that requires less qualifications than the career position you’ve been going for over a long period can actually be a huge positive. There’s much less stress for example dressing a submarine sandwich or fitting someone for a new pair of shoes than there is scratching your way alone in the financial sector while managing an investment portfolio for a firms clients. That drop in stress could be just what the doctor ordered, and this can give your brain a chance to turn down the constant need to be checking stock markets and interest rates.

Now before anyone jumps on entry-level service industry jobs as being more than I’m pointing them out to be, let me say that learning the ropes is just as critically important to the owners of these franchises and businesses. I used to be a shoe and clothing salesperson; but selling shoes and clothes was much less stressful than making decisions as a Social Services Caseworker that could result in someone not getting the funds they expected and being out on the street – literally.

If you are underemployed, you’ve got to find for yourself that fine line between taking a transition or survival job just long enough to ground yourself and not too long so it becomes your new normal. You want to give the employer who hired you a return on their investment in you, both in terms of time on their payroll and interest and commitment to their success. At the same time, you do want to focus some of your energy and time to getting on with your career; and at the moment you’re not in the right employment sector.

Get in a routine and commit to it. That could mean looking for work every morning until your afternoon shift, or it could mean committing to 3 hours of job search activity at some point in your day. Whatever you choose, a regular commitment will keep you from missing the perfect opportunity. Don’t think I mean just looking at want ads either. Today there’s online learning, night school, webinars, social media platforms that promote discussion and networking. There’s a lot you could do beyond just looking for job openings.

One of the most useful things you could be doing right now is initiating and nurturing new relationships with people you don’t know at the moment but who work for the company or companies you’d most like to target. Connecting with someone today and asking them for a job tomorrow isn’t going to work with most people. However, connecting with someone today and cultivating that relationship to the point where you seek out some assistance as a job opening appears will likely mean your contact is happier to pass on information to help you out.

Being underemployed but working has its pros and cons. It’s up to you and you alone to decide what’s right for you. Remember however that lyric of the Beatles that goes, “Get back to where you once belonged.”


“Why Should We Hire You?”

Play along we me here; you’re sailing along in the interview and feeling pretty confident about your chances so far. Then, nearing the end of the process you’re asked by one of the people on the panel, “Why should we hire you?”

Now this question can take various forms. It could be they say, “Why are you the right person for the job?” or “What makes you the perfect candidate over the others?” However they phrase it to you, this is opportunity knocking, and your chance to either wow them or leave them wondering how you got through the screening in the first place.

This is your chance to shine Sunshine. If the job is one you really want, you’ll be doing an imaginary fist pump at this point and your brain will silently scream, “Yes!” because you’ve been looking for a chance to tell them exactly how much you want this job and communicating genuine enthusiasm for the position will come naturally to you. Why? Because you really want this job and the fit with your skills, interests and qualifications is matched with the personal suitability.

If on the other hand, you hear them ask, “Why should we hire you?” and you’re doubtful that you are in fact the best person for the job because it’s not your dream position, you’re brain might not scream, “Yes!” but rather, “Good question..”

Okay so let’s look at the possibilities. First and foremost you want your body language to communicate some real excitement for the work you’ll be doing. You’ll want this enthusiasm for the work to be transmitted in your posture, your voice and your content.

Move your behind to the front 1/3 of the chair you’re seated in. You don’t want to be on the verge of falling off or getting in the personal space of the interviewer, but you do want to engage and look assertive as you deliver your answer.

Plant your feet solidly on the floor, smile and make solid eye contact; not the “I’m boring into the rear of your skull, mind-probing, wide-eyed crazy look, just good solid eye contact. The smile is important because you should be thinking happy thoughts as you relate why you should be hired. Your ever-so-close to getting this job you really want, and the excitement of just thinking about that should come across in a radiant smile. You want this job and it makes you happy just imagining it. What employer doesn’t want happy workers?

Okay, so you’re seated properly, your leaning forward slightly and you’re smiling. You’ve taken care of the non-verbal body language that is going to support the words coming out of your mouth. Great. Now remember one thing before you get to this point; the question, “Why should we hire you?” is not the same as the question, “Why do you want this job?” The first question is about how the company would benefit and the second question is more about why you personally would benefit. This process has never been about what you want but about fitting an employer’s needs so they are stronger overall with you than without you.

The research you do before ever getting to the interview will help you here. Know why the position was created if you can. Are they expanding or downsizing, are you there to fill a short-term need like a pregnancy leave or will you be in for the long-term on a permanent basis? Are they looking for someone to come in, work hard and go home or are they looking for a problem-solver who can turn things around? If you can identify the above, you’ll know the way to strategically answer this question and tackle it from the right point of view.

The second thing you should think about is that you can’t possibly know who you are up against; well most of the time anyhow. So comparing yourself to what you imagine to be your competition isn’t a good move. You don’t have the knowledge the interviewer(s) do so you don’t want to bring competitors into the conversation when this is your time. Focus on what makes you great.

Be authentic in your response. Here’s why I’m the perfect fit for you at this time. This ladies and gentleman, is not the time to remember what mom said when she told you, “Nobody likes a person who talks about how great they are.” Forget that advice. This is precisely the time for you to not brag but rather MARKET yourself as the best option to choose to meet the needs of the employer.

Break your answer into these pieces: Your education and experience, your personal suitability and what makes you unique. No one after all has had the same path to get to this point. So what have you done or accomplished that stands out, that gives you a unique perspective, that you could draw on in this position which would help you do the job better.

The absolute worse thing you can do is not think about this question until you are asked it in an interview and then count on your good looks and charm to wing it off the cuff. It may sound fabulous to you, but it probably comes across as spontaneous and like you’re thinking about it for the first time. Not good.

So, why do you want this job?

Scared Of The Odd Interview Question?

There are many things you should be thinking of and working on in preparation for your upcoming interview. Worrying about the possibility of a bizarre, weird and just crazy interview question shouldn’t be one of them.

Most experienced interviewers know that the face-to-face interview is a time-sensitive precious period in which to get to know the applicant who may become a member of their organization. In the time-allotted, they need to find out how your past experience, your present skills and your personality are going to fit – or not – with the organization. Knowing this, the experienced interviewers tend to concentrate their few questions to discovering how you respond to their core needs. The core needs they have are typically found in the actual job posting under some heading like, ‘Responsibilities’.

That oddball question you may have heard some interviewers inject into the process happens less than you may have been coached on. That bizarre question is usually introduced by interviewers who are new to the game and want to exercise some smug sense of power as they anticipate it throwing you off, or it could be legitimately asked if the interviewer wants to see you think on your feet and feels your answers up to a certain point are coming at them as rehearsed, scripted or coached.

The most often cited weird question used as an example has to be the question, “If you were an animal, which one would you be and why?” This is such an over-used example of the absurd that most applicants are somewhat prepared for the question should it be asked, and therefore it isn’t as it’s lost the impact it once had. Most people now know they shouldn’t use some animal that is generally associated with negative traits. So a snake is a bad choice as is a spider. The dog is overused and too safe not showing much imagination, and the horse is as well if you’re looking at hardworking as a trait.

How much energy should you really invest in preparation for an upcoming job interview in the off-chance they ask you something peculiar? None. Seriously. After all, if the point is to ask you something you couldn’t possibly have prepared for in order to see how you think on your feet when confronted with something unusual, by its very definition, how could you prepare for it? How likely are you going to prepare for the question, “17 rosebuds about to bloom are in your garden. How many do you pick? There’s a right and a wrong answer.”

The best advice you can really receive is to spend your time focusing on preparing for the questions you can make solid assumptions on actually being asked in the interview. Knowing that a bizarre question could be thrown at you but likely won’t and doing your best by using your wits is what might serve you best. Even if you do get asked one such question, it’s not going to be a multitude of odd questions but one if any.

So how then do you prepare yourself for the questions that are most likely to be asked of you? Look at the job posting and read carefully over two sections: Job Responsibilities and Qualifications. It is here that the employer says straight out, “Here’s what we’re looking for; you have to have these qualifications for us to consider you and you have to have the experience that matches the experience the job requires in order to be considered.”

Looking at a job posting; (and yes you can pause here and grab a real one that you are considering applying for or are awaiting the upcoming interview for), check out the details. Grab a highlighter or use the computer’s highlight function to focus on what the employer states as qualifications and responsibilities. Go do this now.

Done? Great. Suppose you highlighted something about teamwork, team player or working with others. It is highly likely that you can now predict with certainty that the interviewer may pose a question to you that will ask you to share your past or current experience working with others in a team setting. They will be listening for words like: collaborated, cooperated, pooled resources, listened, compromised, led, initiated, successfully implemented etc. The bottom line? You work well with others and have a specific story from your past that makes this experience believable when related to them. Get across your cooperative attitude and your productivity. If it’s in the job posting, you should never claim you weren’t prepared for the question.

Just yesterday a woman I was preparing for an interview highlighted all the key words in the job posting and we noted how the word, ‘filing’ was highlighted 6 times! That to me comes across like a key aspect of what she can expect to be doing in the job, and therefore having examples from her past that prove she has filing skills and could find key documents as needed quickly would be useful to have ready.

Oddball questions do exist and yes you might get asked what colour you’d paint your co-workers toes, who has the best pizza in town or with whom you might most want to share a vacation with. Don’t overthink these. Just don’t kill your chances with a smug, “Why do you want to know?” or “I don’t think this is a useful question.” Just answer and move on.

Job Searching? Introduce Some Humour

Job searching is serious business; in fact it’s an intense full-time occupation where the stakes are high and the cost of failure may be more than a person can bear. So it’s not the time or place to introduce humour and comedy into your day. Or is it?

If you’ve never been on a prolonged job search while unemployed, you may not fully appreciate how exhausting and mentally taxing it can be. Many people who turn job seekers report being anxious more often and for longer periods of time as they go about their days looking for work. At the end of their day, although exhausted, sleep seldom comes easy. Just as one’s mind should be clearing of all conscious thought so that sleep can be entered into blissfully, the job seekers consciousness starts with thoughts of guilt, impending financial ruin, and stress about upcoming social events that might cost money that isn’t there. When the dawn comes, the unsettled night’s sleep is broken only with more thoughts of, “what to do” with the day to get out of this rut and find a job.

This hardly the time to think of laughter, fun, good times and investing some time in having a good time! Yet perhaps, just perhaps, this is exactly what would be not just useful but indeed essential to gathering up some new energy to keep that job search going.

Humour of course can be introduced to the job search strategy in a number of ways; some low key and free or on the cheap. For starters, there’s comedy on the small screen; your television. If you choose, you can look through the listings for a week and record a comedy movie to watch one evening. This will be your guilt-free reward time where you pop up some popcorn, sit back and relax alone or with some friends and permit yourself to laugh. That laughter is healthy my friend so laugh long and loud.

If the small screen doesn’t appeal to you because you’re still trapped in the house and the job search stuff is too close by to allow you to really focus on the comedy, get out of the house. Go see a show in town and consider the cost of admission to the show a much smaller investment than you’d make seeing a Counsellor. The one great thing about a theatre is that it’s a shared experience; you’re out in the community and you’re just a normal person doing normal things. While you might be unemployed, no one in the theatre is likely to ask you what you do for a living and how it’s going, so you can relax, fit in with the crowd and feel that normalcy wash over you.

Good books we love are valuable too. Being able to immerse yourself into another world where you get caught up in the characters, the landscapes, the plot and the storyline can be a welcome diversion from the stress we might feel job searching non-stop. Just make sure you don’t get so absorbed that you waste precious job search time reading too much and then feeling guilt later on!

The internet is a good source of humour too. You can search for funny videos using almost any subject with the word, ‘funny’ before it as in funny videos, funny fails, funny jokes, funny animals etc. What you find funny might differ from someone else, but I’m betting it’s not hard to find something that will bring a smile to your face.

Now don’t misunderstand me; unemployment is nothing to make light of or laugh at. However, finding yourself constantly consumed and stressed by your unemployment isn’t a healthy way to go about things. Your stress can turn quickly into physical illness and possibly mental anxiety and depression if you don’t find ways to lighten up a little and find moments of laughter and humour throughout your day.

I can think of one woman I helped long ago who asked me to read over her resume. She had warehouse experience and was looking for something along those lines working in a factory setting. One day she asked me to just check her resume for any mistakes before sending it out. As I read it, she had very unintentionally put down that she had extensive experience in a whorehouse. I’m not making this up; she actually wrote that. I pointed it out and she went beat red. We laughed about that together for a good three or four minutes; it was hilarious.

I made a mistake on a resume with a woman who was responding to an ad for a Night Stocker in a grocery store. I pride myself on my vocabulary and my resume-writing ability but I found it hilarious that the day after I spun my magic on her resume, she returned with a big smile on her face to show me how I had inadvertently penned her resume introduction as seeking a job as a Night Stalker! I’m so glad she read it over herself before handing it out anywhere and she was able to see the humour in my error.

There was the day a fellow arrived at work with two different shoes on his feet – one black and one brown and even more hilarious one was a lace up and the other a slip on. Oh wait, that too was me!

Humour; go ahead and give yourself permission to laugh.


Take Charge

Do you know someone who as an adult, spends much of their time and precious energy pointing fingers and lamenting to anyone who will listen that their present and future circumstances are entirely out of their control? That someone or some other people are to blame for the position they find themselves in?

Yes it’s true that some of us come from impoverished neighbourhoods; not all of us have well-meaning, nurturing parents that treated us with respect and dignity as children. Some of us had every advantage too; good families with solid incomes, connections to people in important places that could and would mentor us and lay the plan before us to the land of milk and honey.

More of us grew up in the middle class. Our parents worked for a living, bought a home, took us on family vacations that they saved for throughout the year, put us in public schools and guided us along with what was right and what was proper. As we transitioned from children into teenagers and then again into young adults, these same parents helped as they could and as we allowed them to do so.

How we were brought up has a lot to do with how we see the world, and yes how the world sees us. People make assumptions about us based on our clothing choices, the neighbourhoods we walk or live in, the cars we drive or indeed the choice we make not to drive a car. Our skin colour, our ethnicity, our language skills, our friendliness or distrust, whether we’re loud, quiet, confident or cautious. We have biases and form opinions of others just as others do about us.

When we apply for a job we might think carefully about whether to include our home address or not in part because we wonder if that address would advance or curtail our chances of an interview. When we believe we’ll meet an employer, we think about our appearance, what we’ll share when they ask us to tell them a bit about us, and we think about the reputation of the company just as they think about the positive or negative factors in hiring us.

But back to the opening premise; I guess you can think of someone you know who blames their present unemployment or underemployment on the prejudices and opinions of others; the community into which they were born, their poor upbringing, their lack of connections, the colour of their skin, the religious beliefs they hold or the country of their birth.

There are a lot of frustrated, angry and bitter people out there; we can find them relatively easily if we go looking for them. Find one such person and they can probably introduce you to several more that they personally know; because like does attract like. And it’s easy isn’t it? I mean it’s easy to accept things the way they are, stop working to move forward, stop struggling for something better and just sit back and point at others as the source of our misery.

Taking responsibility not for the circumstances in which we find ourselves, but for doing something about things to improve our future; now that’s going to take work. Is it easy? Of course not! I’m not the first one by far to say that anything worth having is worth working hard for, but that’s the sum of it. Look, the thing is if you want a future different from your present reality; one that is better and has more opportunities to bring you happiness (however you define it), you’ve got to put in the work to make it happen.

You’re going to experience obstacles and you’re going to be tempted to give it up and believe that the good things in life were never intended for someone like you. Well, don’t believe it. Why not you? The only real limitations in this world are the ones we affix to our dreams and goals and these are the beliefs we hold; beliefs we can choose to keep or replace.

It doesn’t matter if we’re poor, insecure, mousey, shy, aboriginal, black, white or walking around with a grade 10 education. It doesn’t matter if we live in a trailer park or the wrong side of the tracks It doesn’t matter if we don’t have cable, can’t afford the internet, have never had a cell phone and haven’t got a driver’s licence. It also doesn’t matter if we’ve got a criminal record, we’re a single parent, our health is less than ideal or we don’t know the right people.

Here’s what DOES matter; the moment we decide that what could be is far better than what has been, and the decision we make to actually take personal responsibility for making changes that improve our situation. We have to make these decisions ourselves – and maybe we have numerous false starts; where we started to make some small changes but fell back into bad habits and making poor choices. Don’t feel bad and beat yourself up; you’re trying to change some longstanding behaviours here so start again. Start anew everyday if you have to until you see some small changes connecting and become new patterns of behaviour and more positive thoughts greet you in the morning each day.

Want a better life? Great. Make yourself accountable for making the dream of yours a reality. You CAN do this.

Clothes Make The Man

For the last two weeks I was fortunate to work with some people who gave themselves over to me and accepted my support to aid them in finding employment.

Among the job seekers was a gentleman who told me that his career objective was to work with the elderly in capacity of a Recreation Leader in a Senior’s facility. Like every other person who had accepted the invitation to attend, he also accepted the expectations that accompanied the invitation to attend; one of which was arriving each day in business / casual clothing.

Business casual clothing I told each participant, meant no jeans, no t-shirts; and while the ladies didn’t have to wear fancy ballroom gowns and the men didn’t have to wear three-piece suits, I did want them ready for interviews on a moments notice. Each person I spoke with told me not to worry, their clothing wouldn’t be an issue.

So back to my Recreation Aide and his quest to gain employment working in a seniors’ facility. On the second day of our gathering, in he walked with cargo shorts and a polo shirt; his definition apparently of business casual.”You said no jeans or t-shirts, but you didn’t say anything about shorts.” I had to see if he was being smart or sincere. In this case he was actually being sincere and thought his choice of clothing was acceptable for the job he was going for.

Well, we had a chat about clothing and he said he didn’t own any button up shirts; everything in his collection was a polo, t-shirt or sweater. When it came to pants, he had jeans and one pair of pants to a suit that didn’t fit him properly anymore. Now fortunately, one of the benefits I can provide for those I assist is some financial assistance. Armed with some funds I send him shopping, hoping he would take my advice and go for a button up shirt or two and a proper fitting couple of pants and belt – perhaps a reversible one that he could then wear black or brown as needed.

He did return with a change in clothing and the choices he made were excellent ones that spruced him up and which he still felt comfortable wearing. He was concerned that tucking in his shirt would expose a small belly roll over his belt line, but this wasn’t the case; and tucking his shirt in was a must.

You see from an employer or interviewers point of view, you can always dress down from how you present yourself, but they assume the way they see you is you at your best, so you can’t dress up beyond what they see. While yes you can take cues from the employees who work where you want to work, you have to also realize you’re going for a job interview and they are not. Dressing properly for an interview is essential; and having a shared understanding of what, ‘proper’ means is critical.

When you work with someone like an Employment Coach, Employment Counsellor or Job Coach, you get (hopefully) some good sound advice on how to dress for success in job interview situations. If you find you’re not getting advice on this subject, go ahead and ask.

One thing that everyone agrees on is that your first impression is essential to setting up the rest of the interview. The last thing you’d want to do is make a poor first impression and then count on your savvy interviewing style to rescue the rest of the interview. Why wouldn’t you want to start of making a strong first impression and then make it your goal to keep the interview going at that high level of professionalism?

Now as to the shopping experience; you may be one of the many who instinctively go into a store and mutter, “No thanks, I’m just looking”, when the Salesperson asks if they can be of help. If shopping isn’t your thing and coordinating an outfit or two isn’t your strength, stop denying the help offered.Instead, consider replying, “Actually yes I could use some help. I need an outfit or two for job interviews and my budget is (insert your figure here).”

By putting yourself in the hands of the Salesperson, you get the advice of someone who works in the fashion industry on a full-time basis. This doesn’t mean they are automatically an expert, but you ease off the stress of having to pick out your clothing when you don’t know what you’re doing. By giving them a budget, it tells them whether to head for the clearance rack with the 2 for 1’s, or the just arrived, full price section.

If money is a problem, look at flyers in advance of your shopping trip or look at websites of stores and see what specials they have on. You can ask for help from people you trust too in terms of where deals are to be had based on what you can spend and what you need.

When this gentleman came into class the day after his shopping excursion, I had him stand while we all looked him over. He got a round of applause and was told by others how good he looked. That did wonders for his confidence and I never saw those shorts again.

It’s true, clothes do make the man.