“Fake It ‘Til You Make It” Isn’t For Me

In my job as an Employment Counsellor, I hear the mantra, “Fake it ’til you make it” from a number of people; why even some of my fellow employees. Is this really the best advice to give someone and what dangers do we expose those people to who follow such advice?

The thrust of the context in which I hear this advice being passed on the most seems to be tied to the job interview. You know, you have some innate weakness or soft spot and instead of owning up or voluntarily providing information pertaining to it, you’d be better advised to cover things up by acting the way you assume the interviewer would see as most desirable; even when this isn’t the real you. Eventually you believe or hope you’ll come around to having the skill you really don’t, or behaving the way you currently don’t. If you can fake your way through the interview, over time on the job, you’ll be the person you’re claiming to be now.

I don’t like that advice. First of all it’s dangerous. Claiming you have skills and qualifications you don’t could lead the person on the receiving end of the advice to become injured by operating machinery in unsafe ways or handling dangerous products without the knowledge needed to do so responsibly.

Heeding such suggestions also opens a person up to being assessed as dishonest, unbelievable, a poor risk and none of these are the kind of traits employers seek out. You’d like to be thought of as genuine; a straight-shooter, honest and someone who is believable.

Perhaps you might agree that lying or insinuating you have certain skills you don’t isn’t what is being suggested by the phrase at all. You might suggest it has more to do with overcoming shyness, a lack of self-confidence or interpersonal skill deficiencies.  Okay let’s look at that. So suppose you convince a timid job seeker that showing a little more bravado or courage would be a good thing and increase their chances at getting through a job interview and obtaining an offer. You tell them that the interviewer doesn’t know them at all, and therefore they can fake that self-confidence until they get out of the interview and hopefully made enough of a good impression that they get hired.

This sounds on the surface as not bad advice at all. However, what I’ve witnessed as outcomes of this strategy are two developing problems. First, the person once hired can’t maintain the façade they put up over a 45 minute interview and when exposed or confronted, reverts to their genuine behaviour. Second, the person themselves feels immense pressure and stress to be someone they aren’t; to fake being something that isn’t natural for them and essentially they’ve been set up with yet one more thing to stress about. That’s far from helpful.

The irony I’ve seen and heard is that the same people who are saying, “Fake it ’til you make it” are also saying, “There’s no one as unique as you in the world so be yourself”. Talk about mixed messages.

I do think that anytime you try to learn something new you introduce the possibility of failure as much as you hope for success. It is often a struggle in the initial stages when learning, and you might have setbacks. If what you are attempting to do is change your behaviour, you will need to stretch outside your comfort zone and do things differently than you’ve done in the past. Until such time as you feel comfortable and normal behaving a certain way, you will be conflicted between what you’ve always done that feels natural and what you’re striving to do that seems foreign and strange.

I don’t believe however that the period of transition from one to the other is faking it. I think in fact the transition period is very real; that people in this period are so genuine that it’s both exciting and scary simultaneously. So the quiet, reserved person who is after a ‘people’ job where strong communication and interpersonal skills are desired by the employer may struggle in the transition period, but what they feel is real, what they experience is genuine. If the motivation is sincere and strong, it will be enough to sustain through the transition period until they gain comfort that comes from naturally behaving and acting the way they want.

Like any new learning, building on small successes until a new skill or behaviour is mastered is desirable. One small success gives a person encouragement and reinforces the results they want to achieve. Faking anything implies you not only run the risk of being exposed by others who see through you, but you ultimately know you are faking what you’re doing; and it’s pretty hard to delude yourself when you’re intentionally faking anything.

It sounds nice though doesn’t it? It’s short, rhymes and if told to us by someone we respect as wise, it can sound like excellent advice; fake it ’til you make it. However, if you want a different mantra try, “To thine own self be true.” This has been around a lot longer; be true to yourself and others will respect you for being who you are. When you do land a job offer, you’ll end up with a job that fits with who you are and one in which you can be yourself.


Messy, Problematic Online Application Profiles

I sat down alongside an unemployed woman who is looking for employment as a Housekeeper just yesterday. Our objective is setting aside this time to work together was to both find suitable jobs to apply to and to then target a resume for one of those jobs. In this sense, mission accomplished. What happened next was – you guessed it – our mutual decision to tackle the online application.

Now if you’ve never applied for a job online and you’re looking for work, you had best read on for some illumination. If you’ve applied online already for employment, you’ll commiserate I’m sure with what occurred.

So, there we were on the website of an organization that provides residential care for the elderly. To the right of the job description and list of responsibilities, there it was in all it’s glory, the tantalizingly bright, “Apply here” button in all it’s beauty. As I hovered over the button, I suspected one of two outcomes; a quick application wanting her name, email and resume attachment or the longer, ‘complete your profile’ option. Sadly for us, it was option number two.

Okay, now I’m proficient on the keyboard, and as we were working in my office, I entered the information, checking with her all the while on things I didn’t know but needed to provide the employer with. It started out oddly and ominously. After asking for her first name, it asked what her preferred first name was. Huh? Then again after the surname, it asked what her preferred last name was. I suppose this is meant for those that were born “Smith” or “Miller” but always wanted to be a “Lennon” or “Gates”.

I was relieved when the option to upload a resume quickly appeared because not only do the best applications receive this information, they often extract and pre-populate many of the fields that need completing on the online application. While this was the case, I found something excruciatingly frustrating about the way the form was designed. For each job the applicant had on their resume – and she had six – you had to select the Country, Province and City. Now for most applicants, the country in which they are applying is in fact the country they were born in. However, I know many hotels employ people in their housekeeping positions who originated in foreign lands and came to Canada. I get that of course. It would have been nice however had the application defaulted to Canada after the first job and pre-populate the rest.

In short, (and I wish the online profile we were creating was) it took us 45 minutes to complete the profile. This is 45 minutes in addition to the hour and 15 minutes it took us to find the right job and tailor the resume to it for best results.

Here’s the kicker though. When we hit the ‘send’ button, it indicated that the email address we were employing (pun intended) was already registered with the organization. “Have you ever applied before on this website?” I asked. “Oh yeah I have” she replied. Oh no. You guessed it. In order to log in, we had to leave the page we were on; the one that had our 45 minutes worth of work on it. Did it open up a new page thereby saving all the information on a previous one? No it didn’t. You’re smart; you figured that was the situation I bet.

So not knowing we were going to apply for this position with this organization when she left home for our meeting, she didn’t have the password associated with this profile with her. It was at home. As the advice we always get and give is to create a unique password and username for each website we visit, she couldn’t guess what this one was. The end result? No application completed at that moment and she is left to return home, retrieve the password, revisit the site and start the profile on her own from scratch.

There’s a certain irony in how these online application profiles are created. For starters they will often intimidate and eliminate many people who start but don’t complete them. That’s good on the one hand if it eliminates some of your competition. However, some of the people with the most time to complete them are the very people an employer would NOT want to hire.

I understand too that as the ad called for English language basic skills, the profile might weed out those who don’t have those skills sufficient to even understand the questions being asked of them. That could be their rationale but who knows? Who designs these profiles and why do they really ask the things they do?

On the upside, having gone through it together, she has a really good understanding of what it will take to complete it on her own now. She saw how I was patient, diligent and determined to complete it and that rubbed off on her.

As for you my friend, when you are faced with the online application profile, grab yourself a soothing tea and maybe a raisin tea biscuit to go with it. Sink into your chair and make sure you’ve got a comfortable one as you’ll be there awhile. Keep track of your usernames and passwords on all the various sites you apply to and if you can, put these on your mobile phone if you carry it with you.

Most of all; good luck!

Career Planning Vs. Happenstance

You’re going about forging your career path and personal reputation in one of two ways; by design or by happenstance. Which is it?

If you go about your career and building your personal reputation by happenstance you get points for being genuine and authentic, but you score low on forward-thinking, long-term planning and most importantly putting yourself in a position to seize opportunities you want as they arise. People who come into contact with you in your business or work life will form opinions of you based on their interactions with you and by observing your actions with others.

Now that’s not bad actually; people forming their opinions of you based on your actions. However, with little forethought for future planning, you may be viewed as perfect for the job you currently hold while on the downside not being seen as having upward potential within an organization. The next job or two on the career ladder no doubt require additional skills and subtle changes in behaviour, thinking and/or actions, and you may not be communicating to others that you have the additional skills, motivation, leadership etc. that is required.

If we turn and look at forging your career path and personal reputation or branding by design, how you go about things changes.

Take a Lion Tamer in the circus. You and I might not intimately know the person but we can imagine the job and the job description; essentially demonstrate to the audience how you can direct the Lion to do certain things and do it safely while appearing to do so with a great deal of danger and risk. Wow them with entertainment and survive the encounter with the ferocious King of the Jungle!

Okay, a little dramatic but that’s essentially the job. For a time, the Lion Tamer may be happy and content to play the role from town to town, from month to month, even year to year. At some point, the Lion Tamer might say to her or himself, “Is this all there is? I want to do more.”

The others who surround him in the circus may look at him as simply, The Lion Tamer. She or he’s been doing it for years, they do a great job of it and they’ve built a reputation so well amongst their peers that no one sees them as doing – let alone wanting to do – anything else. What then of the ambitions of the Lion Tamer who grows increasingly hungry for a change? Maybe they want to take on a role as Master of Ceremonies or Business Manager for the circus. Suddenly those around her or him are challenged to see the person who is the Lion Tamer in a different light. This can be a huge challenge if they’ve never seen or been exposed to seeing the Lion Tamer any other way.

What if however, the person who tames the lions indicated an interest in learning the business side of the Circus and routinely split her/his time between working with the big cats and on  their own time read business publications and journals, befriended the Accountant, talked long into the night over drinks with the current Business Manager and saw what went into moving the Circus from town to town with audiences lined up and ready to invest their entertainment dollars.

If the Lion Tamer got around to applying to be the Business Manager down the road, it wouldn’t come as a surprise because those around him would say, “Not a surprise. We all saw it coming. Good for her/him, we’re in good hands!”

Okay enough about Lion Tamers. (Why Lion Tamers came into my head this morning is beyond me.) What about you? You might be pretty good in your job; maybe we could go as far as saying you are wonderful in your job. At some point it’s conceivable that no matter how happy and challenged you are, you just might want an additional challenge, an increase in responsibilities and pay, or a shift in your responsibilities.

Does that make sense to you? I think most of you will agree the job you’re in now isn’t the job you want to retire from; depending of course where you are on the age scale. Now then is the time to start doing a little forward thinking. What positions within the organization can you identify that might be of interest to you personally? Would applying for those positions be something you’d like to do this year, next year, 1-3 years from now? What can and should you do therefore to position yourself to take advantage of the opening when it comes about?

Positioning yourself is done in two ways; ensuring you gain the skills and qualifications to apply with confidence and ensuring others in the organization perceive you as having the interest, skills, qualifications and personal fit for the role. Don’t be fooled into thinking you can acquire the skills and qualifications alone and advance. It’s often who in the organization knows you and sees you as being a strong candidate.

You might want to have a low-key conversation with your Supervisor and express your long-term organizational goals. Maybe you ask for learning opportunities, temporary assignments, mentorship, additional training etc. Maybe a conversation with someone in Human Resources would be helpful or with your bosses permission, an introductory meeting with someone in the role you’re after to get their insights.


Getting To Know A Co-Worker

You might be that person who hangs out after work with your co-workers; arranges Wings Nights, plays baseball or volleyball with some others and is generally the social bunny both at work and beyond. Like I say, you might be that person but I’m not.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not anti-social, I just like to separate my work life and my personal life, and the fact that I live in the Town of Lindsay but work 95 kilometres away in Oshawa Ontario makes hanging around after work to socialize more challenging. After all, I don’t want to arrive home with only an hour or two with my wife before hitting the sack and getting up to drive into work in the morning. My home life in my case takes priority.

At the office however I’m known as jovial, fun to be around, full of creativity, positive and use my interpersonal skills on a daily basis. If you find my self-description similar to your own, or if you want to know how to get to know your co-workers better within the confines of work hours, you might enjoy this read and try what I did just yesterday.

One of the new staff in my office is someone I’ve only known by name and face in the past when we’ve run into each other in training workshops we were involved in. Now that she’s here in our office on a full-time basis, I’ve been wanting to get to know her better and opportunity came  calling yesterday afternoon.

You see I was scheduled to facilitate a workshop which, unknown to me, she had approached her Supervisor for approval to attend. When she walked in ten minutes early, just the two of us were there and we started a quick conversation albeit about the topic of the workshop and her familiarity with the content or lack thereof. As the minutes rolled by, it became clear that for reasons unknown, no one else was showing up to this drop-in workshop.

Now normally that would be a huge disappointment for me, but the next 45 minutes would be the highlight of my day. I ran through my presentation for her quickly so she’d have a grasp of what the people we mutually serve normally hear so we could be consistent in our delivery and support each other as well as them.

Once completed, I seized upon the chance to move the conversation beyond the subject matter and more into a personal conversation designed to get to know one another better. The other option would have been for one of us to say, “Well I’ve got work to do; too bad no one showed up” and go our ways. All too often this happens. I’m telling you people, recognize these opportunities and jump all over them and get to know the people you work with. It was so much more productive than hanging out in a neighbourhood bar eating wings and trying to get into  multiple conversations with several people; well for me anyhow.

So what did we talk about that you might similarly talk about with your co-workers? Well it started with a question of mine (I know, big surprise there right?”) about why she made the move from Social Services Caseworker to Employment Consultant. I was thrilled with her motivation because it mirrored my own reasons a decade earlier. Like attracts like and surrounding oneself with others who think similarly to us is most often a good thing.

We talked what I call philosophy of service, and as much as I wanted to learn more about her thoughts and ideas, I took the time to share my service delivery thoughts and also how gratifying and privileged I feel to be in this role I find myself in. Here’s the real interesting thing that I’m sure you’ll acknowledge happens in conversations you have with others: the more we talked, the more the conversation deepened. We got past superficial surface stuff quickly and shared what we were passionate about.

I can tell you that by the end of our conversation I was thrilled to find a kindred spirit of sorts. She also expressed a future desire to join the team I’m currently on which would again transition her role to include workshop facilitation. This lead me to extend an offer of help, support and mentorship. After all, providing answers to her questions, general information and specifics about the most desired qualities to have on this team is good fodder for getting past a future interview and landing a job on the team.

What could have been a huge disappointment turned into a moment of magic. Well, not so much magic because anyone can do this; you can do this. We all have moments each day or several times a week when opportunities abound for dialogue and getting to know someone a little more intimately.

If your nervous or intimidated, breathe and start with, “Hey, do you have a few minutes? I’d like to get to know you a little better than I do if that’s okay.” Open with a couple of questions and you’ll find as they talk, you can stop stressing about your own comfort level and what to say next. Respond with genuine interest and share a little of yourself as appropriate.

When you know those you work with better, you can acknowledge others strengths and become stronger as a whole.

“There’s A Dead Guy In The Cubicle Next To Me!”

“Well okay, he looks dead anyhow; I haven’t seen him move for days.”

You and I had best hope that dead body look-alike someone is frantic about isn’t you. If so, your days might be numbered. Sooner or later, if you’re hiding out behind that baffle board doing precious little, someone is going to figure they can do without you on the payroll.

Now okay you might not be mistaken for a corpse, but if you think you’re fooling those around you when you’re not being productive, it’s only a matter of time until you’re found out and your productivity is called into question. The cobwebs in your cubicle are also a dead giveaway that not much is going on.

Some employees are pretty good at smoke and mirrors aren’t they? I mean they tend to move with purpose when they are observed walking around the office; even if upon further inspection it’s only to the bathroom or the company kitchen to grab yet another coffee. Once back in the relative sanctity of their cubicle however, they drop the façade and move at a glacial snails pace as they go about their day. Such employees do just enough to get by, contribute very little and try to stay beneath the radar of Management scrutiny until they are released into the world after work.

Now let’s stop and think about this behaviour for a moment. When you were setting out in your early years of adulthood; when you had ambition and dreams, wanted to make your mark in the world, surely you didn’t methodically plan to spend your days idly daydreaming and doing the bare minimum. Hopefully you set out to do something you personally found meaningful and rewarding. So the question is, “Where did that person go?”

Something over time has occurred that has you mechanically going through the motions of going to and from work each day and you’ve lost your motivation. You may be more than aware of this change but for some reason you can’t seem to ignite that passion anymore for the work you do and the people you do it for. As much as you’d like to kick start the fire, you’re oblivious as to how to go about it.

Heed the signs sons and daughters. Continuing down the path you’re on isn’t going to be healthy or end on a positive. Either  you find something to stimulate yourself at work in a positive way that ups your productivity and usefulness on the job or someone will do you and the company a favour and start the proceedings to end your employment. Put plain as day, you either start working and producing at your former level or better, or you’re going to get fired.

I know some people who dogged it; coming and going without any passion. They once showed enthusiasm for the job and now they only show enthusiasm for the last 20 minutes of the day and are sitting with their coat on with 5 minutes left each day, ready to squeal away in the parking lot putting as much distance behind them as fast as they can each night. On their own they’d never have quit or worked productively again and eventually they did get fired. Oddly enough, getting fired was the best thing for some of them and they’d readily tell you that – even though at the time they didn’t believe it.

There are among us those who are proactive and those who are reactive. The proactive people think ahead, update their resumes even when they aren’t looking for work and they’ve got plans for advancement or change. The reactive types only update resumes when they are out of work, and only think about career planning when they are forced to by the changes and pressures they experience in their lives.

“Why”, they would say, “should I bother to update my resume when I’ve got a job and I’m not looking for another one?” They figure they can always update that resume when they decide to go for another job inside or outside the organization, but because they have no date in mind, they figure they’ve got all the time they need. When it comes to taking courses, updating expired certificates or skills, once again they smirk and say, “Why bother?”

Another thing to consider is that if you aspire in any way to advance in the organization you work with now, you should be visible and for the right reasons long before you dust off your resume and apply for a new job. You don’t want to be invisible and have your boss say, “Do you still work here?” when you finally get motivated and want to be interviewed for a promotion.

One last thing and it has to do with your co-workers. Co-workers often pick up cues from their peers quickly. If you’re not picking up your share of the load and you should be, you’ll only have yourself to blame if you feel isolated from the rest. Worse case scenario is that they resent your presence because their workloads increase; and ultimately word will get passed to Management. Don’t blame them if they’re doing their job and picking up your slack too. That’s not fair and certainly it’s going to become more difficult for you to regain their trust and respect.


Thinking Jobs

How comfortable would you be interacting with and assisting people who approach you for help if your role was a customer service / reception function? I suppose it would depend on the organization you were employed by correct? The organization and what the people in the organization do would largely impact the kind of people who might approach you each day.

So for example, if you worked at a reception counter in a financial institution, the people who would enter and approach you would presumably be coming to you announcing themselves as present for meetings with Financial Advisors, Loan Agents, Senior Banking officials etc. Your role might in this scenario be to direct them to a seat to wait and then contact the employee they are meeting and advise them that the person they are meeting has arrived. Job done.

However, let me give you another scenario. Suppose your job wasn’t just simply reception but also to interact with and fully serve the person who stands before you or sits down across from you. Let’s further suppose that the person is what we both might call needy; takes a long time to explain what they’re after or doesn’t appear to fully grasp the information you do provide for them. Now let’s multiply this person by say, 50 and your job is to deal with these people day after day.

This job might be right up your alley if you’re a people person; working in social services and you got into the field because you wanted to help others. Conversely, you might dislike this job and see it as the last thing you’d want to do because you lack tolerance, patience and haven’t got the time for dealing with ‘these’ people.

Often it’s not only important to know what we want to do in life but also the things we dislike and want to avoid doing. Knowing what we dislike and therefore rule out can narrow down our search for meaningful work through the process of elimination.

Take working in confined spaces, working from heights, underground, deep water or shift work. Think about outdoor or indoor jobs, desk jobs, physical labour or dangerous jobs that involve explosives, weapons, radiation, diseases or disasters. There are all kinds of jobs that, while we are glad to know other people work in these roles, we ourselves wouldn’t want to do for any amount of money.

If you think of a job you aren’t comfortable with, instead of just saying, “No I don’t want that job”, stop and identify WHAT it is ABOUT that job that is unappealing. Is it the hours of work, the working conditions, the danger or does it play on your psyche such as working in tight confined spaces underground? If you note these things, you’ll perhaps see patterns that link undesired jobs with others.

So what’s the benefit of this you ask? Well, in short, you can find work that is meaningful and rewarding often by trying different kinds of jobs or reading job postings and eliminating those you find undesirable.

By the way, the jobs you find distasteful or reject don’t have to be necessarily dangerous or high-risk. Could be you find some every day common jobs boring, tedious, mind-numbingly repetitive or they pay less than what you’re willing to work for. Money however is best left out of this process because your enjoyment of a specific job shouldn’t decrease or increase based on the dollars attached to it. There are people who do work for less than they’d like and some who will turn down jobs that pay much more because they don’t find the work itself fulfilling.

One good strategy is to talk with people; a lot of people. Ask they what they do, what they like and don’t like about their jobs. While you will get that persons take on the job they do, you may find what they like is something you wouldn’t and vice-versa, but the questioning is still helpful and illuminating.

In addition to speaking with people you know well, don’t overlook the people you interact with or could interact with on a daily basis. There’s the Crossing Guard, Hot Dog Vendor, Bus Driver, Courier, Police Officer, Parking Lot Attendant, Bank Teller, Salesperson, Security Guard, Casino Dealer, Hair Dresser.

While you may know you don’t want to sell hot dogs for a living, the Vendor might be thrilled with the job as they work independently, love the outdoors, laugh with the regular customers, meet people from all walks of life and every so often get free tickets to a hockey game from the people they serve. You might also be very surprised with the income they take home.

Some pessimistic types will tell you that finding a job period is what it’s all about in 2016 and forget about finding a job that is fulfilling; you take what you can get. I don’t subscribe to that and I don’t think you should either. Don’t be embittered, caught up in others views of the world. Find what makes you happy, rewarded, challenged, intrigued etc.

You’ve got one shot at this life in this world so why not spend your time working productively and satisfactorily? You’ll have many jobs over your lifetime so don’t worry about finding a job for the next 40 years.

That’s how I see it anyhow.

Yes You Are A Person Of Value

In my line of work I come into contact on a daily basis with people who have poor or fragile self-esteem. In fact, if you were listening in on the conversations we have you’d hear many of them state unequivocally that they have zero self-esteem, no personal pride and feel they have nothing to offer any decent employer out there. As a consequence, many feel that all the bad things that happen to them in their lives come because they deserve them.

It is truly heart-breaking to see people who are broken and resigned to lives where they’ve given up; given up just trying to lead what they see as a normal life. They want a steady job, to feel appreciated and valued, to earn their way in this world and most of all to shed feelings of guilt, anxiety, depression, low-self image and fatigue.

Unfortunately they’ve been negatively influenced by key people in their lives on a long-term regular basis. Isn’t it a sad commentary that there are so many others who actually seek out those with poor self-image and low self-esteem in order to ultimately control these people by dominating them for their own gain?

Sometimes it starts with members of ones own family with verbal abuse. Comments like, “Why can’t you be successful like your big sister?” or “You’ll never amount to much you know” are hurtful and can become ingrained in the person’s mind when on the receiving end. Not doing well in school or in those awkward teenage years (which many of us experienced) is magnified and only acts as further proof when the verbally bashing is going on at home.

Take this into early adulthood and predatory people who look to target others and victimize them appear on the one hand to take care of them, but on the other hand treat them poorly. Oddly enough, some victims think how they are being treated is normal; that in some perverted way they deserve what they get. Sad.

Ideas of financial independence, self-reliance, self-governance and respect are alien and ideas of long-term planning, setting and reaching personal goals and being successful aren’t even on their radar.

Here’s the good news. Everyone is a person of value; yes you too. You might not believe it at the moment and think  everyone ELSE is a person of value, but I believe that there’s value in you.

While you might have a lot of difficulty identifying useful skills and the kind of work that you’d be good at and more to the point enjoy, you’d be wrong if you think nobody out there would hire a person like you. This is essential to realize because you might have someone in your life who continues to put you down, tells you you’re worthless and you’re best just to continue to do what they tell you.

These kind of people aren’t healthy to be around because of the way in which they exploit others. These folks would rather seek out and dominate others rather than struggle to advance themselves in society. But back to you rather than wasting more time speaking of them.

Let’s suppose you’re living on a fixed income; social support. Have you ever considered that you’re an expert on stretching your resources in order to put food on the table? A lot of the folks who work in government and decide how much a person on assistance gets couldn’t themselves navigate the systems they create but you do every day. In other words, if many employed people lost their jobs today, they wouldn’t thrive as well as you do and they’d be looking to you for guidance.

I bet you’re resilient; you thrive by adapting to the situations in which you find yourself. You’ve got stamina and I suspect you also have a good eye for bargains; you know where to shop for the best deals, you’ve got a network of contacts in the community you can rely on and maybe you even know the places to go for food, clothing and other kinds of help.

Are you someone who others dump their troubles on? Could be others see you as a good listener and someone they can trust with their secrets. You’re adaptable for sure.

A good idea is to write down what you’re good at and how others see you; the good people not those controlling negative types. If you have problems, that makes you normal; human. We all have issues of one kind or another and some of us have multiple issues; some people who look together would surprise you.

Before you can hunt down the kind of work that’s right for you, it’s a good first step to get to know yourself and what makes you tick. Contact community services in your community and ask about Life Management classes, personal improvement workshops and self-help or development programs. Each community will be able to support you with help depending on what they offer.

I’m proud of you for having put up with all the negativity you’ve had to over your life time. Now is your time however; let’s do something about it and break free so you can have the life you deserve!

Not you I’m talking about? Do someone a favour and consider sharing  this online or posting this in your workplace where someone might see it and start a conversation.


Resume and LinkedIn 1st Vs. 3rd Person

You might be guilty of making a fundamental flaw on your resume or CV that’s turning off employer’s from inviting you in for an interview; thereby curtailing your chances of employment. Many of the people I help construct resumes with come to me after first having had others write their resume and they are entirely unaware of this error.

So what’s the problem? The issue has to do with the inclusion of the letter, ‘s’ at the end of words which changes the resume from first person to third person language. In other words, instead of talking about yourself on paper, it now appears that someone else is talking about you; in short, you didn’t write your own resume. So what’s the problem with this you ask? If you didn’t write your own resume, the employer still doesn’t have a sample of your written communication skills and it may appear to them to be disingenuous; a falsehood or an attempt to come across as dishonest at worse. Honesty and integrity being two key values employers see as positive traits they see you now as lacking.

Look at these two bullets to describe customer service we might see on the fictional person Brenda’s resume:

  • Ensures excellent customer service
  • Ensure excellent customer service

The first bullet is in 3rd person language because what’s presumed to be the first word before the sentence is the word, ‘Brenda’. So it reads, ‘Brenda ensures excellent customer service.” This is what someone other than Brenda herself would say about Brenda, hence the 3rd person language.

The second bullet is in 1st person language because what’s presumed to be the first word before the sentence is the word, “I”. So it reads, “I ensure excellent customer service.” This is what Brenda herself would say, hence it’s in 1st person language.

That single, ‘s’ is a blatant giveaway to a trained and skilled company representative who is going over received resumes and shortlisting those to interview and those to pass up on. Look, the resume is supposed to be your personal marketing document; an example of something you’ve produced which is an example of your best work. After all, presumably you want to get to the interview stage and get an interview, so anyone reading your resume will guess this is the best example of your writing skills because there’s a lot riding on this resume for you and you’ve taken some time to carefully craft it and go over it for mistakes.

Now I don’t always know who has put together this resume when a person brings it to me for editing or a complete overhaul. Therefore I don’t know about the education, attention to detail, grammatical skills or experience of the person who penned it. What I do know is that the person sitting before who got that person to write it for them almost always is completely oblivious to the 1st vs. 3rd person writing, and when it’s pointed out to them, it doesn’t take long for them to see my point. In fact, most people look ahead and find other examples of 3rd person language in their resume. This is good, because by explaining the two writing styles, they are empowered to note these occurrences on their own and they avoid this mistake when penning their own in the future.

I have had conversations with some local and international interviewers on this topic, and I can assure you I’m not splitting hairs over some trivial matter. In the last week, 6 of these individuals have told me outright that if they read 3rd person language on the person’s resume, they immediately wonder about the validity of the information they are reading. They figure that if someone else did the actual typing, maybe that person actually came up with all the information too, so how close is what’s on paper with the person whose name is at the top of the resume?

The impact of 3rd person language could go as far as turning off the interviewer to the point they scrap the whole resume and move to another applicant.

Now, getting a professional to sit down with you and craft a resume is still an outstanding strategy to use when you want to apply for a job; a job you really want and therefore want to make a really well-tailored resume for. It’s up to you however to refuse to accept that document that ends up being produced without actually reading it and taking ownership for what’s on it. It never ceases to amaze me when I point out errors on a resume and the person comes back with a statement like, “I didn’t do it. I had it professionally done by someone else.”

Not only does the above statement tell me that the person shouldn’t have blindly trusted the ghost resume writer, it also tells me that they don’t understand that because it is their name at the top of the resume, they are responsible for everything on the page – including the content and the grammar of the writer.

Use first person language on your LinkedIn profile too, unless of course you want to come across as not having wrote your own content or having weak grammar skills. Sometimes it’s the simple things we overlook or don’t even know about that are hurting our chances.

So if you didn’t know before, now you do.

Engaged At Work Or Not?

Are you engaged at work or simply putting in time?

There are a lot of people unfortunately who are putting in time; doing just enough to keep their jobs but not really adding much of value to the companies they work for or benefitting those who consume their products and services.

You could make an argument for some of those who just put in time. After all the world we work in is an increasingly over-structured and stressful place for many people. There’s so much going on in many people’s personal lives that the daily routine and structure in their workplace is a welcomed, reliable pace in their lives. They work, take a morning break, work until lunch, work again until the afternoon break, work until quitting time and then the chaos and variable evenings schedules kick in. One night it’s rushing one child to soccer and one to ballet, picking up dinner on the way and the next it’s adult basketball and swimming lessons; or is that Thursday nights schedule?

Yes there’s so much going on in the evening for many people and their families that work has become the one place that for 7 hours there’s a sense of predictability and stability throughout the day. With only so much energy, many employees are finding they are compromising their energy and creativity at work so they have enough to get through the evening. After spending some time in this new routine, it becomes their everyday routine. Employers and customers or clients may notice a drop in productivity, a lacking in new ideas and most certainly a lack of energy.

This is a dangerous precedent for anyone to set as it gets increasingly more difficult to kick things into high gear when needed, and one’s reputation can be negatively impacted if it’s believed your priorities are shifting in ways that pull you out of alignment with those of senior management.

And that’s the problem for a lot of people right there; employers have expectations of those they pay to work for them and employees themselves have competing demands on their time from family, friends and their personal expectations. When you’re expected to be full of energy and at your peak all day long at work and then again for the rest of the day after you’ve left work, something might have to give.

Wise, seasoned employees will attest that there are times when they know their going to be pulled in too many directions and drop the ball somewhere if they try to work too much beyond what they are capable of doing. They look ahead at their personal schedules and the demands for their full attention outside of work and size up their workloads for the corresponding period at work and make adjustments. They reallocate workloads and deadlines within their control to maximize the resources they can leverage so they aren’t caught off guard and find themselves overwhelmed.

For example, someone who knows they have some conferences coming up in rapid succession can reasonably forecast this will mean some time away from both work and family. Whatever they can do to get a jump on the work they’d normally do during those conferences when they won’t be in the office will ease the workload and the demands on their performance. An employee in this situation might also speak with a Supervisor or Manager and suggest some sharing of work or re-distribution of work in the interest of the overall performance of a team. This forward thinking and team mentally could be extremely appreciated by Management so that overall production remains constant and client/customer service levels remain stable.

Engaging yourself in your work, constantly focusing on the job at hand and meeting expectations is highly desirable. Now not everyone who works is invested in their work to the level employers would like. Some of us after all only work because we have to work to earn an income to support ourselves financially. Others of course work with enthusiasm because they find the work challenging, meaningful and by association they themselves see value in what they do and the impact they are having on the world around them.

There’s little hope I’m afraid for the employee who not only isn’t motivated to excel but also has no motivation to become a better worker. This is the person who is a danger to a business; the person does not add much to the organization but isn’t doing anything overtly that someone could point at to justify their removal. The result is an average employee who checks in everyday but has checked out mentally; this being a dangerous combination that introduces risk to the workplace.

The easy answer you may think is to either find a way to motivate the individual so they want to improve or to encourage the individual to search for meaningful employment elsewhere with sincerity in the process and both their and the companies best interests at heart. Not an easy thing to accomplish but it sure beats the status quo and doing nothing while the person becomes increasingly disengaged and the impact on the bottom line and customers is impacted with each interaction.

Do yourself a favour and if you see yourself disengaging from something you once loved doing, ask yourself what’s changed. What might get you reinvested in the work you do or does your future happiness  perhaps need a restart elsewhere.

Hate Resumes? This Is For You

So you’re looking for work or looking for a different job. That’s great news and I commend you for making a good decision to improve on your financial health; the job you are looking for will hopefully make things a whole lot better for you both in your wallet and in how you spend your time.

All that stands in your way of getting a job offer it would seem is getting to meet the people who make the hiring decisions in the places you’d like to work. The thing is of course; and it’s easy to overlook – there are a lot of other people who are also hoping to meet the people who make the hiring decisions in the same places you want to work. Not only are you applying, but so are others. In fact, it’s the case these days that employers get about 75 – 150 applications for each job they advertise. That’s a lot of people competing for their attention!

I’ve sat down with two people this week who are looking for work and they couldn’t have greater differences of opinions when it comes to the value of resumes and how to go about looking for work. Let me tell you about each of them and you’ll see two different attitudes; and I assure you both are very real people, not just made up to make a point.

The first was a man in his 20’s with an extensive criminal record who has only ever worked under the table and done some volunteer work. He’s muscular, done general labour in the construction field and even a little cooking here and there. His job ambition? Anything. His thoughts on resumes? A waste of time and useless. He’s anti-resume because quite frankly he doesn’t like the idea of making one and doesn’t have the skills required to make one; skills like keyboarding, formatting, computer skills in general. What he doesn’t like he has no patience for.

When it came to putting together his resume, he sat beside me and actually told me to just make up stuff. “You know what to put down so just say I’ve worked at some places; it doesn’t matter if it’s true or not.” He wanted one resume just to send to his Social Services Worker who strongly suggested he get one, but he wasn’t planning on using it at all, hence the lack of regard for what was on it. When completed, he sent one copy to her and walked out with none for himself – in fact he refused to take one. His plan? Go to job sites all over town and introduce himself in person until somebody would hire him.

Surprisingly, this might actually work for him. Someone will look at his muscles and plan to use him for the grunt work until he either injures himself, quits, returns to jail or they lay him off for the winter. He’ll be trapped in an entry-level, physically tough job with little chance of advancement and all the while becoming increasingly bitter and angered about his situation in life. His choice though.

The other is a woman with one child also in her 20’s. She sat down with me and said right off the top that she was here for help as she knows her resume is flawed and she wants to learn how to make it better.

First thing we did is quickly find a job she actually wanted to apply for using the internet which took us all of 4 minutes. An excellent investment in time. Next we targeted her skills and qualifications on the resume to match the job requirements for the position she wanted. Again and again as we went through her resume line by line she said things like, “I get it now, ugh, I can’t believe I made so many mistakes. I thought it was at least okay but now I see how I’ve been coming across to employers. No wonder I wasn’t getting anywhere.”

It takes a wise person to see how they’ve been making mistakes, admit those mistakes and then take the steps to eliminate making those mistakes moving forward. This woman is such a person. She not only left with a strong resume for the job she wanted to apply to, she left knowing how to change and edit that resume for any subsequent job she wanted to apply to; even if those other jobs had exactly the same title.

Look, I want you to be successful. I want you to use your time productively; not just making resume after resume without any success. I want you to make strong resumes that will get employers interested in meeting with you (interviews) so you can sell yourself in-person and then get an offer of employment. Then of course, you will no longer need to make a resume until such time as you want a promotion or different job to improve your happiness at work and your finances.

So here’s good advice for those smart enough to take it; don’t get someone to make a resume for you – get an employment professional to make one WITH you – someone who will empower you so you’ll know how to do it on your own in the future. This way, you won’t be dependent on someone every time you apply for a job. Put in the effort, pay attention and learn how to make a resume with a good attitude.