Job Hunting: DIY Or Use An Expert?

What would you call someone who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill in a particular area? If you answered, ‘Expert’, you’re correct.

So you want a job. You can go about the job search process in several ways – and this is pretty much true of wanting anything actually. You can go about things yourself in a DIY (do it yourself) fashion, you can work with someone who isn’t an expert in job searching but is good at other things or yes, you can work with an expert in the particular area of looking for employment.

Now there are a lot of people who, no matter the job to be done, size up the situation and figure, “it can’t be that complicated, I’ll just do it myself. Why bring in an expert?” Think of that small bathroom or basement renovation you started two years ago last September. You plan on being finished one day but you’re either a perfectionist or a procrastinator. Or perhaps you did indeed finish the project, only to stand back and in taking things in, see the errors you made. Not bad for a do-it-yourself job, but by no means as good as someone who makes their livelihood out of doing renovations on a full-time basis. So are you the person who settles for, ‘not bad’ over ‘I love it!”?

Sometimes the easier things look, the more inclined we are to believe that anyone can do it. Take the résumé. It looks easy enough. I mean, it’s just words on paper, and with only a small bit of searching on the internet anyone can find resume templates and so it would seem a pretty simple matter to make one. As for the interview help, again, Bing and Google are logical places to look. I mean, doesn’t everybody turn to the internet for expert advice these days?

Of course the other place people turn for great advice and help is the people they know best and trust. The logic here is that your best friends wouldn’t steer you wrong and take advantage of you, and they are pretty good at their job as a Customer Service Agent. So it’s a pretty logical step in your opinion to imagine they must know a thing or two about looking for a job; after all they have one right?

For some reason however, few people tend to give the Employment Specialists their due. I suppose it does look easy. Dash off a résumé and send it in, sit back and see if you get an interview. Then go to the interview, do your best to answer the questions asked and then sit back and hope you get hired. Sooner or later you’ve got to get Lady Luck on your side; it’s just a question of probabilities; throw a lot out there and something has to work eventually.

Me? I’m an expert in my field. Sure go on and roll your eyes. I’m not an expert in everything; nor am I an expert in many things. When it comes to resume writing, cover and rejection letters, interview preparation, presentation skills etc.; yes, this is where I have an authoritative and comprehensive knowledge. It isn’t bragging; I can back it up with proof. Look, you’re the expert at what you do, so why doesn’t it stand to reason I can be an expert at something as well?

To we Employment Coaches, Employment Counsellors, Resume Experts etc., it’s interesting to see how many people approach us only after they’ve had a lengthy period of mixed results or downright failures. Then when learning some new ideas and reaching some small accomplishments turns into ultimately being successful and landing employment, we often hear, “I wish I’d come to you a long time ago! I could have saved myself a lot of frustration.” Maybe a person needs to tackle things themselves and see what they are capable of doing before turning to an expert – if only to appreciate the difference an expert can make.

Here’s something to consider though; if you’re going to use the services of an expert, you’d better be ready to get to work. Two weeks ago I met a woman who’s last job interview was in 1998. 1998! She applied for 3 jobs after some coaching and landed not one but two interviews. Of those two interviews, she got a job offer on one which she’s accepted and the other one has yet to short-list their candidates. While happy, she commented just yesterday to me, “I didn’t think it would happen this fast!”

Then there is another woman I worked with over the same two weeks. 64 years old, and she not only secured a job last Friday, she’s got another interview today plus she’s made the short-list for her dream job in two weeks time. Suddenly she’s going from desperation to interviewing with leverage; any new job offer has to beat what she’s already doing.

Yet, looking for a job appears so easy doesn’t it? Why call on an expert or consider paying someone to do what you could do for yourself or get your best friend to do for you? Hey if you do it yourself and it works, I applaud you. You’ve either got lucky or you’ve got the required skills.

However, if you want to get results with a higher probability of success, reach out to an Expert in the field near you.



Wikipedia defines psychological resilience as an individual’s ability to successfully adapt to life tasks in the face of social disadvantage or highly adverse conditions. The Oxford dictionary defines resilience itself as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties.

How resilient therefore are you?

I have been graced these last couple of weeks with the tremendous privilege of assisting and supporting some very resilient people during their quest to find employment. I would love nothing more than to share their personal challenges with you as proof of both their individual and group resiliency, but to do so might be well-intended but harmful and a breach of confidentiality, so I will not. Suffice to say, you would I believe, like me, be impressed with them.

So here’s a question for you: How often do you get a chance to just work on one need in your life without having others distract you and need your attention?

Take job searching as an example. When looking for work, wouldn’t it be nice to only have looking for a new position as what’s on your mind? Amen to that! However, add to your job search what’s really going on in the real world. Bills are piling up, student debt repayment has you in the red, you’re more irritable with people (so unlike you), your budget for the little things in life you found so pleasurable has been self-curtailed. You’ve got housing issues with landlords threatening eviction, people feel sorry for you but at the same time don’t do much to help except go back and forth between saying, “You poor thing!” and “Can’t you get a job?” So unhelpful really.

Your ego is fragile; the degree to which is linked to how far in your mind you’ve fallen. You’ve had it in the past; the reputation and status, the good paying job, the cars, the house with the garden house and 4 door garage. Now you’re unemployed, raising a family of 4 or 5, and being looked to by them to provide. Your self-doubts, insecurities, personal worries; these you feel you have to suppress and lock away or deal with in isolation because you figure you’re the only one in the family who has the strength to handle them.

How am I doing? Sound familiar? Maybe not exactly your situation but am I close? If not you, does this sound like someone you may know? If not, count yourself most fortunate indeed!

There are a lot of very highly educated people who have held prestigious jobs who are now in receipt of social assistance; who find themselves unemployed. What I find amazing and truly remarkable is the upbeat attitude many have. It’s true! They have an unwavering belief that they will ultimately be successful and what’s more they haven’t let their present circumstances detract from their innate goodness; they are still positive, cheerful, optimistic and above all else…grateful for everything they do receive.

Grateful for everything they do receive; every piece of advice, support and guidance, suggestions and feedback, ideas and referrals – grateful. There’s no poor attitude, no one demands help and says, “You owe it to me – it’s your job so just do it and don’t expect any special thanks.” No, not one person is remotely holding this attitude of entitlement.

In the face of true adversity; they have not let their present circumstances feed and grow bitterness, resentment, coldness or anger. Now, to be sure they are under all kinds of stress and they would be lying to say they don’t have their moments when they feel, “Why me?” Yet, it’s what one does with these feelings that defines them.

They have done – and continue to do – one thing that I implore you to consider doing as well when you find yourself overwhelmed and susceptible to the dark places. While acknowledging your present circumstances, carry yourself as best your able; continue to help yourself. Each of the people I’m working with at the present was identified by a colleague of mine as someone who is committed to their own success, is open to feedback, receptive to change and above all has the right attitude.

As one person said to me, “Why let myself miss opportunities because I appear negative? All I’ll end up doing is surround myself with negative people if I do.”

Adapting and recovering are two key words if you picked them out from the opening definitions at the top of this article. Survivors adapt and recover. I have to tell you that all the while I am providing these job seekers with tips, suggestions, aid, support etc., they in turn are mentoring me – if I’m wise enough to recognize the moments of learning before me. Sometimes I miss those moments but I catch enough of them to realize they are before me. I’m fortunate you see to stand in front of them in a classroom but still stand there as a student myself, receptive to receiving what they share.

Should you – yes you – be unemployed and dealing with your own mounting issues that have you wondering just how many more things you can handle, I bow to your resiliency. Take that label and wear it like a badge of honour. When job interviewers say, “Tell me about yourself”,  count yourself as resilient. You’ll bounce back and get past these adverse life conditions that while present, won’t hold you down forever.

How Do You React To Training Initiatives?

If you’re fortunate, you may work for an organization that invests dollars and time in the employees that make up its workforce through training initiatives. Progressive organizations realize that by providing their employees with training on an ongoing basis, the organization itself remains relevant, its people use best practices and the result is a better product or service experienced by the customers or clients that organization serves.

Observation reveals however, that while all the employees working in a company may receive the same training, not all will use it. There will be those who readily embrace the training and look for immediate ways to incorporate the news skills they have learned. These are the ones who make the change readily, who have both the ability to use what they’ve learned and the willingness to make adjustments to what they’ve done before. Whether they do so because they personally see the benefits to the end product or service they provide or because it’s a directive of Management that they use what they’ve learned, they implement what’s new.

Yet, there will be others who have the same opportunity provided to them, attend the same training events as their counterparts, but for whom the new information they’ve received doesn’t result in changes once back in their jobs. For some, they simply resist the information and are closed to learning. These people have a mentality that they already know enough to do the work they are paid to do. Perhaps they’ve been employed in the industry and for the organization so long that they’ve seen similar things come and go in and out of fashion before and they figure the new training initiatives will be short-lived. So why change? Next month, in two month’s or three, a memo will come out advising them to go back to how they do things at the present. So why bother?

Not all who fail to implement new training initiatives have this mentality though. No, some people want to implement what they’ve learned, but somewhere between the delivery of the information and the receiving of the information, they’ve missed some critical pieces. Hence, they try in good faith to use what they’ve had shared with them, but they lack the skills to do so effectively. If they understand their not performing as they should nor getting the results they should, they may ask for more guidance and instruction to make the changes the company brass want. However, if they believe what they are now doing has been implemented correctly and fully, they may go on blissfully unaware that the way they have used that new training and knowledge isn’t hitting the mark.

Those in Management are typically tasked with ensuring that those employees they are responsible for use company-paid training on the job. It falls to them to give the training, then offer the environment that supports the people as they carry out whatever is expected of them.

As you may recall from your own days in elementary school classrooms, not all learn the same way. Some people need only be told something to grasp what’s being expected of them. Tell them and they learn. Others require being both told and shown how to do something. Then there are those who learn best by being told, shown and then having the opportunity to do things for themselves under the watchful and helpful observation of a trainer. Tell me, show me, let me, and/or all three.

Organizations invest in training for a number of reasons. First and foremost they figure that providing their workforce with training is profitable. Whether it’s using some new machinery or technology to do the job faster, more accurately, with less waste of by-product, or it creates a better experience for customers, there’s money to be made and/or saved by implementing new ways. They reason that new procedures can’t be implemented without training their staff, so they go ahead and schedule training, bring in consultants or trainers, and tell their workers training is mandatory and they’ll be expected to merge what they’ve learned.

A second reason organizations train is they reason quite correctly that training their existing people is far more efficient than replacing them with outsiders who have the desired new training already. If they didn’t hold this view, they’d simply fire and replace their workforce with others where doing so is within their prerogative and jurisdiction.

When you as an employee receive notice that you’re scheduled for some training, what’s your first inclination? Do you roll your eyes, get exasperated and mumble, “Please! Just let me do my job!” Or do you go into the new training with interest, an open attitude or even dare I say it, showing some enthusiasm?

Some see training as just time away from their regular job…a mini vacation from the desk or the plant floor. Even sitting in a room listening to a health and safety training presentation might be a mental break from the job at hand. Others go back and as soon as they can, add the name of the training event to their resumes so they are ready when needed to look for other opportunities.

You can place yourself as a positive contributor in the workplace if you look at training with a positive attitude and have a willingness to do your best to use what’s been shared with you.

Think on it.

3 Interview Questions: What Would YOU Say?

All this week I’m in the process of conducting mock interviews with a select group of people who are hunting down employment opportunities. Mock interviews in which one can practice their skills and get valuable feedback and support is extremely helpful in increasing the odds of landing a job offer. Understandably then, I’m proud to see such an enthusiastic group putting in the effort to make sure this opportunity before them is one they get the most out of.

Yesterday I conducted three such interviews; each one about an hour in length when you factor in the interview and summarizing how they’ve performed with both verbal and written feedback. While I asked each 8 or 9 questions, I’m sharing 3 such questions with you here, as well as some tips on answering the question better than your competition.

Question 1: Impress Me. 

This is actually the last question I pose to most of those I interview. So before you read further, how would you respond? Resist the urge if you can to ignore thinking about it and just forging on to read more. Where would you go and where would you take me as you respond?

One purpose of the question is to give the applicant, (in this case you) the opportunity to wow me as the employer. Use this opportunity as your one chance to make  a strong final impression on those interviewing you. For just as an interviewer is impressed or not with your first impression, they will be similarly affected one way or the other when you leave them.

The second purpose of the question is to gauge how you can think on your feet with something you may not have prepared for. Best to look thoughtful, pause and then launch into whatever it is you want to say. Good advice is to smile, look positive, entirely engaged and proud as well as emotionally connected to this answer. It is after all how they’ll remember you as things wrap up.

Question 2: Tell me about a time you’ve made a serious error and what you did to overcome it. 

Built on the premise that we all make mistakes, this question is one you should expect. Why? It’s likely you’re going to make at least one mistake if not more in this new job if offered it. So the interviewer is asking to hear not so much the error itself but rather how you reacted to the mistake and what you’ve learned from the experience so it’s chances of being repeated are lowered or eliminated. In an interview you are working hard to come across as polished and confident, marketing your strengths and assets as best you can. So this question is designed to expose a potential problem, perhaps some training needs or where you might benefit from support. Whatever you do, by all means don’t offer up a fatal error where the outcome remained a negative.

Question 3: Describe the position you are applying for as you understand it. 

Whereas the first question I’ve shared with you is actually one I ask last, question 3 here is one I typically slot in at number 2 in a mock interview, following on the heels of the famous, “Tell me a little about yourself.”

As the interviewer, I pose this question to find how well the applicant actually knows what it is they are being interviewed for. Surprisingly, there are many people who go to job interviews with only a vague idea of what they’d actually be doing in the job they are applying for. So do you know how this job fits in with the organization? Knowing how this job or role connects with other positions in the organization is critical. Does it support other positions? Is it a mentoring or leadership role?

Do more than just regurgitate what is in the job posting under the heading, “Duties” or “What You’ll Do In This Role”. Yes, if you zero in on what’s under these headings you’ve hit on the right things to share, but your competition can memorize bullet points too. So if you just repeat back what the job ad says and stop talking, while you’ve technically answered the question, you won’t score as high as the applicants who add more.

So what to add? Excellent question! After having summarized what the key things are, the best applicants then prove how they have actually done what the job entails in one or more of their earlier jobs. Even in situations where the applicant hasn’t had that same experience, the best will talk about how their past experiences use transferable skills which they’ll bring to this place.

Believe me, if you’ve got a wealth of experience and skills and you undersell yourself and your accomplishments, you are gifting your competition and making it highly likely you’ll be passed over. Those with little to no experience will benefit if you fail to illustrate and prove you’ve got what it takes.

If you answered these questions well, congratulations. If you don’t know what to say, bring these three questions with you and put them before whomever you’re working with to help prepare for upcoming interviews. Together, perhaps they can help you compose 3 solid responses.

While job interviews cause anxiety for many, when you practice, you lower your aversion and grow in confidence. While you may never love them, you’ll fear them much less.

Job Interviews; Know Your Lines

If you’ve ever done any community theatre, film or television work, you’ll know then at some point the Director tells the cast to be, ‘off book’. This means you’ve got a target date to have memorized your lines. From that point on, you can’t carry around the script with you on stage or in front of the camera. If you need help with what you’re supposed to say at any point, you just say, “Line?”, and someone who is following along off stage or set will give you a prompt. Eventually, the Director will go further too, cutting off the prompts altogether, so if you don’t know your words at that point, you’re on your own.

Job interviews however, don’t work that way. First of all, memorizing specific answers word for word has never been advised. Let me correct that; somewhere, someone I’m sure has dispensed that advice, but please, don’t try to memorize your answers to questions you presume you may be asked. This is a bad strategy, in fact it’s one of the biggest critical mistakes you could make in preparation for employment interviews!

On the other hand, don’t go to the other extreme, (which many people do I’m afraid to say) and just plan on, ‘winging it’. Making everything up on the fly, in the moment, with no advanced preparation at all is setting yourself up to be exposed as ill-prepared and you’ll eventually find yourself growing increasingly anxious and embarrassed as it becomes clear you weren’t ready for it.

What you’re really going for is to come across as authentic and genuine, answering questions put to you with confidence and intelligence. In order to do so, you need an understanding of the position you’re after, how it fits in to the organization you’re applying with, and the ability to market your skills, experience, education and personal suitability as THE right person to be hired. If you can successful communicate this, you’re well on your way to making the best possible impression you can and landing an eventual offer.

One obvious suggestion is to do some research. Now I bet you’ve heard this before, but perhaps you haven’t really understood what it is you should be researching. Sure you should visit a website, (it is 2017 after all) and click on the, “About Us” tab. That’s a start. In the days before the internet, many job applicants would drop by an organization well in advance of a job interview and pick up brochures, financial and Annual reports. These are still largely available for the asking, and in some situations it’s a great idea to pop ’round and pick them up, with the added benefit they get to see you and you them, you get an idea of the atmosphere, how employees dress etc.

Accessing LinkedIn information is another source for this research. Research not just the company but the people with profiles who work at the organizations you’ve short-listed yourself as possible destinations. What’s their backgrounds and what routes did they take to get where they are now? How are they going about branding themselves? What have they got to say in terms of their current position? How are they dressed for their LinkedIn image?

Now all this is good but back to knowing your lines. In a play the beautiful thing is that at the first rehearsal you’re handed the script. You not only know what you have to say, you know what everyone has to say! No job interview however works this way and that’s actually a good thing. So lose the anxiety over trying to memorize answers.

You do need something to hang on to that gives you some structure and some reassurance. You can get this by looking at a job posting, networking with people who work where you want to work or those who hold down similar jobs to the one you’re after now; ideally all the above. Job postings highlight what you’ll be doing, the qualifications employers demand and often who you’ll be reporting to.

Knowing what they expect you to do should give you an idea what they’ll ask you about. It’s likely your experience will come up as they seek to see if you’ve got the skills, which come out as you relate what you’ve done in the past. Using skill-based language therefore, (I listened, I resolved conflict, I negotiated contracts, I led project teams) that mirrors their current needs will prove helpful.

An interview format will surround the content of your answers with structure and this structure ensures you’re focused and only say enough to answer the questions without running off at the mouth. Not always, but if you look at a company’s pages, you might even find information on how to prepare for interviews with them. As they want to see you at your best and make good hiring decisions, they often don’t mind sharing interview preparation information. It’s there for the looking.

So, get off book before the interview. Know what you want to say and what you want to stress. Deliver your words with confidence and certainty but at the same time by all means reflect on questions asked to compose the best answers. During this conversation with the interviewer(s), have a few thoughtful questions of your own that show you’ve given some thought. And like the best actors, be memorable!

What It Means To Learn A New Skill

At some point, all those who share what they know with others will discern those who have truly learned the new skill and those who have not. I experience this as I go about my work, and I suspect others do as well; namely Teachers, Instructors, Facilitators and Mentors. Of course you don’t need the title to teach and lead, but those in these professions spend much of their time imparting what they know to their audiences.

No matter the setting, the best way to assess if someone has learned a skill is to see if they take what they’ve had shared with them and use that new-found skill on their own as it was shared with them. So an Instructor may share the same information with 10 people and later find that only 4 of the 10 are actually capable of implementing what they’ve learned. As for the remaining 6, it may be that they get a general idea, but try as they may, they just can’t – on their own – take what was shared with them and merge it into whatever it is they are working on.

Several factors may be at play here. Learning styles for one is important for anyone imparting knowledge as well as for the learner themselves to recognize. So while one person may learn from simply being told how to do something new, another might learn best from actually seeing it done, and yet another might learn better by being given the opportunity to do it themselves under a watchful eye. Where the person imparting the knowledge has the time to find the various learning styles of those they are teaching and can reinforce their content with multiple delivery styles, so much the better.

Of course the degree to which one is open and receptive to learning something new is perhaps the single most critical factor of all. When someone is closed to learning, stubbornly refusing to make an effort, or is just present out of necessity not interest, no amount of effort on the part of an instructor will succeed. At some point, for true learning to occur, the student has to see some potential value in the lesson, the worker has to realize the importance of getting onboard with whatever is before them.

Have you ever experienced this yourself? Perhaps in the workplace you are sent along with everyone else for some mandatory training. You look around and you can pick up from the body language of your peers who is engaged and who has mentally checked out. Someone appears to be texting, or making too many frequent exits and entrances apparently having suddenly developed a need to use the washroom again and again. Or you get the slight head shake, the smirk that seems to say, “This is a complete waste of time, I have work to do back at my desk.”

However, even when someone commits to learning because they understand the benefit to doing something a new way, learning can still not occur. It may be that they need to do the new technique themselves several times to gain self-confidence and in the repetitiveness of the newly learned skill, they come to master it over time. Too, it could be that while receptive, they just don’t grasp one or more of the sequential steps which is necessary to achieving the desired result. So in a 10 step process utilizing some new software, miss any single step and you’ll not be able to complete the process. The outcome won’t results in whatever you were trying to do. You’ll have to go back and find out what you skipped, or perhaps what you now have to undo before you can start anew.

Learning is more than just sitting and listening. In the workplace as in school classrooms, it’s about receiving the new information and then internalizing it, processing what’s been shared with you and then owning it; being able to apply it for yourself. So whether it’s how to write an effective cover letter, implementing a new software program, working on a new team in an assembly line or learning a new language, the process is the same.

It is essential then that you come to understand your own learning style. Do you learn best when being given something to read, watching a demonstration live before you, doing something yourself under a watchful eye, or maybe even all three? Are you generally the kind of person that learns things quickly, maybe even the first time you are introduced to something new? Conversely, does it seem to take you a little or a lot longer than others to grasp new information before you feel entirely confident.

This is significant information to know. There’s no point putting on your résumé that you learn quickly if you generally don’t. To do so only sets you up for failure or setbacks at the least. Any company hiring you under such an impression will only expect you to live up to your word, and you could end up out of work altogether if they just don’t have the time to invest in your training if it proves to be lengthier than they are ready to offer.

The best who instruct use a variety of stimuli; handouts for readers, videos and auditory presentations for visual learners, and time to practice the new learning either in a controlled environment or on the job.

Learning new skills keeps us vibrant and relevant.

So You Want To Help People?

The majority of people I come into contact with professionally have as one common denominator, the lack of employment. Those that do have a job are almost always dissatisfied with the one they have at the moment and are looking to find another; one that will ultimately bring they greater happiness, be more of a challenge, stimulate some new skills, increase their financial health etc.

As an Employment Counsellor therefore, I find myself working with others when they are often vulnerable and emotionally fragile. Sometimes the good skills and strengths they have are obscured, not immediately obvious, and this isn’t because the person is consciously trying to hide them, but rather because they have come to doubt those strengths.

In asking someone to both show and share their good qualities, strengths and that which they take pride in, it can be a very intimate discussion. While a person who has only recently become unemployed has much of their confidence and self-awareness intact, someone experiencing prolonged unemployment may feel very little to be proud of. In fact, there are some who, while looking ‘normal’ on the outside, are walking around feeling they are completely devoid of anything of any value. Sad to say, they cannot think of anything whatsoever they like about themselves, they have no faith that anyone would ever choose to hire them, and this isn’t modesty in the extreme, it’s a void of identity.

So imagine you’ve come to find yourself as such a person. You honestly see nothing in yourself that would be attractive to a perspective employer. Skills, mental health, self-confidence, experience, education, attitude all empty and wanting; doubt, lack of self-worth, zero energy, high vulnerability all in great supply. Now you hear others advising you to market yourself to employers, to ‘fake it ’til you make it’, and you just feel so much more out of sorts and incapable. You’re literally incapable and immobile. There’s no way you can do that; you can’t even imagine yourself for a second ever being what your being asked to be. The interview therefore is a non-starter. There’s just no way you can perceive self-marketing yourself and being the first choice of any employer over others.

Let’s not delude ourselves here; helping and supporting such people is no small undertaking and it’s going to take a significant amount of time to aid such a person as they rebuild their self-image. Incapacitated is how they feel, not belligerent nor unwilling, just not physically or mentally capable of doing anything in the beginning to get going.

Can you also imagine therefore in such a picture which I’m trying to create for you, that such a person is going to have many setbacks? Sure they are. There will be many false starts; where they agree to try something you’ve suggested and fail. Where they lack the skills you and I might assume they have to circumnavigate even the simplest of barriers. Good intentions get them going, but without support they fail to move ahead. In fact, small setbacks become magnified in their eyes and thinking; more reasons to feel a failure.

A real danger is to look from the outside at such a person and judge them to be lazy, improperly motivated, unwilling to move ahead, happy to stay where they are and heaven forbid – not worth the effort. These are people who are susceptible to scams, vulnerable to being misled, easily taken advantage of – largely because they have come to look for others to tell them what to do and take care of them, and as such they are often abused financially, emotionally; and each abuse makes their distrust of someone with the best of intentions all the more real.

Wow! Helping such a person seems to get harder and harder with every paragraph I write. Think of the investment of time, effort and with such a high probability of failure, are you up for the challenge? After all, why not turn your attention to helping other people who have higher probabilities of success? That would seem so much easier!

I tell you this; there is immense self-satisfaction in working with people who are so innately vulnerable. Seeing the good in people; not for what they might become but for who they are at the moment – this is often extremely challenging but so worthwhile. It’s like saying, “Until you have the ability to believe in yourself, accept that I see much of value in you; that I believe in you.” Sending that kind of message, that this person is deserving of your attention and your time is something to start with.

You might not of course have what it takes to help such people. This doesn’t make you a bad person or flawed in any way. It just means your wish to help people lies in other areas, helping in other ways with other issues. You’ll make mistakes as you go and that’s to be expected and natural. You’ll make mistakes after years of service too, and you’ll always keep learning from those you work with who are unique from every other person you meet. You’ll never get so good you’re perfect for everybody you meet.

It’s been said that Hope is the last thing one has to lose; that when all Hope is gone, there’s nothing left. Now what if in their eyes, you represent that final Hope?


In your organization, in your workplace, you’ve undoubtedly got people in positions of authority; charged with supervising others. Are they putting in the effort to lead, inspire, motivate and mentor or are they putting in time?

I suppose if you’re fortunate, you’ve got a Manager whose style and substance is a good match for what fits with your own expectations. So if you thrive on a hands-off environment and you’ve got a person in the management role who largely leaves you alone to carry out your work, you both win. On the other hand, if that’s your preferred working style and you end up with an immediate Supervisor who micro-manages, the fit won’t work for either of you, and something has to give. Recognize that neither is implicitly wrong, but the two contrasting styles don’t compliment each other and there will be problems.

So unless you’re working as an entrepreneur and running your own business with no other employees, this issue of leadership is vitally important to all who work in organizations. There’s two sides to this equation, the needs of the employees and the need of the Manager. Not only do both have needs but both have responsibilities. While it’s easier to see the Manager pointing out the responsibilities of the employees they supervise, it’s not so easy to see the employees getting together to point out the responsibilities of the Manager to lead them.

Nonetheless, Managers, when acting as a collective Management team, have a critically vital role in organizations; setting the tone and atmosphere in which employees work, leading by example and ensuring that the activities of their staff and how they go about those activities works towards common organizational goals.

It’s interesting though isn’t it; this distinction of the two roles. I mean while they are both people, the one has the right to walk in unannounced and say, “So how’s it going? What are you working on? Let me see how you go about your day.” I rather doubt most employees would experience a comfort level in doing any of the three with their own Supervisor.

The best kind of Supervisor perhaps is the person who aspires to inspire; the one who said at some point, “I want to be the kind of Supervisor who works to bring out the individual talents of those on my team.” Of course, it largely depends on the organization you work with, the structure that exists, the ideal atmosphere and the directives the Supervisors themselves get from their own leaders. Could be the best kind of Supervisor in some environments are those who crack the whip, who accept nothing less than superior performance, who watch performance and push for better results and more profitability.

Now if you’re in Management you might feel you finally have the authority and power to bring about the chemistry and ideals you place in high regard. However, just as you feel you’re in a place to make changes, you find yourself inundated with reports, projects and meetings you didn’t expect. Your time is now consumed with new responsibilities and the people you supervise are suddenly working independent of your leadership it seems except for those scheduled team meetings. This isn’t how you pictured things.

As an employee, you have to decide what you need in a supervisor too. Are you new and need the guidance and tutelage of a hands-on Boss who can correct, praise, instruct and approve? Are you looking for a leader who will recognize your lengthy years of service and your strong performance and give you the latitude to do your thing and check with you from time to time? Or have you plateaued, there’s little that you do voluntarily anymore, and you’d love to hide right out in the open and the kind of Boss who would let these things go unnoticed would be ideal?

Different people both want and need different kinds of leaders. Sometimes what they need isn’t what they want and conversely what they want isn’t what they need. How many times though does a Supervisor sit down with their team and say, “Okay, let’s talk about what you each need and what you all need collectively as a team?” Assuming this did happen, how honest would you be, how well would you know your own needs if asked, and how likely would your current Supervisor be to receive all that feedback and then, most importantly, do something positive with the information received?

There’s a vulnerability in this process of asking for that kind of response. There’s little value in seeking honest comments if people are closed to change and adaptation. What you might need or ask for may not be possible to give too, and it could be that what you ask for might indeed be available in another person but not the one charged with you on their team. So is it time for change – not with them, but rather you?

Managers manage people, and an office and name plate don’t guarantee that they’ll be good Managers. Some are only concerned with the title, the income, the prestige, the authority or power. Some are reclusive, some like the closed-door, the, ‘knock and wait until you have permission to enter’ philosophy. Others mentor, critique privately and praise publicly.

What do you need? What will you contribute? What will inspire your best?




Sharing My Job Search Kit

This particular post I am sharing has two intended audiences; you the person looking for a job and my fellow Employment Counsellors. Should you aid and coach others to find and keep employment and go by some other title, this too is for you.

You may have heard me mention every so often in the blogs I’ve shared over the years that one of the workshops I facilitate every couple of month’s is an intensive job search group held over a two-week period. It’s name is Worksmart, and today I’d thought I’d share the contents of what participants receive upon entering the room. It’s a kit you see; full of items to be used in organizing one’s job search and looking professional while doing it. I do this in the interest of sharing resources, and you in turn are encouraged to comment on what you give should you wish to do so, or consider providing some of these to those you help at your discretion. Sharing I believe, is how we enrich each other.

The kit includes a large black leatherette folder, which comes with a pen and lined paper. It is in this folder that one can put multiple copies of their résumé, the job posting, cover letter, thank you cards, notepad, cue cards, etc. all making an immediate visual 1st impression on the interviewer(s) of someone who is organized, ready and taking this interview seriously. So instead of a candidate just stating they are organized, those I work with can both claim it and prove it without having uttered a word. The message sent is, “If I’m this organized in my job search, this will carry over into all the work I do when employed with you.”

The Thank You cards are blank inside with a simple, “Thank You” on the front. Each person is issued 5 cards and 5 envelopes on day 1, and encouraged to give these not only to job interviewers at the end of a job interview, but also to any and all who support and encourage them in their job search journey. So they might give them to those who stand as their references, with whom they network, recent teachers or educators, former Supervisors or Co-workers they had excellent working relationships with; anyone in fact who plays a part in helping them.

The cue cards are used as a safety net, providing reassurance to the applicant in an interview that should they blank out during a question they can glance quickly down and recall from a key word, something important, such as their strengths. These can also be used to compose questions to be asked at some point, thus eliminating that problem of leaving the building after an interview and suddenly recalling something important you’d meant to ask or point out.

There is a package of tissues, good for wiping sweaty hands, blowing the nose, lipstick or makeup repair, even curtailing bleeding from a shave prior to an interview.

For oral care, there’s a toothbrush, toothpaste and dental floss. Sometimes a person in my group will have a Caesar salad for lunch and then get a call inviting them to an interview within an hour or so, and brushing the teeth is essential to maintaining self-confidence, knowing your breath is fresh and no lettuce is wedged in your front teeth!

Also there are two smaller folders, both with paper and pen, useful if going not to an interview but to a networking meeting or presentation where note taking will occur but a smaller folder is ideal. I include a highlighter too – and yellow specifically – for highlighting key words in job postings which I insist they do. By stressing the importance of highlighting key words and phrases, I can see if they miss essential things to be included in targeted resumes and cover letters, or whether they have this skill. Yellow I find, pops!

I also include a tri-page folder of what the Worksmart program is all about including some quotes from past participants (names removed for confidentiality). This folder is ideal for sharing with family and friends who don’t understand why their job seeking friend is in ‘wasting time in a classroom instead of out there looking for a job.

You’ll see perhaps in the photo there’s a cookbook. What’s with that? Well, good food is critical to keeping up the stamina for a prolonged job search, and this cookbook is for people on a budget. Besides, there’s always room for food!

The ear buds in the photo are included for those completing online work where watching an instructional video is a welcomed break from other activities or doing an online test/application.

What you can’t see in the photo is the USB flashstick with 81 electronic files each participant receives to keep. It has job search tracking and references sheets, interview tips, files to insert their resumes and cover letters,  plus a lot of solid general information. Every handout and worksheet they’ll receive is included, as are most flip charts used in the class.

So there you have it. There’s even a canvas bag for holding it all which is great for inclement weather. As good and useful as it is, I admit I’m always searching for other items and tinker with the contents. That tinkering keeps me motivated and engaged too. So if you’ve got a suggestion I’d absolutely LOVE to hear what you’d like to see or what you give yourself to those you work with!

You Can’t Win The Race From The Sidelines

Bad news, unfortunate circumstances, poor luck, worries, stresses, pains and LIFE; all reasons for putting off looking for work. Might as well add in low self-esteem, anxiety, an unreal perception of one’s reality, lack of motivation, money in the bank, a dependency on others or possibly contentment. Yes there are many reasons why people – perhaps you? would put off looking for employment.

By the term, ‘looking for employment’, I mean really looking for work. Casually glancing at want ads for three or four minutes a day isn’t job searching so let’s not delude one another. Looking for work these days – as has always been the case by the way – means making a serious investment of time and going about it intelligently with an injection of enthusiasm.

In order to be successful and win your next job though, you’ve got to throw your name into the mix. There’s no way you’re going to win out in the end if you’re not even in the race. Whether you start strong and count on your stamina to hold off the competition or you go at a steady pace and gradually pick up steam near the finish line to surge ahead of the others competing for the job you want is up to you. Sit on the sidelines though and one things for sure, you’re not winning. And whether it’s a thoroughbred horse, an elite athlete or even a beer league hockey player, the longer you’re not practicing and training, the longer it’s going to take to get into game shape and do anywhere near your best.

Have you heard the phrase that looking for a job is a job in itself? It’s likely you’ve heard some version of it. Looking for work is work; which is why many people avoid looking for work. After all, it takes effort and it doesn’t pay anything until it pays off with a job in the end.

Now I understand if you’ve been out of work for a long time or under whatever your personal circumstances are that you might be deserving of both some empathy and some sympathy. Sympathy by the way isn’t a bad thing; even if you say you don’t want or need others sympathy, a lot of folks actually do appreciate it. Neither sympathy or empathy however will ultimately get you a job. Eventually, you win the job by putting in the effort to land interviews and market your skills, experience and attitude to meet an employer’s needs. It’s you in the end going to those job interviews and performing well.

Make no mistake; I agree there are personal circumstances that impact negatively on one’s ability to job search. At the extreme, there’s a death in the immediate family, everything’s been lost in a natural disaster, you’re reeling from being unexpectedly fired, you’ve got ailing parents and suddenly you’re the only caregiver. Of course there are some sound reasons for NOT giving your job search  your total focus.

However, as I acknowledge the above, you have to similarly acknowledge that the time you spend away from seriously looking for work is working against you. Your references become less significant or completely irrelevant. Your knowledge of best practices, leading technology or even your keyboarding speed drops faster than you’d think. Self-confidence starts to fade and erode.

I know. Everyday I work with people who have been out of work for various periods of time for an assortment of reasons. Those who have not been looking for work with much success often tell me at some point, “I had no idea that how you look for work had changed so much. No wonder I’m not having any luck.”

The thing about looking for work is that yes, you might get fortunate and have a short search and end up working soon. However, while most people HOPE this is the case, it rarely is. It depends largely on the kind of work you’re seeking and the level you’re applying to in an organization, but seeking work generally takes stamina, character and persistence. Those three just aren’t that often immediately present in people who have been out of job search mode for long stretches.

Look, you might be smarting a bit, even resentful because there’s no way I know your personal situation and to make these kind of blanket statements is unfair. You might indeed take offence to what’s coming across like a shot at not just your job search efforts but you personally. Where’s that coming from though? Is it bitterness that you’ve had a lack of success? Is it hearing what no one close to you has told you out of not wanting to hurt your feelings, but you know to be true?

Deal with whatever needs attention; absolutely. I’m not cold and unfeeling! However, not indefinitely. The longer you put off your job search, the longer too you’ll need – perhaps – to steel yourself for what could be a prolonged search. May I suggest you get help; both to deal with whatever you’re going through that stands between you and looking for work with 100% focus, and get help with the job search itself.

Being out of work can be isolating. Getting support during your job search from a professional who knows best practices can not only get you off the sidelines and into the game, but help you get out in front of the competition.