The Climate Dictates What You Hear

There are a lot of jobs where one person listens to another to offer a service. Mental Health Workers, Social Workers, Employment Counsellors, Teachers, Psychologists, Addiction Workers, Real Estate or Investment Brokers just to name a few.

In all these occupations, the degree to which the provider of the service creates a trusting atmosphere often dictates the length of time the consumer of the service needs to fully share and disclose. Most people are pretty good at keeping what’s really going on – the BIG stuff, sufficiently buried in a conversation, revealing the small stuff as a testing ground.

I know when I meet someone, I make the point of saying I’m going to do my best to earn their trust by creating a safe, trusting atmosphere. The quicker they come to fully trust me and share what’s really going on – the big stuff – the quicker I’ll be able to personalize the experience for them; addressing their experiences and making the experience richer.

In short, I can only help someone with what I know to be their issues if those same issues are shared with me. If a person gets around to opening up with me late in our time together, that leaves less time for an in-depth response if they’d prefer one over me being a sounding board or an empathetic ear only.

Now if words alone were all someone needed to open up and share their biggest, darkest thoughts, fears and struggles, “Trust me” would suffice. Yeah, most people have heard these uttered before and been burned trusting those they felt could be trusted, eventually to be let them down. Those same people are ironically, often part of the problems people present.

Actions which support the words spoken are much more effective at creating a trusting atmosphere. So when you’re in a job where listening to people and providing help is involved, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that those same people before you are listening and watching. In a group setting, they want to first see how you respond to other people who open up a bit. Do you make light of what somebody shared? Do you seem interested or uncomfortable? If someone in a group shares something personal, did you give them an appropriate response or steer the conversation back to your own agenda?

In my job, I hear a lot of personal tragedies, I see the pain and shame on a lot of faces as people tell me things they’ve held inside for a long time. Every so often someone says, “I don’t know why I even told you; I haven’t shared that with anybody else. I said more than I’d planned on telling you.” If you’ve ever had someone say this or something similar, you know first-hand what a responsibility and privilege comes with such a disclosure.

Of course if you haven’t the time to listen to someone or the supporting resources to offer up when someone takes you up on your offer to listen, you should be careful of inviting the disclosure in the first place. After all, you may not like a lot of what you hear; what you hear could be more than just uncomfortable. Be ready to feel angry, shocked, troubled, concerned and if you’ve never feel these things you may not be as emotionally invested as you might or should be. I don’t mean you take on their issues; never that. However, taking what someone discloses, holding it for a time with care and sensitivity, then returning it to them in a way they can better carry the load can be more of a help than you know.

You’d think in some cases, that one’s position alone puts us in a position of trust; that it should come automatically. The biggest place of trust for most people is their parent or parents. “You can tell me anything” is something a parent might say, but children know that they can often only disclose so much to a parent. How many kids have kept their gender identification secret? An unexpected pregnancy hidden, an accident with the family car, or problems with bullying.

It’s not enough to say, “you can tell me anything.” People are often conflicted about wanting to share things – big things – but also afraid of ridicule, embarrassment, hurting the listener in the process, etc. Sharing often makes a person feel vulnerable, open to judgement; and if they respect you greatly, they may not want to risk having you think less of them for their behaviour, weakness, poor choices – past and present.

Shut down, dismissed, ignored, not believed; these are also the kinds of things people who want to open up and share are afraid of. “You don’t know what you’re talking about”, “You’re smarter than that”, “I don’t want to hear this!” are examples of being shut down and dismissed.

Fail to create an atmosphere of trust and you add another worry to the person you’re trying to help who may be burdened to the point of becoming numb and paralyzed.

A key is to find out what the person disclosing would like as an outcome. Are they looking for solutions or just an ear? Rushing to ‘solve their problem’ is often NOT what they want. When you, “solve” another’s problem yourself, you remove the learning moment, seize the empowerment you could have left them with and keep them dependent.


What Your Resume SHOULD Do

Let’s put the question of whether you have a good resume aside for the moment. Rather, let’s talk about what your résumé should be doing.

For starters, your résumé is a marketing document. It should lay out clearly what you offer and entice the person reading it sufficiently to meet you face-to-face. The best resumes are custom-made for the jobs they are submitted for; one unique resume made specifically for that single job. As the reader looks it over, they should be struck with how what you offer aligns with or meets their own needs. The more effective you are at making this potential match clear and the benefit they’ll receive in having a conversation with you, the more likely that is to happen.

Now let’s look at this idea of your specific resume being a marketing document. At this point, it would be an excellent idea if you pulled out your résumé so you can look it over as you read on.

Looking at your résumé, does it communicate how the organization you are applying to will benefit from bringing you on board, or does it focus more on how you want to benefit from working at a company? In reality, a good fit will ultimately benefit both you and the organization you ultimately work for, but on paper you put what you’ll bring to the company ahead of your own interests.

This is where many fail. So often I pick up a résumé and/or an accompanying cover letter and all I read is how the person hopes to grow or advance with the company, learn more skills or use the skills they picked up in earlier work places.  “Seeking a full-time job where I can grow with the company and develop my customer service skills” is such an example; and a bad one too.

You see, this sentence in the previous paragraph is all about what the person wants and says nothing about what they’ll contribute or add. Companies aren’t in the business of charitably developing people’s talents as their primary business. Organizations are looking for skilled workers who fill an immediate or emerging need. Rather than what can we do for you, they read your résumé asking themselves the question, “What can this person do for us?” Fail to clearly communicate this key information and your résumé will fall by the wayside.

Now, even though you’d like to think otherwise, you don’t have their full attention very long. If they look at your résumé for 8 – 20 seconds on first glance, you’re getting the typical once-over. So how do you make sure that the hour you pour into making this résumé and cover letter are going to get more than 20 seconds of their time? Better Marketing.

Think of any ad you see on television, hear on the radio or read in print. Take a car commercial as an example. Depending on the product, the company will pitch the lifestyle that goes with the car. Whether it’s being environmentally responsible by consuming less gas and emitting fewer emissions, being surrounded by laughing, happy friends or getting away from it all on open, curvy roads where yours is the only car on a scenic roadway, they pitch much more than the metal and steel you buy. Buy the car and you’ll live the experience.

This is a very different approach than asking you to buy their cars so they can stay in business and make more profit selling more cars. That pitch would fall on deaf ears. Why should you buy a car to help a big company make more money? But this is exactly what many people do on their own resumes; maybe even you. The pitch on paper is … hire me so I can develop and grow while you pay me. Again, no sale.

Your résumé, cover letter, thank you letter, emails and interview(s) should all communicate the same thing; hire me and here’s how YOU benefit. If you’re unclear after re-reading your own resume how a company would benefit from hiring you, it’s a safe bet they won’t figure it out either.

Okay still with me? So now you may be wondering how you can guarantee that what you offer will be what they want even when you do make it clear. Good question! The answer is in the job posting itself and in what you uncover from a little research. Sometimes a company will even say, “Here’s what you bring:”, or they list qualifications required and, “What you’ll do”.

One of the very BEST things you can do when preparing to send your résumé is something that very few applicants bother with, because it actually takes some initiative. What is it? Have a conversation with an employee who is doing the job you are interested in. Find out:

  • What personal characteristics are most desirable to succeed?
  • What are the challenges in the job?
  • What qualities do people have that excel in the job?

Research takes some initiative and it separates the go-getters who want to stand out from those who aren’t really all that motivated. If you’re looking for an edge, there are few things you could do better than reach out to an employee and ask to sit down with them and hear about what they do, what they like, the job challenges etc.

A line in your cover letter could start with, “Having done extensive research before applying, including meeting with __________,”

Stuck On What To Do; What To Be

Still trying to figure out what your purpose in life is? You know, that ONE thing you were put here on Earth to do? This certainly is one of the big ones; one of those questions that has a lot of implications.

When asked how they’ll know when they’ve found the right job or career, some reply, “I’ll just know”, while others will say, “It will just feel right.” However, what if – and it’s just a possibility of course – what if you were actually meant to dislike the job or career you’re meant to do? What if you’re supposed to struggle with it, fight against it, coming to appreciate the hard work involved, (mental or physical) required to do it well? What if in the end, it’s all the effort that goes into the job that makes the work more meaningful? Maybe for these people, it would never have, “just felt right” in the beginning at all?

Of course to many people, they want to discover THE job; the one they were destined for. Here’s something though to ponder… When we look back at history and talk of people of note, we in the present day brand these people for the occupations they held when they became famous. So we talk about Shakespeare the bard, Churchill the Prime Minister, Charlie Chaplin the actor or Roberta Bondar the astronaut. What we don’t talk of is the job or jobs these same people held earlier in their lives. Why? Because those jobs were of less significance to the masses. Were Churchill a Newspaper Boy or Shakespeare a farmer for a stint, we neither know nor care. But isn’t it true that the people they became were in fact shaped by who they once were? What they once did?

Take me for a current day example. Meet me as an Employment Counsellor and you might imagine this is all I’ve ever done. If I have a positive impact on you and you admire me for what I’m able to share with you or you appreciate my ability to support you as you move forward, you’ll always recall me as Kelly Mitchell the Employment Counsellor. However, I’ve sold shoes, worked in a bowling alley, been a Cooperative and New Games Trainer, and more. Those weren’t the jobs that made me a person of note in your own life; but I’ve been shaped by those jobs nonetheless.

The same is true of you. Wherever you ultimately end up, when you look back at your career or collection of jobs, you’ll see value in all the things you’ve done that shaped you along the way. This includes the positive experiences and yes, the ones which at the time were hard to go through, didn’t work out at all, or you performed well at but just had to change. We are all the sum of our experiences.

Trying to figure out what’s next so that you move in the direction you were always destined to go in and finally, “get it together” may or may not be possible. It could be that yes, you’ve been sufficiently stimulated to move in a direction that will bring you satisfaction and fulfillment. If so, great for you!

On the other hand, you might still be in a period of flux; that is, a time of confusion and change. Maybe all this struggle you’re having in trying to figure it out isn’t over. This doesn’t sound very encouraging or hopeful does it? I mean, if you’ve tried to figure it out for years and you feel no closer to doing so, what kind of hope or optimism can you have for the future? Will it always be a mental struggle to find that thing that makes you happy?

What if we accepted for a moment that there wasn’t one thing and one thing only after all? What if there isn’t just a single career that we were meant to do or someone we were meant to become? Maybe what’s right for us, what we were destined to do all along is a collection of various jobs and different types of work. Perhaps it’s a collection of experiences that taken together makes us the people we’ll become.

So when I was happy selling shoes, maybe I was in the right job at the time, although it’s not a good fit for me here in the present. For all I know, I might find that selling shoes is right for me in the future by the way. Maybe running my business for 16 years was the ideal thing for the Kelly of the 80’s and 90’s. But Kelly in 2018? I’m happy and stimulated being the best Employment Counsellor I can be. In fact, it’s that whole collection of earlier jobs and work that benefits those I help in my current job!

Now you. YOU! Feeling anxiety and pressure – maybe even depression or that feeling of being paralyzed as you try to figure it out? Understandable – completely. You’re feelings are valid. This is after all, one of the BIG ones – “What should I do?”

While you may not know yet what you should do, what is obvious is that it’s NOT what you’re currently doing. So if you’re stuck and doing nothing, continuing to do nothing isn’t going to get you closer to it. Do something. Act. Talk. Invest yourself. Work. Experience the value of experience.

Picking A Career: The Pressure To Get It Right

It usually starts when we’re children and asked of us by well-meaning family members. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Then our parents friends and the parents of our own friends are asking us the same question. Soon, the idea that we should place a lot of importance on thinking about our life-long career is reinforced in school when elementary teachers tell us to choose wisely the level of classes we select as we approach high school. Maybe they even have us do career assessments.

In your personal life you’re body is going through some weird physical changes; puberty. Your hormones are changing, you get that first facial hair, the period arrives, the physical attraction to people you used to just see as friends is changing how you hang out together. What you and your friends think is groovy, hip, cool or down with is constantly changing and you don’t want to be left out and fall behind. Things get awkward as you switch back and forth between being a kid and doing your best to look and act 5 years older.

So there you are newly arrived in high school; experimenting with your teenage drive to test some boundaries, making some decisions (a few of which you’ll regret and a few you’ll be happy work out) for the first time. You think you’re mature, all you really want to do is have fun, bond with your besties and have the time of your life, but suddenly you’re doing serious work looking at further career assessments, picking out Universities or Colleges to further your education and positioning yourself along the path to that career goal. People older than you, smarter than you, are laying out your next 5- 8 years of your life; finishing high school and 3 or 4 years of further education.

The irony is that as adults themselves, those teachers know that almost every one of their students will change their careers and some several times over the course of their working adults lives. But if they stressed that message at this early juncture, the students they are instructing would question the importance of getting it laid out now. So there you are unsure really of what you’ll want in the future let alone now, but still you’ve got to start thinking about what College or University offers the courses you’ll need to get whatever diploma or degree you’re after.

There’s a lot of heat to get it right; some of the pressure – most of it really – might even be self-imposed. After all, if all these people we admire and respect are telling us it’s important to choose wisely so we don’t waste our lives, our money and our time, they must be right. The fear that you choose wrong and take  something you really don’t want or change your mind too late can be confusing!

Relax! (Easier said than done right? I know). Here’s a few thoughts for you to mull over from an Employment Counsellor who has worked for a long time with literally thousands of people.

First of all, while this might sound entirely UNhelpful, you need to know that as much as what you want now may seem crystal clear, that could very well change in your future and that’s totally okay. The person you’ll become will be influenced a great deal by people you have yet to meet, places you have yet to go, experiences you have yet to have. You’re going to change as you grow and so this notion of choosing an occupation – and the pressure to get it right – is not only a myth, it’s just plain wrong and the evidence proves it. People change jobs and careers over their lifetime.

This being said, an education is a fine thing. It’s not the only thing; you can skip the post secondary thing altogether and just start working and have a fine, fulfilling life. But suppose for a moment you head off to school and after 2 years in a 3 year program you find you’re just not feeling it. You can switch programs and people do. You can take a year off and go back. You could even graduate and then something in your life makes pursuing that career difficult or seemingly impossible. That career in the Hospitality industry with a lot of evening and weekend work suddenly doesn’t fit with your new-found role of parent. If this happened, would your education be a waste?

The answer is no. Education is never a waste. Education is not a financial burden of debt you pay off with a good paying job, but rather an investment in yourself as a person. That education is going to change and influence how you think moving forward, and it will benefit you throughout your adult life. If you consider returning to school to do something different, taking another 2 or 3 years, you might feel even more pressure to ‘get it right this time.’ My advice? Do it anyhow. Go back. Invest in yourself because your future self will thank you.

You can do this. You literally can’t choose wrong. Life has a funny way of making use of our talents, education and experience down the road in ways we can’t imagine at the present.

Whether a specific trade or a general Bachelor of Arts, it’s all good! This education you’re considering isn’t the final destination, it’s just one step on a lifelong journey.

Dear Mom: How I’m Feeling (Please Read)

Hi mom. How are you?

Me, I’m not so good. I want to talk with you about how I’ve felt for a long time now, but I keep putting off saying what’s really on my mind. Mostly because I don’t want to hurt your feelings, and I know I’d probably shut down again if I tried and keep how I’m really feeling bottled up – once again – so this is why you’re reading it instead of having me tell you myself.

When I was younger, you used to tell me I could do anything; I could be anybody I wanted to be. I don’t know exactly when you switched or why, but now you tell me just to do anything, just be anybody, and while the words are the same, the meaning has changed. Pretty soon I wonder if you’ll tell me I’ll never amount to anything; I’ll never be anybody. And what you really mean with those words is I’ll never be anyone of value in your eyes.

Living up to your expectations is hard. I know you only had the best in mind for me, and I really hope you still do. The pressure I’m feeling though and the stress that comes with it to make my next few moves and not mess up is actually having the opposite effect. See I’m starting to feel paralyzed; unable to move forward and actually do anything because I’m afraid of making what in your opinion is just another bad choice or mistake.

Don’t be mad. Oh please don’t be mad, just hear me out. This isn’t easy mom. You know one of the greatest things a parent can do is teach their kids to make decisions on their own. It must be hard when you think you know better; when you wouldn’t make the choices I’ve made. Saying, “I warned you”, or, “I told you this would happen didn’t I?” might seem the helpful thing to do or say, but all it’s really doing is adding pressure and shutting me down. That’s not what you want and it’s not healthy for me either.

Sure I regret some of the choices I’ve made. Those choices were mine though mom, and the regret is mine too. But here’s the thing; I made the choices, I have the regrets and I am the one who hopefully learns the lessons from the choices. What I’ve learned is to put more thought into the big choices. The small choices with small consequences don’t matter near as much as the big ones, and with the bigger decisions I know I need to think them through more, do some research about what job to get, what schooling I need to train for it etc.

You want the best for me, but comparing me to other people isn’t helping – and honestly, it’s not fair. I’m my own person just as they are. We’re different mom. It’s not about, “just getting a job”, but more about getting THE job that’s right for me, one that’s going to bring me some happiness, one that I’ll do well in and feel good about doing. I’ve got responsibilities I know and believe me I want to stand up on my own, pay my own bills, be my own woman and not just survive but rather thrive. I don’t need you to remind me of my responsibilities; sorry mom but you remind me of that way too often; sometimes with words, sometimes with that look.

Okay so that’s how I’m feeling. But now I have to move on and tell you more than that. Now I want to tell you what you can do that I’d appreciate; what I’d really find helpful. Are you willing to listen to this and think about it. Please say you’ll think about what I’m saying here; maybe even for a few days before we talk?

First of all mom, please stop asking me what I’m going to do with my life. I don’t know what the next 30 years is going to look like; I don’t even know what the next 5 years is going to look like. Does anybody? Really? I’m looking ahead believe me, but I’m concentrating on the next year or two at best. My self-esteem is shaky; sometimes it’s okay but there’s more times it’s not. I doubt myself more than I’d like to admit, but I do. Still, I have to figure things out. If I can make a few good decisions; decisions that turn out well, I can build on that and make more of them, and it would be nice to have your support and recognition when I do.

Give me a little space mom. If I’m ever going to ‘make it’ on my own, I need permission to fail without those, “I told you so” looks. You were the one who said, “If at first you don’t succeed try, try again.” See I was listening and I do remember. If I don’t succeed the first or second time, it doesn’t mean I never will, I just haven’t yet.

I’m smart mom; smart in some things and not so smart in others. This makes me normal. And mom, I value you and what you’ve done for me – what you keep doing for me – really I do. That’s why you’re reading this mom. You matter to me and I want you to be proud of me.

Leaving A Legacy

A number of long-standing employees where I work have either retired recently, or their departure is rapidly approaching. I’ve found myself thinking a bit about one in particular; a gentleman with 28 years of service I believe who was my colleague for 16 of those years; and my teammate for the last 12.

Unlike me, he didn’t write any workshop manuals, nor did he create any specific programs we delivered. In fact, I can’t even recall co-facilitating a workshop with him in all that time. That’s odd when you consider we worked on the same team in such close proximity to each other. No, he spent the bulk of his time working out of our drop-in resource area.

About 6 months before his departure, I do recall having a conversation with him about what I termed a legacy project. What I realized back then was that looking ahead in time, there were going to be a number of significant departures from our organization, and when those people left, so too would walk out the door all their ideas and experience. We would in short, be the poorer for their departure. Hence, the idea of some legacy of information; tips, advice, best practices, words of wisdom etc. might be well received by the new hires to take their place.

Well, my words weren’t heeded. No, there he stood on his last day, doing what others before him have come to do on their own last days; making a farewell speech, thanking his teammates and colleagues, having a toast made in his honour and finally thanking the people who decorated the room for the big send off. Now that he’s gone, as big as his personality was, I notice that his name is already being said less and less, some days not at all. There is no picture on a wall to remind us of him, there are no documents we can turn to and say he designed. So what’s his legacy?

It has struck me now though, that his legacy isn’t WHAT he left behind at all, but rather in WHO he touched and influenced. Over those 28 years that he served, how many people were changed – hopefully for the better – because of his influence? How many people have a job because of him? How many in some small or large way became better people? Whether because he said something enlightening or because he did something that provoked a response, how many people learned something or stood their ground for something they believed because of him. The legacy he left you see is in the lives he came into contact with, not in some workshop or document that will eventually be overhauled in time.

And this got ME thinking of ME; and of YOU. We’re still in the game you and me. We haven’t retired yet. We’re still standing in front of others delivering our workshops, or sitting down with people providing one-on-one help and support. We’re still providing customer service behind our counters, in our service bays, on the factory floors or in the office cubicles. We’re still in the jobs that bring us into daily contact with all the people who consume our products and goods, receive our services and hopefully are better for having come into contact with us. Unlike my former colleague, we’re still front and center and can impact on so many people for the better if we so choose to do so.

This responsibility kind of gets lost on us from time-to-time. We get preoccupied with our upcoming plans for the weekend, or we have a lot on our minds about the things going on in our personal lives that sometimes it seems our work is actually something we just try to get through with instead of immersing ourselves in it.

Have a bad day with a lot going on and we might even have a boss that says, “Just do your best to get through the day”, or, “The weekend is almost here and then you can recharge and do what you need to do. But for now, just do what you can.” While we might appreciate that kind of support, the unfortunate ones who get us on those days receive our minimum service. But hey, we’re only human right?

My point here is that NOW is the best time – the only time in fact – when we need to remind ourselves that our legacy is in the people who we benefit today and every day. When people look back – be it on their deathbed or their last day of work, there’s an ending being contemplated. Be it their life or their career, so often what is remembered most fondly or regretted most strongly, is the lives they’ve touched and influenced or the opportunities lost to do so.

You and me? We’re right in the thick of things. We’re still in the jobs and careers where we can make a difference. We still influence others for better or ill; we still produce quality products and give service excellence or we don’t. We may not be so terrific that each and every one of our interactions are positive, but we can strive to make this our goal. That is to say, if we want this goal in the first place.

Somewhere, my former colleague and friend Chudi is still influencing people and imprinting his legacy. Well done sir, and thanks.

Choices And Consequences

Not everybody wants the same things; nor do people who do want the same things want them to the same degree.

Take yesterday. So there I was on day 1 of a 7 day career exploration workshop. 7 days isn’t a long time to invest in looking at the various options and settling on one to pursue for the immediate future, but on the other hand, when you receive guidance and encouragement and go at it with some enthusiasm, you can indeed learn a lot about yourself. So yes, you could progress to the point where you move forward with confidence towards an employment goal. Even if there’s homework left to do researching a couple of options after the class has ended, this too is progress.

Now one of the things I made clear – and ALWAYS make clear on day 1 of any workshop I run, is that attendance is critically important. Missing time won’t get a person removed automatically; after all, previously scheduled appointments can’t always be shuffled around outside of the 7 days. I tell participants on day 1 that they have to be present to get the most out of the experience. While it’s true they would return from time away to find all the handouts on their desk, completing them on their own just isn’t the same as doing it in a facilitated discussion.

If a day is missed, not only would they have to catch up on the next by completing the self-assessments we covered in their absence, their voices would be missing in the discussions which occurred in their absence. So not only is the experience for the person lacking, so too is the experience of the entire group who loses out from the missed persons vocal input.

At one point in the day, one woman announced she had something to talk with me about after class. Odd to announce to an entire class I thought and not to come up at break or lunch and mention, but there it was. After class she told me she had a dilemma. As much as she wanted to be in class everyday and not miss anything, she also wanted to go with her daughter’s class on a school trip. She said she’d make up the work and asked my permission.

I told her the choice was hers to make – as I believe it always is – to be where she wanted/needed to be. I wouldn’t decide for her, or tell her what I would do in her place. Yes, I reminded her, she would get the handouts to complete, but she would not get the full value of the experience, including the discussion that accompanied each one; nor would she be able to contribute to those discussions to help others. Her choice.

I get that what most people want is for me to give them my blessings. I understand that single mothers such as her are highly motivated by their children; that they are their entire world. Because they live for their children, they hope that I’d see things exactly the same way and say, “Oh of course, that’s important so go have a good time and do so with my full support.” I didn’t say this though. I’m not hard or cruel either.

Life is all about choices and every choice comes with a consequence. Some of those consequences are minor and some are major. As we’re all different, and see things different, what one person might consider to be the right choice for them might not be the choice someone else would make given the same situation. Letting people make their own choices empowers them; making the choices for them or severely punishing them for making a choice we wouldn’t make does the opposite. So missing a day out of 7 comes with consequences,  but the decision is not mine to make for her.

There is however another consequence to her decision to which she is entirely unaware. This career exploration workshop isn’t the only one I run. There is one workshop which is an invitation-only, intensive job searching workshop. What participants in all my workshops don’t know is that I’m watching, listening, evaluating and re-evaluating each and every one of them throughout our entire time together. I’m watching for the words and actions that tell me people are either ready for that opportunity to be extended to them or not. In other words, although everyone might tell me they are ready to work and want to work, not everyone wants it to the same degree.

Having been told yesterday in the larger group that these 7 days were a rare opportunity to get to know themselves better and explore what kind of work would make the most of each persons talents, interests and bring them the most satisfaction, I’m looking at each person and gauging their commitment to that end. Who is putting in the time and effort, who is contributing and getting the most out of this experience which many working people would love to undertake if only they could; learning about themselves and what would make them most happy.

We shall see what she chooses, but my money goes with missing the day to attend the school trip. It’s not the wrong choice in many ways; but it is a choice just the same.

Make your choices with foresight and conviction and whatever you choose, consider the implications.

Invested Trust. What Is It And Why Should You Care?

I’d like you to pause for a moment and think about the people you rely on in your personal life; whether it’s a home renovation contractor, someone you consult at the local garden centre for advice or the doctor you consult for the aches and ailments that flare up periodically. Think specifically about the relationship you have with these people and whether it’s as positive as you’d like. If you aren’t satisfied with how you’re treated, you’ll likely look elsewhere until you find someone you trust.

Now presumably, that renovation contractor and medical doctor have spent a considerable amount of time learning their trade. They invested time and money, gaining experience with every job and with every interaction built a reputation. Many professionals don’t even advertise aggressively; relying more and more as they grow their business on word-of-mouth referrals. The good ones always seem in demand. Go to a garden centre on a semi-regular basis and you’ll soon spot the difference between the seasoned expert with reliable advice and the summer student. Got a problem? You go to the professional to draw on their experience and you extend trust in their knowledge by doing so.

So trust is a good thing that attracts us to certain people. The more we trust in advice, experience and service someone has to offer, the more we are likely to continue to deal with that person.

However, it’s just as true that there are a lot of qualified service providers who, while we admit they the experience and education to do the work they do, we nonetheless look elsewhere for help when we need it. We might feel that someone isn’t taking our needs seriously enough; they seem too busy or despite all their experience, we just don’t feel that they understand our situation. What’s really happening is that we don’t feel they are invested in our problem. Be it the body language, the apparent lack of interest, the big sigh or look beyond our shoulder to some far off space, we just don’t feel this person before us is really invested in our immediate needs.

Invested trust manifests itself when we feel a professional is genuinely focused on our problem at hand; that they understand us sufficiently so trusting them to advise us and/or do work for us is something we do with confidence. Think about a retail experience if you’d like. You know when the salesperson is invested in your needs and when they aren’t.

Now the same is true when others interact with us. No matter the line of work you are in, if your job brings you into contact with people, those same people are sizing us up all the time, evaluating whether we’re invested in their needs and whether they can trust us to do the work we do.

Unfortunately for some, it’s not as easy as switching the professional you work with as it is say, seeking advice from someone else in a garden centre. In some communities finding a new doctor is almost impossible, or having being assigned a Caseworker when applying for government help, you’re stuck with who you get. It’s not as easy to just shop around and give your business to someone else.

If I’m correct in my beliefs, I’m going to assume you’d like to give your personal business to people who are invested in your needs and who come with the experience and expertise which makes trusting in the quality of work they’ll do easier. The bigger the project or the greater your needs, the more selective you are when it comes to choosing your provider.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise then that following this same logic, you’d want someone you could trust and someone who is invested in genuinely helping you when you’re trying to find career direction, employment, housing or childcare. All of these are pretty big things that mean a lot to the people searching for help. The question of who to trust with our problem or challenge is huge.

If you want to succeed as a provider of service, invest yourself in the people you offer services for; understand their needs from their perspective and lay the foundation of trust. Keep the promises you make and deliver what you said you would do. Whether you offer your services for free or you charge makes no difference; work with integrity as if this single person was the only person you have as a client at the moment.

Does your level of investment in the people you provide services for lead them to extend their trust in you to do as they expect? Ask yourself what you might do to increase that level of invested trust. You see, you could have all the necessary credentials on paper that make you sound like the right person for the job – maybe even more than others who do what you do. What you might find frustrating though is wonder why you aren’t as busy as you’d like. Why is it that people are taking their business elsewhere?

While there could be other reasons, one thing you can’t afford is to lose is the trust of the people who receive your services. Invest yourself and when they feel you really understand and care about their needs, their trust will follow.

The “Must Haves” To Work In Retail

Like any other field of work, there are people who are cut out for the work involved in Retail Sales, and there are those who THINK they can do the job. In fact, I’m always intrigued with the number of people who assume getting a job in Retail will be easy until they find the job they really want.

First off, you have to be comfortable initiating contact with potential customers. As people walk by your store or make that first few steps inside, it’s critically important you visually acknowledge their presence and move to welcome them. This doesn’t mean you jump on them – for most of us don’t appreciate Salespeople who aggressively move to pounce.

Yes, welcoming customers to your store, asking if you can help them in locating any particular item or advising them of specials etc. would seem to be a basic must-have in the field. Yet think of your own trips to the mall and you’ll probably recall walking into certain stores where the staff huddle together in the rear of the store and only seem interested if you approach them items in hand ready to pay.  Maybe you’ve even entered and store, walked around unapproached entirely or acknowledged, and then walked out in 5 minutes with no contact whatsoever.

If you’re an introvert, you can still work successfully in Retail; just view each interaction as a short interaction where you’ll be fortunate in that the conversations will be relatively similar, focused on goods and products, prices and sales. When one conversation ends, you repeat this with others. No long, drawn out conversations where you have to work hard to keep the words flowing and stress about what to say.

Now some basic math skills are a need too. Oh sure the electronic cash registers will compute the correct change to give people, but you will need your math skills just the same. Customers might ask questions of you when you’re 40 feet from the register such as, “How much would this be with tax?” “So these are buy 3 and get one free? If I use my loyalty card and get 15% off how much would I save?” Well, maybe you could walk around with your slim Ipod or cell phone and call up your calculator, but you might not have pockets in your outfit. Oh and what would happen if Interac is out, all sales are cash only and then the power to the register is zapped, meaning you have to figure everything out in your head and make change?

That smile; it’s something that comes so naturally to some and drives others crazy to whom it doesn’t come easy. Smiling faces are approachable and welcoming. Unfortunately, there are some who have a rather serious resting face; the look might be overly serious or even brooding when in fact they’re quite content – even happy. A smiling employee will attract people to them and these faces can actually produce a smile in return on the face of the customers and potential customers with whom they interact. A rather serious face with furrowed brows could be interpreted as you’ll be harder to deal with, so customers may approach you initially anticipating a fight or a challenging interaction.

Now the Labourers will chuckle at this one, but the job is physically demanding. Just beneath that tile you’re standing on in the store is a pad of hard concrete – an oxymoron if there ever was one; ever stood on soft concrete? As you’ll be standing on it hour upon hour, day after day, you’ll need a really good pair of shoes and the stamina to survive your 7 or 8 hour shift. There’s reaching high and bending low, carrying goods from the backroom and hanging them on the sales floor. There’s bending again to tie shoes, dust the lower and upper shelves etc. Oh its physical, make no mistake.

Notice the dusting I threw in the last paragraph? When it’s quiet and there’s an opportunity, find things to do and show initiative. Whether it’s dusting, checking items for price tags, doing your inventory paperwork, tidying up a changing room, removing empty hangers, re-positioning customer handled merchandise, you’ll be wise to take initiative and look for things to do and then DO THEM! Few things will get you fired faster than standing idle throughout your day, leaning on the counter for physical support and … just … waiting …

The last must-have to work in Retail I want to share with you is that you must know what your products will do to improve the lives of those considering purchasing them. Don’t pass this one over as obvious. Don’t think, “I sell shoes! Shoes make walking nicer! Duh!” If this were all you need to know, anyone – so you’re not very vital – could sell shoes. Which shoes are best for walking? Which ones support high arches better than others? Which shoes can accommodate orthotics? Which running shoes are best for running vs. jogging or a workout at the gym? Nope, not all the same!

No matter your products, if you want to work in Retail AND be successful, it takes skills; just as in any other profession if you want to really stand out and excel. Of course you might just, ‘want a job’ and figure ANYONE can work in a store. Well, go ahead and try it and see how long you last. No wait don’t, you might be the next Salesperson I meet.

Thinking Of Quitting?

Long ago, say in our parents and grandparents generations, it was often the case that people would hold their jobs for decades. Get a job and you’d hold it for life. If you came across someone who had held several jobs over a few years, it was assumed with a high degree of accuracy that the person had issues and the frequent changes was due in large part to their poor performance.

In 2018, things have changed dramatically. People often change jobs now, for reasons of their own choosing or having the unemployment come about for reasons beyond their personal control such as plant relocations, changes in ownership, layoffs, plant closures. While these can be distressing times for the individual worker, the silver lining is that the stigma associated with having several jobs as an adult is gone.

So feeling that leaving one job and taking another is not only more socially acceptable, it may be that you’re developing a mindset that has you restless for a change because you see it going on around you. Not surprisingly, if many of the people you know are changing jobs, you start evaluating your own situation and wonder if you shouldn’t do the same; landing a better job, with better income, closer to home, in a more appealing atmosphere perhaps.

Think carefully. I won’t tell you to jump ship or stay where you are categorically, just think what you’re contemplating through and do your best to make sure that this decision you’re considering is the right one for you.

Much of the time it’s a good thing to have a job to go to before you quit the one you have. The transition from one job to another is smooth, the income steady and if you’re able to create a small window of a couple of weeks, you can treat the gap as a holiday. The real benefit of a short gap between jobs is actually what will be going on between your ears; a mental readjustment period mixed with closure, release, anticipation and readiness for what’s coming. Go to a new job with zero days off and for some, the change is overwhelming and unexpected pressures can result in illness or being less than your best.

One concern that I want to point out is something you can’t control. There is a tendency with some organizations to go through the hiring process on an ongoing basis. Some industries and specific employers in those industries hire and terminate with regularity; people don’t typically stay long and the turnover rates escalate. I know of many people who left a secure job in the belief the job they moved to was better and would last for a long time and found themselves laid-off after just a few months, or their hours reduced significantly. In such cases, they’d rather have stayed in their first jobs, but hindsight is 20/20.

It really depends on you and what you need from a job to be happy – however you define happiness. While a higher income might be on your list, it may not be the number one thing you’re after. Greater flexibility of hours, more autonomy, opportunities to lead, the challenge of a small startup company or the chance to move within a large organization could be the attraction. Maybe you want more stimulation, challenge, or less pressure, a shorter commute, a better benefit package. A better job takes on all kinds of looks to different people and at different times in one’s life.

So you make a decision to move on. Now the question is do you or don’t you let your current employer know you’re looking, and how do you do it so you leave on your timetable, and not have unemployment unexpectedly thrust upon you. Well know your company and the impact of your departure on them. If you hold down a key role and your departure is going to have a seismic explosion, lots of notice and succession planning would be likely expected and greatly appreciated. If you’re on the front-line and have only been employed for a few weeks or a month or two, your announcement might not even create much of a ripple. Look at things objectively and your position is one easily replaced with a minimum of disruption.

Usually the goal is to move on in such a way that you leave with the best reference possible, maintaining the relationship of having been a good employee with a good organization to have worked for. Life after all is ironic from time-to-time and you might find yourself wanting back in with this same employer you’re planning on walking away from at this time.

Now despite the obvious appeal of having a job to go to before you quit the one you have now, there are benefits in walking away so you can look for something new. You might need that mental break if the job you’ve got now has become extremely stressful, causing you sleepless nights and unusual anxiety. Walking away so you can actually think clearly about what to do next might be good advice for you personally. Yes, you might quit one day and give yourself a month without even looking to mentally transition from what was to what might be.

Don’t wait too long however. Update the résumé now. You won’t want a gap in employment, outdated experience and aging references to hold you back.