Communicating Effectively

It was back in 1980 on Erindale Campus of the University of Toronto that I was first told in a Sociology lecture that effective communication was sending a message from one person to another and having it received and understood in the way it was intended. If the person receiving the message interprets it in any way that differs from the intent of the sender, you have miscommunication.

With such a straightforward explanation of the communication process, why then is it so hard for people to communicate effectively? To answer this question, we have to look at some of the many things that accompany the message when it’s being transmitted to the person receiving the communication. Tone of voice, body language, physical proximity, the method of communication, past histories of the two individuals, context, and the list goes on. There’s a lot packed into how we communicate with others!

You might think that removing all the above would make communicating so much easier and increase clarity, but not so. How many times have you read an email for example and been unsure of the meaning behind the words you’ve just read?

In the workplace, communicating effectively is of great importance to employers. This is evidenced in the number of job postings which include, ‘strong written and verbal communication skills’ as part of the qualifications for the job. For whether it’s with customers, clients, co-workers, Managers or the general public, being able to communicate effectively is critical to increased productivity, company image and your own individual success.

How effectively you communicate begins the moment you come into contact with anyone who works in an organization you’re interested in joining. Whether it’s a phone call to gather information, a cover letter accompanying your resume, or the job interview itself, your communication skills are on display and you’ll be assessed at each one of these stages by company personnel as being a weak or strong fit based on how you send and receive information.

Everyone with something to communicate begins with an idea that they wish to share. People who communicate effectively then do many things simultaneously in just a few seconds. They think of their audience; the person or people who will receive the message. They consider their own relationship with these people and how best to pack the message so it not only gets delivered, but stands the best chance of being unpacked by those receiving the message in the way the sender intends. Should it be a text, an email, in person, over the phone, a group meeting, posted as an announcement on a bulletin board, etc.

But that’s just the method of communication. The words themselves have to be well thought out, to avoid any chance of being misunderstood. Even then, it’s not enough to guarantee success. The tone of voice we use is critical. For example if you shared some exciting news with a co-worker that you’ve just received a promotion, you might be confused if they say, “Gee that’s great”, while at the same time they yawn and roll their eyes. Even though they say the news is great, their tone and body language isn’t consistent with what you heard. In fact, you’re likely to believe the body language and tone over the actual words you hear and be left feeling disappointed they aren’t as excited as you.

Now imagine that same situation happening not just with a co-worker, but rather your boss. The boss tells you to have something done by 1:00 p.m. and you smile, wink an eye and say, “Yeah, I’ll get right on that!”, and chuckle. Your boss is probably left wondering if you are really going to get to it right away or you think they are kidding and have no intention of doing what they just asked. It’s likely they’ll say, “No, I’m serious; 1:00 p.m.” This second communication is also going to be delivered clearer, with little room for miscommunication. In fact, even if you got the message right the first time, your tone, facial expression and body language sent conflicting signals with the words you used. This inconsistency may actually be so confusing to an employer that it could limit your role in a company, causing you to be passed over for promotions because there’s a lack of faith in your communication skills.

Suppose you want to get to know the people you work with and figure having lunch with them one-on-one will give you both sufficient time to get to know one another. You say to someone, “I’d like to have lunch with you one day this week to get to know each other better.” They might be confused, especially if there is little history between you for them to understand the context for your request. Is this just lunch? Are you personally interested in them? Why them? So they might ask you for clarification by simply saying, “Why?” Although your motives are clear to you, what you have to understand is your motives aren’t clear yet to them.

Miscommunication can lead to awkwardness, jobs failing to get done, puzzlement, confusion and conflict just to name a few negative outcomes. Good advice is to consider your audience, how you’ll deliver your message, and checking for understanding once the message is received by asking for feedback.




Be Gracious This December

2020 has not been kind to most of us; and for some, in multiple ways. The good news is we’ve only a month to go. The bad news, those few remaining days are coming during what is for many, already an emotional and stressful month.

Traditionally, retailers with products to sell off before year end extend their hours and in so doing, make more demands upon their staff. December is that, ‘make it or break it’ month, as bean counters rely heavily on Black Friday and the, ‘Only __ days until Christmas!’ events to balance the books. For we consumers, the pressure is on to find the right gifts, at affordable prices, wrap and label, hide or post them, and if ordering online, allow sufficient time to have them delivered ahead of the big day.

2020 though adds layers of uncertainty. Fear of illness, restrictions on movement, reservations about increased online scams, anguish over whether family should even get together or not, uncertainty of whether to buy a big turkey or modest bird, it just goes on. Why even the decision to decorate or not and to what extent is weighing on people’s minds. The chaos and upheaval of packing up year round accessories and unpacking boxes of Christmas decorations is normally a happy time we wouldn’t have any other way, but for some it will be bittersweet as individuals wonder if anyone will even be allowed in their house to share in the transformation and see the tree.

Practically speaking, a lot of us are out of work; or if we landed new jobs, we had a loss of employment and the income that went with it at some point this past year. So gift buying might be quite different this year, and if gift buying is different, so too will be gift receiving. Be aware now, and remember this, so your expectations don’t disappoint you, straining your good mental health which 2020 has attacked with regularity.

And so it is, my good reader, that we must give others – and ourselves – the gift of gracious understanding. We’re all under a lot of pressure; some of us know it and some of us don’t. Having an increased capacity for empathy may just be what gets us through the remaining month and into 2021. Like the Who’s down in Whoville, we might wake up Christmas morning and find Christmas comes just the same whether or not it comes with ribbons on boxes, with bows and with tags. May we wake up with smiles on our faces and joy in our hearts just the same.

For a lot of folks, December is a stressful month as it brings back reminders of loved ones who have left, relationships ended, feelings of isolation and being left behind which this year will be that much more intensely felt. Many long term care facilities won’t be permitting visitors, and the deterioration of mental and physical health may surprise us when we do eventually get back to seeing parents and grandparents in care there.

But it’s not all bleak despair.

I’m advocating for increased appreciation and gratitude for the many people who, despite all the above, are not only going about their work days as usual, they’re stepping up their level of service and investing much more personal energy in doing so. All kinds of people are keeping us safe while putting themselves at risk; receiving no increase in compensation for doing so. The minimum wage earner who wipes your grocery cart handles you don’t see and the Cashier who has to wipe down the conveyer belt when you mistakenly put your reusable bags on it among them.

There are people, (and I’m one) wearing masks for the entirety of 7 hour shifts, still trying to convince people to don their own masks for much shorter periods of time. Inconvenient and uncomfortable for sure, but done not only to protect ourselves, but to safeguard the very people who complain about having to wear their own and wear it properly. Pulling it beneath your nose because your glasses fog up or pulling it down to speak puts us all at risk; you’re doing it wrong. Sigh…

And yet, these are the very kinds of situations in which we have to have more empathy for the folks involved. That doesn’t mean we’re complacent or lax in reminding others to mask up, but we can do it with empathy because we too know it’s not comfortable. Patience, understanding, kindness etc.; may they all be in great abundance.

If you’re feeling a trifle sadder this year with any of the above, consider that you’re moving a tad closer to better appreciating what it may be like for people with anxiety and depression. Some if not all of these people go from day to day throughout the year – and have done so for years – living with multiples of what you may be only now coming close to. Anxiety and depression being invisible to the eye, extending understanding and graciousness to others could do a world of good and you’ll never know what a kindness you may have paid forward.

In your online posts, be gentle. Hit, ‘like’ a little more often rather than sending an anonymous volley at someone you don’t know in the least. Be good to each other and in so doing, be good to yourself.


Starting Well In A Remote Job

How times have changed. Up until this year, if you told your friends you just took a remote full-time job, they’d ask when you were leaving because they’d like to throw you a farewell party. However, here in the 2nd wave of a world-wide pandemic, working remotely doesn’t mean you’re moving at all, but rather you’ll be working out of your home through your computer using a platform to connect you with others. The other possibility is working out of a central location with co-workers, but each of you is sequestered away in a place of security and privacy while you interact with clients or customers strictly online.

Organizations who traditionally dealt in-person with their clients and customers have transitioned to this new way of conducting their business, and employees have sometimes had to navigate change on their own. IT departments in larger companies have been called upon to support people over wide geographical areas and employees with no training in the use of Zoom or Teams have had to learn both on their own and from each other.

But what of the new hire? How do you come on board not only having to learn the technical aspects of the job, but also manage the soft skills of interacting with co-workers, demonstrating your worth to a boss you only see on a laptop monitor? How do you prove yourself so that your probationary period moves behind you and you’re accepted as a lasting member of the team?

This question of getting off to a good start was raised with me by my good friend Lorraine, following a post I wrote yesterday on getting off to a good start in a traditional workplace. Working remotely from your home is anything but traditional. So Lorraine, thanks for the inspiration.

There are drawbacks for sure when you’re introduced online to your new teammates. You can’t shake hands, you get out and get to know each other over lunch, nor can you sit side by side as you job shadow your newly assigned mentor and they walk you through what you need to learn. But here’s some sage advice for all kinds of challenges in both work and personal life: focus on the positives rather than looking for and focusing on the negatives. And there are plenty of positives.

For starters, this is your home and your space. You control what others will see and hear when your camera and microphone are activated. So think about what’s behind you in your work chair. Establish a look for your space that makes you the focus, rather than your background. Tilt the monitor so you project prominently to others rather than appearing to peek over the bottom or off to the side. If you’re in front of a blank beige wall, avoid wearing a beige sweater, otherwise you might just blend in so much you challenge people you interact with to fix on you.

While it’s true you can’t go out for lunch with your teammates or sit in a lunchroom, think of the positives. There’s no added costs to dine out, no awkward chicken wing sauce on your cheek, no worries if you unknowingly slurp your soup and if you drip on your top while at home, you have your wardrobe at hand to save you. What you can do is have a coffee or tea break with your team and get to know each other sharing a mug and sharing your stories.

If you do get assigned a mentor, it’s likely they’ll share their screens with you and thus you’ll be able to see them as they work and follow their cursor around a screen. This can actually be more helpful than sitting too close for comfort next to them in a tiny office or too far away to read their screen. On your own screen, you can increase or decrease the text for your own needs. Advantage you.

It’s still important to know the expectations others have for your learning. What do you need to know and by when in order to be fully productive? Where you might not be able to take certain materials out of an office, working from home might be an advantage where you have electronic documents to read anytime you wish.

More advantages?  No worries about personal body odour or bad breath. No uncomfortable shoes to wear, no slush, snow or rain to trod through and no gas or parking fees to fork out. Saving these costs can even allow you to take a lower wage if your expenses are largely eliminated.

You still need to mix and get to know your co-workers and having a team meeting just means you see all the faces and hear the voices on a screen rather than a boardroom table. It’s doable. You might even find you get closer to people because you work together better without the distractions in a traditional office. The other big advantage in the middle of a pandemic is you can see the faces of everyone you interact with rather than their eyes only peering over a mask.

These are just a few of the advantages of working remotely in a new job. Thanks Lorraine for asking. Last piece of advice is to get out of the pyjama bottoms in case you have to get up while on screen!

Advice When Starting A New Job

I’d like you to think back to some point in your past when you heard the words, “Congratulations! I’d like to offer you the job.” Whether it was 2 month’s ago, 2 years ago, or over a decade or two ago, you’re probably able to recapture some of the feelings that came with those words. Relief, joy, pride, happiness etc. Likely a combination of many things all jumbled together. With the success you’ve just achieved, you emerged from a stressful job search, and the satisfaction you feel at the moment feels good.

It was important back then – as it always is – to celebrate your success and share the news with people who were most invested in your search, because like you, they felt stress and worry along with you to a lesser but equally real degree.

Know however, that the stress of the job search has been replaced with the stress of now living up to those expectations of your new employer. Your goal in the short-term is to successfully pass your probation period. Actually, while it’s important to pass probation which could mean month’s from now, you’ll have shorter goals, which if achieved, will go a long way to taking care of performing well enough to pass probation.

So let’s look at some of your short-term objectives. For starters, there’s your very first day, so don’t look past it. You’ll want to choose clothes that fit in with others who perform the same work as you will. Presume that your co-workers are all past probation and may have relaxed some of their clothing choices and behaviour, so don’t pick the most casual employee to model either after. For all you know, someone you take as a role model could be a poor choice. If you’re really unsure, you could ask your supervisor for guidance with respect to who provides a good example to follow.

Something as simple as what to do for lunches might stress you out. Eat out or pack it? If you can’t find out in advance, pack a lunch but be financially ready to accept an invitation to join a few people on your team and eat out on day 1 if the offer comes. Your goal is establishing connections and relationships with the people you’ll be working with closely here in your new role. When people are at lunch, they are likely relaxed, more at ease and friendlier too. Take care you mind your manners, pass on ordering alcohol (you have to return to work remember), and engage in conversation so you all get to know each other.

Remembering names is a challenge for a lot of people in the first few days on a new job. The more people you get introduced to, the harder it becomes. Everyone understands this, so don’t put undo pressure on yourself to memorize them all. Look out for nametags on uniforms, name plaques on desks or cubicles, or on  employee ID/swipe cards if they are easily spotted. You’ll eventually get there, just take it slowly and learn one at a time.

One of the best things you can do when you first start is learn what you’re expected to know and by when. In other words, how are you going to be evaluated when it comes to making a decision on whether you stick around? You’ll likely have some orientation to undergo too. During this time you might have manuals to read, agreements and contracts to sign, additional people to meet such as in Human Resources and Finances. There could be off-site training to undergo with other new hires, someone assigned for you to job shadow, or a person you’re told is your ‘go to’ person when you have questions. Employers may do any or all of these things in an effort to give you every chance at being successful.

Of course many times, you simply learn on the job and one person does all the above. This is true in small organizations, and your goal above all else at these times is to find positive chemistry with the one, two or three people you’ll be spending 7 to 12 hours a day with for the foreseeable future. When employers talk about finding a good fit, what they are referring to are your soft skills; your people skills. You may know their product inside and out at hiring, but if you don’t gel with the existing workforce, you could be viewed as disruptive to the harmony the company is looking for and find yourself again unemployed. “It’s just not a good fit; I’m sorry it didn’t work out”, is what you might hear.

In the simplest of terms, keep your professional guard up and don’t suddenly become so comfortable and self-assured in your new job that you leave early, show up late, take long breaks, or cause friction with your co-workers. Because it’s assumed you’re on your best behaviour, they’ll assume things will get worse not better.

The painful stress of a job search has been replaced with the good stress that comes with fitting in with a new employer and possibly in a new role. It’s a good stress of course, but stress nonetheless. It’s normal, so be prepared for it.

And if you did indeed recently begin a new job, a sincere congratulations!


Struggling Under Pressure

Feeling pressure and stress is a natural reaction to changing conditions around us, especially when we feel a loss of control over the environment we’re in, the people around us and the rate at  which the change occurs. When we struggle, what’s really happening is we are undergoing an adjustment period from what was known and normal to conditions that are unknown and new.

The degree to which we struggle with change depends on the magnitude of the change, the quantitative number of changes we are experiencing at one time and whether or not the changes are being initiated by us or by others.

When you’re the person who initiates change, you’re in control. Having control helps you cope with the pressure that comes about as a result and generally speaking, you’re able to handle it because you initiated it. Struggling to break in a new pair of shoes is a good example. It’s a relatively small change, and you understand the pain and stress your feet are under will only last long enough to break them in. You can mitigate the pain of the new shoes by wearing them for short periods of time if you want; switching to a more comfortable pair if you choose.

The quantitative number of changes you’re under greatly affects the degree to which you struggle or not. When the only thing causing stress is breaking in a new pair of shoes, it’s likely you’ll cope well. However, if you’re dealing with uncomfortable shoes while heading to the school to answer a summons from your child’s principal; which coincides with the oil light coming on in the car and you suddenly remember the whole chicken you meant to put in the slow cooker has been on the kitchen counter for 6 hours, the stress is compounding. Oh, and tonight is the night you have to pay the month’s bills!

Here in November of 2020, we’re all under stress arising from the Covid-19 pandemic. On the size scale, it’s massive and as for control, we have none; only over our reaction to it. What is different for each one of us is the number of other changes and stressors we have in our lives. While some of us have kept our jobs, others have lost them; lost the security of income that came with those jobs. The loss of that stable income has meant applying for financial relief for some, eroding life savings for others. Increased irritability is what some are feeling as their self-identity has been lost along with job titles, and this can cause struggles at home to the point of breaking formerly strong relationships.

When we are in a healthy, normal state, we are in balance. When a change occurs that tilts this balance, we put our brain and body to use in an effort to restore the balance. If we are stressed because the oil light comes on the dashboard of the car, we get it serviced. Our stress is reduced as a result and we’re back in balance. Funny how that little light can upset one person tremendously while another will drive for years with it on and not care in the least.

The oil light is a good example of a problem we encounter where for almost all of us, the solution is known. While we may not be able to take the car in right away, we at least have the knowledge of what to do to resolve the problem and we book a service appointment which gives us a definitive date by which the problem will be resolved. We are in control.

However, take a problem that’s beyond our control with no easy solution. There’s going to be a big shake up at work; people reassigned work locations and the company is bringing in some outside leadership. You haven’t had the opportunity yet to be cross-trained and fear you’ll land in a job you won’t perform well at. There’s rumours that this is the same leadership that cost people jobs in a nearby town.

We feel understandably stressed and vulnerable during this time as we lack the necessary information that is needed to reassure ourselves and get back into balance. There’s nothing we can do until we learn what the new alignment looks like. While this might be exciting and energizing for some, it can cause us great anxiety.

Some of the anxiety we feel might be because we haven’t had a previous experience in our lifetime upon which we can draw to cope. Some of our co-workers might have had one or two shakeups they’ve undergone and survived elsewhere and are better equipped to cope with this situation. While the reassurance they give us might help, it doesn’t completely as we go through this kind of experience for the first time ourselves.

If you have more stress than you can deal with, you may indeed be struggling. If you’ve been struggling for a longer time than you feel you should, it’s natural to worry. Understand your stress is a natural reaction; your way of coping with your circumstances.

Reaching out to a Mental Health professional is a great way to regain a measure of control by sharing your stress. Start with your doctor or contact your mental health organization directly.


What Will Your Day Be Like Today?

So many people tell us to have a good day. Everyone, from complete strangers and casual acquaintances right up to family and our co-workers, either hopes we have a good one or they say it as if there were no other option. Well, there are those few who vary it slightly and tell us to have a great day of course.

I imagine you’re just like all those people when you wish or tell others to do likewise. I mean, you’re highly unlikely to be the rare person who says, “Have an okay day today”, or, “Have a bad day today; just so you can better appreciate the good ones I usually wish you to have.” While that’s weird, we all have bad days we just need to get through.

There are days when you know it’s going to be a tough day before you leave the house. It might be a meeting with the boss you can’t avoid, a shuffle of responsibilities at work that you’re not going to like, defending yourself in court over a traffic violation or having to work closely with someone you just don’t get along with on some project. Bad days happen. If we’re fortunate in Life, we have more good than bad, and we have some great ones to go with the good ones.

Bad days however, come to us all. I know, I know, it seems like some people never have them and some of us always do, but trust me, we all have bad days. We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t. You may not think it does you any good to remind yourself that everyone has bad ones, but I believe it does. If we truly believed that bad days only came to people like us and not others, we’d be bitter and resentful; we might feel unjustly persecuted and wronged.

One thing we can do to minimize the number of bad days we have is to remind ourselves that bad days, just like clouds, eventually pass. I have myself found it helpful to remind myself of this, and when I’m in the thick of it, I try as I’m able to think on something positive. It might be as simple as having planned out a favourite meal to look forward to at the end of the day, reading a favourite book or watching a show I enjoy on television. Sound trite and overly simplistic? It works for me by giving me perspective. When a bad day is at its worst, have the conscious awareness to see the big picture where the negative ends and the positive happens.

A benefit of having a bad day to also realize is the opportunity to develop empathy for others at a later date when we think back to this experience we’re in. In our mind we’ll be able to say, “I know how this person is feeling because I’ve felt similarly – that time when I had a bad day.” Only by sharing a similar feeling can we develop this kind of empathic response. Note that we don’t have to share the exact experience as someone to develop this empathy, but rather an experience that touches a similar, shared feeling within us.

One thing to remember too is that bad ‘things’ don’t have to last all day; well, not for most of us most of the time. We might have a bad meeting, make a mistake with a customer that we get in trouble over, or get the wrong order at the drive through which we only realize when we arrive at work and take that first sip. We always have a choice of whether we allow the feelings that surface because of the bad experience stay with us or we realign ourselves with our truer, positive self.

Sometimes however, we might find that bad things come in multiples throughout the day. It starts with the wrong drive through order and then we have an annoying caller to deal with on the phone. We whack our knee on the corner of the desk as we turn to get up and then spot the unemptied waste bin the lazy cleaners forgot to empty last night. Then we have to listen to our co-workers complain about trivial things at a mandatory team meeting and it just goes on and on. Like a magnet, we draw in all these negatives and truly we have a bad day.

Conversely, we can find we have the wrong order at the drive through and make someone happy by giving that coffee away to a colleague and make ourselves a tea to replace the one we ordered and didn’t receive. We might even call over to the store and find they apologize and offer up a couple of free ones as a way to say thanks for sticking with them. And maybe if we weren’t so ticked off about it, we wouldn’t whack our knee on the desk and we’d realize that the whining our co-workers are doing in the meeting is really legitimate complaints they have and quick fixes can make the workplace better for all.

We’re talking attitude readjustment. Every second of every day is your opportunity.

Have a good day!

“I Need A Job Not A Conversation”

When I meet people for the first time in my line of work, one of our first interactions starts with me asking how I can be of help and getting the  response, “I need a job.” That makes sense, because supporting people in their quest for a job or career is what I do.

Like you’d expect, I ask a few questions about what they’re looking for, whether or not they have a resume and if so, I ask for a once over which is the quickest ways to see their career path to date. What you might not expect however, is the direction I steer the conversation in. Sometimes the biggest mistake I could make is pulling up a website and looking for a job for them to apply to. This is exactly what they hope and expect I’ll do, followed by sending off their resume and then saying goodbye while they go home and wait for the phone to ring.

What I have found far more effective however, is having a conversation; some meaningful dialogue that gives me information I’m after in order to make the most of our time together. The odd thing is were I to ask directly the questions to get at what I want to know, they’d likely shut down the conversation with the response, “Look I just want a job. Are you going to help me or not?”

The conversations I work to develop are my way of getting insights into a person’s backstory. Knowing the backstory might not seem to you to be any of my business; like them, you might agree that I should, “just get them a job.” Well-meaning rookies in the employment field do that, and that’s no slight to their intelligence, they just lack the experiential awareness that comes with having tried that approach and learning it doesn’t work.

While I’m looking at a resume for example, I’m not just looking at their work history. I’m wondering about the decisions that prompted changes in jobs, looking for promotions that suggest competence, an employer’s belief that they were ready for increased responsibilities. I note gaps and want to hear those so I can hear first-hand how they might similarly explain these to an interviewer. The spelling and grammar, the simplicity or well-developed vocabulary they have gives me clues as to their literacy and written communication skills. The education they have completed gives me insight into their academic achievements and whether I see additional courses and certificates or not gives me clues to their belief in the value of continuing self-development. But the only way to verify all my assumptions is to respect the person enough to ask. And rather than ask direct questions that would come across as an interrogation, the kinder thing to do is have a focused conversation.

The positives I’m listening for in this chat are the good decisions they’ve made, achievements, acquired skills and I’m watching their face and listening to the tone of their voice so I don’t miss what they are proud of and what recalls good memories.

On the other hand, I’m alert to anything which causes their eyes to drop, their head to turn away, the things they skip or skim over, drops in the volume of their voice. These are clues to current employment barriers, problems in past jobs which if not fully addressed could be repeated in future ones. The more we talk, the more trust is established, the deeper we go and the better I get at responding to their initial request to help them find not just a job, but the right job.

Not all the time of course, but it happens where a person pops in expecting to leave in an hour with a shiny new resume and all we’ve done to the casual observer is talk, having accomplished nothing. A second meeting is needed to do what could and should have been done in the first meeting. Stats-driven governments and organizations that put numbers ahead of people encourage that approach. Not a single person ever went into the employment counselling and coaching profession with the goal of being a churner of impressive statistical data. Every single one of us without exception put helping and serving people first.

It’s conversations; human connections from which we learn best of others. These are where we connect with people and in the job seekers situation, where we can have a significant impact and accelerate their job search. What this translates into is not just finding them their next job, but partnering with them to better help them know themselves, find a good match with an employer, and increase their chances of finding lasting, meaningful work.

Looking at conversations this way, the investment of time in people pays off. It might look to outsiders like a nice conversation with very little productivity to show for it. I suppose however it depends on your currency – what you see as a productive outcome.

These conversations are what true professionals long for and rebel against most strongly when they are threatened by short-sighted people who see them as luxuries we can’t afford. If you really want to pump up your stats and get people jobs which last, you’ll be wise to help job seekers with a healthy conversation.


My Early Morning Lovelace Awakes!

Ever had one of those nights where your brain fires up before you planned it? You lie in bed, drifting slowly from the land of sleepies into a slumbering state of semi-consciousness, ebbing back and forth between the dreamlike wanderings of random thought and then slowly, unwaveringly, you land in full awareness. Just before you look over at the illuminated clock face, you play that game you’ve played over and over again in the past, “Guess the time.”

Well it was 2:16 a.m. as I awoke. I did the usual when this happens… Became aware of the lovely warmth of lying beneath a soft blanket and down comforter. Noted the gross but strangely appealing dampness of the pillow beneath my head that told me the sleep had been coveted and deep. I rolled over, flipped the pillow, felt immediately the coolness now as it cradled my head. Then the voice started. You know, the inner voice that starts reasoning through the upcoming day. The voice that sometimes problem solves, revisits good deeds, vengefully rights wrongs real or perceived or just says, “Wow, you know a cup of tea would go down nicely right now. We should get up and make one.”

And then you’re lost. Well I am. I mean this has been going on for perhaps half an hour. Seriously? Thankfully this kind of night is a one-off; an anomaly; a oddity. Sigh… So up I was and making that tea by the dim light of the illuminated cell phone I held, and then with cup in hand, I mounted the 13 stairs up to my dear friend LT. LT? Laptop. I don’t call it LT actually; that’s just weird.

But there I sat in my lonely writers garret, staring out my window at – wait…it’s pitch black. I saw nothing. Just the impenetrable darkness of night. And what did I do with my time? Ah, I was invigorated and inspired! I spent four fleeting hours (I kid you not) happily enthralled with putting together some ideas for making my workplace – in my mind – a more responsive, people-centered place of service excellence.

Oh I can tell you the ideas which poured forth from brain to screen with the speed of Mercury and the prose of Byron or Lovelace were truly channeled by my inner Muse. Infallibly, I forged ahead with masterful stroke after stroke of keys on the illuminated keypad before me. Yes I envisioned it all so clear and succinctly; the master plan revealed through me only to be presented to, and adopted by, Supervisors, Senior Management and co-workers alike. Oh how they’d laud the majestic simplicity of it all! How they would embrace – like me – the wisdom of the model, the innovation and creativity which would transform our good services into world-class delivery of the highest order.

Well, it’s possible you know. And no, I wasn’t sleeping and just dreaming all of this – it was real; I was there. I’m there now. But I’ve shifted to relaying my cathartic episode lest I descend into ramblings and mumbles of disoriented thought. This is precisely why we sleep so that we don’t have full conscious awareness of what goes on in the inner workings of our minds eye when the minds eye should be closed and springing after baa baa’s across daisy-covered fields of green.

Thankfully reason caught up with my invigorated state of euphoria and enthusiasm as I pounded with fierce rapidity upon my entirely innocent and thus slightly offended keyboard.  And the keystrokes faltered. The pauses lengthened. The greatness of my ideas was tempered with a new realization; my colleagues have equally the right to put forth their own ideas and it behooves me to entertain with full and active ear those which they feel may equally bring us to such satisfactory results. And I shall. For it is wisdom to know one doesn’t have all the answers. Somebody said that and I could look them up but quite frankly its’ now 7:19 a.m. and I’ve got a shower to immerse myself in, a fast to break, clothes to don and a blade to drag across my face – although under a mask of blue and purple who would know were I to leave it otherwise unshaven?

Oh it’s a long day my reader. I’m on fire though with energy, vitality and comedic wit. This might be a day to lie low, to curb my enthusiasm for revelry and stimulating conversation but alas, today is a roundtable to present ideas and share visions. And here – bazinga! I have the rationale and explanation for my early morning rise.

Have a wonderfully stimulating day dear reader. May this piece in its departure from job advice and musings nonetheless have brought a smile to your face, a chuckle to your voice and a, “Oh that Kelly!” to your mind.


Out Of Work? Opportunities Are Knocking

Right off the top, let me say that I’m sorry if you’re one of the people who lost their job because Covid-19 closed the doors of your employer either temporarily or permanently. I feel for both employers who invested their personal equity and for the employees who, having even less control, find themselves out of work. It’s not a case of who is hurting more; whatever loss you’re personally feeling is legitimate and valid. My sympathy might be appreciated and hopefully shared by others for you, but I know it doesn’t do anything on its own to alter your situation.

I’ve been thinking however, as I’m apt to do, that there’s opportunities to be had; opportunities which you might consider taking advantage of. Choosing to do so could make the difference between continuing to live as you are now or improving your mental health, finances and self-esteem. Interested?

At the best of times, I understand that job searching is often an isolating experience fraught with ups and downs of expectations and let downs. Finding and applying for jobs you’d love to do that you feel qualified for and then hearing you didn’t get the job or even worse, just no response whatsoever for the effort you invested in applying. Feeling ignored with no feedback at all is demeaning, hits our pride, leaves us confused and if repeated again and again, can turn us bitter and disillusioned.

Add to a frustrating job search the further isolation brought on by Covid-19 where you shop curbside or online, going out less often, avoiding interaction with purpose and feeling there’s less jobs to apply to and you only add to deteriorating good mental health.

So what of these opportunities? I believe many people will find employer’s empathetic to applicants who have current gaps on their resumes; the explanation needing nothing more than, “Covid-19”. Two problems though… because your competition for employment will say the same thing, you won’t stand apart. Secondly, while an employer will understand the loss of employment was beyond your control, they will wonder what you’ve done in the 6 months or more to improve yourself – which is 100% within your control. How will you answer that question?

Jumping on the internet, you can find online courses for free that will add to your resume with 2020 (soon 2021) filling widening gaps. Here’s a few sources:

Health and safety in 4 Steps


LinkedIn Learning


Of course, you can also find courses that cost money to take and you should consider those too. While money may well indeed be tight, it’s equally possible that what you’re saving in transportation costs and eating out could be reinvested in academic or skills upgrading. Not a bad trade off.

On to opportunity #2. You’re forgiven if you’ve been avoiding dropping in to your local Employment Centre out of fear of contracting either the full-blown virus or the common cold. However, make sure you know what you’re avoiding and not what you believe you’re avoiding. Prior to the pandemic, many such Centre’s were bustling hives of activity where many people came and went, where Coaches met you with a handshake and someone invariably coughed, sniffed and spread their germs like others spread their charisma. That might be your recollection of what such a Centre was, but it’s an inaccurate picture of the current reality.

These days, many drop-in Employment Centres are back open, but they have rigid screening systems in place – designed to keep both those staff and YOU, healthy. Handshakes are a no-no, as are fist pumps and high fives. Masks are mandatory and the hand sanitizers are more prevalent than bottled water. Desks and computers you sit down at are wiped before you arrive and after you depart. Even where you walk and the distance you sit apart from others has widened and is enforced – all with keeping everyone safe as the number 1 priority.

And here’s the thing…many of these Employment Centres have far fewer people dropping in – precisely because of the well-founded fears people have of becoming ill. So, you might be the only person or one of two or three in such a place. You can use their WIFI, save your data, get help one-on-one if you want it still feeling safe, and advance yourself past others who are at home waiting out the pandemic and the all-clear to get about.

As an Employment Counsellor, I tell you this, employers are still advertising for help. The ones I’m talking to are sharing how hard it is to find qualified people too. What do they say they need most? Enthusiastic people who will show up dependably and punctually, with a good work ethic and focus on jobs to be done and get to work. They want people who work well with others, who they can trust to get the job done when they aren’t being watched, and people who are willing to learn. Yep, they can’t find these kind of people.

Look, you have to decide what’s safe for you and the ones you love. Everyone agrees with that. At the same time, if you need or want to improve your chances of finding work while doing so safely, you can choose this too.

Stay healthy in mind as well as body and thanks for the read.

Need A Better Job?

Much of the time, my blog focuses on helping unemployed people find work. Today however, I want to reach out to those who are currently working, but increasingly feeling the desire or need to find a new job.

I hear from a lot of people who are interested in moving from their current job to a new one. Their reasons vary from dissatisfaction, not liking management and their boss in particular, a drop in hours, no room to grow and being passed over for promotions when they feel it’s their time. Sometimes it’s being harassed on the job site, new owners making sweeping changes that don’t go over well with existing staff, a desire to work closer to home, or yes, more money.

You can see that there are a lot of valid reasons for looking for a job when you already have a job. In many ways, that’s the best time to look for work. After all, you don’t have a gap on your resume to explain, you don’t feel desperate to grab a job just for the sake of having one, nor do you have the stress and mental anguish that comes with no income while you look for work. These are just some of the reasons why you may have heard, “it’s easier to get a job when you have a job.”

Before I proceed further, let me give everyone who is currently working, a few tips which, if you heed them, will help you greatly in the future when you need a change. First update your resume with your current job. I know you might feel this is something you can do later, but it will only take 10 minutes. Next, if you have a good performance review stashed somewhere in your locker or desk at work, bring it home. This document will be of great help should you eventually need a reference from your current employer only to find that they have a policy of only confirming your job title and years of service. Third, get a copy of your job description and again, take it home and store it somewhere you can easily find it.

Those 3 tips are going to help you should you need or want to make a change. The performance review will help you prove your worth to interviewers, the job description will put in words all the good skills and responsibilities you have now and both will help you defend your credentials during an interview. Don’t wait. Do these two things this week. You’ll thank yourself for doing so. And if you work with an Employment Counsellor to help you out, show them copies of these so they can best market your experience and accomplishments.

Now let me remind you of something you need to hear; you’re entitled to work in a positive and supportive environment and be paid fairly for the contribution you make to an organizations success. If you find your hours of work are dropping, you have no benefits or your salary and hope for advancement seems frozen, you owe it to yourself to land somewhere better. But to do that, you have to motivate yourself to actually actively job search.

I’ve said this so many times before, but phone or get yourself into an Employment Centre in your community.  I know this might be your morning or afternoon off, but it’s a good place to start. Ideally, bring your current job description, resume, identification and an idea of what you’d like to do. The people you meet with will have a good idea knowledge of your local labour market, jobs in demand, know who is hiring – and many of these employers don’t put signs in their windows anymore.

Here’s some encouraging news if you’re looking for work. Employers are crying for workers. Not just anybody mind you. They are looking for enthusiastic people who get along with co-workers, are dependable, punctual, problem-solvers, good communicators with both verbal and written skills. They can’t find workers!

I’m going to guess many of you are really good at whatever it is you do. In your line of work, you’re experienced and you’ve got a pretty decent work ethic. You may have put in several years in your current job and yet, feel unappreciated and taken for granted. The one thing you know you’re not good at perhaps is resumes and cover letters, along with performing well in job interviews. That’s actually expected. No one is great at everything.

The main reason to drop in to an Employment Centre is to partner up with a job search pro. Hey, you’re good at what you do and they are good at what they do. Get these people working with you to shorten your job search and help you find your next job faster. You might even find Counsellors have more time to devote to you due to the pandemic as it keeps other job seekers from seeking help.

Think you don’t need their help? Think anybody can put together a great resume? That’s like me saying I could do your job just as well as you do – and I can’t.

You’ve nothing to lose and everything to gain!