When It’s A Crazy Day, Roll With It!


Yesterday was one of those days, and not just for me, but for other members of my team at work.

I left home at the usual time; planning to get to work at 7:30a.m. even though I officially start at 8:00a.m. As I live 95 kilometres from work, that extra half hour is my safety buffer. In other words, anticipating any unexpected delays, I’ll still get to work on time and never put myself in the position of using distance (my choice) as an excuse for arriving late.

I opted on this one day to travel south down highway 115 all the way to Highway 401 and then drive east into Oshawa Ontario. That trip along the 401 is the route taken by commuters heading into the Greater Toronto Area, and it typically slows down just after I exit in Oshawa. Funny thing is, I don’t often go this way; and as it turns out I really shouldn’t have gone this way yesterday. I arrived 10 minutes late; 40 minutes later than my typical arrival time mind you, but only the 10 minutes because of my pattern of arriving 30 minutes early every day just in case.

Then the fun really started. On my team of 13 (including a Supervisor and Team Clerk), 4 of my Employment Counsellor colleagues were not reporting in. That’s a first; about 1/3 of the team. So you guessed it; what I thought I was doing on a Monday morning was out the window and I was called upon to facilitate a workshop with a group of young adults. I’d never done this particular workshop before, but years of facilitating upon which to fall back on had me feeling confident.

It wasn’t always this way though; not by a long shot. Many years ago when I was fairly fresh on the scene, a big change first thing in the day would have been something I’d have balked at. Becoming more flexible and having a ‘team-first’ attitude is something I developed like any other skill. Yesterday that growth and development eased any anxiety with the change in plans. After all, I realized quickly it wouldn’t just be me that was being affected but others on my team as well.

Just as I’m getting ready to begin, a colleague needed my help getting a presentation to launch using an overhead projector. Late last week our IT department was downloading an update of Office 365; could that be the reason for the situation? Anyhow it took 10 minutes to help out there and back I went.

Now really, I’ve got little to complain about. In the grand scheme of things many people have far worse days than I. And there lies the lesson; see the big picture.  It’s not always easy to do mind; in the moment when you first hear news that’s going to change your schedule, it’s easy to immediately think about your own situation and be trapped in the moment at hand. The real key to successfully transitioning from what you had planned to what you’re going to now do is to think macro; see the big picture.

I mean, I’m still getting paid, the minutes and hours will pass, everyone will survive and the missing staff will return the following day (hopefully) and life will go on. Big deal. Adapt. Stretch yourself Kelly. It’ll be good for your growth.

Here’s the thing when you get thrown curveballs; you know in the end you’ll be doing whatever it is your being asked or told to do by your Supervisor. The quicker you get on board with the news, the more time you have to prepare; and time to prepare is precisely what you’re anxious about. So accepting quickly and turning to the job at hand is the best way to succeed. It’s also being a good team member and colleague. But we don’t all deal with change – change that upsets our plans that is – well.

Today is going to be interesting. You see I’m now in another city altogether – Kingston Ontario at an Employment Forum, along with some of my colleagues. The ones who were off yesterday can’t count on four of us today, so if they call in absent, either programs get cancelled or other staff on other teams would have to pitch in as possible. Now that would be very disrupting to their days!

It’s funny how a day later, the angst of yesterday pales with the rising sun of today. Not such a big deal. Even as I write about it, I think readers like you will think it wasn’t a big deal in the first place. In the moment though, for some it can be. Ever heard of the saying, ‘This too shall pass’? No matter what is happening at any one moment that has you worried, you’ll survive it; it will pass into yesterday, last week, last month etc. and diminish with each new experience you meet.

Well, the day ended beautifully; a nice dinner for the first time with colleagues, a good night sitting around a fire with an Orange Pekoe in hand, and good conversation to boot. After a sound sleep I’m ready for the day ahead and looking forward to learning whatever I can from our Employment Forum. Sure hope there’s new and tangible things to take back and implement.

Right now however, it’s time to suit up and hit the pool for an early morning dip before breakfast. Yippee!

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Let’s Address This, “I’m Too Old” Business


When it comes to finding work, do you feel you’re too old? If you instinctively answered, ‘yes’, I’d have to agree with you. Why do I say this without even knowing your age? Simply put, if YOU believe it, I’ll agree with you; you’re too old.

It starts with your attitude and what you believe – for what you believe dictates not just your chronological age, but will affect your posture, how you move, act and react. It only stands to reason that others will react to you largely on how you present yourself and interact with them. No of course you can’t alter your age, but what you can control – and you have 100% control make no mistake – is how you feel. How you feel and the decisions you’ve made and continue to make as you move forward dictate how you present yourself. Oh yes, these are within your control.

It’s ironic really that many of the people I work with to find employment present their advancing years as their foremost problem. Yet when I don’t sympathize with them and agree there’s nothing that can be done to combat this age discrimination by employers, they seem disappointed. It’s like they want to me just say, “Yes, that’s a shame but it is what it is.” If that was my only response, not only would I be a poor Employment Counsellor and Coach, I might as well be saying, “Give up now. Buy some overalls and a rocking chair and pull out the harmonica!” (Not intended to offend younger people who enjoy overalls, harmonicas and time spent rocking away.)

Whether you’re in your 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, or 60’s, what’s really important is the attention you’ve paid to your presentation. I’m willing to bet you’ve come across people who look older than their real years. Smoking, excessive time in the sun drying the skin, weight issues, lack of proper diet and exercise; ever thought to yourself, “Wow! He’s/She’s younger than I am but they look so much older!”

Okay so you didn’t make your appearance a priority – and you probably knew it at the time too. You overindulged, did your thing, you let people think what they wanted and didn’t worry about your lifestyle. If other people had a problem with that – well it was their issue not yours. Except now, it is your issue. You won’t like it, but if you want to do something about your appearance, you will – if it’s important to you enough now. Start small sure; but make a start. Eat better, walk or exercise a bit, eat less and eat more of the good stuff. What goes in – goes on.

However, let’s assume you’re in pretty good shape and you look good. I mean you’re not going to grace any glam magazine covers, but how many of us do? First of all good for you. How’s your wardrobe? I mean do your clothes fit properly and are they today’s styles or are they throwbacks to years gone by? What you wear and how you wear it says a lot about you.

Next let’s address your movement. If you’re not a people watcher, take up the hobby as a research project. Watch people walk. Some have energy in their strides as they walk with purpose. Others saunter along, almost aimlessly; shuffling their feet and it’s hard to tell where they are going, if indeed they have any destination in mind beyond a leisurely stroll; a walkabout.

Freeze for a moment and don’t move – whether you’re sitting or standing. Now pay attention to your shoulders. Can you pull them back and pull in your stomach at the same time? If you can, you’re natural pose is hunching forward and the appearance isn’t flattering. If you want to make a good first impression, get those shoulders back, bring the stomach muscles in a bit and increase your pace a little as you walk. When you sit, don’t slouch, keep the shoulders back and avoid stooping forward. Looking bent over makes you look older.

It’s not actually about aging you know; it’s about what aging infers. Getting on in years infers you’re less flexible, less willing to try new things and learn new ways. It’s seen as slowing down, challenging yourself less, taking more time off, not caring to immerse yourself to the extent a younger person will. It’s about falling behind. It infers you’re not into technology, avoid new trends, becoming a follower instead of a trendsetter, and it’s about health concerns and thinking more about retirement than investment.

You can’t control what others think. You CAN control how you present yourself however, and how you present yourself INFLUENCES how others perceive you. Do you take pride in your appearance? Is their energy in your handshake? Are your teeth in good shape? Do you smile or instinctively wear what others would see as a frown?

Control the things within your control. If there are things beyond what you can control with respect to your appearance that’s one thing. But don’t lump things you can control in with them just so you can rationalize not doing anything to improve them. Yes, you know what I’m talking about.

Sorry if you didn’t get the sympathy you’d hoped for. Might sound harsh, but that’s not intended. Straight talk is often what’s needed. To answer your question, I’m 59. Ah but mentally, I’m a spry 38ish!

Bang Away Or Find The Right Fit


Have you ever left a job under poor circumstances and vowed to make a fresh start with another employer; one where no one knows you – only to find that things turn out pretty much the same in a short time?

Despite the change in scenery, co-workers, supervisor and job, things just haven’t changed all that much. You’re starting to wonder if every job is going to be like this? You’re questioning how all these people you work with can like going in day after day with a smile on their face? When it goes wrong in multiple places, in various kinds of jobs, the common denominator keeps coming up… well, you.

Now wait! That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re ‘THE PROBLEM’. Nor does it always have to be this way.

Recall the toddler toy where there’s a bunch of wooden or plastic, brightly coloured shapes, and there’s a corresponding cut out of a shape into which the piece fits. Watch a child at place and try all they want, that red triangle won’t go into the yellow square or the blue circle hole. Eventually, the toddler figures it out and looks up with a big smile at what they’ve both achieved and learned in the process.

As you continue to watch, when all the pieces are removed again, the toy becomes a little easier to play and takes less time to solve. The child also will look around and call attention to their success by saying, “Watch me!” In so doing, they want to show off what they’ve learned and get rewarded with a, “Good for you!”

If you haven’t taken the necessary time to get to know yourself fully – and people evolve and change with the passing of time – you might not be a problem, you just haven’t found the right fit yet. Now that single block is easy to figure out; it’s shape and colour. There’s an easily recognized corresponding shape and colour slot too. Assessing your strengths, preferences, skills, experience, education, attitude, areas for improvement, learning style – these are some of the things which make you who you are. Networking, online research, investigating company culture, reading job postings, interviewing people in the jobs you find interesting, checking out the commute, the dress code, the vision, mission statement etc. of companies as well as their reputations; these make up the research which provides the information you need to assess the likelihood of a good fit.

Here’s the problem; most people assume they know themselves and don’t want to bother putting out a lot of effort in researching companies they might not even apply to. That seems like a lot of work and with very little reward; a waste of time. But what’s a greater waste of time is not bothering with these two critical steps and going through a cycle of applying, getting hired, fired, applying again, getting rejected, finally getting interviews, rejected, still applying, finally getting another interview, getting hired and quitting, or leaving under poor circumstances. It’s like that toddler just banging pieces into the wrong slots and expecting the piece to go in. It’s not the toy that’s at fault, it’s just that reasoning things out hasn’t happened yet at the child’s end. There will always be a perfect fit for each piece.

Likewise, there will always be a perfect fit for you with respect to a job and an employer. Sure you can jump from job to job and hope the fit is good, but more often than not, it will appear that way at first and soon become obvious to the company you’re not the right person for the job, or to you that the job isn’t the right fit for you.

So how much time do you have to invest just randomly moving from job to job? With each bad fit and failure, are you learning anything or just writing off bad experiences and taking nothing away you can learn next time? Be cautious! These series of failures can lead you to develop a short fuse; a bad attitude; a ‘me against the world’ attitude. The person you turn out to be could be very different from the person you were meant to be; a darker, less attractive soul who others want to be around less and less. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

When a child struggles to understand how the pieces get inside, another child or adult who has mastered the concept will take a piece and slowly slide it in the corresponding hole and not letting go, move it back and forth then drop it. The child watching may have to be shown a few times, but they’ll get it. The new learning is shortly mastered and the toy eventually becomes a, ‘Time how long it takes me to do this!” challenge; it’s easier.

This is no different from getting help figuring out the self-assessment piece of who you really are in the here and now. You can also get help learning how to do employer research too. When you know yourself fully and seek out the best fits, you actually speed up the time between where you are now and being employed where you should be. In the right situation, you’re not a problem at all; you’re a success with a big smile on your face. Soon you’ll want everyone around you to view your achievements too.

Change Is Coming. Are you Ready?


When it comes to change, one could argue there’s three camps of people; those who embrace it and seek it out, those who can roll with it when it arises, and those who resist it. If you’re not creating change, you will nonetheless experience it; then it’s going to be how you react to change that will demonstrate whether it’s a positive experience for you or not.

In the workplace, change can come in many forms. Your company might have to bring in changes to keep up their place in the industry; to stay competitive, to realize their expected profit margins. Resisting change could close a business, resulting in layoffs for all the employees, some of which may have wanted changes themselves, but who could not in their positions, bring about the necessary changes required to stay viable.

Most changes are brought about with a positive result in mind by those who initiate change. The management of an organization might want their workforce to undergo retraining of their employees to keep them current with customer expectations, to get ahead of trends and be in on the cutting edge of technology. Sometimes change means tweaking current practices while other times change might mean a complete review of priorities,  values, direction and modernization of what’s been the norm.

The thing about change is that most people don’t mind change as long as they feel they’ll be able to manage the process between what they know and do in the present and what they’ll be expected to know and do in the future when the change has been implemented. While some see this period of flux as stimulating and invigorating – a real workout for the little grey brain cells, others resist change.

It would be a shame to make the mistake of labeling those who resist change as dead weight or negative. As each one of us is a sum of our past and present experiences, the same is true for those who are reluctant or dead set against change. So if, ‘organizational change’ is brought up at some team gathering, it could trigger panic and alarm for someone who was let go in a past job when a company shuffled their line up and promoted positive change leading up to what was essentially a dismissal. Until the change has come and gone, that single person has every right to feel threatened and suspicious. Their past negative experience might be playing out in their consciousness for month’s as change is mulled over, talked about openly, piloted and then fully implemented. How stressful it must feel to come into work each day wondering if this is the day you’re to lose your job for a second time and be powerless to do anything about it when the decision-making is out of your control!

Now I suppose one way to better handle change is to prepare yourself as best you can when things are stable and change isn’t whispered about on the work floor. The question really becomes then, how do you prepare for change when you don’t know what direction that change might take? Excellent question!

The answer of course is that you can’t guarantee that your actions will safeguard you for all possible changes to come, but you can improve your odds of surviving and even thriving when change inevitably comes – and it will. This is best done by increasing your current value to the employer. When you were hired, your skills, education and experience were obviously enough to land you a job. Great. However, would those same three things get you the same job today? What have you done to increase your knowledge? What courses have you invested in? (And by this I mean what have you invested YOURSELF in?) Have you sought out any cross-training to learn other jobs?

As upsetting as it is for some people to contemplate, imagine you knew you were going to have to look for a job in 3 months time. You’ll need to have an updated resume for starters. Have you kept your résumé updated with courses and on-the-job training over the years? Do you even know where that dreaded resume is at the moment? You might not feel motivated to hunt for it now, but if you do, ask yourself if you’d be able to compete with more recently trained competition for similar jobs. Sure you’ve got them with your year’s of hands-on experience, but will their education and experience with technology and emerging practices make them more attractive to an employer? If you haven’t kept up with training because you didn’t see the point, you might really regret so later.

Yet, here you are – you’re now employed, feeling secure and you like the routine of your job; you feel competent and safe. You my friend have the benefit of security for the time being, and you just might want to think about doing something now so that when the whispers of change reach your ear, you can exhale and know you’ve prepared as best you can for whatever is about to come.

Of course I’m only talking here of BIG changes. Little changes happen all the time and some will affect you more than others. Getting a new pair of work boots might take some breaking into; your office chair might be upgraded. You let the old ones go.

How do you feel about change?

This Is Not About Mark And Julie


When Mark was first approached with the offer of help finding a job over a couple of weeks, he accepted the invite, but openly expressed his doubts that I could teach him anything he wasn’t already doing on his own. You know what? I relish that honesty in people; I wasn’t insulted in the least.

Now Julie on the other hand? While her feelings were similar, her choice of words and her decision to decline the help offered was received quite differently. Not only was she sure I couldn’t do anything to help her, she said two weeks with me would be a complete waste of her valuable time.

What made Julie’s reaction and decision all the more puzzling at the time was that a highly respected colleague of mine had referred us to each other and Julie was touted as a ‘Superstar’; someone I’d absolutely be impressed with. Well she made an impression. I can’t convey in words the tone of voice she used on the phone, the emphatic disdain she communicated for the help offered.

So you should know, what both Mark and Julie were offered was to be one of twelve participants in a two-week intensive job search group. All twelve have to have: 1) A résumé 2) Basic computer skills 3) A clear employment goal 4) strong motivation to find work 5) Give me permission to give them honest feedback and 6) come dressed daily in business casual clothing ready for interviews – because they will get them. Beyond making the self-investment of time to realize their financial independence, the cost to attend? Free. In fact, I’d see they got money for clothing and grooming needs, full transportation costs to get around, funds they could use for lunch if they chose to and when they did get a job anywhere up to $500 to buy whatever they needed to get off to a good start.

Now to me, this is a pretty easy choice to make. After all, Mark, Julie and the other people I extend this offer to are all unemployed or severely underemployed; sometimes working part-time outside their field of training or volunteering. Now I know that most people are already doing a job search on their own, and that some of what people are doing already is quite good. However, if the results are not forthcoming, doesn’t it seem sensible to take advantage of free help from someone recognized as a professional helping others find work?

My accumulated years of experience has told me that when most people don’t seize such opportunities, something – or some things are going on beyond what is known. Yes, they could be secretly working and don’t want to be found out, but that’s not typically what’s going on. One of the key things I do actually is work with people and after establishing mutual respect and trust, make it a point to get at what barriers they are facing which prevent them from moving forward and realizing their goals.

Now you might not think this approach is necessary; if you help somebody write a cover letter and resume, prepare them for the interview and wish them the best, they’ll get work soon enough. That may be true of course, but if this is all you do, you’ll be puzzled and disappointed when they lose their employment in short order. Some will contact you and ask for more help, while others will feel embarrassed and not contact you as they don’t want to let you down.

You might wonder then how far I can get with twelve people in only two weeks to set up the trust required to have each person open up and share what they would otherwise keep buried. I tell you this, the faster a person opens up and the more they share, the better the counsel I can offer, and the more effective the help will be they receive. In the end, what most end up with is a job best suited to not only their education and experience, but in an environment where they’ll not only survive, but thrive. Now as an unemployed person, doesn’t this sound enticing?

The most significant factor in achieving success is wanting what you’re after with enthusiasm. If you want it – I mean REALLY want it, that inner motivation and enthusiasm will be exactly what it takes to get you through when the roadblocks pop up. Instead of throwing up your hands in exasperation, you’ll roll up your sleeves and dig deep. Make no mistake, the job seeker has to want work more than the person helping them find it.  If it’s the other way around, lasting success won’t come.

Here’s the thing about Mark; recall if you will he’s the guy who expressed doubts but accepted the offer. When we wrapped up our time together, Mark told me that he was really suspicious but it was at noon on day 1 that he realized how thankful he was that he got the offer and accepted. His is a success story in that he did find work. He ended up moving from Ontario to British Columbia, accepting a full-time job at $120,000 per year. Quite a significant change from receiving social assistance and feeling frustrated, low self-worth and getting less than $15,000 per year.

When opportunity comes your way, make a change; say yes if you typically answer with a, ‘no thank you’. There’s a lot of great help out there to seize!

Bad Turned Good At Rona


With the completion of a backyard workshop built earlier this summer, I found myself headed out to pick up some plywood and a few 2′ x 4′ pieces to build a work table this past Saturday.

So there I stood at the Customer Service desk at my local Rona. I was met by a friendly woman there who took my rough drawing and lumber supply list. She did exactly what I was hoping someone would in that she added up all the pieces and tried to give me the quantities I needed with the least amount of waste. When you show up with a hatchback instead of a truck, you can’t take home 4′ by 8′ sheets of plywood, nor can you safely drive away with 12 feet long 2′ by 4′ studs hanging out the back. Things have to be cut to get them in the car.

With my order in hand, I was about to check out at the other end of the store when another customer said to me, “I guess I won’t be finishing my project today; they are all out of plywood.” All out of plywood? A national lumber supplier is all out of plywood? I turned around and headed back to the customer service desk.

“Apparently you’re all out of plywood”, I said to a fellow behind the desk. I haven’t paid yet, but I need to make an adjustment. Overhearing me, the woman I’d originally served by told the other fellow to upgrade my order to another fir product; good on one side for the same price. Sounded good to me. I mean it was only for the top of a work table.

While the fellow entered information into the computer, changing the order and adjusting the price, a young guy came in from the yard where he worked and one of the employees asked him about the plywood shortage. “That’s not my job” he said out loud. Ouch! Now yes I was a customer in the store, but at that moment, my Employment Counsellor came out as I looked at him and said, “You should never say, and 4 people joined me and said, “That’s not my job”; and especially never let the customer hear if you do.”

Saying, “That’s not my job”, just passes the blame, and at that moment, all I wanted was a fix, not to finger somebody at fault. Ah but he’s young and is in self-preservation mode. He’ll learn.

So while the 1/2″ plywood was all gone, I was happy with the 3/4″ substitution which was a $15 more expensive piece for the same price. That was a real experience changing piece of action, saving the customer from turning to another supplier and having them happy. This too had the Employment Counsellor in me alert and impressed. There would be another up and down though before I left with my lumber.

Out in the yard where it really matters, it turned out they not only didn’t have the 1/2″ plywood, they didn’t have the 3/4″ sheet I had now paid for as an upgrade. How does a lumber yard of a major chain run out of basic wood supplies? I don’t know, but I suppose it happens. At this point, the Yardman pulled out a sheet of 3/4″ something and asked if it would be okay. It’s just a workbench for thumping on so if it holds up to hammering etc. on, I’m good, and I told him so. I was pleased.

However, the Yardman then went on to say, “Their computers might say we have wood in stock but I don’t think any of their quantities are right. I bet we don’t have an exact count of any of the lumber out here.” Now why say that to a customer? So is everyone at Rona incompetent at the worst or just inaccurate at best? That should be the kind of thing he thinks but keeps to himself. What made his comment ironic was what happened next. While he cut the wood for me and I put it in the car, he told me to help myself to several pieces – “whatever you want” – that were waste from other customers. They’d be paid for but not taken by customers I suppose. I couldn’t load the car fast enough.

He also provided great customer service and had me happy with the free extras. So now I had some free lumber for other projects down the road and an upgrade on my original lumber for the same price I’d expected to pay. Oh and did I mention I scratched a ticket and got 15% off my entire purchase?

Look, there is much to be learned from this trip to Rona no matter what business you find yourself in. For starters, keep the customer satisfied and they’ll spread the word to a few people. Tick them off and have them annoyed and they’ll spread the word to a lot of people. Few businesses can afford to have dissatisfied customers.

Like my young employee, never say, “That’s not my job”. Even if it isn’t your job, if you wear the uniform and have an employee number, everything is your job. Sure, figure out what went wrong so it doesn’t happen again, but don’t do it in front of the customer. Solve that stuff behind the scene.

Just for the record, I enjoy shopping at Rona and I’ll be back. Hey, shortages could be for any number of reasons. Bottom line is they had me leave happy – well done.

Where Do You See Yourself In 5 years?


When you’re looking for a new job; whether now or at some point in your future, how much does advancing within the organization play a part in determining what positions you apply to?

The extent to which a company promotes from within, and the increased probability of advancing beyond the role you’re applying for seems to be a big attraction for some. Somewhat ironically, many of those same people when I’m preparing them for upcoming job interviews express anxiety over how to answer one question in particular; “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

Their dilemma is that while they want to advance, they haven’t got any idea of what the next job might be. Therefore, intelligently answering this question when asked by a company employee who knows the job titles next up on the organization’s hierarchy seems awkward. They also worry that choosing to say they expect to be in the place they are applying for now would be the wrong answer because it might show a lack of drive or commitment.

Consider that this interview question has remained exactly the same over many decades. The job market as well as both employer and employee loyalty however, have evolved. In other words, where a company might have in the past kept an employee on for 40 years, they now see frequent turnover as a norm. The same is true of employees. Years past a person would typically take a job in their early 20’s and they would be happy and content to stay, working day in and day out with predictability in their daily work and changing employers would be abnormal and something to remark on. In 2018, a person may go through 6 – 8 jobs and even switch careers completely 2 or 3 times on average.

So what’s behind this rather traditional question of where you expect to be 5 years down the road?

First let’s acknowledge that like every other field, there are excellent interviewers good ones, poor ones and there are rookies. So you might get asked this question by someone who doesn’t really even know WHY they are asking or what a good answer looks like. It’s unlikely with a seasoned interviewer; as they’ll have a definitive reason for asking all the questions they pose, even if it doesn’t seem immediately clear to you what they’d ask a certain question for.

The question of where you’ll be in 5 years isn’t actually fixed on 5 years anymore; think of the 5 years as representing the future you who has come to master the job you are only applying for now. By the time 5 years has passed, you’ll not only have the job down, you’ll have come to know and understand the company brand, culture and value system. So what’s really be asked is this: To what do you aspire once you’ve got a solid, working knowledge of this job and the organization itself? Do you have any ambition beyond this job? Do you want more responsibility? More stimulation and challenge? There’s also a strong belief among some employers that your personal value will rise substantially if you move into senior roles having worked in ground floor jobs within the organization.

There’s a trap in this innocent question however, and you can easily fall into it and remove yourself from the competition if you’re not careful. If you come across as so set on advancing that you’re already looking well beyond the job you are applying for now, you could cause the interviewer to fear they’ll be going through this same hiring process in less than 6 months’ time. They don’t want to constantly be hiring for this position, so they might pull you out of the competition, tell you you’re overqualified and suggest you reapply when other jobs come up that would be a better fit. Of course, if the next position up is theirs, you might also be denied a job to preserve their own!

So what to do? One option is to show that your first priority is to focus on the job you are applying to now; to make sure the company gets a good return on their faith in hiring you. At the same time, you’d like to place yourself within the organization to take advantage of opportunities as they arise through training, development and any recommended networking or project contributions.

After all, a lot can happen in 5 years time. Your priorities might shift in ways you cannot possibly imagine in the present. An organization might contract, expand, take over a rival, add a new division, promote an early retirement incentive to change over it’s working force. Who knows?

Personally, I prefer looking 2 years down the road. I think 2 years fits better in our current climate and fits better with job market trends. 5 years is almost abstract to most people.

The other thing to consider is that not everyone wants a promotion or to advance. Excellent employees who find their motivation within and not from external sources can continue to be engaged, motivated and challenged in the same jobs for long periods of time. They might not be understood by those who have to climb the corporate ladders to feel successful but their aspirations are just as valid.

The key is just that; to remain invested, challenged, motivated and to be productive. Convince an interviewer of this and you’ve answered the question well indeed.

As always, be good out there and please consider passing this on.