Orientation, Training and Continous Development


If you’ve worked at more than one organization over your lifetime, think back on what it was like in the first few days and weeks as you transitioned into those workplaces. It’s probable that you’ve had very different experiences.

Some organizations actually put very little thought and effort into training their new employees. They may introduce you to the other workers and set you up with one person to job shadow while you learn on the job. The belief some employers have is that you learn best by doing, so you’re right in the thick of it from day one and those that learn fastest stick around while those who don’t, don’t.

And to be fair, it’s not always that they don’t put thought and effort into their training. It’s sometimes the case that the business is small, there is no Human Resources department, there’s just the owner, one or two others and so you’re thrown right into the deep end with the hope you learn to swim. You watch them as they work and they explain things as they go. They expect you to model what you see and if you’re the kind of person that likes to jump right in and learns best by doing, you appreciate the opportunity.

Contrast this with the experience of joining a large corporation where there exists not only a Human Resources department, but also corporate trainers and managers who have the time to sit down with you removed from the front line, where you go over policies and procedures. In these kinds of organizations, your orientation and training looks completely different, lasting not just days or weeks but stretching into months.

The biggest single difference from the vantage point of you as an employee, is the expectation from the employer on when you are to be 100% productive. While a small, two or three person operation expects you to be up to speed and doing the job fully on your own in days, a large governmental organization invests considerable time training it’s employees and they’ll be slowily integrated into the job sites over time.

From your point of view as a potential new employee, you might find that asking about company orientation and training is a good thing. So too is the question about just how long they give you before expecting you to be working independently and giving them a full return on their investment. Knowing an employers expectations of you and your own learning capabilities, you’ll be able to best assess just how steep or gradual the learning curve is going to be in your new role.

It’s one thing to know you’ve got a few months to learn the scope of a job and quite another to be told you’ve got the morning to job shadow someone and then you’re expected to work alongside them in an equal capacity. From my own experience, I remember once working for an employer where 60 of us went through orientation and training together and it lasted six month’s. During that time, we all learned together in a classroom setting with various trainers and guest facilitators. We had a few days of job shadowing woven into those six months, but we were largely in isolation, going through thick manuals sheet by sheet.

By way of contrast, I recall a job working in retail where I had two shifts with the owner of the business and then I was told I’d be working on my own. Whether this was a testament of my ability to learn quickly or they had other priorities I’ve no idea, but there I was on shift number 3, alone and responsible for their entire business as the only employee on site.

Generally speaking, I’ve personally found that it takes a full year to learn a job completely. What I mean by this is that there is often certain tasks and responsibilities that come up during some parts of a year that you can’t experience until they come about. Doing inventory for example in a large department store might be scheduled three or four times a year, and some organizations operate very differently around tax season or year-end than they do during other periods in the business cycle. Yes, you may find it’s only after a full year on the job that you come to understand the full scope of the job you’ve landed.

Unfortunately for some or you reading this, you may have found that while a business owner excelled at doing their thing, they didn’t have had the well-developed skills as a trainer and mentor.  This shouldn’t be surprising really, given that just because a person is great at one thing doesn’t mean they are an expert in all things. As a consequence, you may have been left to largely figure things out on your own when you’d expected to be shown how to best do the job, complete with guidance and support.

Not all businesses have extensive new employee training, nor do all invest in continually developing their workforce. However, there are many employees who believe in ongoing training and many more who don’t, so it goes both ways. Good advice is to ask about initial orientation and training as well as continous learning and development to ensure a good fit with your own needs.

 

Deliver On The Expectations You Set


One of the biggest goals for any business is delivering on the promise of getting their goods and services to their consumers which fulfill their expectations.

One of the biggest frustrations for any customer is when a business fails to deliver on getting their goods and services to the consumer which fails to align with the customers expectations.

Businesses are famous for establishing expectations of quality, service and delivery. Those of you old enough to remember the Timothy Eaton company may recall their motto, “Goods satisfactory or money refunded.” The Ford Motor company promoted, “Quality is job one.”  Goodyear says, “The best tires in the world have Goodyear written all over them.”

The thing about a motto or slogan is that customers who buy into it (literally and figuratively), will hold you to account at some point and expect you to live up to it. So here’s a question…how well do the employees on the front-lines who deal with customers know the slogan they’re asked to uphold? Some pizza companies promise 30 minutes or it’s free and when it takes 31 minutes or more, you not only expect it free, you expect the delivery driver to smile as he hands it over with a, “no charge”. What you don’t expect is having to argue about it while it cools down in their one hand while they phone the store with the other to ask for clarification.

What about where you work? Does your organization have a motto, slogan or widely-known policy? If you’re not sure or you’ve forgotten what it is, you would be wise to ask about it now rather than waiting until you’re in an awkward situation of being called on it by one of your customers.

And what of you as an individual? Do you come with a promise of performance? What claims did you make during your interview which played a big part in the hiring decision to bring you on board? Are you living up to whatever you promised? Maybe it was a certain, measurable level of service; being able to process a given number of phone calls in a day or claims of physical strength. Perhaps you laid title to a keyboarding speed, knowledge of a software application, the ability to lead effectively or being available to work all shifts as scheduled with a positive outlook. How are you doing in living up to your performance promise?

Suddenly you might be just a little less comfortable. Yes, it’s easier being on the other side when we’re holding other people or organizations accountable. The Pizza is one minute overdue and late is late after all. Is that one minute worth a free pizza, the gas money, the driver’s time and the possibility of a tip? Some will say yes and others will still gladly pay for what they receive a minute later than promised.

But when it’s us – myself included here – it can be a little less comfortable as I say. Some people will make all kinds of claims in an interview just to get hired. I recall one person telling me years ago that they told an employer they knew the software the company used at an expert level. If they got the job, only then would they figure it out by asking their co-workers to show them when the boss wasn’t around. There’s several presumptions here; no testing at the interview stage, employers who are easily duped and co-workers who will have more allegiance to a brand new co-worker rather than the employer who provides their pay. I don’t like those odds.

The truth is that many people forget the claims and promises they make. Have you ever had an experience as a customer where you feel a company representative is selling you a line; saying anything just to keep you from demanding your money back? You know, they promise to fix your problem in short order but then you don’t hear back from them until you rev yourself up for round two of a bout? Some companies actually predict and allow for a certain percentage of their customers who will not complain and simply go away. If you get a wrong order at a drive-thru and only discover it once you’re home, would you actually get back in the car, drive back and complain? Exactly.

As an individual, you can improve your reputation and your credibility if you live up to the promises you made and continue to make; deliver on what you say you’ll do to ensure complete customer satisfaction. Even amongst co-workers, if you say you’ll get some information right over to a colleague, live up to that expectation you just made. You may hope they’ll forget it, but it’s more likely they are now counting on you and the clock is ticking.

One thing likely common to us all is the expectation we’ll be at work and ready to go every day by a certain time. If you’re punctual, you’re living up to the expectation of the company and one you accepted upon hire. If you’re consistently late, you’re not delivering on the expectation of punctuality and reliability.

As an experiment, listen for and think about the expectations you set for yourself when you interact with others today. Only promise what you will deliver.

Can’t Find The Right Employees?


No one cares more about business success than those who own them. Whether it’s got your actual name attached to it or not, when you’re the one that’s building it up and working hard to deliver products and/or services, you’ve got more at stake than anyone else connected to it. And well you should.

Successful business owners will tell you that they pour more hours into their business than most people realize. Even when they aren’t at work, their thoughts turn to calls they have to make, purchases to be made, people they employ, bills to pay and many other things that go into being a business owner. It’s a 24/7 enterprise when your livelihood is invested in business ownership.

With the above in mind, it makes sense that you’re understandably concerned about hiring the right people to contribute to your business. And while the definition of what is, ‘right’ will vary from one to the next, there are some general characteristics you’re likely to want in the applicants that knock on your door asking to join your workforce. Likely you want people who are dependable, respectful of what you’re working toward and who will act as good ambassadors of your business when they interact with others.

The challenge is how to attract the best of the best and bring them onboard. For some business owners the standard practice is to put an ad on a job board and wait for the resumes to start rolling in. While this might generate applicants, an employer may find they aren’t attracting the right people, and those they hire don’t work out. It’s easy to see that there’s an issue with hiring, but the difficulty may lie in correctly identifying the problem with their hiring processes.

Let’s start with small business owners; maybe you’re one of them. You created this business presumably because you enjoy the work of producing the products you sell or the services you deliver. You’re pretty good at doing the work. As you get better known and word of mouth spreads, you realize you could use a hand. You’re not looking to hire just anyone, but rather someone you can work with who understands and respects what it is you’re in the process of building at this vulnerable point as you establish and grow your business.

Expansion is great, but hold on. You’re expertise is in whatever it is you do. You’re not trained to attract and select talent. It’s not a failing of yours, it’s just not where you’ve spent time developing your skillset. Face it, doing your thing is your thing; employee onboarding, training and employee retention isn’t your area of expertise. So you have a choice in doing it yourself or enlisting the services of a professional organization to help you with your staffing needs.

Many employers do in fact, do things themselves. After all, it’s the entrepreneurial spirit that inspired you to start your business in the first place. As you succeeded in launching it, you figure you have the skills to hire too. It makes sense and I get where you’d feel this way. But consider that the hiring process is going to require your attention and take you away from doing the work you enjoy and are good at.

To attract workers, you just need to put an ad up. To attract the right workers, you need to first identify the personal qualities, education, certifications, experience level, personal presentation, job-specific and transferable skills, availability, and personal suitability you’re looking for. You have to not just know your business, but rather, know the right things to advertise for to attract the right talent and then know the right questions to ask to get the information from the people you select to interview in order to make the right decisions. And even when it comes down to two people, you may not have the skill to select the right candidate. This is no reflection on your ability to successfully operate your business, but rather an acknowledgement that no one is the expert in all areas. Employee onboarding, training and employee retention might not play to your strengths.

Okay, so to the alternative. Working with an organization to attract your talent might be a good idea. But make no mistake. If all you do is have them post your ad, you’re likely to find you have the same issues. It’s important to take some time and communicate with an employment organization just what your business is. Share some of your achievements, what it is you do and what you produce. Tell them what you’re looking for of course, but draw on the professional you work with to help you articulate and label what you’re after.

If you want a person who works well with others, you want someone who collaborates, respects the talents of their coworkers and communicates clearly so wasted time is minimized and production increases which impacts on profitability. You see? Maybe this is what you meant, but your job ad just said, “Teamwork”.

If you haven’t done so, consider working with an employment organization and in true partnership. This business is your baby and you want to grow it with people who ‘get it’. Partnering with professionals brings two experts together – you and them to source and select your new hires.

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.

 

 

 

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!

 

“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.

 

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!

Be A Beacon Of Hope


“When faith gives way to fear
When motivation disappears
All is lost if one abandons Hope”

These are the final 3 lines of lyrics from the 1977 song called, “Hope” by a Canadian band called Klaatu. Lovely song and you might like a listen.

These lyrics come into my head often in the course of my work; meeting with and interacting with people who are either unemployed or dissatisfied with their current job or career.

For many, that period of adrenaline and excitement at the prospect of breaking away from a job or employer they want to leave behind has past, That initial optimism that came with having made a decision to land a job and the belief that it wouldn’t take too long has ebbed and been replaced with doubt and worry. Those of us who work as Employment Counsellors and Coaches know intrinsically that this is often the point we interact with such folks; their belief or faith in their ability to find meaningful work is giving way to the fear that they won’t.

When we meet for the first time and walk awhile together, each on our own career journey, it’s hope more than anything else riding on this relationship. And thus, it is critical for us to remind ourselves of this because it’s far too easy to get distracted and caught up in the files and job boards that need updating, the academic courses we’re undertaking or the break we’re overdue for. In other words, tuning in to the person before us and empathizing with them is critically important. In these moments, we have a caseload of one person; the person before us. We are their hope.

Now for me personally – and I’m only going to speak for myself here – I do my best to offer the support and partnership to others that I’d benefit from the most if the tables were turned and it were I seeking help to find meaningful work. One of the biggest mistakes I believe we can make in this occupation is failing to appreciate that those seeking our help are intelligent enough to tell when we’re not focused on them. Whether a person has a grade 8 education and is after an entry-level job or they hold a Master’s degree and are hunting a senior position in a multi-national organization, people know when you’re distracted or zeroed in.

There’s a cartoon that just came to mind which has two employees under a customer service sign facing a long line of shoppers. The one says to the other, “This job wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the people.” Hmmm….

Ah but we’re human aren’t we? We have things on our minds such as the struggles our children are going through, the housework that’s waiting for us when we get home, the groceries that have to be bought and the parents we have to visit when we finally do get a chance. We are entitled to be concerned and think about these and the many other things going on in our own lives because yes, we are humans too. And because we’re human, sometimes these ‘things’ enter our minds at the most inopportune times. We don’t consciously seek out things to distract us, they just come calling. So we have to work harder to focus.

But back to that bit about giving the level of service we’d like and expect were it us on the receiving end. I know you can recall times when you’ve felt like someone’s lower priority. Customer service is promoted all the time as a key qualification in so many jobs but it doesn’t always translate into the experience received by customers and clients.

One tip I have found that serves me well is turning away from my computer keyboard and facing the person seeking help head on. Giving them 100% of my body language communicates that they have my full attention and I’m listening. This isn’t symbolic. I know I can hear the words they speak even if I look away, but I need their facial cues, their posture, their eye contact (or lack thereof) etc. in order to fully take in the complete message they are communicating. This avoids miscommunication and encourages them to share what they otherwise might not.

The short of it is by investing in the conversation, I invest in the person. When this is done, they feel hopeful in the depth of the relationship being established, because here is a person who is listening – really listening. Although that story they’re telling has been heard by me before, I’ve never heard it told by THIS person.

And then it clicks into place; hope. When it’s time to turn back to a computer screen, the job seeker feels fully heard and understood, feeling they are my priority.

If you’re considering joining us in the employment coaching or counselling field, I sure hope you appreciate that you’ll be someone’s beacon of hope; many if you’re good. We need empathic, caring and compassionate people, focused on serving others in partnership as we walk for awhile together on our career journeys. You’ll be enriched, you’ll be challenged and you’ll fail sometimes by the way. If you don’t fail every so often, you’re playing it safe.

Be a lighthouse shining a beacon of hope for those you serve today!

 

Delivering Honesty With Kindness


One of the kindest things I do every now and then is tell someone I’ve just met that they don’t have a realistic shot at getting an interview for the job they want to apply to.

On the surface, that would appear to go against one of my key goals which is establishing and nurturing a partnership between myself as an Employment Counsellor and them as a job seeker. I mean, at a first meeting, you’d think I’d be going out of my way to have them see me as a nice fellow who leaves them feeling inspired and full of confidence. That would be nice, and for a lot of people I meet for the first time, this is exactly how they perceive me when they walk away.

Here’s the thing though; I’d rather a jobseeker come to see me as authentic, helpful and sincere in my desire to see them ultimately succeed. That ultimate success means taking the time to find the right job, the right employer, the right match for their skills, experience, interests and their needs. And in fairness to the employers I am working with to find talent, it also means sending them job applicants who are qualified; of the right character fit with authentic skills and experience.

Recently I was introduced to a person looking to make a career shift from the job they have now to another. On the upside, I give credit to this job seeker for several things: 1) seeking out the professional services of an employment agency 2) realizing the need for a better resume and 3) having the resiliency and courage to move from a position they are performing at well to a new position where there will be a steep learning curve.

However, on the downside, the person not only lacks a specific software knowledge the employer has described as a strong asset, they lack required experience in basic computer skills. Further, they have no experience in the environment which the employer has stated is expected.

It was evident to me within 5 minutes of meeting them that there was a gulf between the employers stated needs and this applicants experience and skills. It wasn’t going to be fair to send them off with a shiny new resume, full of false confidence and have them compete against applicants with years of experience and education to match. In the field they were considering, it is well-known that the labour market is flooded with highly-qualified candidates.

What I did do was gently but nonetheless clearly, tell them that without the mandatory skills required, they didn’t have a shot at the position. Had I stopped talking and left things there, it wouldn’t have been a good conclusion. They walked in for help after all, and I was determined to provide it; albeit different from what they had expected.

Well, we constructed a resume together that promoted the transferable skills they have, focused on their character and personal qualities that would be a desirable fit, and printed it off. The wording on the resume had them sitting up straighter, feeling really good at how they came across on paper, promoting skills and qualities they hadn’t verbalized but yet I had discerned and labeled from listening to them describe their current and past work.

But what really has them feeling better is a promise I made to them which they hadn’t expected when they came in the door. While I provided a resume for them to take to the job fair they were heading out to, I told them that I or one of my colleagues would like to work with them to better explore their skills and abilities and find a position for which they would compete as a strong candidate.

This offer of unexpected help to better get to know them and find the right fit, more than anything else, had this job seeker leave expressing gratitude for the honesty and willingness to help. They remarked as they left that they didn’t expect to get the job anymore and if they did somehow it would be a nice surprise. But this person wasn’t disappointed and thanked me for sharing the truth.

Employment Counsellors are good at what we do. We read people and do our best to meet people where they are in life and support them on their career journey with the goal of setting them up for success. We recognize that you as the job seeker are the expert of you; you know yourself better than we ever will. The key is to work in true partnership together; you knowing you and we knowing how to draw out your accomplishments, rich experiences, achievements and then marketing these in language that not only appeals to employers, it just makes you feel empowered.

It’s a risk to tell a person you’ve just met that they aren’t in the running for a job when you know the needs of an employer and what an applicant lacks. However, the risk/reward almost always pays off with a relationship they can trust in; knowing they’ve partnered with an Employment Counsellor who has their best interests in mind. The goal therefore is to deliver honesty with kindness out of a deep set respect for the person, rather than only telling someone what you believe they wish to hear.