When Did You Give Up On Your Dream?


Hang on a second. If you think I’m going to admonish you for giving up on something which at one point at least, you really wanted, well, that’s not going to happen. Why would I do that? There’s no gain in it for me and as for the reasons why you gave up on something, well that’s entirely your business. Your reasons are your reasons and the life you’re leading is entirely yours to live as you choose. I for one, hope it’s going well.

But it’s likely that you did give up on some – and here’s the word we have to substitute to fit your circumstances – thing, where, or body. Okay to spell it out, it’s likely that you did give up on something, somewhere or somebody. It’s just straight mathematical probability. After all, you’ve been on this earth how long? And considering that length of time, it’s probable that you believed in something you held dear, somewhere you promised yourself you’d like to get to for a visit or to live. And it’s likely that during all this time you’ve been on this planet, you believed in somebody; someone you may have eventually come to doubt, somebody you no longer believe in. That somebody might even just be you.

Oh we’ve all got reasons you know; responsibilities came along, we had to grow up, we had to settle down, people told us to be practical. We might have failed a few times in whatever we were aspiring for, or saw the frailty of human spirit in those we’d once held high.

When you had that dream of roaming around the country with that free spirt of yours it was a different time. Man, you were young back then and had a lot fewer things to hold you down when you think of it. You had the whole world in your hands – well – that’s what people told you. “You can do anything my boy!” “Why young lady, just dream and make it happen!” Ironically much of this kind of advice came from people who felt similarly at one point in their own lives but never quite lived up to their own dreams and visions. But you, well, back then they looked at you through envious eyes and tried to merge their acquired wisdom with your youthfulness and hoped it would set a fire to your ambitions, whatever they may be.

And dream you did. For some it was a job as an Astronomer, traveling the world for others or a big house with a wrought iron black fence and electronic entry gate. Maybe it was believing in your own children, your parents as ideal role models, a political candidate you honestly believed was going to revolutionize the free market. You believed! But; and it’s a huge but, you evolved and grew up and as you grew, you felt entlightenment and wisdom to put away your previous dreams and replace them with new ones. The new ones weren’t like the old ones though. These new dreams were more sensible, obtainable, rational and achieveable. By reducing the magnitude of what they were and the difficulty in making them come true, your own sense of accomplishment came naturally.

Yet every so often, something you hear, see, feel, touch or taste reminds you of those past things you gave up on. Just a gentle prod mind you; not enough of a push to get you all riled up and making a major life change to recapture that urge to make your dreams of past days come true. No, just a delicate brush of remembrance so you know what’s past.

We do evolve and grow. As we interact with more people, see new things and experience the world in new ways for the first time it is only natural to move on and make different choices. When we look back, it’s not with regret all the time. No, sometimes we just realize that in those moments of decision, we made choices which we deemed the best, given the knowledge we had in those moments.

When we first dreamed of what we wanted to be in life, we were in our infancy, playing Fireman, Doctor and Teacher. No child of two ever happily played at being Arborist or Meterologist. Those play figures just don’t exist and those occupations have yet to even come into such a childs’ consciousness. To give up on those career aspirations of Fireman, Doctor and Teacher is normal as they become replaced with others. No guilt felt in replacing those dreams by the majority.

Dreams can be sources of inspiration, give us hope and motivate us to movement. The one thing I hope you never come to give up on of course is yourself.

I encourage you to live not in the present bemoaning the choices and unrealized dreams of the past, but rather live in the present moving towards your future dreams. If you’ve got some dreams, well good for you! Go for them. If people say you should get your head out of the clouds and come down to earth, giving up on your dreams, it’s really up to you whether you follow that advice or your heart.

Some thing, some place, some one or yourself. Don’t give up on them lightly. But of course if you do, you’ve got your reasons.

 

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.

 

Job Searching? Factor In The Commute


One of the key things to consider when you’re on the hunt for your next position is the distance, time, method and cost of both getting to work and home again. Why more people don’t think about this I don’t know, but getting to and from work is a given as long as you’re employed, so it should be a key consideration. And yet, every so often, I encounter people who interview for a job, receive a an offer of employment and only then turn it down because, “it’s too far”.

The first thing you’re wise to do is remind yourself of your transportation options. If you’re in a metropolitan or urban area, you probably have an option of taking public transit. This can mean subways, buses or trains. If on the other hand you live in a rural area or a small community, none of these may be an option for you. And of course, if you live in an area where there is public transit but you’ve broadened your search to other municipalities or towns, the transportation link you rely on now might not range to another community, leaving you to either pay two separate fares or have to make alternative arrangements. There are taxis to consider as well, but the cost of hiring one on a regular basis isn’t a viable option for most.

Should you own a vehicle, you’re not bound by schedules and routes public transit limits you to, nor does rural or city living limit your ability to get around, but now you have to factor into your decision the cost and availability of parking, gas and ongoing maintenance.

For those who don’t drive, don’t own a vehicle and/or for whom there is no public transit option, your geographical area in which you can work might shrink considerably. You could be limited to walking distance or find yourself reliant on others to drive you to and from work. While the generosity of others might be something to get you going, you may find yourself wanting to eventually change your situation so you become self-reliant, such as obtaining your licence and buying a car.

Let’s assume for a moment that you have a licence and a vehicle. Given you have the means to get wherever you need to be, ask yourself if you’re in favour of a long or short commute. A short commute definitely saves money on gas, reduces your maintenance costs, and the less you travel, the less likely you run the risk of having an accident, encountering delays and you can leave for work later and get home quicker too. However, some people like longer commutes. Driving for an hour for example to get to work gives a person time to catch up on news, listen to music or a podcast, or just unwind a little before walking in the door at work or home.

Time however isn’t the only factor when you map out a potential route to work and back. Considering the nature of that drive is important to your mental health and well-being. There’s a huge difference between 45 minutes spent in bumper-to-bumper traffic on snarled streets with stoplights every block, versus a 45 minute commute on paved country roads where traffic moves at the posted limits all the way. While two people might have an identical commute in terms of distance or time, they may have a completely different experience. The inner city driver may have to be constantly looking in every direction for aggressive drivers, changing lanes to make progress and watch for inattentive pedestrians, while the country driver watches for the progress being made on some farm building they pass or hopes to spot the odd deer or fox.

Costs of commuting is also a factor to consider. If you can ride your bike, walk or jog to work, you’ll appreciate the cost savings of working locally. For slightly longer commutes than you’d like to walk, you might consider an electric bike or scooter which still gives you independence but of course you need to determine what you’ll do during inclement weather or wintery conditions.

If you’re really fortunate, you might find that the boss is willing to swing by and pick you up along with a few other employees at some central location and drive you to rotating job sites. This happens sometimes with construction or road crews. This is very much like a carpool, and carpools are an option for many. While you spend less to get to and from work, you’re no longer in charge of whether you travel in silence (unlikely) or constant conversation (probably). If you like your solitude, this won’t be a happy time for you twice a day.

Of course, if the next job you go after is your dream job, you might consider relocating altogether so you cut the commute down. This is a viable option if the pay is good and the length of employment is long enough to make the move sensible.

Having had one-way commutes of 2 hours for 6 years, 1 hour for 18 years and now having a 4 minute commute, I’ve had both extremes. I like both for different reasons and would never rule a job out simply based on the commute. But that’s me.

What’s your own view?

Career Or Job?


Are you on the hunt for a career or a job? There’s a couple of assumptions here; a) there’s a difference and b) you know the difference.

A career involves employment in a specific field over a period of time, during which you apply the education you’ve achieved. A job on the other hand, is typically shorter-term in nature, undertaken with a goal of gaining experience or money. A job does not always make use of one’s education.

Hang on. Do you buy those two distinctions? Is it as simple as I’ve set it out? If someone walked into a store and applied for a Cashier position, we might say they have a job as a Cashier. It’s not likely we’d agree the person is a career Cashier. However, what if we were to check in with them 9 years later and they are still in the same role? Would we then say the person is working in Retail as a Cashier and has a career? So then does the length of time a person works in a job transform the job into a career?

I don’t know that it really much matters to be honest. Oh I suppose when you’re out at some swanky affair and people invariably ask what you do, it might have social advantages to have a career over a job; well to some at any rate. But both careers and jobs have similarities. Both provide income, both can be rewarding to the people in them, and both can lead to promotions and be of varying length. There is no guarantee that a career will last longer than a job.

That last comment about the length of time one invests in a role might have some in disagreement. Suppose you graduate from University with a degree and take a position with an organization. You were specifically hired in part due to your academic qualifications. I think it fair to say most folks would feel you’ve just launched your career. Said this way, you are at the beginning of your full-time work life and yet, many would also say you’ve landed a full-time job. Perhaps then they are interchangable.

But hold on. Suppose you quit high school in order to take a position with the local lumberyard doing yard clean up and helping customers load their purchases. Again, most folks will say you’ve got yourself a job, but how many would say you’ve just launched your career? Fewer I imagine than the example in the previous paragraph. And yet, if you advanced through the business from yard clean up to Foreman, then moved inside to Sales Representative working with Contractors based on your accumulated experience, then were promoted to head up the Construction and Renovation Sales division, would we then say you’ve carved out a career for yourself? Would people say your’e a career lumber guy or woman?

I’ll tell you this; there are a lot of people holding out for some career to provide them with direction when what they really need is a job. Likewise, there are people searching right now for jobs who would be well-advised to pour their energy into pursuing their careers.

You might think at this point I’m only messing with words and confusing you for the sake of my own amusement. In truth however, there are people – many people – who fret and worry feeling immense pressure to pick a career. Likewise there are people who feel incredible pressue to get a job.

What really distinguishes the two to my way of thinking is how a person perceives them based on their own value system. Let’s make that personal. If YOU hold a career as being more prestigeous and look at jobs as holding less worth, then YOU set yourself up to feel inadequate and underachieving unless YOU are in a career. Then throw in the happiness factor, the I-need-a-career-that-fulfills-me factor and you’ve set yourself up for a high-stress period while you search for a career that will fulfill you and bring you happiness.

But there’s work to be done out there people and the truth is we need people in jobs and careers in order to get it done. Working in the trades as a Plumber, Electrician, HVAC Technician, Carpenter etc. takes job-specific skills and some aquired knowledge to become an expert. Try telling the Electrician she or he holds a job but not a career and I think they’ll beg to differ. Again, it’s about perception.

You likely hold up certain professions as loftier and holding greater value over others. How do you view a Lawyer vs. a Roofer, a Mechanic vs. a Receptionsit, a Truck Driver vs. an Architect? I’ll tell you this; your view may change depending on your need for that individual. When your shingles blow off your roof, you want a career professional up there fixing it, not someone who ‘just’ holds a job.

Think about your own perception of jobs vs. careers and think also about how your values are passed on to those you influence most; your children. While it’s natural to have your own value system, it’s incumbant upon us all to equally respect the values of others, especially if they differ from our own. If we do this, a lot of people would feel less pressure to pick a career, less stigma when considering a job.

Investing In The Relationship


The best relationships are the ones in which both partners not only make initial investments in each other, but do so on an ongoing basis. The initial investments come easily to most people; going out of your way to show through your actions that this person means a lot to you. In the early stages of a relationship, there’s a lot to discover about this other person you’re drawn to. You’re on the lookout for the things that please your partner, you put effort into the relationship and you do little things that pay off with a smile brought to their face.

Strong relationships stand the test of time when partners continue to invest in each other. It’s important to realize that as the relationship evolves, so too do the two individuals which make up this partnership. Sometimes couples come to realize that their individual priorities have changed, along with their interests and needs. While each individual person may very well be a good person at heart, this evolution of the individuals involved can divide a relationship to the point where each person moves on in separate directions apart from on another. There’s no issue of blame, no wronged partner; just a parting of the ways, each with a healthy view of the other.

The relationship which exists between employers and employees works much the same. In the beginning, an applicant does their best to get to know a potential employer by doing their research. Then the applicant makes an approach, does their best to capture the employer’s attention and present themselves as a good match. The employer is also doing their best to present themselves as a good partner; dangling benefits, wages, work environment, culture and future growth to woo the applicant.

Once the two come together in an agreement, both employer and employee begin in the honeymoon phase where each invest in the partnership; the employee grateful for the opportunity is on their best behaviour. Employers are doing their best to welcome the new hire into the fold, making introductions all round, providing training opportunities and protecting the new hire from a full workload in the first early days. Both employee and employer check in with each other to see how the relationship is progressing and both want this partnership to be productive and lasting.

Now there’s no specific timeframe for the transition to the post-honeymoon period. A sign of the transition however, is when the newness has rubbed off, the routine of daily tasks is known, the employee has settled in and the employer stops checking in to see how the newbie is doing as a regular thing. Protecting the new hire from a full workload is over and expectations of full performance begin. This doesn’t mean the relationship has soured, it just means the 2nd phase has begun.

Employers show their continued investment in their employees by providing ongoing training, making sure staff have opportunities to develop professionally and acknowledge achievements employees make which enhance the end-user experience. They provide feedback on how they see the relationship, talk about where they as an entity are headed and why, hoping by this transparency, to avoid surprising their staff by moving in any direction that would catch their employees off guard and unawares. In short, the best relationships between employers and employees is where employers demonstrate great care for the staff they employ.

Employees too have a responsibility in this relationship. For the the partnership to continue to be a good one, employees need to pull in the same direction; work with each of their colleagues in order to be collaborative and productive. This can mean learning new procedures, taking on additional training with enthusiasm and continuing to develop as individuals so their skills remain competitive.

Frequently, as employees and employers evolve, the time comes when one of the two realizes that things just aren’t working as well as they once did or could, and a parting of the ways is in each partners best interests. It does not mean that either partner is necessarily to blame or at fault, but rather that they have grown and evolved in different ways, have different needs and their futures will continue to evolve down different paths. In parting, each actually does the other a favour. Only poor employees or poor employers belittle and demean the other – sometimes done from a place of hurt or feeling wronged. Smart employers and employees part on the best of terms which leaves reconciliation a possibility and intersecting in the future in different roles something to look forward to, such as moving to another organization in the same field.

When either partner ceases to invest in the relationship, things stagnate and what can set in is complacency. Employees stop stretching themselves and developing their skills, employers expect to stay competitive in their industry but fail to invest in ongoing training of their greatest assets – the people they employ.

If you apply yourself and do your best, you increase the odds of finding a great partner to build a relationship with. It takes effort, investment in each other and understanding that if you take care of your partner’s needs, you often find they take of yours.

Whatever your role where you work, may you be in a great partnership and get as much as you give.

 

 

Are Your Innovative Ideas Unappreciated?


Ah, so you’re the creative one. Someone with innovative ideas that you offer up to management in your organization with the goal of making the workplace a better place to be and transforming the experience of your customers and clients. You’re the person who continually looks for best practices elsewhere and to be completely honest, you have your own share of workable ideas that you put forth. You’ve got a reputation as an ideas person as a result because you just can’t shut off the innovative gene that seems to be at your core.

And yet, despite your best efforts, your ideas for innovation and improvement end up being nothing but that – ideas. It seems that the status quo is easiest for management to maintain; that change comes only when external pressures forces your organization to morph. Even then, change only occurs to the smallest degree possible in order to survive rather than thrive.

Despite your best efforts to make the case for embracing innovation and change, doing things the way they’ve always been done seems to be the motto where you work. After all, it’s how they got where they are today. “At ________ we do what we’ve always done, because we’re complacent and comfortable.”

So guess what? When you’ve done your best to bring others on board with innovation and creativity to no avail, the best thing you can do for yourself sometimes is move on. Walk away. Leave. Quit. Get out while the getting is good.

It doesn’t matter whether we’re in the middle of a pandemic or not, nor your age, nor your current seniority, pension contributions or current debt load. While all these things are important and not to be taken lightly, none of them are as important as your personal state of mind and good mental health. No, not one of them.

Ideas people are constantly looking at things with improvement in mind. It’s in their nature to see things and instinctively wonder how they might be better experienced, displayed, communicated, interacted with and as a consequence, improve the organization one improvement at a time. When a creative person is continually shut down and their ideas taken but rejected or worse yet, not even looked at, the message is all too clear; your desire for innovation just isn’t being acknowledged nor appreciated. The ‘fit’ just isn’t there.

So a few things happen as a result of having one’s ideas consistently shut down. A person can walk away and go somewhere else where their ideas and creativity are welcomed and appreciated. A person can continue to push as they’ve been doing and keep hoping for a different result. Or – and this is the worst – they can shut down their own ideas, smothering them before the spark inside them bursts into a flame of an idea and in so doing, deny what is in their nature to do.

Breaking free is often the best alternative. Now sometimes the answer is transferring from one department or division to another where you hope to land with a supervisor who embraces change. If your organization is large enough, that might be possible. However, it’s likely that at some point, your ideas will flow to the same source as in your former position and the further away someone sits from what you’re attempting to improve, the less inclined they will feel the motivation for change.

Leaving your job can be an incredibly powerful release of pressure and the freedom that comes with moving may stimulate your creativity and give you optimism and hope for growing your innovative ideas. It may be just what you need.

Start looking to your network and asking your contacts about what it’s like to work where they do. Forget the typical, “Are you hiring?” question for now. Get to the culture, appetite for innovation and creativity issues. From your contacts, connect again with those people who, like you, are ideas people and change advocates. You can bet that these people are the ones to tap into for help and will best understand your situation. Listen to their stories where they faced what you’re facing now and how they managed the personal change of putting themselves in positions where their own creativity and innovation is welcomed and embraced. Then ask about opportunities and leverage your network.

The alternative in denying a big part of who you are at your core is to slowly die inside. Too big a stretch? Not at all. If you don’t nurture something that is at your core, it doesn’t get used and it slowly dies inside you. When that part of you dies, you can’t help but feel sad, perhaps become bitter. Your frustration with doing things as they’ve always been done increases, and you’ll loathe the day you hear yourself trying to save someone else with a bright idea the grief of your own experience as you shut them down. Yikes! At that point you realize you’ve been worn down and gave in to the dark side.

Put your fantastic gift of innovation and creativity to work and find a place to flourish. Celebrate embracing change by taking care of what matters most – YOU.

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.

 

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 https://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/hs/elearn/worker/foursteps.php

Coursera   https://www.coursera.org/

LinkedIn Learning https://www.linkedin.com/learning/me?trk=nav_neptune_learning

Agelic https://education.agilec.ca/resource/learn/signin

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!