Feeling Stretched?


Many well-meaning people encourage us to push and achieve more. Hit a sales target for the boss and you may find the bar gets raised for next month. Bring a project in under budget and you may find one consequence of your success is their belief you’ll repeat this with future projects; perhaps to the point of being given less resources yet expected to achieve the same results.

Higher expectations in the workplace are nothing new. It seems everyone wants us to be more efficient with our resources, employers want us to cross-train at work; not only being excellent at the work we do, but also learning how to do the work of others, which in turn makes us a higher valued asset. While we know we are entitled to our full lunch or dinner and our 15 minute breaks, often we might find pressure to work through them in practice, even though we’re told to take them.

And it doesn’t stop in the workplace. You might find that at home you’re expected to not just prepare supper, but ensure it’s something that will be a hit with everyone at the table. There’s demands on your time to help with homework, read a story, cuddle on the couch, have everyone’s clothes clean and ready, have lunches ready to go for tomorrow, spend time with the pets and then suprise, squeeze in some additional request for your help with something completely unexpected.

Stretched. It’s perhaps the best and simplest explanation of what you’re experiencing. Pulled by well-meaning people both in the workplace and at home. Of all the people in your life, you’re the only one who really gets the impact of having all these requests and demands made of you. Even when you share with those at home what’s going on at work, they can only understand on an intellectual level rather than having a real appreciation for what it’s like to live your experience. Pehaps while their listening empathetically, they even suggest you make yourself a tea or coffee to calm your nerves, rather than getting up to make it for you. Well-meaning sure, but yet one more tiny thing to do.

The thing is that no matter how much you’re able to stretch yourself and be there for everyone who needs you, you’ve got your limits. Pull beyond what you’re capable of doing and you’ll snap. Then people will look at you with puzzlement and disappointment and question your effort, your commitment, your capabilities!

You have to forgive people who do this though. I mean, we’re all different from everyone else; there isn’t a blueprint that says we can all be stretched to the same limits. Some of us can take on heavy loads and appear to thrive on them. Others work best when the loads are lighter, just not being designed to work at our best when we’re overloaded. But those well-meaning people are sizing us up based on the other people they know and their own best guesses as to what they believe we should be able to take on.

At work, the boss can hardly keep laying more and more responsibility on some members of the team while keeping the workload light for others. This could be read as favourtism. If it went on for any length of time, it could breed discontent, resistence and conflict among the members of the team who feel taken advantage of and overworked – especially if they all receive the same wages.

The other reason I think people should be forgiven for failing to understand what we’re capable of is that as individuals, our own capcacity to carry our loads fluctuates and changes based on all the things we juggle at any one time. What we were able to handle last month might be more or less than what we can handle this month. Why? Well maybe we’ve got 4 birthdays to plan for this month, there’s been a death of a close friend in our personal life, while at work someone’s confided in us that they are looking to leave and all we can see is more work coming our way.

While we can forgive others for unintentionally adding to our stress, we have to give ourselves permission to plateau if need be; send our Superhero cape out for cleaning, and just be normal. It’s not only okay to do this, it’s healthy for our minds and bodies. Pushing ourselves for too long beyond what we’re able to do risks both our physical and mental health. If we should stretch to the point of breaking, well, we’re not only unable to help others, we’ll end up feeling guilty, incapable and disappointed in ourselves. This can mean lower self-worth, anxiety and sadness.

This is not to say we shouldn’t push ourselves or fail to be pushed by others to find what we’re capable of. This is a good thing and sometimes we wouldn’t have the success we’ve had if we didn’t stretch to see what we might achieve. But the difficulty is knowing where that line is between stretching and breaking.

From time to time, what we’re giving is all we’ve got. This doesn’t make us a bad person, nor weak, nor unachieving. It makes us human. And when you feel ready, don your Superhero cape and go get ’em!

When Change Is Here


Throughout your professional and personal life, you’ll often experience change. Whether or not you adapt, and the rate of speed at which you do, goes a long way to determining your successful transition from what was to what is.

Just like any other skill, the ability to deal with change is something some of us are better prepared and able to deal with than others. While one person might embrace change immediately, another might take longer, needing time to process new information; work through in their mind what they are being asked to do, consider the ramifications and eventually get on board. Still others will hold on with everything they’ve got to what they’ve known out of their personal need for security and familiarity; especially if they’ve liked doing things a certain way.

Not all people who resist change are similar, although to casual observer they may appear to be so. While there may indeed be people so resistent they actively go out of their way to thrawt change, others just need time to process new information. This is particularly the case if the size and rate of change is large and quick.

Back in 2019, a lot of businesses and employees worked in ways which were very familiar to them. 2019 looked a lot like 2018, 2017 etc. But then, a world-wide pandemic arrived and for many individuals and businesses, the unexpected pandemicvirus forced people to change and adapt or risk business and job loss. Transforming how business would be done meant many people had to suddenly learn new skills, merge home and work environments, affecting their personal and professional lives.

One key determinent to how quickly we commit to change is whether it’s us that’s envisioned the change or we are having to react and adapt to change envisioned by others. When we initiate change, we are involved with the entire process; having a spark of an idea, mulling it over, considering pros and cons, weighing ramifications of when to change and the rate at which we do so and then finally introducing change when we feel confident and committed to it. When someone else brings about change, it depends at what point we are introduced to the process and its impact on us personally when it comes to how quickly we’re able to move from what was to some new way of working.

When change is large, such as working remotely from home rather than going to a workplace, one thing which makes this easier is a pack mentality. Everyone is in the same situation during the pandemic and this common, external threat unifies staff and gets people supporting each other; everyone starting from a common point of having to learn new skills.

When major change is initiated by some in the organization and there isn’t a shared belief that change is required, resistance can be predicted and expected. Consider a new delivery model of the services you provide, a new set of policies and procedures, a realignment of departments and personnel. When these kinds of changes are brought about, you may be asked to trust senior management is making changes for the betterment of the company and is making decisions based on information they have, which you at your level do not.

While you will be expected to get onboard with implemented changes, I submit that ‘getting onboard’ isn’t enough. In navigating an organization through some new uncharted waters, some onboard might choose not to paddle – at least not while being observed; the result being they don’t help move the rest forward. While they don’t actively impede progress, forward movement isn’t as unified and quick as it would be if they pulled in the same direction. Everyone moves faster when given the tools required and uses their oar to pull. Things progress best not only when everyone works together, but also matches the effort of those who move with enthusiasm and energy.

Good advice if you generally don’t do well with change is to give yourself time to receive and process information before digging in and coming across as opposed. Sometimes 24 hours and a good sleep is all that’s needed to process information and see things differently. It’s also helpful in some circumstances to ask questions that help you better understand the reasons behind change. What is it these changes are a reaction to? How will they better posiiton your company, department or you personally to better deliver your products and services? What’s at risk if you keep the status quo?

Of course there are times when you’ll be expected to embrace change without access to all this information because the distance between your posiiton and the people envisioning change is great.

If change is severe, you might find it healthier to look for work elsewhere or retire. You might also find that seeking out a Counsellor to talk through your fears, concerns and anxiety helpful too. Not everyone deals well with change but change happens nonetheless.

I personally have improved my adaptability to change and it’s now a strength. For me, the faster I change my mindset, (which I control), the better I am to embrace change itself, over which I often have little control.

Resistence to change is often how it might look to others when actually you just need time to learn new methods.

Older Job Seekers


Older…hmm… how old is old? Actually, it’s not necessary for us to agree on a shared definition of ‘older’ when it comes to looking for work. Hey, if YOU feel you’re old, it’s become your truth; your reality. In other words, if you think you’re old, you’ll easily find a lot of people to agree with you. It’s simple enough; if you feel old, you act old and when you act old, people perceive you as old.

I believe it isn’t the actual number of years those candles represent that defines us. Surely you’ve met people who look and act years beyond their chronological age and likewise you’ve met people with a ton of energy and vitality who look and act much younger than they actually are.

So when someone tells me that their age is a barrier to finding work, I know what they really mean is they believe employers are branding them too old to work. However, I feel these same job seekers are really betraying their own perception of their status as ‘old’. And guess what? When that self-perception is deep-rooted in a person’s psyche, it’s the single biggest obstacle to that individuals job search success. I know this to be factual. You see, I’ve had personal experience of working closely with a great number of people over the years, many of whom have felt too old. But of that number, there are those who have reprogrammed how they view themselves, and gone on to productively work for years.

Now think about why it is that some employers might view someone’s age as a barrier to hiring. Well, there’s retirement and leaving the organization. However isn’t it equally true that someone in their 20’s, 30’s or 40’s might equally leave? The reasons are different but the result the same. Moving to a new community, deciding to stay home and start a family, taking a higher paying job elsewhere, changing their line of work altogether. There’s a myriad of reasons. People at all ages leave organizations with equal frequency and predictability.

Employers also see older people as having higher absenteeism for medical issues. They’ve bought into the fallacy that older bodies start breaking down and are in the repair shop longer than younger models when they do.  To combat and counter this myth, supply the employer with evidence of your reliability with documentation of your attendance record, either through awards and commendations or written testimonials on your public profiles to back you up. Oh and stop talking about your ailments; old people do that.

Older folks aren’t into technology and will kick and scream in the face of innovation and change is another assumption an employer might have. Well, what are you doing to defy this? If you don’t have a social media platform of your own, it seems to me you’re feeding right into that belief. Sit down, create yourself an online presence, do some online learning and put this on your resume with ONLINE LEARNING in caps. Here I am by the way with a personal blog, a LinkedIn presence, in a new job learning several new computer software programs and this past June I celebrated my 61st birthday.

Did you notice I said I ‘celebrated’ my birthday? I do every year. My age has become my asset and not a weakness. I’m not 39 or 49 every year, nor am I “none of your business”. I’m 61 and further, I’m now in my 62nd year! Yippee! How I see my age is that it’s a tremendous asset to bring to my workplace as I inspire older job seekers to achieve their own success. Initially older job seekers want me to commiserate with them, hunch my shoulders forward, hunch slightly and say, “I hear you.” Rubbish. I won’t do that.

Which brings me to appearance. Look in the mirror and see yourself as others see you. Baggy, ill-fitting clothes aren’t reserved only for the likes of some youth. If your pants are too tight or too loose, if you consistently miss one of the belt loops and never notice, if you’re still putting a pocket protector in your shirt pocket, it’s like you’re going out of your way to confirm their view as aged and outdated. Get in shape and get in fashion. Simple things. I’m not advocating putting on 30 pounds or dropping 40 pounds to regain your youthful physique. Just pay attention and don’t let yourself go, then expect others to see you as vibrant and having the necessary stamina to work long shifts with energy.

Look, I’ve witnessed people who felt their age a problem transform themselves and in so doing, change how others perceive them. Where it started for them and where it starts for you, is between the ears. What you believe is what you become.

There’s no magic pill. It starts with your thinking. Make some changes. Shoulders back, head up, a brisk pace to your walk, an authentic smile. Enthusiasm for who you are and believing that all your rich and diverse life experiences – work and personal – are your greatest strength. These you lay before an employer, and if you do it well, you change their perception of your value to them.

But remember, if say you’re old, well… they’ll agree.

 

Feel At Your Lowest? Take Heart; Have Hope


Some people apply for and win a job, only to find a short time into the role there’s a voice inside that says, “Well, this is it. This is what my education and experience has brought me to unless I make another change”. These are not words of comfort. These are words expressing dissatisfaction, perhaps bitterness and resentment.

One wonders then why someone would even apply and further accept, a position which was far below what they want; far below what they would otherwise consider. Maybe if you’re identifying with this situation, you’re reflecting back yourself at this very moment on a time in your own life when you took a job that if truth be told, you felt beneath you. You know your reasons at the time.

It’s fair to say that the reasons behind making such a move must be powerful enough or otherwise no one would do so. I’ve met more people than you might guess who have done exactly this; taken a job and worked in it for a time when it’s not made use of their full set of skills and not brought them happiness or fulfillment.

Sometimes it’s a case of having exhausted all their savings and needing a job to survive. Sometimes it’s an older worker in their late 50’s or early 60’s who has been rejected over and over again; their self-confidence obliterated and yet still feeling the need to contribute. In other words, desperation sometimes can cause us to make decisions and do things we would never have thought possible of ourselves.

So yes, you might be a well-educated person with some impressive work history on your resume, finding yourself in an entry-level position making minimum wage, all the while answering to a Supervisor who has another couple of month’s to go before getting their high school diploma. That voice inside has verbalized more than once, “This is it? This is where we are?”

You can have many reactions to the voice in your head. You can accept the voice as a truth and agree that yes, this is where you’ve landed. But even then, you can continue with, “This is where I belong and I’m here forever”, or “This is where I am but this is only the first of many steps I’ll be taking on my way back up.”

This shouldn’t be confused with the person who reinvents themselves and moves from success in one industry to rock bottom in another but gains joy in the new job. A Business Executive might chuck it all for a potters wheel, but they might have made this move by calculation and design. I’m looking more at the person who has lost it all; who never thought they’d be where they are today and is struggling with their self-perception, their mental health and their self-worth.

When you’re in that dark and lowly place, then suddenly find yourself employed on the bottom rung of a footstool rather than a long ladder with no prospects of advancing anywhere soon, that voice in your head will likely start whispering.

Take heart my reader. You remain, as you always have been, a person of worth. Sometimes, in order to be reshaped and repurposed, people – as well as things – are broken down and remade. You may yet be destined to do things from which you’ll take great pride and personal satisfaction. You, who may have measured yourself and others primarily by job title and salary, are in a period of flux; change. It’s unsettling, disruptive, chaotic and turbulent and at the same time an unwanted period of long, drawn out days with little to do.

And then along comes this job you’ve successfully obtained. It doesn’t compensate you as jobs have in the past. It doesn’t tap into your rich and diverse skills. It does fulfill your most immediate needs for the present however. It gives you a purpose, a place to be with expectations of performance. It puts you back on a clock and in a routine. It forces some new thought patterns in your brain, it stimulates thinking and reintegrates people to your daily life. And yes, it does provide some compensation, giving you perhaps a whole new appreciation for jobs and the people in them that you previously took for granted.

You may find your mental health somewhat improved and your self-worth slowly rebuilding. Gratitude might be coming to mean so much more to you than in times past, and if there are people standing with you to help you through this low point in your life, you might find yourself humble enough to tell them just how much they mean to you. You might be emotionally charged and quick to tears.

You can be sure I’m recalling the stories, faces and anguish of many people over the years I’ve met and worked with in the lowest parts of their lives as I write this. But take heart and have hope! Yesterday I received a short note of thanks from just such a person. In 3 short years, he’s resurrected a career, paid off school and car loans and is saving $2,000 a month. Wow!

Yes, there is hope. You are deserving of happiness and fulfillment. You are so much more than the person that voice would have you believe.

Do You See College/University As More Debt?


A problem familiar to many people has to do with taking on more financial debt in order to return to College or University. Has this got you or someone you know so stressed and anxious that they’ve made the decision to pass on further education and look for work with their existing experience and skills? If so, think again.

There are a number of reasons you might not be willing to take on extra debt. Perhaps you’ve already got a loan hanging over your head and the idea of taking on more is scary. After all, if your existing debt has you this stressed, you don’t even want to think about increasing it now do you? You might even have an existing student loan such as the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) here in Ontario where I live, and is it possible you’ve just been ignoring paying off what you already owe, not because you don’t want to pay it off but because you’ve no income to do so with?

This extra debt you’re closed to increasing is worrying because you didn’t complete the program at school that the first loans were for. There’s that nagging feeling that maybe you’d make the same mistake of taking on debt and not finishing a second time; what a waste of unfinished education and more money to owe hanging like a dark cloud everywhere you go.

I’m no fan of debt myself, so I get it. It’s stressful to think about.

I wonder though if, putting money aside for a paragraph or two, we could just focus on the education you might be wanting. You know, it could be that the reason you didn’t complete that other program is because it just wasn’t right for you in the first place. Maybe you weren’t ready for College or University at that time, needed to mature a bit or it wasn’t school at all but something else going on in your life at the time which made focusing on school and putting in the effort impossible. The consequence? You failed or were failing – maybe academic probation and you dropped everything…except of course the looming repayments.

Back in the present however, now you’ve grown. Maybe those, ‘things’ that kept you from succeeding are taken care of and behind you. Or, perhaps you’ve got a better idea of what it is that you’re passionate about and if you could only have the education needed to get going, you’re sure you’d flourish and succeed. That thought is pretty exciting; to know what turns you on and what you’d love to do!

It’s a shame that earlier failed experience and unpaid debt is keeping you from taking on more debt right?

First things first, let’s shift that viewpoint and stop looking at the education fees as debt. Debt is such a negative word. What you are in fact doing is making an investment in yourself. Consider the money needed to buy a house or a car – relatively big and important purchases. Neither of those two investments maintain their value over time with any guarantee – especially the car. Eventually both get replaced too. Education however, wakes up with you every morning and you carry it with you every day of your life. It shapes the way you think and how you experience the world. That investment is a lifelong investment in yourself.

I sense a second problem that has you reluctant to make such an investment; what if you’re wrong? Again. You know, what if you just think you’d like a certain program but then it turns out to be something you don’t? Hey, come on. Instead of assuming something you haven’t even started is going to be a huge mistake, imagine it turns out to be the best thing you’ve ever done for yourself and you do well in school precisely because you took something you really are interested in!

Some people will tell you that even after they finished school they ended up in some minimum wage, entry level job they could have got without having gone to College or University. There will always be these negative views, and they are basing those views on their own experience so you can’t blame them. On the other hand, there are many more people who will tell you that the degree they hold or the diploma they graduated with were needed to get hired doing what they do now and without it, they wouldn’t have been hired. They love their job, they are making use of that education and their income is considerably better than it would have been without it.

Suppose you owe $10,000. You’re thinking, “Yikes!” Okay, so you spend another $8,000. or even double your original amount – you now owe $20,000. Scary right? Of course. But now you have that diploma or degree in your hand and you’re pumped. You’re self-esteem is high, you’re proud of your accomplishment. The resume is stronger, you’re outlook better, and you compete stronger because for the first time, you’re really invested and qualified to get a job you’ll love. So you get a job making $23.00 an hour.

$23.00 p/hr x 7 hours per day x 5 days per week x 4.33 weeks in a month = $3,485.65 x 12 months = $41,827.8 a year. This is the formula you can use yourself to figure out what you’d make a year.

$23 an hour is just a number, but you can see that the $20,000 it total you’d ow can be paid back soon. That’s $41,827.8 a year. Multiply it just over 5 years and you’ll have earned $209,139.00!

Having your current $8,000 debt suddenly seems small when you think of your potential income. Bazinga!!!!!!!

 

Unemployed And Feeling Bitter?


Bitterness is a personal characteristic which most people don’t find attractive in others. It’s evident in the sneer or scowl, a smirk, the tight lips set in a smile of sarcasm. Bitterness is also one of the least desired qualities for anyone in the position of choosing applicants to extend job offers to.

While you’ve every right to feel what you feel, it’s equally true that employer’s have the right to choose the applicants they feel will add rather than detract from the chemistry and culture they wish to establish and maintain in the workplace. It’s hard to imagine any organization going out of their way to hire bitter people. Would you agree?

So yes, while I acknowledge your entitlement to feel bitter if you so choose about what’s happened in your past, it seems only logical to me that if you want to impress someone enough to have them welcome you onboard, you’d best either lose the bitterness or at the very least, conceal it.

Now if I were working closely with you and found you gave off this air of bitterness, I’d point it out. Further, I’d share with you what exactly it is you’re doing that I’m observing and interpreting as signs of bitterness. For only if you’re aware of this and you’ve some awareness of what it is that sends this message to others have you the chance to do something about it if you choose to do so. This is an important thing for anyone who works with a job seeker to do. So if you should enlist the services of a professional to help you out with your job search, let me suggest you extend permission so you’ll get honest feedback. What you do with that feedback is up to you, but allowing them to share has to be on the table.

Honestly, there are some professionals who are loathe to be entirely honest with the people they work with. It’s fine of course when there’s positives to comment on, but when there’s something unattractive and personal, not everyone is comfortable sharing their observation. This becomes what people call the elephant in the room; whatever it is, well it’s big enough everyone can see it but no one wants to acknowledge and talk about it. This can be out of a fear of confrontation, fearing an argument. It can be for fear of hurting the person’s feelings, not wanting to make them feel worse than they already do.

Here’s the thing though; whatever it is – in this case observable bitterness – it’s plainly visible, it’s a job search barrier, and until it gets addressed, it remains an obstacle to getting hired.

Have you ever heard the expression, ‘one bad apple can spoil the bunch’? This nicely sums up exactly why employer’s are fairly united in steering clear of bringing any new employee into their workforce who carries overt bitterness with them. Why would they want to introduce this person with a chip on their shoulder to a group of positive and productive employees? The fear that this one person might taint one or more (maybe everyone?) is too great to risk. The chance that the whole positive group might turn this bitter person around isn’t worth it. So it is that virtually all employer’s would rather settle on the person who will come in with a positive attitude, as demonstrated by the smile on their face.

Consider however this likely truth: You’re bitter because you’re getting nowhere with your job search; no calls, no interviews – well there was that one – but it went nowhere. It’s been some time and you’re disillusioned. Your optimism departed long ago and now you’re expecting the rejection that ultimately comes. With this belief, your body language and facial expressions reflect this prevailing mood. When you meet potential employer’s, it takes a lot of energy and mental focus to keep your predetermined presumption of failure to yourself. Over the course of a 30 – 60 minute interview, while your thoughts move from question to question and coming up with answers, your focus on concealing what has become your natural bitterness slips once – maybe twice. Those visual clues are likely to get picked up and send off warning signals to the interviewer. “Something isn’t right with this applicant…intuition…the experience of having interviewed many in the past…there’s just this something I caught briefly in a look…”

While you haven’t had any previous dealings with the person interviewing you now, your pent up bitterness from past experiences is nonetheless coming out and on display. The interviewer works under one assumption every time; this is you at your best. Well, if you’re at your best and your bitterness is on display, they can only imagine what it will be like when you’re hired and working there as your, ‘normal self’. It’s likely to be magnified and worse.

If you don’t care of course and want to showcase your bitterness that’s your call. Be prepared for a lot of rejection and as a consequence you’ll have many more reasons to justify your bitterness. Entirely your call. But that’s the thing isn’t it? It’s within your control, you’re the one in charge of how you feel and you’re the one – the only one I’ll add – with the power to change how you feel and how you come across – if you so choose.

It might make you feel better to blame others but ongoing bitterness is a choice you make.

For A Successful Job Search


What’s the first thing to do when you want to find work?

a) Look at jobs posted on a job search board

b) Update your resume

c) Tell your friends and connections you’re looking

The correct answer to the above? It’s not a, b or c. No, while all of them are good things to do when you’re looking for work, none of them should be the first thing you do if you want to be successful.

Yes, I’ll admit that dusting off a resume and updating your phone number, making a dozen copies and dropping them off in person to some employers just might get you a job. I’ll further admit that as long as it gets you the job you’re after, you’re not likely take advice from me or anyone else – until how you go about finding work doesn’t work – and neither do you. Then, and only then, might you be open to other ideas and suggestions.

No, the first step to successfully finding your next job or launching your career is to do a full self-assessment. Know yourself, and be able to articulate or clearly share all the many things that collectively make you who you are. It’s only when you really know who you are and what makes you tick that you have the best chance to find work that will really bring you job satisfaction and happiness.

So, do you know the following:

  1. Your work values
  2.  The style of supervision you work best under
  3.  Your learning style
  4.  The things which motivate you
  5.  Why you want / need to work
  6.  Your financial needs (how much you need to earn)
  7.  Your financial value in the marketplace
  8.  Your problem solving style
  9.  Your liabilities, weaknesses and challenges
  10.  Your strengths and competitive advantages
  11.  Your leadership style
  12.  Your work ethic
  13.  How long you plan to work in your next role
  14.  Your openness to shift work, overtime, part-time, full-time, permanent,    contract or seasonal work
  15.  The extent to which you’ll travel to get to your next job
  16.  Your own philosophy with respect to work
  17.  Your comfort and ease with, and integration to teamwork
  18.  The state of your listening skills
  19.  The validity of any certificates and licences you’ve held
  20.  Which skills you wish to use moving forward in your next job
  21.  Your own personal idea of happiness and success
  22.  Your preference for working with things, data, people or information
  23.  Your personality traits and how they fit with various environments
  24.  Your receptiveness and willingness to learn
  25.  Your personal employment barriers

So, come on, let’s be honest. When have you ever started your job search by first looking at all – not just some – of the things above BEFORE looking at a job board?

I tell you this – if you want to be successful; and I mean long-term successful, start your job search differently than you ever have before and look at the above. While you might point out that you’ve never done this in the past and have managed to find jobs before (than you very much), how happy have you been in those jobs and haven’t you felt there had to be something better?

Successful people are generally the ones who, in the course of their work, find great personal job satisfaction and happiness. They are grateful for the opportunity to do what they do, and they look forward to going in because they find fulfillment and purpose throughout their days. When they leave work, they know they’ve done their best, made a difference, contributed their skills and experience and made their time worthwhile to their employer. These people don’t find such jobs by chance and luck.

Knowing what you like and don’t like, your strengths and areas for improvement is only a start. In all likelihood, you may not be able to answer all 25 questions I’ve posed here without some guided support, help that you’ll later appreciate. When you know yourself fully, you not only end up in the right kind of work, you end up tracking down the right employer for you; the one that has the specific environment where you’ll thrive.

Don’t think that this process is reserved only for the rich and those going for high paying jobs. That would be a huge assumption and mistake on your part. Sometimes the ones who get the most out of doing these full self-assessments are your everyday Labourer, blue-collar or middle class worker.

Look, I don’t like all-encompassing statements because honestly they seldom actually apply to everybody, but perhaps it’s safe to say we all want a career or job that will bring us a measure of happiness and decent pay for the work we do. Happiness; have you really sat down and defined what happiness looks like for you personally though? So many factors go in to being happy at work; it’s not just the job itself.

I know many people – a large number of people, who now in their fifties, say they’ve never had a job that they can honestly say they were truly passionate about. Some paid well, others brought them some happy moments, but many were ones they’d rather have avoided looking back. The idea of doing a personal inventory or assessment is something they never considered but now wish they’d done a long time ago. The thing about a self-assessment is that you and me; we should all do one every few years because we change.

Job search step one? Self assessment.

You’ve Been Fired. Now What?


So you’ve been fired. Two questions if I may. Did you see it coming or was a complete shock? Secondly, does it come as a relief now that you’re no longer employed or would you go back there if you could? These two questions are important because both get at where your mind is my friend, and your thinking is probably not at it’s clearest right now.

Sometimes you see it coming as a distinct possibility or probability. It still stings when it happens of course, but it was looming. Maybe it was a poor performance review or a warning. Could be you hadn’t got past probation or weren’t hitting sales targets. In any event, the writing was on the wall and you even started taking personal possessions home with you in anticipation of this very thing. If this is your situation, you could even feel a sense of relief because the strain of going to work and wondering if this would be the day they let you go has been mentally exhausting.

On the other hand, when things are going well, you’re well-liked and you feel blindsided by your firing, it can stop you cold. In fact, you’ll feel pretty numb with the news, in severe shock and disbelief. When caught off guard, you’re at risk of soon doubting anything and everything around you because you don’t want to be similarly surprised again. This isn’t a healthy attitude but it’s an understandable reaction to the news.

We’re built different you know; some of us would just get back out there the next day, while for others, a lengthy period needs to elapse before starting to look for work again. The length of this period will depend on 4 things: 1) whether you see this parting as an opportunity, 2) if it was anticipated as a possibility, probability or complete blindside 3) the length of employment, 4) your personal resources and supports.

When the news first hits you’ll undoubtedly have felt shock. A few seconds earlier, you were an employee and now you’re not. There’s that, “What to do?” feeling as the news is received. Sometimes you get the news outside of work; a phone call, email, text etc. This might sound unbelievable to some of you, but yes, a text. More often, it’s in person. There’s the dreaded walk out and you’re not only dealing with this terrible news, you live this walk of shame by your now former colleagues without the chance to slip out quietly.

Maybe though, this job was actually getting in the way of you moving forward. It was holding you back because it was comfortable. This parting is somewhat liberating and needed but resigning is something you likely wouldn’t have done on your own. In such a case, your mind can turn to what’s ahead more readily than others perhaps. Now you can get back to the field you were trained in or turn to something you’ve always wanted to do but couldn’t because you had this job you had to go to every day. And if you really disliked the work you did, it was a long commute, the co-workers weren’t anything you’ll miss etc., yes, it can be liberating.

Generally speaking, most people need a mental break. While being unemployed isn’t what you’d choose, rushing out to get a job the same day somewhere else may not be the best action. It’s important to balance your need for income and purpose with your need to clear your mind. Any feelings of bitterness, anger, revenge, failure, sorrow and regret need to come out and be addressed. You my friend, need a period of grieving for your loss. Depending on your financial health and resources, you might need to immediately tighten your belt and think twice about all your purchases. Then again, some people have been known to take a vacation and realign their frame of mind.

So many factors now to consider. Where are you on the age spectrum? Is not working at all as you’re so close to retirement attractive? How’s your health? Is this something you can now concentrate on improving? Are you the only income earner or do you have a secondary source of income that can soften this blow?

Yes you’ll want to update the resume but before you do this, it’s rather important to know whether you’re competing in the same field for a similar role elsewhere or are you heading in a new direction and therefore need to overhaul the focus of your resume?

Something to consider is who to tell. Many don’t want friends, former colleagues and family to know. Keeping silent until you land a job might either protect your dignity or result in missed opportunities. The sooner people know you’re looking and what you’re looking for, the greater the likelihood that your network might come up with opportunities to explore.

Some general advice then? Eat healthy, get some regular exercise – even a morning and afternoon walk to clear your mind. Avoid turning to drugs and alcohol as an escape. Do little things that will make you feel good; even doing the dishes can ease your mind when you look at the kitchen.  Make sure you apply immediately for any employment benefits you may be entitled to as they start when you apply, NOT when you stopped working.

Lose bitterness; it’s not attractive. This too shall pass.

Job Application Rejection


There was a time in my life when I was fortunate enough to get an interview for every job I applied to. Okay, being entirely honest, I actually got selected and hired for all those jobs I applied to and was interviewed for. Hey, I thought applying for work was pretty straight forward. In retrospect, it’s a good thing that pattern didn’t last very long, because had things continued that way, I’d have made a very poor Employment Counsellor.

Over the course of my working life, I’ve applied to many jobs and not been successful. I’ve applied and heard nothing, received letters telling me the organizations have moved in different directions, been told in person and over the phone that I didn’t get jobs too. In my experience, the more I wanted a job I didn’t eventually get, the more it stung. The loss of an opportunity I was only somewhat motivated to get didn’t hurt near as much. Perhaps you’ve noticed something similar yourself?

Being rejected by an employer does damage to your self-image. It’s called your psyche; your self-perception. It’s not surprising that we should feel badly after being passed over for jobs we really want. Seeing a job ad for a position we could see ourselves doing is one thing, but once we get down to actually applying, we go from casual observer to active applicant. The more we invest in the application by conducting research, targeting our resume, writing a cover letter, having conversations with people – all in an effort to obtain the position, the more it stings when all that effort doesn’t produce the results we’d hoped for.

The solution is not what some would think; to only put in minimal effort when applying in order to minimize your losses. This is the logic I’ve heard some people use over the years. To avoid getting their hopes up and being extremely disappointed, they jus don’t get too excited or invest too much of themselves in any potential job application. Ironically, when these people do get rejected, while you think they’d be less affected than the person who goes all in on applying, they actually feel a similar level of frustration. Not only is this frustration similar in it’s impact, they are often left wondering if they’d have had a different result with some more effort on their part.

Now there’s been times in my life when I’ve been unemployed and had to go through the process of finding jobs to apply to, submitting my application, not getting hired and continuing my search with other opportunities. I have to say, I’ve never lost touch with that feeling of joyful relief that comes when you have an employer select you from the many applicants they’ve had. The degree of relief experienced seems very much related to the length of time away from employment. I have also felt immense gratitude for the jobs I’ve been hired to do after going without one for longer than I’d have liked. It’s the memory of these success following roller coaster periods of hopes and frustrations which now help me immensely in my role as an empathetic Employment Counsellor.

This is the way life goes for many people though isn’t it? The Employment Counsellor is better for having experienced the personal ups and downs of job searching, experiencing the blues personally often helps a songwriter make a connection with their music, etc.

Now, I wouldn’t want anyone to experience a prolonged job search, fraught with it’s financial, psychological and emotional hardships just so they could get a better understanding and appreciation for the process. Besides, there’s no guarantee that just going through a lengthy period of unemployment makes one more appreciative of the job they eventually land in. I’ve seen some extremely bitter people; changed negatively and intensely so because of their unemployment. Let me assure you I’ve no wish to see anyone come close to that experience.

Having this personal appreciation for being unemployed and through the course of my daily work seeing the potentially spirit crushing affect of the job search process on others, I urge you to get support. Believe me, there’s no sign of weakness in reaching out to a Job Coach, Mental Health Counsellor, Employment Specialist or Employment Counsellor. It’s not an exaggeration to say that partnering up with one or more of the above as you navigate your career exploration and job search might just save yourself. Unemployment has destroyed marriages, destroyed families, financially ruined people of their livelihoods, and broken many people’s spirits of optimism. Some have lost jobs and ended their lives too. Job loss is a serious business.

You see being isolated at a time when you’re experiencing the emotional ups and downs of being hopeful and then rejected, time and time again can stretch a person’s patience and is a genuine test of fortitude, character and emotional well-being. This isn’t a time to draw further into yourself as your normally sound judgement may become skewed. In short, you might not make good decisions when your under prolonged stress and desperate.

It doesn’t have to be me, but get yourself some support. This is a running theme of mine because I know first-hand just how important being supported is when you’re job searching. There’s so much at stake; and you my reader; yes you – the one reading this – you’re so worth it!

Finding Career Direction Can Be Emotional


Today is the 7th and final day of a  career exploration class I’ve been facilitating. During this time, the participants have been learning about themselves; examining their skills, values, beliefs and then looking at possible jobs and careers that fit best.

For some, it’s been a confirmation that the direction they’re heading in is the right one for them at this time. For others, something new has emerged. There’s a several that have actually had multiple occupations come up and that’s left them with some decisions to make. Finally, there are 3 for whom the course has left their future unclear; they’ve yet to get the clarity and direction they’d hoped for on the first day. Failure? Absolutely not!

Now you might wonder about those last 3. After all, if they came with the expectation of gaining insight into a career they could pursue and that’s yet to emerge, why not consider their time a bust? Fair enough. Well, you see it’s not a question of these 3 finding no job that interests them, it’s more a question of still deciding upon an occupation that will best bring them overall happiness; a combination of what they do well, peaks their passion and returns financial reward for their labour.

Everyone in the class has in my estimation, entirely invested themselves in the process; giving thought to the questions asked of them and completing a number of assessments with a sincere trust in the process. Having conducted this class many times over the course of my career, I can spot a special kind of person; the one that takes this career exploration seriously and pins their hopes on an outcome that they’ll then find meaningful; and this class was full of this kind of person.

And so yesterday, as we came to one of the exercises that starts the process of narrowing down which direction to move in for each person, it hit one person particularly hard when they realized the clarity and direction they’d hoped for hasn’t yet materialized. Tears came, and they removed themselves for a few minutes twice in order to collect themselves. If you think people on social assistance are lazy, unmotivated and are happy to sit back and not work, you’d have a very different view had you sat in on the group yesterday at this moment.

When tears come out, it’s embarrassing for the person much of the time, but it’s actually a clear sign of how much things matter. If the person didn’t care; they’d just taken the class because they were made to or saw it as something to do for awhile, there’d be no tears because their was no emotional investment. Because the tears came out, that’s a clear indication to me that this career / self exploration stuff matters; that the person still believes THEY matter.

We all have barriers to success. That’s not a question but rather a statement. Whether we share them or keep them private, there are things that stand in our way; education we lack, skills that are rusty or not improved upon, experience that we lack, a criminal record we don’t have the funds to erase, an inability to decide between very different jobs and careers. We might lack transportation, have child care issues, anxiety, low self-esteem, fear of making another poor choice and ending up in an unsatisfying job, perhaps a disability; physical or mental.

And as long as were talking barriers, most of us have more than one. In fact, some of us have multiple barriers and they are the invisible kind. While others look at us and can’t see them immediately, they are so very real and huge to us that we feel everybody knows ours. Truth is, most other people are concerned with their own issues they don’t really see the ones we feel are on display for all to see.

For those still struggling to gain some direction, the feelings can be so intense, they see themselves as a failure – again. With the pressure they may be under in the other parts of their lives, this they’d believed, would turn out better. Well, it will. Really, I believe this. There is no prescribed 7 day fix that a course magically promises everyone. On day 1, I actually warned people I wouldn’t stand before them and tell them what they’d be. That is for everyone to find for themselves and while it may take 7 days for many, more time is needed for others.

What of you? Do you know where you’re headed job-wise, career-wise? Are you satisfied with that direction? Are you confused, anxious, afraid of moving in the wrong direction so you put off making a decision altogether?

There’s a cost to being indecisive and time passing will rob you of your current references, the benefits of your experience as your skills sit idle. Your confidence will ebb with a lengthening unemployed gap on your resume. And which is better for you, a job or a career? Both have value and both are the right choice depending on where you’re at.

Knowing yourself better is a great start. Look at your assets; skills, experience, education, contacts, likes, dislikes, problem-solving and learning style, just to name a few things. Knowing who you are is a key.

Looking at jobs and careers that match and working through your barriers will get you where you want to be.

YOU matter.