About That Big Gap On Your Resume


One of the most common worries many come to me with is a lengthy gap on their resume. You might find my thoughts on this matter helpful whether you too are in this situation or like me, you’re in the business of providing help and support to those seeking employment. Let me just say here and now that I’d absolutely love to hear your own thoughts in the comments section; perhaps the advice you’d give yourself or what your personal experience has been – the good and the bad.

To begin then. When I first hear someone tell me they are worried about a lengthy gap on their resume I ask them why; not why there’s a gap but rather why they are worried about the gap. What I’m listening for are a couple of things. The first is hearing what they believe an employer’s possible objections are in order to hear if they accurately understand just what the gap implies. The second thing I’m listening for is actually the tone of their voice. It’s in the tone of the voice that I will detect anything and everything from utter despair and hopelessness through to defiance and bitterness. Most are somewhere in the middle actually;  does it SOUND like they really want to work and do they FEEL they need to overcome this barrier in order to get a job offer.  The tone is perhaps as important or in some case more so than what they say.

Now of course I want to also hear the truth when it comes to what they’ve been doing with their time during the gap, as it is often unexplained on their resumes. My direction to them is to tell me the blunt honest truth so that in that knowledge, I can determine the way to craft a few potential strategies in responding to the problem.

For a problem it is. Anything that undermines a person’s self-confidence and stands between themselves and their goal – in this case an employment offer at the conclusion of a successful interview – is a problem. One thing I’ve found over and over by the way is that when you hang on to your problems, you don’t often resolve them as quickly as when you share them with someone who has the knowledge and experience to provide you with options for reaching a resolution. Be selective with whom you share your problems of course, for telling anyone and everyone about your problems is seldom a good idea.

So, exactly how lengthy a period or gap are we talking about? For someone used to working their whole life, a 1 year gap can be their big worry. In the case of another, it could be 8 – 10 years. The length of time we’re talking about here is critical to know because there’s your perspective and the perspective of a potential employer, and they may not be the same shared view.

One positive thing about a gap in the present day is that it’s far less uncommon that in years past. Today more people transition from job to job, companies relocate, others downsize and reduce their workforce. More people find themselves as primary caregivers for aging parents because quite frankly medical advancements mean longer life spans than in years past. Sheer numbers alone play a factor too; with more people than ever working or looking for work, the odds of many of those people being out of work (after all there’s just so many jobs to go around) is up.Then there’s the people who were off due to physical or mental health issues.

One thing good to know is whether you’re unemployment was due to an issue which no longer exists. Caring for an aging parent that has passed away, or raising children who are now school age are two examples.

When I listen to a person tell me about the reason why they have this unemployment period, I always ask them what they DID do during that time, rather than what they didn’t do. Did they do any self-improvement activities such as volunteering, take a course of any kind, address some personal health issue such as losing weight, having a surgery, etc. All this information is what I’m after before I can offer up a few potential strategies on how to respond to the issue when it comes up in an interview.

My goal in responding to the person asking me for help is to provide them with three potential angles to choose from in addressing their gap. From these, they can best pick one that they feel most confident and comfortable with owning for themselves. It is remarkable to see first hand how having a good response can shift a person from dreading the question about their gap to hoping it actually comes up in the interview.

Once a strategy is selected, I’ll ask that person 3 questions which are:

  1.  Explain this gap on your resume.
  2.  What did you do between (date) and (date)?
  3.  I want to talk about this gap…

Yep, any version of the same issue asked 3 times. This gives you the chance to hear what the person actually says and gives them the chance to practice until they feel they own it and can confidently reply. With confidence, not only does the answer given satisfy the gap, the body language, facial expression and tone of voice come across as assertive.

Student Placements Work


One of the inevitable truths for every business in every employment sector is that there will be changes in personnel. Over time, people come and go, and if you’re fortunate, the people you bring onboard will make a positive impact on both the others they work with and the customers/clients which receive the end products or services they deliver.

Changes in personnel is undoubtedly the biggest area of concern for any organization. When you bring the right people onboard and they turn out to be invested and committed to the company, an organization can succeed and flourish as the owners or stewards envision. However, the opposite is also true, as discovering the people you’ve invested in are liabilities rather than assets can set an organization back, in some cases even tarnish an organization so severely it ceases to exist.

Hiring therefore, becomes the single most important factor in the success of an organization. Employer’s do what they can to ensure those doing the interviewing and making personnel decisions understand this, and they in turn do their best to ensure those hired understand and share similar values, beliefs, and goals. The more someone aligns with these on a personal level, the greater the likelihood that they’ll add to an organization, meeting the employer’s expectations.

The reality is however that businesses must evolve over time in response to societal needs and end user preferences, and that evolution may require new thinking, fresh ideas and if done right, these allow businesses to flourish. It’s a delicate balance to maintain core values and beliefs upon which an organization was built, yet respond to changes in the market which keep traditional customers while attracting new ones to it.

When it goes wrong, you hear comments like, “People just don’t care anymore”, Things aren’t like they used to be”, or, “Where did customer service go?” These comments and others like them, are indicators of regret for what’s changed and a longing for what was.” Given choice, customers may depart from their unwavering loyalty to a brand or organization and seek to have their needs met elsewhere; the biggest concern for a business. And these days, every business has many competitors working hard to grow their own customer base.

So it comes down to having the right people; not only on the front line, but also in middle and upper management. Hire the right people, and they in turn develop the culture, add to the overall value of an organization; safeguarding a businesses integrity and assuring both employees and the public that things are in good hands.

Where I work, my colleagues and I have the good fortune to host university placement students throughout the year. As we’re in the Social Services field, the students we bring on board are from this discipline. They themselves may have personal goals to work in specific areas such as Addictions, Poverty Reduction, Mental Health Counselling, Child Welfare, etc., and they may or may not be considering remaining in school beyond getting their degrees to obtain their Masters.

I really enjoy having these students around. They bring enthusiasm, energy and optimism with them as they are eager to learn and want to make the most of their experience while with us. I think it’s incumbent upon us who act as hosts to do what we can to mentor and support these students as they transition into the workforce fulltime in the near future. Sharing what we do is one thing but of greater importance is sharing the philosophy behind what we do and how we are unique. When they learn and hopefully value the similar values we hold, they have a greater appreciation for those values and are far less likely to innocently act in some way which lessens the user experience.

Now on any team, you’ll find that while everyone is working towards common organizational goals, individuals have unique strengths, areas of expertise and it’s these differences which add to the overall team identity. Hence it only makes sense that staff will provide varying levels of direction to students; some taking on formal responsibilities to guide, train and support a student, others providing encouragement, expressing thanks and having less direct involvement in their individual learning goals.

My trust that the future is in good hands is pretty high when I look at the quality of students about to enter the field. Academic intelligence is highly valued of course, but honestly, what I look for most is personal suitability. Are they caring? Do they demonstrate a receptiveness to growing empathy for the population we serve? Are they compassionate, responsive and willing to seize opportunities to assist and support those who need support and understanding more than anything?

Like I said, I’m feeling pretty good about our students and hopefully my colleagues and I have done enough to train them and expose them to our work in such a way that they benefit from the experiences we share with them. I suppose one thing as placements draw to their inevitable conclusion is whether or not we’ve fed their desire to work in the field; possibly even with us not as a student but as a full-time colleague.

Wherever they end up, playing a small part in shaping their thoughts and actions by sharing our own, hopefully puts the future in good hands.

 

 

Seeking To Be More Positive


I’m willing to gamble that like me, you’re someone who likes to have positive things happen in your life. I think that’s a safe bet. That’s not to say we’re immune to troubles; that we don’t have problems and challenges to deal with of course, but we do like it when good things happen to us.

The question then is whether or not these positive things happen to us randomly and by chance or can we somehow go about our days drawing these positive events to us? Well, just as I believe you can create good fortune through the things you do, I hold that yes, we can put ourselves in situations which we’ll find positive. If we do this on a regular basis, then we generally have a series of more positive events, and these then become linked together, thus creating a pattern.

Now of course, negative things must happen to us all; physical ills, accidents and problems not just for us but for members of our family and friends, yes they’ll continue to happen. We cannot eradicate death, disease and …. well, you get the point. However, those things aside, we can if we choose, go about our day with positive thinking and having our eyes open to situations which we can benefit from being involved in and to which we can add benefit for others.

Think for a moment of the people you come into contact with every day. As you do so, are you able to discern the ones you find generally more upbeat and positive? Again, like me, I’m fairly certain you can. These folks generally appear happier, they may automatically wear a smile when they see others, and they have an overall positive outlook. These are the kind of people you genuinely want to say hello to and have a conversation with because you just know you’ll enjoy it. My guess is you enjoy being connected to them. Wouldn’t it be great if what you see in these people was embedded in all the people you worked with daily?

The naysayers and negative types are likely thinking to themselves that the kind of work setting I’m describing doesn’t and can’t exist. They would say to think that any work site would have just positive people going around all day is a fantasy. Well, isn’t that just the kind of thing you’d expect them to say? There’s irony for you!

A generally positive outlook is what you’re after here. Yes, you’ll still find aspects of your job frustrating and you’ll still undergo stressful situations which challenge the positive energy you’re seeking to bring out. Like every other thing worth having, being positive can be learned. It make take years to get where you want depending where you are now, but it’s worth striving for I believe.

One thing you can do on a practical level to get started is look for positive upsides when difficulties arise. It’s so easy after all to gravitate to the negative and see problems when problems present themselves. But in those challenges, there is likely an opportunity to find a positive. Losing a job is a great example of this. It’s stressful for sure, there’s a loss of income and identity, a fear of what will happen and it can be something we want to keep private rather than share out of shame or guilt. However, losing the job we’ve had can be flipped into positives. We now have the opportunity to look at other options we would have said earlier that we’d love to look at but just don’t have the time for. Well, now we do.

The stress that accompanied that former role is gone now too; replaced I get it by the stress of looking for work, but there are varying kinds of stress and some are actually beneficial. It can be very invigorating to be explore new employers, new careers, school options etc. It’s not all doom and gloom.

The loss of a job can also give you more time with your family, allow you to get the odd thing done around the house you’ve put off too long. Cleaning out the garage or painting the living room might just clear your mind of tasks hanging over your head and that’s a positive thing isn’t it?

Look for good when bad things happen. This is a gift you can give others too. If your job brings you into contact with people who have frustrations and problems, you should certainly acknowledge their feelings – absolutely. However, if you then get them talking about the positive opportunities they may have now that they didn’t have before, you may lighten a heavy load and get them thinking more positively, which in turn can make your interaction better overall.

And the really nice thing about being positive? You draw people to you who are similar in their outlook. That combined outlook is energizing and creates a positive relationship be it in your personal or professional life.

Love Your Job But Feel Pressure To Advance?


There’s a lot of reasons why employees want promotions and to advance their career. Some want the prestige of the title that goes with a role, the increase in salary, some even crave the extra workload and responsibility involved while many cite the opportunity to influence and direct staff; “I really want to make a difference.”

We’ve come to a point in many organizations where if you don’t advance yourself within a few years, you’re cut loose; you’re not performing up to expectations. It’s true! There are organizations that promote from within and expect front-line staff to move up in seniority and stature, creating opportunities for new staff in entry level roles. The thinking is that employees are most effective when they started on the bottom and as they rise in the organization, they have the memories and experience of having been on the bottom, so they carry that knowledge first-hand as they advance.

So you might be feeling that in order to fit in, you’ve got to throw your name in the next job competition for a promotion – even when you’re perfectly happy in your current role. There’s advice out there to this effect too; “dress for the job you want, not the job you have.”

Hold on. Go back to that very first line in this blog. Did you even notice how I used the words, “promotions” and “advance”? I bet you just read along taking both these words to mean the same thing. In other words, to advance your career you need a promotion. That’s a widely held assumption and belief that’s just not true. Here’s my personally held belief: If you want to make the biggest impact in an organization; make a real and lasting imprint on how your customers/clients/ etc. experience interacting with your company, work on the front line.

Now many people will argue that if you stay on the front line in an entry-level role, you’re not ambitious and you’re going to stagnate. I like to tell those people that while they are entitled to their opinion, I don’t share it. I myself have been an Employment Counsellor now for 12 years in the organization, 4 more before that as a Caseworker and those positions are at the same level on our organizational flow chart. So that’s 16 years employment at the same level in the same organization.

Now while I’ll happily admit I’ve not got a promotion in our organization, I’ll also tell you I’ve never sought one. Have I advanced myself though? Absolutely! I’ve evolved and developed my skills; worked on various committees and contributed fresh ideas and been open to change that’s happened and continues to happen where I work.

My reputation for competence, dependability, program development, creativity and service excellence has enriched my work life and I’m a much more effective Employment Counsellor now than I was not just 12 years ago when I started, but I like to think better than any of the years before. I’m advancing my knowledge, working to improve my service delivery, overhaul workshops and create new ones, stretch myself by learning best practices and sharing my knowledge.

Believe me, when I feel I’m just putting in time and stagnating, I’ll be aggressively seeking to move on – within or beyond the organization. I’m much more concerned about floating along and not developing personally than my employer could ever be. I never want to be, ‘that guy’; the one that everyone knows should be put out to pasture, riding off into retirement or let go because I’m flatlining. You think I’m not advancing? Just try and keep pace with me. Oh and that’s not arrogance by the way – that’s personal confidence and drive; two qualities you want in your employees no matter where they are in the hierarchy.

So now to you. When you’ve got your own performance review coming up, you may feel some expectation to indicate your plan for career advancement – in other words a promotion. I can’t tell you what you should say or how you should feel about that. I’d hate to contribute to your release from a position if the company’s policy is you only work in a role so long and up you go or out you go!

What I will say to you is this though; you can be incredibly effective and impactful on the front-line where you interact first-hand with those you’re in business to serve and interact with. You are the face of the organization, the ambassador for how they perceive the company; you hold that organizations reputation in your hands as much as your own. If you excel in your role, show up every day (well most days – we’re human after all) energized and work with drive and passion, why would you risk giving up what so many are longing for in their own careers?

Moving up doesn’t bring any guarantee of increased happiness and fulfillment. In fact, many a happy and productive employee has moved up and found the new job isn’t all they hoped it would be. They were happier and better suited to work on the front line, but in some companies, there’s no going back. That is the ultimate sign of failure in some places. What a shame.

If you love your role on the front line, show up happy, work with passion and deliver service excellence, my goodness feel validated in your present job!

 

 

Hello Dolly! (My Rolling Files)


Luke Skywalker had R2, Will Robinson had Robot and I guess I now have Dolly. Or Rolly. Geez I’ve never really thought about giving the rolling file contraption a name. Maybe if I could motorized it and control it by voice command that would be different.

Back in 2019, (now there’s the first time I’ve used that phrase and it already seems so last century), I frequently facilitated from one of our 5 workshop rooms. I found myself constantly carrying in and out many handouts I’d be using when they’d run; varying from one day to 3 weeks in length. By the time I was ready to start on day 1, I’d have my front table all laid out with the handouts I’d plan on using. That’s just the way I like to organize things. My colleagues have varying styles; some bringing things in day by day, some using a book where everything is given out together on day 1.

At one point in the past, I even had a discarded shelving unit screwed into a wall in the room, and I’d ensure every slot was labelled and filled with the necessary quantities ahead of my needing them. And that worked for the most part, until of course I wasn’t scheduled in that room, which became an issue when someone else was facilitating in there and I’d need to gain access to retrieve one handout.

Towards the middle of last year, I found this dolly. Well, truth be told, a coworker was using it more as a storage unit. It was mine for the asking, so I took it over and saw possibilities. It’s perfect for letter sized files. What it allowed me to do was store the files I’d need and transport them anywhere in the building I would need them. You can’t believe how comforting it is to know that all the handouts I’m potentially going to want are right there at hand when I’m facilitating.

Now of course, some people are like a few of my colleagues who prefer to have all their handouts in book format. This eliminates the need for handouts completely, and you just progress through a workbook page by page or jump around in the book as you want. Me, I’ve used that style in the past but it’s not my first choice. No, I’d rather know all the content I want to cover, but respond to the needs of each group by constantly adjusting the content. This style of facilitation is more challenging I believe; I mean you have to read groups, identify their wants and needs, pick up on comments and questions asked and all the while think to yourself, “do I have a handout for that?”

The other thing I’ve never really liked about giving out a workshop manual on day 1 is that some people flip pages only when you tell them to while others flip and scan the whole book to see where you’re taking them. Some even work ahead without the benefit of a facilitated discussion, invariably completing some exercise incorrectly or differently at best than they would with that discussion. I don’t want people regurgitating the information from later pages; telling me what they’ve read not what they really think on their own. So for me, for my style, it’s handouts one at a time.

And that’s where Dolly comes in. All the files are alphabetically contained therein, and it just falls to me to ensure that I’ve got 30 of each ready to go prior to any particular workshop. However, Dolly has a few issues. I remember in Star Wars, C3P0 spoke about being better than previous versions; a higher functioning and more valuable commodity than his predecessors.  I think Dolly is ready for a melt down soon too. I mean it’s shown me that there’s an advantage in having this rolling file system wherever I go, but it’s pretty full as you can see from the photo, and to move it, I’ve got to hunch down as I push it.

So I’m thinking a project for 2020 here at home is to build a customized rolling filing system in the workshop. Maybe a two levelled contraption, which would solve space issues and transporting it at the same time. I’ve got the tools, I can get the materials, my goodness, dare I say, “We have the technology”. From Star Wars to the 6 Million Dollar Man, I’m all over the place with this blog and obviously still connected to past decades.

I share this with you my readers as a tool I use when facilitating in multiple locations. Maybe you’re in the same kind of situation and are lugging papers from one room to another. If so, this little idea might spark something new for you in 2020. Of course, I’d love to be paperless entirely; good for the environment and good for those who love tech. The thing is however, many of the participants I have before me like paper copies to write on and hold in their hands. Some don’t have computers at home, others just aren’t computer literate. So to be fully accessible, the traditional paper in hand still works. Why I even give them a snazzy folder in which to assemble their own, ‘book’ if you will.

I’d be interested to hear your style of facilitation with respect to handouts and course materials. What works for you? Hey never too old to learn!

 

One Tip For Your Resume


When you’re crafting your resume and targeting it to a single, specific job posting, it is recommended that you include a profile statement. This much most people know. What you may not know is how beneficial it is to compose this when you’ve completed all other sections of the resume.

You see by the time you go back to writing the profile statement, you have a much stronger understanding of what the employer is in need of and a clearer idea of the applicant’s strengths, personal suitability, skills and experience. In other words, you’ll craft a more enticing profile statement and that alone will send the message to the reader that it’s in their own best interests to read on.

In the receding past, it was fashionable and appropriate to simple have an objective at the outset of your resume; located immediately below your contact information. Typically this was where applicants put a single line, communicating what they were after and sometimes even why. They often read some version of, “Seeking a full-time position as a ________ where I can use my ________ skills.”

The reason objective statements have fallen out of favour with employers is specifically because those kind of objective statements were solely about what the applicant wanted. Employers as we know, are not interested in knowing what you want and how they can help you meet your goals. They will be eventually of course, but only once you’re part of the organization. Then yes, good employers will want to know how they can support your development and make you a more valued commodity which means increasing your productivity.

However, at the point when you’re applying to work for an organization, they don’t know the first thing about you and as such, have no commitment to developing your skills. It’s all about the employer’s needs and how you as the applicant are going to respond to their needs. How does bringing you onboard resolve a staffing need? If you keep this in mind as you compose your profile statement, the end result comes out as here’s what I can do for you as opposed to here’s what you can do for me.

The best resume profile statements use some of the key words from the job posting’s qualifications section. Ah, but not to be overlooked is the preamble of the posting. There are hints buried in the, “What you’ll do”, and “What we’re looking for” sections of many job ads. Too many applicants skip or skim these sections at best and zoom right in on the qualifications.

So today I give you this one piece of advice: write the profile last.

This is especially beneficial if you are in the business of helping others craft their resumes. You will gain little insights into the people themselves as you sit with them during the resume crafting experience. You’ll pick up valuable information as you ask for details of what they’ve done in the past and what they’ve accomplished. You come to understand what’s important to them and you end up having a much better idea of their value proposition. By the time you return to the profile statement, you know two things better than when you started; the job being applied to and the person you’ve partnered with in writing the resume for.

Hope that single tip helps you in strengthening the opening of your resume. If you’re looking for work in 2020, a sincere wish that you meet with the success you’re after.

 

 

 

Feel Just Like You Did Last Year?


In every household around the world, the calendars flipped on January 1st, marking not only a new year, but a new decade. The internet is full of people posting about the new hope that this brings, the fresh starts, the opportunities that await and it would seem all we have to do is jump on board the bus and we’re on our way with an overly enthusiastic and energetic group of positive people. How can we not have a grand time?

Yet, something is wrong. Today seems just like yesterday and yesterday felt pretty much like previous days before that. While the calendar turned over, your life seems pretty much unchanged otherwise. So you’re starting to wonder, “With everyone I read about touting the arrival of 2020 as a reason to celebrate, why do I feel left out? If anything, these overly happy and positive people have me feeling more depressed than I was before.”

Let’s be clear about one thing shall we? The turning over a calendar alone hasn’t brought about magical change for ANYONE. Having said that, it’s what flipping the calendar represents that has people excited and optimistic. Take reading a story in a book. The chapter you’re reading seems rather long and is really moving a little slower than you’d like. It’s You flip the pages just to see how long it will be until you reach a new chapter and you see there’s another 12 pages. You could skip the 12 pages of a book but you can’t do so with life. The arrival of 2020 is like the first few words on that next chapter; the one you hope will speed up the action, draw you fully in to the plot and get you wanting to read more; really caring about the protagonist and wondering how they’ll fare in the end. So this is what 2020 is and why so many are excited.

But here’s the catch; you and I – them too for that matter – we all have to work to put ourselves into the positions we need to be in for us to take advantage of the opportunities 2020 is going to bring. If we don’t invest ourselves in the work it will take, the phone won’t ring nor will we get that single email that we dream of that leads to an employment offer. 2020 can be the year that we look back on and believe was the moment our lives were forever changed for the better, but we have to do things that bring about such change.

Ah change. It’s what you want isn’t it. That’s not a typo because it’s not a question but rather a statement. You want change. But change doesn’t happen when you sit and do nothing and the chance of change happening for the better is only marginally better when you keep doing whatever it is you’ve done in the past. Real, significant change occurs most often to people who do things differently and with applied energy.

Whether you’re job hunting, looking for a promotion – hey maybe even looking for Mr. or Miss Right, two things are needed; 1) a change in how you’re going about things and 2) a lot of work on your part. The thing about the work first; it is work to find work or to land a promotion or to be discovered by the person who is hoping to meet you this year. Work though in this sense is something you should relish; after all you’re going after something you really want, so your motivation should be heightened. As for a change in how you’re going about things, it stands to reason that if you keep doing things as you’ve always done them, it’s likely the results you get will be similarly the same.

Okay, so it’s January 6th today, we’re about a week into the new year and you’re feeling down because you’re standing alone with your 2020 party hat on, the streamers are on the ground and the noisemaker in your hand just seems so phony.

Avoid looking for company so you can be miserable and disillusioned together. Misery might like company, but this isn’t the company you want. If you really want to feel alive and celebrate success, what is it going to take to get you personally motivated? Again, might be talking a job, losing weight, repairing a family issue, buying a car, improving your mental health, being more assertive etc.

My suggestion is to consult an expert in the area you want to obtain success. What they’ll want from you is a commitment to your end goal and this means you’ll have to put in the work necessary on your end if you want their help to be truly beneficial. Otherwise, you’re just giving away your time and money.

If you are genuinely and honestly wanting to improve some aspect of your life, there are all kinds of people who want to work with you and support you. Be prepared however to do things that will require stamina; both physical and mental. If you want it bad enough however, I’ll guarantee – that’s right I’ll guarantee – that you’ll achieve your goal. Why? Because when you want it bad enough, you discover that putting in the work takes less effort as you build on your own momentum. Getting started and building that momentum is the hardest part.

If you feel nothings changed, maybe it hasn’t – yet. But it can and it will if you really want it.

 

2020 Your Opportunity?


About this time of year, I read a lot of posts from colleagues or listen to them as they talk about the year ahead. What I read and hear is brimming confidence and hope that, “This is going to be my year!”

Well, I wonder about that. I mean, what do they mean? Generally they mean that things are going to be different; they plan on taking advantage of opportunities as they come up, really commit to something they want (and this generally in turn means self-improvement of a fashion).

However, I don’t see the required change in behaviour much of the time; oh there’s short bursts of it yes, but not the sustained, repetitive actions that in sequence result in real change. These false starts are sparked by initial good intentions, but without being repeated, no pattern of new behaviour comes about; the very behaviours that cumulatively form new reputations, nurture commitment and enthusiasm to keep going. Without a change in behaviour on a consistent basis, the, “This is my year!” rant fizzles out and is replaced by a defeated-sounding, Same old, same old.”

Opportunities you see are around us every day no matter what day of the year the calendar proclaims it to be. Sure January 1st is a good time to mentally adjust our thinking. However, the first of January is an external cue not an internal one. The internal cue is that voice that you know is there deep inside you that whispers all the time what it is you want most. It’s so palpable and real too isn’t it? I mean you know what you want most; whether it’s losing weight, a new job, the courage to tell someone just how much you love them, ask for a promotion, etc.

That internal voice is no louder on January 1st than it is the rest of the year. It’s just that the flipping of the calendar gives us permission to pay that voice a little bit more attention. And with people all around us making new year’s resolutions, that collective energy makes it easier for us to proclaim our own good intentions to change something and feel universally accepted and supported. In short, it’s easier to make a resolution to do something when others are doing the same thing.

However, there are those who believe that the slightest little slip up puts the whole resolution bit in jeopardy. So you have a slice of cake when out with friends and your inner voice that’s been at you to lose weight is drowned out by another voice that says, “Failure! Told you so!” And there goes that unblemished resolve to not eat fatty foods that taste great but detract from your goal. Well might as well pack in the, ‘lose weight’ resolution for another 12 month’s and try again. Nonsense! Don’t be so hard on yourself. Just start again.

Opportunities come up every day and many in any given day. I suspect however that many people fail to see opportunities for what they are until they pass. I include myself in this number too. On a small scale, we all have the opporunity to get up, walk over to a colleague and compliment them. Perhaps it’s something they’ve achieved at work or in their personal life. Or perhaps it’s the risk they took that you compliment them on rather than the result. (This by the way is one of the things the enlightened recognize and do more than others).

That doesn’t sound like a big opportunity does it? I mean choosing to get up, go over and say something nice to a colleague. Big deal you might think. Do it once and it’s noteworthy for it’s uniqueness. Do it a second time and a third time and it’s establishing itself as a new pattern. Continue with a pattern and you build a reputation. This is true whether it’s complimenting a coworker, visiting the gym, reading a book, going to concerts or anything in fact.

It’s the small every day choices we make that in the larger context we look back on and say we either seized an opportunity or let it slip past. Could we have lost that weight last year or three years ago? Sure we could have, but we missed those opportunities out of the choices we made. However, it’s 2020. On this day we could make the decision to seize an opportunity and resolve to commit to some new behaviours. Be kinder, be more forgiving, go a day without dessert – then maybe another, drive the speed limit rather than 20 km’s above it.

I’ve resolved to ask of three people how I might be better. I’ve yet to decide who the three will be, but I’m wanting to choose people who know me well. Why three? It’s manageable and until I hear what they have to say, I’ve no idea the effort required to be better will take to sustain such change over time. We’ll have to see…

Consider yourself one this day as you read. What opportunities are you hoping for and looking forward to in this coming year? To bring them about, what are you doing this month, this week and this day? For most opportunities require us to do things that put us in position to take advantage of them as they arise.

Cheers to you, to me; to us! For we are in this together.

 

Work With Your Head And Your Heart


You can tell when people are in the right job. Conversely, you can also tell when people are in the wrong occupation, or perhaps when the person who was in the right job has lost something and should really move on. So what is it that makes a job right or wrong? In short, you need to have both your head and your heart in the work you do.

By, ‘your heart’, I refer to your passion or love for the work you do. It is this love that will get you through the hard times by delving deep into your reserves, pushing you to deliver more and succeeding. It is this love for the work you do that will have you seen to have a smile on your face and some energy in your actions as you go through your day.

By, ‘your head’, I refer to your knowledge, education, experience; in short, your know-how. This the training you’ve had, the skills you bring to the work you do and the focus you have during the time you’re on the job.

So the best people are in positions where they love what they do and they’ve got the skills, education, experience and general know-how which complement each other. I’m extremely confident you’ve experienced people that have one or the other but not both.

Take the person who as the heart to do the work but not the other. Here you’ll see someone who really wants to succeed, who tries hard, who is honestly doing their best because they really believe in what they’re doing. Unfortunately without the skills, education and experience behind them, they falter. They may not have the knowledge required to perform well. When you see a job posting requiring a certain degree of education and several year’s experience, the employer is attempting to make sure that the applicants they meet bring with them the, ‘head’ part of the two elements.

The opposite is just as common; people who have the skills, experience and ability to do the work, but who lack passion and heart for it. These people frustrate employers to no end because employers know just how amazing they could be if they’d just put more passion into their work. However, when it’s not there to begin with, no one can manufacture heart and desire; it has to come from the person and it has to come from within.

Now an interesting thing that many of us lose sight of is that we all evolve and grow; the result of which can be that the love and passion we once had for the work we do, can evaporate and depart. No doubt you’ve seen this too. The person who has lost their spark, seems to be doing just enough to get by but isn’t pouring any more of themselves into their work than the minimum required in order to get by.

I know some people who have lost their passion and love for what they once did and haven’t replaced that with something new. These are sometimes the folks that are trying to figure out what’s next in their working life, but who have yet to have anything really excite them enough to pursue it. You can find them all over the internet in chat forums, where they comment with negativity and cynicism – although they’ll pitch it as reality. It’s not that they want to be cynical or negative; they’ve just become jaded in their view of work. These people often have skewed views on employers, supervisors and management in general.

When your head and your heart are in the work you do or the work you’re pursuing, your days are more enjoyable, you’re happier in general and others can tell. Outside the workplace, these are the people who light up when asked about their jobs, who smile and are happy to speak of what they do because of the satisfaction they feel and the purpose in what they do. They can cite successes and our reaction is typically to say things like, “Wow, it sounds like that job is perfect for you”; and it is.

However, there are still many people who feel work is just work. It’s toil for money and employer’s just want zombie-like staff who perform work unquestionably. Often it’s their own experiences that have them making sweeping statements in which employees are not valued, management pushes to get the most out of their people and do so without care or regard for the staff. Watch out for these people; they truly believe what they say and they can sour your own outlook if you aren’t prepared.

Ah, but find someone with both their head and their heart in the work they do and you’ll be fortunate to have that person serve you. Whether it’s in a coffee shop, a manufacturers’ warehouse, looking down a microscope or up a birth certificate, that employee will be a joy to have around. How you experience working alongside your co-worker will often come down to whether or not they have both their head and their heart in the work they do.

Now me personally? I’m always on the lookout for these people, and what’s more, when I find them, I do two things; point it out as a compliment and do what I can to work closer with them.

May you find work you invest in with both your head and your heart.

Safe At Home? Be Grateful


I did a fair bit of driving this weekend. Saturday it was the trip from Lindsay to Toronto and home again, then Sunday the drive from Lindsay to Mississauga and back again. As I made the final turn onto our Crescent both evenings, the Christmas lights on the front lawn and house itself brought me a measure of both happiness and relief; we were home.

Home is sanctuary; the place with which within I am calm, protected and at peace. It’s where I recharge, relax, settle back with a blanket and at this time of year, enjoy the festive decorations, the Christmas tree, and perhaps a cup of tea. Yes, every time I make that last turn in the road and ascend the hill to our home, the promise of such sanctuary awaits me.

I imagine many of you might have similar feelings as you travel home from both near and far, whether it’s a house, condominium or apartment you return to. Once inside, it’s your space; your private sanctuary from everything beyond your door.

Of course it’s not the case for everyone. I can’t truly imagine what it must be like to live without that promise of a safe and secure place to take my rest at the end of a day. When temperatures outside are below zero degrees Celsius, not only does being homeless rob a person of much of their physical energy, it has to be incredibly taxing on the mind to constantly have to focus on finding a place to spend the night. Can you picture having to spend much of your day scrounging for shelter and then when you wake up the following day from a restless sleep, you have to move on and repeat the same process; wondering again where your head will rest that night?

Now were it you or I, we likely believe we wouldn’t be in such a predicament long. We’d likely use our resources acquired over time, including our interpersonal skills to locate and secure some place of safety and warmth. We’d turn quickly to finding work, then use our earned money to rent a place and begin to improve our lot.

The difference I suppose though is were we truly homeless, the mind that we rely and trust to make good decisions each day would be adversely affected. The mental strain upon us is not something I believe we would be prepared for. The lack of a place to shower and clean ourselves would be an eye opener, then even if we had such a basic resource, how upset would we be putting on the same garments, unwashed themselves and thus carry with us the grime, the odour? Without money, how would we feed ourselves? How might the quality of the food we do consume when we find it differ from what we eat now?

You and I, we not be rich, but we are rich by comparison. We can not only close our doors to the world each night, we sleep in comfortable beds, we eat without having to guard our plates; when thirsty we find options in our fridges. We don clean clothes each day, we snuggle in against the bitter cold, raise a thermostat if we so choose. Lucky? Well, yes I suppose we are.

Now yes, we do make our own luck I’ll affirm, but what we make our luck with is an educated mind. We have had resources our entire lives some never will have. If you grew up with a mother and father, lived in a house, had three meals a day and went to school, you likely took much of that for granted. As a child,  perhaps this is how you believed we all started out. Not so. If you’ve never had to visit a foodbank other than to drop off a donation, or never had to leave some items at the checkout because you haven’t got enough money to pay for them, you’re lucky indeed.

The nights are dark and cold, the daylight shorter at this time of year in my part of the world where winter is upon us. The streets are often slushy, which makes it trickier to walk for some in heels and harder still to push those shopping carts and buggies with worldly possessions in them for others.

If you think the simple solution is to get a job and be self-supporting, think of what herculean effort that must take. A homeless person has to concentrate on where to sleep, where to eat. They have few items to improve their personal hygiene and fewer to clean and maintain the cleanliness of their clothes. They are often shunned for their appearance, their smell, their cleanliness and much of the time lack personal identification such as birth certificates, health cards and social insurance numbers.

Luxuries are things like haircuts, dental visits, prescription glasses, non-processed foods, undamaged fruits and vegetables. Families are typically dysfunctional, relationships hard to establish and harder still to maintain. Without an address, services are hard to get, being always on the move, they have no sanctuary at the close of a day, sleeping with one eye open out of fear until absolutely exhausted.

Enjoy your home as do I, but be benevolent when you can. Consider a donation, be it a used article of warmth, food, toiletries, or your time. Be grateful, be humble.