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.

What Do You Want In Resumes You Receive?


One of the social media articles which came my way this past week showcased a, “winning resume” from what they stated was a large number of submissions for an annual contest. This resume had colour, broad bands of headings, was filled with numerical stats and while visually impactful, I couldn’t help wonder about whether or not such a visually busy resume would even get by the applicant tracking software used by many employer’s.

Now if it did get by, and if it found it’s way to the people making interviewing decisions, there are a lot of people who need to start overhauling their resume designs and advice. I’ll be one of them. Hence, I think it only wise for us in the business here in Canada to check in from time to time and ask employer’s what they want in the resumes they receive.

As is always the case, it’s important when reading articles – any articles – to determine the source. I can tell you this resume winner was from the United States. Maybe resumes of such ilk are in vogue there, but in Canada, I’ve yet to see a big push for resumes that were so busy; had colour, etc. Can I make these myself? Sure I can. The question is whether I can or not, the question is really whether I should in order to give those I partner with the best competitive edge.

So it’s out there as a question; what are you looking for in the resumes you receive?

 

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.

 

 

 

Don’t Apply For Jobs In December


There are many job seekers who see a lot of logic in not bothering to apply for work in the month of December. They’ve determined that companies are soon shutting down for the holidays and the people responsible for receiving all those resumes and selecting candidates to hire are really looking at taking time off.

If you’re one of the job seekers who holds this belief; that it’s pointless to job search in December, you’re making a huge mistake. But please! By all means yes, continue to avoid applying for work this month! You’re making it so much easier for the people I’m partnering with in their job search. In fact, let me extend a sincere thank you for reducing the size of the competition.

As you know, applying for work is a very competitive endeavour. There are more people applying for various positions than ever. Apparently, from the information I’ve gathered from employers, for every job advertised, there are approximately 150 – 175 applications received. The fact that you’re doing your part to reduce that number and increase the odds of those I’m supporting to land interviews and get hired is most appreciated!

Next week I’m holding a two week job search group; that’s December 9th – 20th on the calendar. Yikes! What  tough time of year to job search right? There’s the Christmas traffic, the Christmas hustle and bustle, the kids Christmas concerts in school, people to buy or make Christmas presents for, the house or apartment to decorate for Christmas, the shopping for the Christmas ham or turkey. Why you’re likely exhausted just thinking about it. Best you put your feet up and recline in the lazy boy. Add a job search to all that? No, of course not; you best take it easy.

Still, my little group and I will be at work, researching opportunities, writing cover letters and resumes, practicing our interview skills, and above all else, applying for jobs. While there’s every possibility that we might land a hire or two in these two weeks, it’s probable that the interviewing and hiring won’t actually take place until the new year. That’s absolutely fine with us; we’ll be ready.

Look, any job seeker will tell you how difficult it is to land work and that any advantage they can see they’ll seize. So, when the competition starts to falter for lack of enthusiasm, that’s the very time to ramp up the effort. The same goes for rainy days, extreme cold or heat periods, and Mondays. You see the same folks who have stopped job searching in December are likely the kind who wake up, see the clouds pouring down on them and choose to roll over and go back to sleep. Again, thank you if that’s you!

Job searching IS work. It takes sustained energy and focus to successfully job search. You’ve got to have a willingness to carry on in the face of what appears to be indifference or rejection by some employer’s. All that work researching companies, targeting resumes, writing cover letters, completing online profiles and repeating this process again and again. It can certainly get discouraging. I think this is why the people who have accepted my invitation to join my group are so looking forward to the experience. You see, they’ll partner up with me; someone they believe will motivate them when they feel the urge to slow down. They’ll also be supported by their fellow job seekers, and enthusiasm my reader is contagious!

If it’s true that attitude determines your altitude, we’re aiming high. We aren’t hoping to get interviews and jobs; we’re EXPECTING to get interviews and jobs! You see, the belief I plan to share and instil is the same belief I’ve always held; if we create strong resumes, quality resumes and improve upon our interview skills, the chances of success rise – substantially. If we then work to improve on our quantity of quality applications, our chances of success rise substantially again. Quality first, followed by quantity.

But you can do your part to help us along. If you’re a job seeker yourself, take the month off; nobody is hiring anyway right? If you’re an Employment Coach or Counsellor, suggest your clients ease back on the job search and conserve their energy for the new year; nobody is hiring anyway right?

Of course this advice is entirely tongue in cheek. If nobody is hiring, why then are there jobs being advertised? Do you think companies advertise just to falsely get people’s hopes up? That they have too much time on their hands and want to conduct interviews for jobs that don’t exist just to meet people? No of course not! They are advertising jobs because they have a need for qualified and enthusiastic employees.

Remember this basic truth; if they advertise a job, THEY have a need. Sure you need a job, but they need an employee. It’s not all desperation on your part and no stress at their end. They have to find someone and it can’t be just anybody. They are looking at hiring the right someone, and this is where your research comes in. Present yourself as the right candidate.

Of course, if you were looking for a sign that you shouldn’t bother looking for work until 2020, take this blog as your sign. Pack it in, put on, “White Christmas” and cover yourself up with that warm throw.

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.

Ah Those Mystery Job Ads


Last week one of the people I was supporting in their job search brought to my attention a job posting where the employer had specifically requested no contact. That in itself isn’t anything new, as job ads have been instructing applicants to not place calls for quite some time. This one was different though, because it read, “No follow up phone calls please.”

This puzzles me honestly. I mean, yes, I understand that with the growing number of people competing for jobs, the organization would indeed have to devote a lot of someone’s time to respond to all the calls they’d get. On the other hand, I have always believed that employer’s are looking for people who show initiative, who have personal drive and genuine enthusiasm or passion for the jobs they apply to. So if no one follows up on their applications with a call, it would appear more difficult for an employer to separate those who really want the job from those who apply and then are content to just wait and see what happens.

Another reason that this puzzled me upon seeing it was that I’ve heard from some employers who have told me they value calls from applicants. Some have even told me that they built in a few days following an application deadline to determine who calls and who doesn’t; with the one’s that call getting additional marks for taking such initiative. Times change however, and whether this one ad becomes a trend or not we’ll see.

There are other tactics employer’s use that discourages applicants contacting them too. For a long time now, employers have been using Recruiters and temporary agencies to pre-screen their applicants. In the job postings that produce applications, the identity of the hiring company and their location is carefully omitted. While this makes it easier on the organization in that they don’t get walk-in traffic and phone calls following up on their job applications, it also has problems.

One such problem the omission of a company name and location has is that applicants can’t do their homework when it comes to researching company culture, values and see if their own aligns with this employer. This can waste both the time of an applicant and an employer if a well-qualified applicant applies in good faith for a position but upon learning the identity of the employer, pulls their application from the hiring process based on their own experience or that of others.

Dependability and reliability are two of the key qualities just about every employer desires in their workforce. For a majority of those who rely on public transit to get to and from work, knowing where they’d have to travel before applying would be helpful. Again, when an employer conceals their name and location, just as an applicant conceals their own address, a situation is created whereby wasted time is spent on both ends by both parties. Ironic isn’t it when an employer who refuses to identify their location makes an applicant’s address a mandatory field on an online application; we’re not telling you where we are but you have to tell us where you are!

Some job ads would almost be better thought of as a blind date. Sure there might be a face-to-face meeting or interview eventually, but the first contact will be one party (the employer), gathering as much information as they can about the other party (you) without revealing much about themselves. Yes they make the first step in getting the job posting out there via a temp agency but at the same time there is a vagueness to the actual posts sometimes that means an applicant can’t really get excited about the prospect of getting the job until they know the organization and along with that organization their reputation.

I’m looking at the way many employers are going about their hiring and seeing a disturbing trend developing. While it’s all good to remove potential bias, (heavens knows this is nothing but a good thing and needed for ages), employer’s who keep their identities known until personal interviews are set up unintentionally make things harder on themselves. Seeing applications with names removed, addresses removed, names of educational institutions removed (all by HR departments) contribute to a level playing field but can make selection of great candidates more challenging. If an applicant lives in their opinion too far away, they won’t know until they meet. If they organization has a distinct preference for a long-standing school with a solid reputation, they may feel they wasted their time seeing people from an upstart school struggling to gain credibility.

There are pros and cons to all hiring processes and I can usually see the good and the bad from each. As an Employment Counsellor working with the unemployed however, one of the things I’ve always encouraged people to develop and show is enthusiasm for the jobs they apply to. Hard to advise someone to get excited about an opportunity when two of the first things they ask is the name of the employer and where they’d work.

Oh and these long online applications they make applicants fill out? I’ve seen people with very little drive and sincere motivation sit for ages filling them out, getting help from others on what to say. Little drive and little interest.

Be careful employers…how you attract applicants does indeed determine the quality of applicants from which to hire.

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.

Pick 5 To Interview


Imagine for a moment that you’re the person responsible for looking at some job applications. You’ve got to pick some to invite into the interview process. If you’ve already applied the ATS software (Applicant Tracking System), the reduced pile in front of you already meet your stated qualifications. In other words, the key words you and Human Resources identified as must haves and preferences are already checked off. You’ve got a nice pile of winners here.

So having a pile of 10 before you on your right and 60 the ATS passed over on your left, you begin. Hang on a second, what are you looking for? If you’ve never had to actually go through this process of choosing people to interview, it’s not as easy as it sounds. If after all, each of these 10 applications have already surfaced as the cream of the crop, why not just interview the 4 or 5 on the top of the pile; random selection?

Well, I’m sure some employers do. I mean, it’s possible isn’t it? No one has to know what the person narrowing these candidates down actually did to select them. But for the majority of situations, what does that person do behind closed doors to pick their next potential employee?

Quick question before proceeding; how many readers don’t like the idea of some computer-generated software creating these two piles in the first place; the potential winners and the losers? I’ll bet a fair number of people would rather a human being look over their application rather than having their potential employment governed by a digital scan.

Here’s the thing about that software though; it’s programmed by humans to select the applications which on paper at least, most closely match the stated needs of the employer. That software selects and rejects solely based on what it was instructed to look for. If you didn’t know this technology existed before, you do now. Oh, and it’s not so expensive that only the big organizations can afford it. Like a lot of technology out there today, its come down in price, it’s affordable and it sure helps the employer when the alternative is having to set aside a huge amount of time going through more resumes and cover letters than they’ve ever received in the past.

Okay, so now the impartial and unbiased computer program has put these 10 applications before you. The next phase is choosing from the 10, the ones you’ll meet and make your interview list from. Most organizations set aside time for this process, and they might have to coordinate the schedules of the Supervisor, Human Resources staff, and a second person in Management. Just coordinating the schedules of these three people might take some doing, and they’ll need a couple of days perhaps to clear their schedules. Meanwhile applicants are waiting.

So whether it’s just you or you and one or two others, you’ve got these 10 from which to choose 5 to interview, as this is all time allows. So half of these will move on and half will join the larger pile of passed over/rejected applicants. By the way, no one in that pile will be contacted yet (if ever) to advise them they’ve been passed over. After all, you might end up going back to at least one of those who almost made it if none of these 5 you end up interviewing work out.

So now that human eyeballs are finally involved in the interview selection process, you and I need to understand one other thing. In addition to your eyes, you’re filtering these 10 resumes with some other things too. You’re applying your biases, preferences, assumptions, stereotypes, past experiences, gut feelings and knowledge. Still don’t like computer software? It doesn’t bring any of these to the selection process.

In the mind of the person selecting people to hire, they know the chemistry of the existing team this potential employee is going to join or lead. They have in their mind the personal characteristics they see as needed or desired. They might have a preference for someone who went to a particular school or who worked for a certain employer in the past. They might grimace at an incorrectly placed comma or run-on sentence. Then again, they may overlook grammatic errors and take that as a sign of authenticity, especially if the job doesn’t call for written communication skills as a top priority.

If the names are on the resumes before them, (some companies remove these from the applications so they eliminate human bias), these alone can potentially sway a person to choose or pass by an application. The presumption of gender too might be present. Is this a good thing or not? Perhaps an organization is intentionally hopeful they might hire someone from a specific segment of the population to better reflect the communities in which they operate. How could a gender, ethnic, age, or other characteristic dominated workforce become more balanced if such factors of applicants remain unknown?

You see it’s more complicated than just randomly picking a few or going through every single application received. This process takes time and expertise to do it well. While all this is going on, each applicant is wondering why they haven’t heard from the employer. What’s taking so long you might wonder?

After selecting those to interview and conducting those interviews, more narrowing done happens until one is remaining. May that person be you!

 

An Example Of Shifting Perspective


Last week I made preparations to lead a one week workshop on the fundamentals of looking for work. One week, twelve participants. I prepared for it as I would any other workshop; gathered the necessary supplies including handouts, notebooks, pens, notepads and made sure I had all the refreshments stocked and ready to receive. As I left work Friday afternoon, I looked over a room that was neat, welcoming, fully stocked and felt good. That feeling of being prepared allowed me to spend the weekend enjoying it fully, rather than feeling some growing anxiety about all the things I’d have to do upon arriving to work Monday.

So there I was, opening the doors to the room at 9:15 a.m. and hoping that in the next 15 minutes, 12 bodies would walk through the door. I say hoping rather than expecting, because history has told me that in most situations, a full house is seldom the case. Well, as it turned out, two of the twelve showed up. A third person came on the off chance there was an opening and so he was admitted too. 3 people, 1 week.

Now yes, I know that life happens. What I mean by this is that in the lives of the people I support, many face multiple barriers to employment. Many have dysfunctional families, physical and mental health issues, some just have poor decision-making skills, weak problem-solving abilities and so yes, some are on social assistance because they do not have the necessary skills yet to be successful.

Three is disappointing. However, what an opportunity for the three who did show up! I mean, they’ve got an enthusiastic and knowledgeable Employment Counsellor for a week to split between them instead of having an additional nine people to share me with. By the way, being excited for the three present rather than focusing on the nine absent is a shift in focus I want to stress. It’s so easy to be disappointed and let it show which can rob those present of your enthusiasm and passion. Unintentionally, you run the risk of making those who did show up feel less than worth your time.

Now sure I communicated to the staff who made those referrals to the program who showed up and who did not. It’s their role to follow up and determine next steps for the non-attendees after hearing why they failed to show. My focus is on the three.

It’s not always like this of course. Last month I taught a two week class on the basics of using the computer. For that class, fourteen showed up for a class that could only accommodate twelve people. Twelve started and twelve finished with perfect attendance. That was a special group of people; as is every class.

Without knowing the reasons why, it’s easy to make assumptions why people fail to show up for classes that are free, supportive, fun and beneficial. In addition to learning subject matter which helps them move towards self-sufficiency and financial independence, they receive additional funding for transportation, networking, sometimes funds for suitable clothing and/or grooming too. Then there’s the social engagement; connecting with others in similar situations and feeling less isolated. And in the case of this workshop, job searching support; a stronger resume and cover letter, help with preparing for an anticipated interview too. All free.

I’m not angry lest you think I am. No never angry.  I suppose I’m just disappointed. I know the opportunity missed to get all the benefits I’ve mentioned above. I understand the circumstances in which these people live and the pressures they are under. I get the stress that sets them up to make decisions I’d not make myself, and I know sometimes they have every intention on coming but they mix up a date or forget about it until it’s too late. I know they have childcare issues, they have poor health in many circumstances; a consequence of not being able to eat healthy foods as often as they should. I understand they don’t all have strong accountability either, both to themselves and others. You see I get all this.

I’m allowed to feel what I feel though too; disappointed. Disappointed for them not me. It took me no time at all to gather up what became excess supplies. That’s the least of my concern. A very busy week for me, constructing or revamping twelve resumes and writing twelve cover letters got a whole lot easier with only three. The energy I was prepared to expel shifting between twelve people with varying career/employment goals was going to be substantially more than it is now too.

Yes my job got easier – substantially easier. You’d think that as I’m getting paid the exact same wages for three as I would for twelve that I should be ecstatic. Ah, but I’m not. Now, my disappointment isn’t so deep that I’m walking around with a long face and moaning about things. Far from it my reader. I’m happy and invested in the three I do have. I can actually accomplish more for these three than I would have otherwise and we’ll have many more significant conversations.

For a time though, I’m permitted to consider the ??? that goes with the missing participants.

I’m thankful for what I have, not consumed with what I don’t. Hey, that’s  good enough for me and worth reminding myself of.

An Unfair Playing Field


“You can be whoever you want to be.”

If you heard these words from your parents in your childhood, it’s probable you were born into an upper middle class family.

“Don’t try and be better than your own.”

If you heard these words from your parent in your childhood, it’s probable you were born into a lower class family; possibly even one in poverty.

Parents in both were doing what they believed was correct; preparing their child for life ahead. How they did this was either by laying the world before their child and encouraging them to dream and then follow that dream, or to keep their head out of the clouds and prepare for a predictable life of work ahead.

The reality for many of the poor is a different value system than those in both the middle and upper classes. While there will always be the odd exception; that child who aspires for more and finds an inner determination to climb the social classes, the majority face what often turns out to be insurmountable struggles. Education for example, highly valued by those who can afford it, is often a precursor to success. For children growing up in poverty, they may have families who frown on education as unnecessary; many of the parents themselves poorly educated and as a result, not in a position to assist with or encourage home study time.

It’s a sorrowful reality of course. Well, to be fair, it’s sad for many in the middle class who work with and support those in poverty. As an example, we might take our own values and beliefs – writing a cover letter and error-free resume as a given. We’d take steps to ensure our applications were proofread, our sentences grammatically correct and the content precise. Many living in poverty would be more inclined to try and get a job by meeting someone and asking for it directly; no resume, certainly not a cover letter. Where a resume is required, it would be of an inferior quality; spelling errors, blunt and repetitive, a single word or two for a bullet, scant in content and length.

This is no knock against the poor, more an observation of reality. It’s a tough life when you think about growing up to be an adult in a world of digital technology and social media when you haven’t got a high school education, you lack basic computer skills, your literacy level is low and more doors are closed than open.  How sad it is that young children start off in life with such roadblocks to success already set in place.

When working to support the impoverished, it’s vitally important to be aware of our own value system and check frequently to ensure we don’t transfer our hopes and expectations onto others. While we might believe we can be whomever we choose; that hard work and persistence will pay off with success, it’s not the case for all. Think about how daunting it must feel for someone living with literacy issues, a skewed view of higher education and to read over and over again that a high school diploma (not to mention a College Diploma or University Degree) is required for many of the jobs they find. Completing high school and graduating with a diploma is like someone in the middle class graduating with a degree or getting their Masters.

One of the best ways to fire the brain at an early age and open a child to language is reading to them as their parent. It’s great bonding time for parent and child as a bonus, and it sends the message that reading has value. Regular, daily reading time stimulates the imagination, each word sounded out and pronounced correctly creates confidence and builds self-esteem. However, a parent who finds reading difficult themselves isn’t likely to showcase their personal weakness to their child, and may either tell them to read to themselves or actually discourage reading altogether as something of little value. “I never needed it and you don’t neither.”

Each day I work with those in receipt of social assistance, I find many have literacy issues. This manifests itself in the words they use in conversation, their inability to spell common words, sometimes their comprehension and as a result their ability to learn and put into practice what they hear.

Here’s the thing though…these same people are some of the most generous, giving people. They are truly inspiring and while their hope is fragile, many show a determination to be better than they are and for their children to have better lives than they have. Hire some of these people and you get paid back with great employees. Not always of course; sometimes their going to make poor choices – but again, likely because they lack good decision-making skills and haven’t had encouragement and supportive coaching.

They have incredible barriers to success to push through however. Having had poor parenting themselves, often having grown up in single-parent families, they don’t have the knowledge or skills to build on many of us take for granted.

Looking for work is difficult because they aren’t on a level playing field. Many of the advantages we have in middle/upper classes we take for granted; not even recognizing or appreciating them.

Want to help? Be kind, understanding, empathetic, maybe forgiving and always courteous. Give someone a chance, perhaps a second chance.