“I Need A Job Not A Conversation”

When I meet people for the first time in my line of work, one of our first interactions starts with me asking how I can be of help and getting the  response, “I need a job.” That makes sense, because supporting people in their quest for a job or career is what I do.

Like you’d expect, I ask a few questions about what they’re looking for, whether or not they have a resume and if so, I ask for a once over which is the quickest ways to see their career path to date. What you might not expect however, is the direction I steer the conversation in. Sometimes the biggest mistake I could make is pulling up a website and looking for a job for them to apply to. This is exactly what they hope and expect I’ll do, followed by sending off their resume and then saying goodbye while they go home and wait for the phone to ring.

What I have found far more effective however, is having a conversation; some meaningful dialogue that gives me information I’m after in order to make the most of our time together. The odd thing is were I to ask directly the questions to get at what I want to know, they’d likely shut down the conversation with the response, “Look I just want a job. Are you going to help me or not?”

The conversations I work to develop are my way of getting insights into a person’s backstory. Knowing the backstory might not seem to you to be any of my business; like them, you might agree that I should, “just get them a job.” Well-meaning rookies in the employment field do that, and that’s no slight to their intelligence, they just lack the experiential awareness that comes with having tried that approach and learning it doesn’t work.

While I’m looking at a resume for example, I’m not just looking at their work history. I’m wondering about the decisions that prompted changes in jobs, looking for promotions that suggest competence, an employer’s belief that they were ready for increased responsibilities. I note gaps and want to hear those so I can hear first-hand how they might similarly explain these to an interviewer. The spelling and grammar, the simplicity or well-developed vocabulary they have gives me clues as to their literacy and written communication skills. The education they have completed gives me insight into their academic achievements and whether I see additional courses and certificates or not gives me clues to their belief in the value of continuing self-development. But the only way to verify all my assumptions is to respect the person enough to ask. And rather than ask direct questions that would come across as an interrogation, the kinder thing to do is have a focused conversation.

The positives I’m listening for in this chat are the good decisions they’ve made, achievements, acquired skills and I’m watching their face and listening to the tone of their voice so I don’t miss what they are proud of and what recalls good memories.

On the other hand, I’m alert to anything which causes their eyes to drop, their head to turn away, the things they skip or skim over, drops in the volume of their voice. These are clues to current employment barriers, problems in past jobs which if not fully addressed could be repeated in future ones. The more we talk, the more trust is established, the deeper we go and the better I get at responding to their initial request to help them find not just a job, but the right job.

Not all the time of course, but it happens where a person pops in expecting to leave in an hour with a shiny new resume and all we’ve done to the casual observer is talk, having accomplished nothing. A second meeting is needed to do what could and should have been done in the first meeting. Stats-driven governments and organizations that put numbers ahead of people encourage that approach. Not a single person ever went into the employment counselling and coaching profession with the goal of being a churner of impressive statistical data. Every single one of us without exception put helping and serving people first.

It’s conversations; human connections from which we learn best of others. These are where we connect with people and in the job seekers situation, where we can have a significant impact and accelerate their job search. What this translates into is not just finding them their next job, but partnering with them to better help them know themselves, find a good match with an employer, and increase their chances of finding lasting, meaningful work.

Looking at conversations this way, the investment of time in people pays off. It might look to outsiders like a nice conversation with very little productivity to show for it. I suppose however it depends on your currency – what you see as a productive outcome.

These conversations are what true professionals long for and rebel against most strongly when they are threatened by short-sighted people who see them as luxuries we can’t afford. If you really want to pump up your stats and get people jobs which last, you’ll be wise to help job seekers with a healthy conversation.


Need A Better Job?

Much of the time, my blog focuses on helping unemployed people find work. Today however, I want to reach out to those who are currently working, but increasingly feeling the desire or need to find a new job.

I hear from a lot of people who are interested in moving from their current job to a new one. Their reasons vary from dissatisfaction, not liking management and their boss in particular, a drop in hours, no room to grow and being passed over for promotions when they feel it’s their time. Sometimes it’s being harassed on the job site, new owners making sweeping changes that don’t go over well with existing staff, a desire to work closer to home, or yes, more money.

You can see that there are a lot of valid reasons for looking for a job when you already have a job. In many ways, that’s the best time to look for work. After all, you don’t have a gap on your resume to explain, you don’t feel desperate to grab a job just for the sake of having one, nor do you have the stress and mental anguish that comes with no income while you look for work. These are just some of the reasons why you may have heard, “it’s easier to get a job when you have a job.”

Before I proceed further, let me give everyone who is currently working, a few tips which, if you heed them, will help you greatly in the future when you need a change. First update your resume with your current job. I know you might feel this is something you can do later, but it will only take 10 minutes. Next, if you have a good performance review stashed somewhere in your locker or desk at work, bring it home. This document will be of great help should you eventually need a reference from your current employer only to find that they have a policy of only confirming your job title and years of service. Third, get a copy of your job description and again, take it home and store it somewhere you can easily find it.

Those 3 tips are going to help you should you need or want to make a change. The performance review will help you prove your worth to interviewers, the job description will put in words all the good skills and responsibilities you have now and both will help you defend your credentials during an interview. Don’t wait. Do these two things this week. You’ll thank yourself for doing so. And if you work with an Employment Counsellor to help you out, show them copies of these so they can best market your experience and accomplishments.

Now let me remind you of something you need to hear; you’re entitled to work in a positive and supportive environment and be paid fairly for the contribution you make to an organizations success. If you find your hours of work are dropping, you have no benefits or your salary and hope for advancement seems frozen, you owe it to yourself to land somewhere better. But to do that, you have to motivate yourself to actually actively job search.

I’ve said this so many times before, but phone or get yourself into an Employment Centre in your community.  I know this might be your morning or afternoon off, but it’s a good place to start. Ideally, bring your current job description, resume, identification and an idea of what you’d like to do. The people you meet with will have a good idea knowledge of your local labour market, jobs in demand, know who is hiring – and many of these employers don’t put signs in their windows anymore.

Here’s some encouraging news if you’re looking for work. Employers are crying for workers. Not just anybody mind you. They are looking for enthusiastic people who get along with co-workers, are dependable, punctual, problem-solvers, good communicators with both verbal and written skills. They can’t find workers!

I’m going to guess many of you are really good at whatever it is you do. In your line of work, you’re experienced and you’ve got a pretty decent work ethic. You may have put in several years in your current job and yet, feel unappreciated and taken for granted. The one thing you know you’re not good at perhaps is resumes and cover letters, along with performing well in job interviews. That’s actually expected. No one is great at everything.

The main reason to drop in to an Employment Centre is to partner up with a job search pro. Hey, you’re good at what you do and they are good at what they do. Get these people working with you to shorten your job search and help you find your next job faster. You might even find Counsellors have more time to devote to you due to the pandemic as it keeps other job seekers from seeking help.

Think you don’t need their help? Think anybody can put together a great resume? That’s like me saying I could do your job just as well as you do – and I can’t.

You’ve nothing to lose and everything to gain!

Delivering Honesty With Kindness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Here’s What To Name Your Resume

Yesterday I wrote about someone who, unfortunately, made the mistake of saving their resume with the name, “copy of copy of copy of Jane Doe.” Jane Doe isn’t their name of course, and is used here just to serve as an example. Today, I wasn’t at work for very long before another resume crossed my desk with an equally improper name. This time is was, “Resume 2”.

Okay, now pause for a moment and imagine yourself as a member of the recruiting team of a company or small business owner. You click on the email and the first thing that captures your attention is the name of the attached resume file. It’s right there below the subject of the email. Do you suppose that, “Resume 2” will impress you sufficiently to be anxious to open it? Not a chance. In fact, you’ll likely feel like you have someone’s 2nd best effort and presumably, “Resume 1” is in the hands of their employer of choice.

Those are the thoughts of the business owner or recruiting team. Now, as for the job applicant themselves, let’s look at what they might be thinking when the window pops up and asks them to choose a name to save their resume.

The first assumption we can make is that job seekers apply for multiple jobs with multiple employers. I get that. Some of those job hunters are heeding the advice to change their resumes to match the jobs they are applying to, which is well and good. So we can imagine that with every, ‘save as’, they want to be able to identify the resumes as different from the others. Hence some people name their resumes,  “Resume 1, Resume 2” and so on. How fantastically underwhelming is the experience of the beleaguered employer who receives, “Resume 17”! I’m sure they salivate with anticipation as they wait for the file to open so they can call immediately and invite the applicant in for a chat.

Ah, but like I said, what I am pleased to see is that the applicant wants a way to differentiate between their resumes so that they can find them when they need them most. The problem however is this: the applicant gets a call and is asked to come in. They start the process of incorrectly opening resume after resume trying to find the one they made for this particular job and employer. Anxiety rises as the wrong one is opened again and again. Did it get lost? Where is it? Oh there it is! It was the fifth attempt that finally tracked it down.

Who needs the anxiety?

So what’s the solution? For years I’ve been advocating a simple answer – and you may have a different method that works for you or those you work with. My solution is to name each resume as a combination of the job title and the employer. So a person might have:

“Server Best Burgers”,

“Server Franks Pizzeria”,

“Waiter The Seafood Emporium”.

This system has key benefits. Number one is that person receiving the resume sees what you named it, knows exactly what you’re applying to and sees you made it specifically for them.  Employer’s, like anyone else, like to feel special. Naming the resume specifically impresses them. The second benefit is for the job seeker themselves. The resume you need to find is readily identified and opened the first time – every time. No more rising anxiety as you fret about having lost the resume you need.

Ah but there is another key and critical benefit to the job seeker. You can’t mistakenly send a resume to the wrong employer when it has a name on it to identify it. Whereas you could mistakenly send, “Resume 4” to an employer when you meant to send, “Resume 2”, it’s unlikely you’ll send, “Server, Franks Pizzeria” to The Fish Emporium.

Does this make sense to you? If so, take this idea and implement it now. Share it with the people you work with too.

Oh and here’s another idea while we’re at it. If you are writing a resume with a job seeker, you don’t want your effort lost when the person modifies it and clicks on, ‘Save’ instead of ‘Save As”. So after you’ve crafted this winning resume, do the job seeker a favour and copy and paste it for them; into their USB or file. Then immediately rename the copy, “RESUME START HERE”.

Now tell the job seeker to never open the original except to take it to the interview they’ll get. When they want to modify their resume for another job, always have them click on, “RESUME START HERE” and after making changes, click, ‘SAVE AS” saving the new resume using a combination of the job title and employer.

Eventually they’ll have a growing list of resumes individually named and they’ll always have, “RESUME START HERE” as the one to start with. This helpful tip prevents them from making serious errors to the original and clicking on, “Save”.

By the way, no need to include the job seekers name in the, “Save As” filename. As it came from the job seekers online application or email, they already know this information.

Hope this helps all job seekers out there! I’m here for you in this.

You Ruin Your Application With This Error

In my role as an Employment Counsellor, I have the distinct pleasure of being invited to walk alongside people for a time while on their job search journey’s. This often means providing resume and cover letter advice, helping people see and own the many skills and abilities they possess, helping them prepare for interviews and counselling them through multiple barriers they face to employment.

Some would find what I do to be mentally tough. I mean come into lives when  people are out of work and feel the frustration that accompanies the job search process. They may be at a pretty low point in life. If it were only the job it would be bad enough, but having no job often means bleeding or depleted bank accounts and life’s savings. For some it means being unable to pay the rent and having to move, being more irritable because the lack of work is a constant demon to live with. And living with that demon has caused many relationships to strain and eventually break, leaving the person not only without a job but also without support from some person who has been the most important person in the world to them.

You might expect then that such people would carry with them bitterness and disillusionment; that these feelings would transform them into walking timebombs where a well-meaning comment would set of an explosion. Yeah, there are some like that I’ll admit. For such people, you stand by near to be of help but give them the space they need. Waiting until someone is truly ready to receive help is so much more effective than pushing things at them they are unable to bear.

But for the majority of people struggling to find employment, I am constantly impressed and humbled by their openness to suggestions, their gratitude for support; their sincere appreciation for assistance. These are, for the most part, quality people with hopes and dreams like any of us. And it’s imperative to remind ourselves that the major difference between us and them is our ability to apply the knowledge and experience we have acquired after having been in our roles for years. We’ve become experts in what we do, just as any professional comes to know their field or trade.

To illustrate, many a homeowner has decided at times to take on what they consider to be a doable home improvement rather than call in a specialist. What we want to achieve seems straightforward enough, such as insulating the walls of your garage, applying a plastic barrier, putting drywall up, taping and sanding the joints and finally painting the smooth surface. Why pay a pro? While it might turn out okay – even good – the odds are that a professional with years of experience will do it quicker, do it with less waste and it will be done to a higher quality.

Making a resume and writing a letter of introduction to go with it seems even easier; surely anyone could do it rather than search out a pro. After all, it’s just putting down all the things on paper you’ve done in your life and no one knows that better than you. Well, sadly, I’ve met way too many folks who have spent months job searching with inferior resumes and shoddy cover letters, who have grown increasingly frustrated with the lack of results. Just like that drywall job in the garage will remind the owner every time they pull in and see the reminder of their overestimation of their abilities.

Take yesterday. I received an email with a resume attached. Before I even opened the resume I knew it was bad. How? The poor choice of what they had called the resume tipped me off. In saving their resume, they called it, “Copy of a copy of a copy of Jane Doe”. Jane Doe substituting in for their name. Now I know that as a potential employer moves their cursor to click and open the resume, they read the name of the document. This simple step was somehow lost on the owner as they quickly typed whatever came to mind. Even if it was a surprisingly strong resume, that poor choice of wording might put off an employer from opening it.

While this error is a simple one to correct both in explanation and time, it will likely be repeated until pointed out and explained. And here, you find at its heart, the core of employment counselling. It’s passing on best practices and advice while being supportive and empowering. While the Home Improvement professional often works apart from the homeowner completing renovations, the Employment Counsellor works best in full partnership with job applicants, explaining and thus empowering with each improvement as they go.

Sometimes it stings to hear you’re own work isn’t up to scrutiny when a pro tells you so. Done correctly, it can be welcomed news however, improving your odds at being chosen as the successful applicant. One of the biggest joys I have in the role is when a person I work with receives a suggestion, considers its merit and then demonstrates on their own the mastery of the skill shared with them.

May we all learn something that helps us this day!

Photograph On A Resume

Prior to writing my blog this morning, I had a quick scan of my LinkedIn feed. I scrolled through and suddenly someone’s post caught my attention. It was a thoughtful and kind post from one person who was sharing the resume of a friend in the hope that at least one reader would help their friend land a job.

I opened up the 12 comments to see the kind of support and encouragement the post had generated and was disappointed. 8 were simply re-sharing the post meaning to be helpful and 4 passed on good wishes for success. As nice as those well-wishers are, they really don’t advance the applicants chances of getting an interview. Those who shared the post also didn’t do the fellow any favours in my own view, as they took a flawed resume and continued its circulation.

In the comments section, I wrote that the applicant should immediately remove the photo from the resume, as many employers would immediately pass on assessing his suitability for the job based on this single image. Why? Because some organizations don’t want to expose themselves to possible calls of having biases, preferences or outright discrimination when it comes to the people they select for interviews and eventual hires. I realize of course that hiring practices are varied around the globe. I’ve worked with people immigrating from countries where birthdate, marital status, religion, gender, parental status and political affiliation are mandatory inclusions.

Were the practice of including a photo on a resume to take hold, it would certainly change the hiring landscape. On the positive side, it could assist an organization to hire with diversity in mind. Taken at face value (pun intended), employers could knowingly add a younger applicant to an aging workforce, a mature worker to a younger workforce, a person of a certain skin colour or cultural background to better represent the people they want to serve. Were we all so well-intended, a photo would empower the best of employers to be better diversified.

Yes a photo provides employers with visual information. You know that statement, “A picture is worth a thousand words”? Well, that photo would work for and against applicants; depending on the past experience the employer’s and Recruiters have in interacting with similar people to the one in the photo.

Let’s set aside outright prejudice for a moment as that’s an obvious problem when it comes to selecting candidates and let’s talk of hiring preferences. You’ve no doubt heard excellent advice encouraging job applicants to do their research prior to applying for jobs and going to interviews. One thing that I often hear is to try and find a personal connection between yourself as an applicant and the person you’re going to be interviewed by. Perhaps you went to the same school for example.  So in an interview or in a thank you note after the interview, you’re wise to remind them that you went to the same school in an effort to really say, “we are alike in this way”, and you hope this shared connection tips the scales in your favour. Anything wrong with this?

From the hiring side, some interviewers and decision-makers also have preferences and natural biases to hire people who may have come from a certain school. If it’s right for you as an applicant to hope pointing out a similarity will work in your favour, it should be likewise right for those making decisions. Unless of course you come from a different school. Then it seems unfair as your education is just as valid or legitimate. Then this hiring preference is wrong.

The inclusion of a photo for some applicants likewise seems an enhancement of their application. Just as the resume is checked for error-free grammar and spelling and the wording carefully considered, the photo is likewise thought out. “Here’s me looking my best”. Like the people who went to the same school and think that works in their favour, the photo might be thought to work for the beautiful people; the healthy, vibrant ones. But like those who chose a different school, the photo could work against a person who looks different.

Some excellent organizations therefore have a rigid rule that immediately disqualifies applicants who include a photo on their resume. They do not wish to subject their candidate selection panels to any claims of hiring biases, preferences or yes – outright discrimination. It not only stops at photos, but some go so far as to remove the actual names of applicants from resumes that they put before selection committees. This keeps the focus on a candidates qualifications. Only when the person is selected for an interview is their name shared.

But what of that LinkedIn photo? What of that social media search? To be sure, you’ll find their photo if its there when you search by name, and organizations do see the photo when the HR departments do an initial search prior to putting candidates to their interview panels. But if the names are removed from the resumes at that point, those making the hiring decisions don’t initially have that information before them when at the initial screening phase.

Interesting topic to consider, whether you’re for or against the practice. And generating ideas, thoughts and discussions is a good thing.

Feel At Your Lowest? Take Heart; Have Hope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Argument For Strong Cover Letters And Resumes

Job applicants tend to fall into two distinct groups when it comes to looking for work. There’s those who put in minimal effort and those that do everything they can to submit strong applications.

A poor application might mean no cover letter at all or a short sentence or two with spelling or grammar errors, along with a pretty basic resume that is printed multiple times and fanned out to numerous employers. This is typically contrasted with the cover letter and resume tailor-made to address all the requirements and qualifications the employer who posted a position has indicated as their needs.

Now, as the reality job seekers know only too well is that you’ll likely get passed over a lot before getting hired on, some might argue that the person putting forth the least effort is the smarter of the two applicants. After all, if the end result is no interview and no job, why invest a lot of effort?

The answer of course comes down to two things; improving your odds of success and improving the experience of the job you get.

Improving your odds of success.

The job applicant submitting a weak, generalized resume is going to be job searching for a long time, simply because each and every time they are measured up against some other applicants who are taking the time to craft their resumes to the specific needs of each and every job posting. In that pool of applicants, the employer looks through the many they get and each and every time begins with the same thinking; the ones closest on paper to what I’m looking for are the ones to interview.

The job applicant with a strong, targeted resume will have a shorter period of unemployment simply because when measured up against some other applicants, they will have their application put in the pile of those who got through the first stage of being screened. The stronger the cover letter and resume, the more they survive each stage of being evaluated, be it by human or digital software.

Improving the experience of the job you get.

This is the second reason for investing effort in the jobs you apply to. When you put the barest level of effort into applying and put a basic resume before employers with scant detail and errors, you send a message along with your resume. The message a potential employer receives may be that here’s someone who doesn’t put in a lot of effort, doesn’t care and isn’t going to be in high demand. Therefore, I can likely hire them at a low wage, maybe do menial work and they may go as far as assume you won’t stay long either, so they don’t invest a lot of effort in your development and training. As a consequence, the experience is poor.

The person with the strong resume and well-researched cover letter on the other hand comes across as well-informed, professional; someone to be taken seriously. Poor employers tend to avoid these types because they feel they won’t be able to manipulate them as much. Good employers are drawn to people who show effort in their application because there’s the hope they also show the same effort in doing the actual work once hired. As a result, not only do these types get hired more often, employers train these people better because they want them to stay and add value to the organization. As a consequence, the experience is better.

Imagine  someone coming up to you as you were buying a lottery ticket. They ask why your only buying a single ticket for the big draw and you tell you it’s all you’re willing to spend because there’s a lot of other people playing. Why play at all then you’re asked? Well, there’s a slim chance you might win and you get to dream about how winning would change your life.

Now suppose this person claimed they could improve your odds of winning by eliminating a lot of the other tickets; a lot of other tickets. No, they aren’t expecting you to shell out additional money and buy more tickets. Would you be interested? Oh yes you would be! You’d only have one thing to say. “How?”

Landing the job is like winning the lottery and it will change things in your life beyond the job. More money to spend on the things you want, feeling better about yourself and having others view you in a better way. Saving some for retirement or a trip you’ve only thought about. On a small scale perhaps eating out every so often, paying down debts, feeling less stressed and having a purpose in how you spend your time.

When you always use a cover letter and improve the strength of both your cover letter and resume through research and get help and advice, you increase the odds of success. You move ahead of the people who apply with weaker resumes and fail to use cover letters. You eliminate the other lottery tickets.

Please share with others as you wish. You may just be doing someone a huge favour.


A Job Search Daily Plan

Have you ever gone for a walk and found yourself seeing things you’ve missed despite passing them everyday in your car? I know I do. I see peeling paint on wooden garages and patterns in the bark of long-lived trees. I smell freshly cut lawns more intensely and oddly enough the occasional but intense odour of a laundry exhaust. Yes, when I slow down and pay attention, things come into my consciousness that I realize are there all along, I’ve just been missing them.

Looking for work is similar. While your employed, you may look at what jobs are out there, but it’s only when you turn to job searching with more intensity that you see opportunities anew.

It’s understandable I suppose. I mean you don’t always inform your network that you’re open to moving on to something else because part of you dreads having to explain over and over again why you’re looking. The urgency isn’t the same either. No, when you’re working, especially full-time, your focus is split between the job you’ve got and the next one. When you reacquire those 7 or 8 hours a day that your job used to fill, it’s like the world slows down and more options suddenly appear.

An excellent decision when job searching is to commit to it. Well, if you’re goal is to find work rather than go through the charade of looking for work; and there’s a difference. The people who go through the illusion of job seeking can occasionally have success, but the statistics reveal the odds are low. Like a lottery, you often hear of the big winners, but we know there are an awful lot of losers whose stories are every bit as real but not told.

Now the people who commit to a job search see and ‘feel’ the job search differently, similar to my experiences of walking around a neighbourhood rather than taking the car. Just as you take in more when you walk, you’ll find more employment opportunities when you slow down and open up those jobs and read what they are all about. When you reach out to connections as a committed job seeker, you open yourself up to online calls, virtual meetings, maybe grabbing a bite and diving into the conversation about where you’re headed. You have the time to take a course that your previous working life kept you from doing. Your perspective changes on what your priorities are and you appreciate things you previously took for granted.

A healthy exercise to undertake when you’re out of work but committed to finding employment is to establish and maintain a focused routine. ‘Focused’ being the key. Waking up late, casually browsing jobs for 15 minutes and watching television might be a routine yes, but not a job search focused one.

A focused job search could look like this:

Wake up, have breakfast, shower and dress. Go for a walk around the neighbourhood for 30 minutes, clearing your head. Once home, sit down in your dedicated job search space – your ‘office’; and job search. This I’ll expand shortly. Mid-morning, grab some fruit and water the houseplants or read a chapter of a book you’re enjoying. Take 20 minutes. Back to the job search. Around noon or so, have lunch and for an hour, do whatever makes you happy. No more than an hour and a half at most though. Back to the job search. Mid afternoon, get up and get out and go around the block; maybe grab the mail down the street but get some air and a change of scenery. Late afternoon, document what you’ve done with your job search and perhaps get back to people you found were unavailable in the morning. Wrap up with some ‘me’ time before having to start making dinner. Enjoy your evening and feel good about what you did during the day.

As to the job search, what I don’t mean is endless scrolling on multiple websites, looking at the same jobs over and over again. That’s not job searching, that’s trolling.

Job searching needs to be stimulating if you’re to keep at it, so break it down into activities. Here’s some but not all the things you could do – all job seeking focused.

Contact your local first aid provider and sign up for First/Aid and CPR. It will add to your resume and fill two days in the next week or so. Define your existing skills and do it on paper, not in your head. Of these skills, determine which you want to use in the next job. Determine what companies you’d most like to work with and start researching their online content. When you know them intimately and know how you would fit in, send them an expression of interest letter even if you don’t see jobs posted. Create or update your online profile in the social platform of your choice; the one you’ll use. I’m a LinkedIn guy myself. Reach out to colleagues and get recommendations if they are willing posted on your profile. Articulate your brand and your value. Who are you? Why would they want you? Update the resume of course and get it looked at for areas to improve by booking a meeting with an Employment Counsellor or Coach.

This is but the tip of the iceberg. Good job hunting my friend!


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.