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.

We Don’t All Have The Same Agenda


Whenever you work with people, it’s inevitable that you’ll find varying levels of commitment, investment and purpose. It is precisely because of this reality that you’d be wise to make no assumptions; assuming that they all come before you with the same goals, the same drive, the same motivation that matches your hopes and expectations. They don’t.

Imagine a couple planning out their future together. While they both want a home and to live well in their retirement years, each has a different comfort level with the amount of their mortgage payments, the amount they are happy setting aside each pay day to invest. Then in walks another couple, and like the first, they aren’t unified in their investment strategies, and as a couple, they don’t mirror the first either. And so it goes.

So when you’re standing in front of a group making a presentation on any given subject matter, it’s presumptuous to assume that everyone before you has the same motives for attending; that everyone wants to get the same things out of your talk. Some might be there entirely because they want to hear and learn, while others are there out of compulsion. Some are curious and hang on every word while others are wondering how they can cut your time together short.

What becomes of critical importance therefore is the need to ask your audience what they want, what they hope for; their motives, even their reservations and their doubts. If you set the right atmosphere where they can openly share their truths with you, you have a better opportunity of connecting with your audience at their level. They listen more attentively, they invest with more interest and commitment, and in the end, they leave feeling valued, having spent their time wisely and they’ll be back. If there’s no trust established, no benefit perceived or derived, they may or may not come back, they may go elsewhere where they perceive better experiences to be had.

What separates a novice from someone seasoned and experienced, is their ability to respond in the moment and on the fly with their audience. When you’re just starting out in your field, you tend to come to situations with your own agenda; I’ll start with this, I’ll move to this, I’ll conclude with this and everyone will leave happy. If it goes well, you feel you’re on to something and you present the next time using the same formula. When it inevitably doesn’t run as smoothly, you sense the disconnect with your audience and you finish feeling a disconnect with your audience, you wonder what went astray.

If you’re just starting out, you might even wonder what was wrong with that audience. If you’ve been around long enough, you have the wisdom to turn and look at yourself, evaluating your own performance first. Did you take the time to connect with your audience? Did you respond to their needs? Did you take the time to even find out what their needs were or did you start with some assumptions and actually get off on the wrong foot right from the start?

Whether you’re a Musician on a stage, a Financial Advisor, a Motivational Speaker, a Politician addressing a townhall or a Social Services Caseworker, you would be wise to never assume your audience is always before you with the same level of motivation; has the same goals for your time together. Your own agenda is known to you of course. But what of theirs? Do you take the time to determine what they want out of the time spent together? All it takes is an ask.

“What are your hopes for our time together?” “What are your expectations?” “Why are you here?” “What do you want to hear?” “How will you measure success and whether or time together was well spent?” These are some questions you might consider – and there are many more of course – asking of your audience.

As I alluded to a few paragraphs earlier, one difference between the novice and the seasoned veteran is the ability to adjust on the fly. The novice, out of necessity is often less comfortable with the idea of gathering expectations of their audience because they don’t have the extensive knowledge yet to truly make adjustments to their own agenda. Those with greater experience have more resources to draw on and can think on their feet with greater mastery.

The major thing you want to avoid is spending time believing you’re delivering on what your audience wants, only to find out too late you didn’t. This leaves your audience feeling disappointed, and as their expectations were not met, they may even spread that disappointment to their friends, personal and professional contacts, etc. As goes their experience, so then goes your reputation.

Testimonials of great experiences had by your audience are then as no surprise, valued highly and you’ll see these on LinkedIn profiles, websites in a, “What our customers are saying” section, and in marketing and public relations pieces.

When both your agenda and your audiences agenda come together, you have a much higher probability of a mutually positive outcome. One note of caution however; if and when you ask your audience for their expectations, the worse thing you can do is make no adjustments to your personal agenda, and fail to deliver.

Something to think about today as you go forward.

Generally Speaking, Here’s THE Problem


It’s not failing to market yourself in a job interview, writing a poor cover letter that fails to grab their attention, fear of initiating a meeting with someone in the role you want or even agonizing over your career path that is the biggest problem for most people. Interestingly however, all these are tied to the fundamental one thing which holds back being successful. That one thing? Positive self-esteem.

Again and again I interact with people who question themselves, who see their abilities and skills as needing improvement. They often show their lack of self-esteem in the words they speak and write, often without even knowing that their choice of words reveals more about them then they realize. Their non-verbal communication also gives away their lack of belief in their abilities. Yes, “Believe In Yourself” is one of the best pieces of advice a person can be given. However, it’s one thing to know you should believe in yourself and quite another to actually do it.

Take the person who, upon sitting down in an interview, starts off by saying, “Oh my gosh, I’m really nervous, I’m going to try my best but…” Or the cover letter that says, “I believe I can do the job”, and not, “I know I can do the job”. Then the body language people use, often folding into themselves in trying to become invisible, or the doubt they reflect on their face as they speak, the weak handshakes, the lack of eye contact etc.

Poor or low self-esteem is robbing employer’s of great employees, and robbing people of wonderful opportunities in the workforce. It keeps people in entry-level jobs when they do get them, and can keep people from taking chances because their fear of failure outweighs their desire for success. It’s sad. It’s more than just sad actually and it’s got to change.

Now if you feel your self-esteem is low, it’s likely you’re not to blame. If you seldom got praised or supported as a child growing up – be it from parents, extended family and teachers etc., it naturally follows that these key authority figures in your early life did you a major disservice which now as an adult has you instinctively doubtful of yourself. Now as an adult, you might not believe others when they say you’re beautiful; being overly critical of minor flaws. You might not have the courage to stand up and tell your parents – even as an adult – that what you really want to do in life is ….

Here’s the good news. Just as years and years of never being complimented, encouraged and supported can do a great deal of damage to your self-esteem, the same can be said of the reverse. In other words, you can in fact improve your self-esteem. This is not something however that’s going to correct itself overnight. Just telling yourself that you’re going to believe in yourself isn’t going to undo decades of damage. Damage by the way might seem like a strong word to use, but honestly, if you’ve been put down or never even had words of encouragement from your parents and significant people in your life, they have in fact damaged you whether it was intentional or not.

Building your self-esteem and self-respect back up is something you can do however. When someone gives you a compliment, do yourself a favour and accept their assessment instead of automatically downplaying or disagreeing with their words. What someone has recognized in you as good and worthy of noting is a good thing. The choice is yours to say a simple thank you or deflect those words with your automatic, “What? This old thing?” or “I don’t see myself that way.”

The person you are now is a product of your past, and it’s equally true that the person you become in the future will be a product of both your present and your future. Yes, it takes time, but time alone won’t change things much. You really need a combination of time, surrounding yourself with positive people who recognize and voice the good in you, and a willingness on your part to be open to seeing yourself differently; a change in your attitude.

You deserve a positive future. You are worthy of the good things in life; the very things you want such as a good job, supportive and positive relationships, feeling good about who you are as a person and seeing yourself as a person of worth.

One thing you can consider is removing yourself from the constant influence of negative people; the one’s who tell you that you’ll never amount to much; that you should just settle in life and you’ll always be flawed. You’re so much better than how they see you! When these people happen to be in your family, you might consider telling them how hurtful their words are, and that they’ve got to get behind you or get out of your way. The person you’ve been is not the person you’re going to be.

Build on small successes. Sure it starts with being open to the, “Believe in Yourself” philosophy. When others say good things about you, accept that they see something in you that you yourself may not; and they just might be right, especially if you’ve heard this from others.

Self-esteem can be rebuilt and when it does, it’s a beautifully powerful thing.

Bad Employer; A Decision To Make


Roughly two months ago I was introduced to an unemployed Photographer with a long-term goal of owning her own business and studio. After 4 days of working together, she was offered and accepted a job as a Manager of a Photography studio; the kind of place you’d find in a big box store where you and the family might go for some portraits or to have your passport photos taken.

Now this job wasn’t her dream job, but it was in her field, it would put employment on her résumé, and it would certainly bring in some immediate income; albeit not the amount she’d want down the road. Setting aside some of her wages for that long-term dream studio and getting a job offer after a frustrating long job search did wonders for her self-esteem.

Well as happens occasionally, the experience has backfired; she’s feeling used and abused, the position was immediately clarified as employee not Manager, and the wages aren’t consistent with others in the same role. She’s continued to be poorly trained, she hasn’t even got one person she primarily reports to, and if you can believe it, she only interacts with these Supervisors by text; she never sees them in person and works on her own. In this odd setup, she is monitored by cameras, and is told she isn’t selling enough to hit her daily targets, but when asking for guidance and training, she’s told to phone other locations and ask for tips and tricks! Another employee told her she’s on the ‘fire’ list too.

So we sat down together face-to-face yesterday afternoon. My inclination as I listened was to tell her clearly that I believed she should quit. However, professionally, I know it would be better for her to come to her own decision. In other words, my goal was to hear her out, take what she was feeling emotionally and physically, work with that and give it back to her in such a way that she’d have the clarity to make her own choice. What she wanted I felt, was validation of her circumstances, and to understand the impact if any, on her social assistance status were she to quit.

I admired her desire to keep the job until she found a better one. It’s not in her nature to give up on a job. In was here that I drew a parallel where she had in the past been in a relationship where she didn’t want to give up on her abusive partner. Back then, she’d thought she could ‘fix’ him; make him better. That didn’t work, and she eventually removed herself from that abusive relationship and is the better for it, now with someone who treats her better. This was similar; not in her nature to quit, trying to make the situation work because she really enjoys working with customers, but at the same time, being shuffled to and from 4 locations to fill in staff absences. She’s been scheduled to work every weekend so far; despite having asked for one off to celebrate her own birthday, and the schedule changes without her being told herself until another employee calls to tell her. Oh and I saw the texts on her mobile; very inappropriate language and very poor communication.

In the end I made sure first and foremost that she knew there would be no sanctions, suspension of benefits or other penalties for quitting. Sure, we in Social Services generally want people to keep jobs until they find better ones, but this isn’t healthy; it’s someone in a position of being mentally abused. We discussed of course the pros and cons of staying and quitting, and should quitting be her decision, how to go about it a few different ways.

I think what helped her the most was realizing that this minimum wage job, while yes in her field of photography, could be easily replaced by any job with no loss in wages, but where she would likely be much better treated. Perhaps a little wiser, her mental health and self-esteem are worth more than keeping this job and trying to fix it.

By the way, if YOU are in a similar position, I empathize with you. You need the income I understand, but bad employers and being mistreated on a regular basis come with a cost. Is the income you’re getting enough to really offset the cost to your own mental and physical health?

Being August and rolling into September, we’re in the second best time for getting hired. Now – right now – is the best time to ramp up your job search and go at it with renewed energy. You’re worth more than staying in a job where you’re poorly trained and supported, make minimum wage or well below what you’re experience and education qualify you for. It’s definitely up to you and you alone whether you stay or go.

Now if you do quit a job, the worse thing an employer can do is not pay you for some of the wages you’re entitled to, which is illegal, but they might threaten that. You might fight this or just walk away and report them to the Ministry of Labour in your area. You don’t need to put a short-term job even on your résumé, so it won’t haunt you into your next job either.

Bad employer? Is it worth it to stay?

Me Vote? Why Bother? Nobody Cares What I Think


You guessed it, there’s an election looming in the province where I live here in Ontario. It’s tomorrow actually, Thursday June 7th, and the stake couldn’t be hire. That’s hire; h-i-r-e in this case not, ‘higher’ which would be grammatically correct in almost any other sentence. Why? Simply put, your job could be on the line.

Now if you’re unemployed and have no job to lose, don’t feel smug and protected; you could be looking at a longer unemployed status, higher hydro bills and gas bills and a higher debt level for the province meaning you and your children will be paying higher taxes for years to come. Yep, this one is all about, ‘higher’ and ‘hire’.

But hey, you’re just one person with one vote. That single vote will likely be nullified and useless when the next person in line steps up and votes for another candidate – so what’s the point? Not only that, but suppose you haven’t got a clue what the issues are, who stands for what, where to vote or even how to go about it. Why, you might even feel that nobody cares what you or others in your age bracket or social class think anyway so you just don’t care; and it takes time out of your busy day too. Hold on there, sure these are reasons not to vote.

Well, no matter where you live in the world, I agree these could sum up the situation where you live when a vote comes around, be it a national or local election. Oh wait, that’s not true is it? No, I took for granted for a second there that everybody in the world has the right to vote and that’s not the fact. There are after all many countries in the world that aren’t democracies, where the people haven’t won the right to make that little ‘x’ beside the name of the person they’d most like to represent them in a position of power.

Now, yes, you might feel nobody knows you or others in your situation, and they don’t care to either. Let’s assume for a second you’re right. You could choose not to vote and perpetuate their lack of interest in making your livelihood better. On the other hand, suppose you and a lot of other people just like you DID get out and vote. Nothing might happen in this election, but voting numbers and WHO voted does catch the eye of politicians. Suddenly they would take an interest because it would be in THEIR interests to take an interest in you. You can bet that in the next election you’d hear them pleading for your vote and to get it they’d be both listening and putting the things in their platforms that you’d want for yourself. Don’t vote though and they spend their time dangling money and better living conditions for others.

Okay so even if you did decide to vote, you don’t know the issues? At one time, neither did I. Sure you can turn on a radio, listen to the news and find out a little day by day, but the election is tomorrow! I went online and typed the following into Bing, my favourite search engine of choice: ‘Ontario Provincial Election Issues 2018’. The first link that popped up gave me a breakdown of each parties position on the same issues. This took all of 3.7 seconds. Reading it and forming an opinion of what would be in my best interests and that of my family took about 10 minutes. Voting itself is at a neighbourhood school and it will take about 15 minutes to get there, vote and get home; unless of course we stop and socialize with some of our neighbours who pop by at the same time. Less than half an hour to get educated and vote. Hold that up against 4 years of the wrong party in power and it’s not an inconvenience.

So imagine if you will that a large number of people in poverty or young adults barely old enough to vote suddenly did so. These are two groups who typically get ignored by politicians because they don’t vote anyhow. You can bet the smart politicians – and there’s an oxymoron for you – would want to get your vote. They’d be holding town halls, visiting schools in greater numbers, improving social housing units, making transportation cheaper, eliminating some things you pay for now, and they’d make your future prospects better. They claim to do these things now in some cases, but often these are the first things to go when the money is tight and they get in power. That wouldn’t happen if the electorate threatened to vote them out. You see they get hungry to stay in power once there.

So look at who is bringing jobs to your neighbourhood. Who has money for training? Who will raise your wages or your quality of life? Who will shut down your industry and force you out of a job with their plans? In short, who will hurt or help you.

Vote or don’t at your discretion of course, but I hope you choose to. However, if you don’t, you should at least know what you’re passing up and be ready to live with the results for good or bad whatever they turn out to be. In fact, your present situation is largely shaped by your decision NOT to vote in the past.

A Message For Those Who Hire


Hi there! Up front let me state I’m an Employment Counsellor and I acknowledge I’m working with and supporting people who are after job interviews with the goal of getting hired.

You and I want the same thing; good people working on behalf of you and your organization to best serve your customers and clients; increasing your profits and minimizing your expenditures.

I know some of you are still doing your own recruiting and hiring while professional Recruiters and Headhunters are coming onboard to help source talent for other organizations. Time is money and you’re not in the charity business; you want a good pool of qualified people from whom to select the right candidates to join your workforce. So it’s not about what you can do for an applicant but rather what can they do for you. What you find annoying and don’t have time for are the applications from people who clearly don’t meet your stated qualifications, and even more frustrating are those who misrepresent or downright lie about their qualifications and their abilities.

You value enthusiasm, punctuality, integrity and you must have people who genuinely get along with others and who are willing to take direction with a positive attitude.

How am I doing at stating what you’re after? Anything you’d like to add? Feel free to comment when you’ve finished reading so others fully understand what it is you want. I suppose it’s fair to say that if an applicant can prove how they are going to add value to your company, they’ve got a good shot at joining you through the selection process.

To land the best candidates, allow me to share some of the things which will help me and others like me, get you the best people.

  1. Demonstrate the integrity you expect in others. This means, be true to your word and don’t say you’ll get in touch after an interview if you really don’t plan to. If you say you’re making a decision next week, fine; live up to that.
  2. Online applications have limited value. There’s an irony here in that online applications will keep job seekers away from your business. Think about who has the time to sit down and fill out your 86 question online application. You’re not always getting the go-getters; you might be getting someone in their fuzzy slippers and housecoat with hours of free time to sit and do your applications. And don’t you value meeting people to assess them in person anyhow?
  3. Scrap distance to your workplace as a cause for concern. Yes you need people to show up when scheduled. Leave getting to your place when required up to the applicant; that’s their responsibility. Don’t assume people who live 4 blocks away will have better attendance and punctuality than the people who live in the next town or city.
  4. Age biased? You and I know the pros and cons of both the young and the old. With that being said, what’s young? What’s old? Don’t whitewash all the applicants in either group or you’ll miss some real gems. Young people want and need the value of learning on the job, and while you’re not a charity as I stated above, you can train and shape this person. At the other end of the spectrum, not every mature person has health issues and demands to be paid a premium. You’d be surprised at the tremendous value you’ll receive from someone with life and work experience who wants nothing more than to contribute what they’ve got for another 5 or 6 years.
  5. Ditch the “welfare bias”. You might not be aware of this but many in receipt of social assistance are highly motivated, skilled and incredibly educated. Whatever image you have in your mind as portrayed in social media is probably wrong. There are people with Masters, Degrees, Diplomas and Doctorates receiving welfare. Some of the finest people I know; some of the best workers I know, at one time received support from the social assistance system. Continue with your unfounded bias and you’re missing out.
  6. Interview integrity. This is an opportunity for both the applicant and your organization. So how about conversing with applicants respectfully. If you’re going to ask them off-the-wall questions about what animal they’d like to be, how would you feel if they asked you in return an equally odd question such as whether you’d like to wear a toupee or a shave your head completely at 45? In the limited time you have to assess this person, treat them with dignity in the interview. Make the most of your questions and respect their time too.
  7. You get what you deserve. Please don’t be one of the organizations that lets new hires go two days before their probation is up as a way to save paying benefits. Do this with regularity and we’ll send you employees that can in our opinion only hold down jobs over a short-term or perhaps none at all. If you want the best, be the best yourself.

Absolutely love to hear from those who interview and hire; business owners and those in Human Resources. There are many poor employers out there with poor hiring practices. Thankfully, there are far more excellent employers out there who recruit, hire and train with integrity and accountability. If people are the most important part of an organization, we collectively need to see them as such at the very first contact.

Help Wanted


A lot of businesses in days gone by would put a sign in their front window indicating, “Help Wanted – Apply Within”. When you spied one such sign and were interested, you’d walk in, introduce yourself and say you were there about the job. The employer would look you up and down, ask a few questions and send you or your way or hire you; sometimes if you were lucky, on the spot. The sign was then removed from the window, and the people knew to stop dropping in because the job opening was filled.

Those signs did the trick for those companies. They simply said they needed help and help came knocking on their door – literally in this case!

Now, yes, I’ve been out and about and looked at windows where such signs are still displayed, but far less of them are out there than in days past. Most of the time this kind of advertising for help only works in high traffic areas anyhow. Malls, strip malls, heavy pedestrian traffic streets are places where they are most effective. As you well know, an employer is much more likely to post job openings on a job search website and instruct applicants to apply online.

What if people did the same thing when they were out of work and needed help to find and get their next job? I don’t mean holding a sign that says, “I need a job. Please hire me.” This kind of sign is pretty self-serving, the message clear; “I need a job so I’m asking you to hire me so that I get what I need – the money that comes from employment.” I see people with these signs approaching on ramps to major highways, standing on the street. Maybe you’ve seen them too?

First of all let’s not judge these folks harshly. We don’t know the first thing about what circumstances have led them to those on ramps and sidewalks. Judgement aside, what if those signs were written with a different message? Imagine they read, “Help Wanted: Job Search Assistance, End Goal: Employment.”

Now the average person walking down the street can come from one of a hundred different walks of life. While each person may not have the ability to offer job search ideas and support to a person, the one thing we’d all have in common and be in a place to give is some cash. This is why panhandling achieves its goal of rustling up some much-needed and immediate short-term cash. But job search support? That’s likely going to take the right person walking down the street and that person has to be counted on to both see the sign and then have the time and interest to stop and ask how they can be of help. Probably less likely to succeed but who knows.

But there is a fundamental difference in the two signs, “I need a job” and “Help Wanted: Job Search Assistance, End Goal: Employment.” The first is all about the person holding the sign; what they want and need. The second is not so much about a job being given them, but rather they are asking for help in learning how to get a job for themselves.

I’ll be honest with you though and tell you not everyone is interested or motivated in putting in the time, mental energy or work involved in learning how to do things for themselves. I mean that. There are people who’d rather have someone give them a job and be done with it; perhaps they’ve relied on people to give them jobs in the past and this is all they know. It’s too much work to learn how to go about job searching in 2018. They’ve no interest in cover letters, resume writing, interview skills, career exploration and skill identification; just give me a job thank you or move on.

Stephen Landry in Ottawa; a LinkedIn connection of mine just yesterday said something to me in a communication that got me thinking. He said, “Sometimes it’s hard for people to know how to ask for help when it’s all they know or have experienced.” He’s a wise one is Stephen. You see it’s not that people are obstinate or inflexible, they just may not know how to ask for the help they need. Good point Stephen.

I generally don’t recommend holding a sign asking for help out in public. Might be worth a go and get results but the odds are low I imagine. Rather, to increase your odds at getting the job search support you really want, a good place to start is with a social service organization in your community. Look them up online or walk in when you’re out and about. Even if you walk into the wrong place, all the social service organizations are well-connected. You’ll be listened to, (and isn’t that nice?) just enough to decide who best would serve your needs. You’ll likely get an address, a phone number and maybe some pamphlet on the services they offer.

I hesitate to give specific names of help organizations because this blog makes its way around the world. So this is where you my reader comes in. Please comment and suggest a few employment support organizations in your part of the world. If you add a place or two and others do likewise, any job seeker reading this blog will benefit.

Lets Talk A Positive Attitude


Saying you have a positive attitude in a cover letter and resume might help land that big interview. When sitting in the interview itself, it will probably do serve you well to say it again just to reinforce the point. What however, does a positive attitude look like on the job? How would you prove by example to an interviewer that you bring this positivity to the workplace?

In other words, supposing you were asked, “Give us an example from your previous position where your positive attitude was tested.” Would you be able to answer this question? What would you say then?

You see it’s easy to say that you bring a positive attitude to work on a daily basis. To be believed however, you’ll need to have at a moments notice, a real, tangible example, (several would be ideal) of specific situations where your positive attitude was on display. A situation where your attitude was tested simply means that the situation or atmosphere in which you found yourself in the story you are about to relate was trying and where it might have been easy to join with others and be negative or complacent. The best answer for you could be where your positive attitude had the impact of changing for the better the mood and attitude of others around you; thereby increasing productivity overall.

Now you shouldn’t be surprised at this question if the job ad specifically mentions a positive culture, a winning attitude, etc. While it’s perfectly fine to pause when asked each question to gather your thoughts, you certainly don’t want a long, extended delay which could be interpreted as not having any specific examples to give at all; seemingly having come unprepared. Why, a very long pause could also give an Interviewer the feeling that what they will eventually hear is fabricated, made up, invented and never happened at all.

It is in the face of adversity; or in moments when you receive news that throws you off – such as having the boss tell you you’re doing something completely different on a given day than what you’d been looking forward to – that tests your positive attitude. The organizations that specifically go out recruiting people with positive attitudes believe that with the addition of such people, the workplace in which their employees create will itself become a more positive place to work.

I for one learned when I was in my 20’s that surrounding myself with positive people when possible was much preferable to being around negative thinkers; people who often cast a pall over conversations. I’d rather celebrate a sunny day than have someone point out there’s rain coming tomorrow. Now sure, there are times when people have good reasons to be less than positive. Having a positive attitude doesn’t mean you walk around with a smile no matter the circumstances, living in your own fantasy world. That’s artificial and really doesn’t need much effort if it’s your everyday, all-situations disposition.

People with a positive attitude however will generally be optimistic, look for the upside when possible, and they are generally good people to be around. Would you like to come to work surround by positive people or choose rather to surround yourself with others who’ve created a toxic environment of negativity?

Throughout your day, most of us have interactions with other people; be they on the telephone, in-person, video links etc., or what we choose to read in texts, blogs, newspapers, etc. In many of these situations, we have full control over what we read, what we say, how long we engage or remove ourselves. Some people advocate that if you’re feeling down you stop reading newspapers, stop listening to the news on the radio, remove yourself from the cancerous conversations in the workplace and in so doing, you cut your own exposure to the negative.

I think it’s important to know what’s going on in the world, some of which is bad. It’s equally good to know what might be happening with a co-worker you’ve come to value and appreciate that’s caused them to be sad, troubled or worried about. The challenge is to display empathy, express your concern and still remain a positive person yourself without allowing your attitude to dip. Telling someone to bear up and look on the bright side of things isn’t going to be helpful when they really just need to be heard, their feelings validated and above all listened to.

The situations you want to avoid are those where you hear a couple of people questioning the motives of Management, some are spreading gossip, rumours or you’ve got some co-workers who have become jaded in their views of their clients or customers. “They are all scamming!” “Everyone is cheating the system!” “It’s us against them you know old buddy boy!” Walk away clean my friend; walk away clean.

Positive people don’t wear rose-coloured glasses all the time. What positive people do is give the benefit of the doubt, be good role models for others, and most importantly, they attract other positive people to themselves simply by gaining a reputation for being a positive person in general.

Everyone has their moments and their days. Do you have the skill necessary to be self-aware and catch yourself slipping away from your usual positive self and correcting your own behaviour? That would be a great example to share.

#1 Desired Trait? ENTHUSIASM!


If skills, experience and academic education alone were all it takes to impress upon an employer that you’re the right person to hire, there wouldn’t be any need for interviews. Employers would simply look over the resumes that come in, and presumably the first one that checked off all of their needs would get selected and the rest put aside. That is not how it works.

Interviews are held of course, most often in person, but in some cases are held over the phone, via a video link, or in a screening test or questionnaire which both lead up to an in-person get together.

The reason those employers set up meetings between applicants and their own representatives – pegged as interviewers – is to size up the person in areas that aren’t indicated on the résumé. Essentially the employer wants to meet to assess your personality, attitude, friendliness, ability to engage with them, your communication skills, first impression; all in an attempt to decide as best as possible if you’re the kind of person that will fit into their organization.

It might seem obvious to you that you want the job. I mean, otherwise, why would you have applied? People who apply for jobs however have varying degrees of excitement and enthusiasm for the work to be done. Some apply out of desperation, some are just kicking tires, seeing if they get any response, others are genuinely interested in the jobs while others are running away from the jobs they have now and almost anything else would seem to be preferable. So one’s motivation for applying in the first place is often a key question for an interviewer to determine.

This idea of determining ones motivation is why questions like, “Why are you applying for this position?”, “What do you know about us?” and, “Why are you leaving / Why did you leave your current / last job?” of interest. These kinds of questions are designed to have you respond in part to your motivation for wanting to work for this company you are being interviewed by.

So if for example you don’t know much about the company you are applying for, this could show you don’t actually know or seemingly care if the job and company will be a good fit for you or not. Your lack of interest in putting in any effort to find out before applying tells them you might just be on a fishing trip – trying to see if you can get a job offer by putting in a minimal effort. Is this an indication how you’ll go about things if they did hire you too? Probably. After all, if you aren’t investing much energy in finding out something that should be pretty important to you personally, you’re not likely to invest much energy in the work the company expects you to do on their behalf now are you?

Showing a high level of enthusiasm for the opportunity before you is first and foremost what an employer wants to hear and see in the people they hire. When you are genuinely enthusiastic about the job or career you’re interviewing for, you send a very appealing message. You’re going to work with enthusiasm, enjoy what you’re doing, make an investment of your physical and mental capacities and in short, you’ll be connected to the work you do.

So you’ll show up on time, be present mentally when you’re there physically, get along with your co-workers, and your overall energy and work ethic will add to and not draw from the overall goals of the organization. Let’s sum things up by saying you’re going to be an attractive addition to the team.

How do you convey enthusiasm? Ah, good question! Look and sound positive, sit slightly forward and make good eye contact. Ask questions throughout that show a real interest. Mention things you’ve discovered through your earlier research about the job, their clients/customers. Identify any opportunities you’re aware of that your uniquely qualified to respond to. Ask about future challenges, culture, expectations and reply to what you hear by thoughtfully adding how you will enjoy engaging with these same things.

You can tell when someone isn’t really engaged in what they’re doing and so can an interviewer. Ever been on a date where the other person doesn’t seem invested but is going along until they can finally get away? You can tell by their glances elsewhere, their lack of conversation about anything meaningful and their posture that this isn’t a good fit for either of you. Pretty much the same thing with a job interview.

You might actually see the word, ‘enthusiasm’ in a job posting or you may not. It’s never a bad idea to bring it out right from the first moment of contact, all the way through to the handshake you respond with as they say, “Welcome aboard!”

Having said that, continuing to show enthusiasm for your job on a daily basis will help keep you in mind as a positive person and influence on others you come into contact with. Who knows? Could be that your genuine enthusiasm for what you do will gain you respect and perhaps even lead to being considered for advancement as opportunities arise within the organization in the years to come.

With Enthusiasm as always,

Kelly Mitchell

Mental Health, Unemployment; Compassion


I have learned over the years that first appearances don’t always tell the story. There are many people who, upon first meeting, seem to be in earnest to find employment, but whose actions conflict with what their words would have you believe. It’s easy to mistakenly assume that these people lack commitment to finding a job. You might categorize them as lazy, attempting to intentionally deceive, not putting in the effort to get a job  while telling you they want to work. Often you come to realize however that something else is at play.

Most government programs that provide the basics such as food and shelter have expectations that people look to find income, usually obtained via employment, and work towards financial independence. At its simplest, those who work give a portion of their income to support those in society who don’t. Those with employment income generally assume that those in receipt of help are working hard to get off those programs and join the ranks of the employed. They also assume that those who administer such programs are providing help and advice to aid the unemployed to reach this same goal as quickly as possible.. They also believe this safety net built into our society is meant to support people for a relatively short time until a person finds financial independence.

Most people I believe, have compassion and care for those who are out of work, especially for those incapable of supporting themselves; for whom there is no alternative to find food and shelter. And there is the crux of the situation for a lot of people who see themselves as supporting others; some want to work and try hard to become financially independent. Others seem to avoid looking for work, and these are easier to spot to the average citizen. After all, someone looking for work is either inside some employment agency, working at finding a job from their home, or they are mingling on the street, dressed like workers, on their way to job interviews, meetings, etc.

Those who avoid looking for work or seem to be avoiding looking for work are easier to spot. These are the people we see who look to be of a working age, but are loitering about, sitting in parks and coffee shops, permanently dressed in ‘weekend’ clothes, walking with no purpose, certainly seem to have no work destination in mind. If we saw a cane, a limp, a cast on the arm or some such visible sign of disability, we’d extend compassion, believing their idle time is justified.

However, for many such people, there is no visible sign of disability. Look them over quickly and they seem to be healthy and capable of working; doing something productive. It’s likely that this person you’re looking at is dealing with some mental health issue. Now you might be thinking that this presumption is a bit of a leap, brought on the amount of time I’ve spent in my profession. Fair enough.

So let’s look at you. So you’ve got a  job and you’ve never been on assistance let alone out of work for long. You’re self-image is pretty intact and you’ve got a pretty healthy outlook on things. Suppose now you found yourself out of work. Downsized, laid off, fired, had to move to another city because your spouse took a job there, went back to school and are just job searching now – take your pick. In the short-term you find yourself in shock. No matter, you’ll be working soon.

While optimistic at first, you find your social connections; friends and past work colleagues treat you differently. First off, the work connections are only accessible when you call on them, and there’s less and less to talk about from your end. Your friends keep up at first, but you find you’re left out more and more because after all, money is tight and get-togethers for Spa Days and weekend jaunts to concerts and hotels out-of-town aren’t in your budget, so they call less on you to join them.

You cut back where you can on groceries, trips in the car, clothing and entertainment. Your parents and relatives tell you to just get a job, after all you’ve been successful before so it won’t be long. But it is. Your self-esteem has taken a hit as has part of your identity; the part of you that identified yourself by a profession and as an employee.

Making a résumé and applying for jobs seems simple enough, but you’re not getting the results you’ve had in the past. While applying for work, you’re not eating as well as you should; groceries are more expensive so you buy the cheaper, pre-made and packaged stuff. You put off dental work and new glasses maybe – you’ll get them when you’re working.

Look, the bottom line is the longer you’re out of work the harder it is to keep positive. Doubt, anxiety, sadness, depression; it’s not hard to see how these creep in and can be debilitating. When you experience these yourself or work with those who do, it’s easier to see how someone can want to work but literally be unable to do what is necessary to be successfully employed; sometimes for a long time, some times forever. And the longer ones unemployment lasts, the harder it becomes to break the routine.