Just Being At Work Isn’t Enough


When an employer is paying you for work you’ve agreed to do in exchange for that income, they’ve got every right to expect you’ll not only actually show up, you’ll also be productive when you’re there. And believe me, there are many people who have a good attendance record but fail to really do much work.

I’m sure you’ve see these people; they might be the kind of people who are lying low, keeping to themselves. They could just as well be the ones who are always walking around, popping in for a chat all around the office; never very long with any one person, but add up all their visits and they waste more time socializing with their colleagues than doing the work they’re paid to do.

Some organizations have productivity targets; ways to measure an employee’s success. They might even go so far as increasing those same quotas and targets if and when an employee reaches those goals. So when you’re new and relatively inexperienced or learning on the job, your targets might be lower than those who have seniority and a wealth of experience. The longer you’re with a company, the more their expectations rise, until you get to the point where you’ve reached what the organization deems your working capacity.

If you’ve ever worked in a commission environment, you’ll understand this model. The sales targets each person has is largely determined based on experience level, with newer employees expected to sell fewer units than well-seasoned workers. If those targets never went up, sales staff would potentially become complacent; never reaching their full potential, and of consequence, the company wouldn’t sell as many products or sell the number of products they’d like. Now while commission sales isn’t for everyone, you get the model. Some people love commission sales; they can determine their own income based on the energy they put out and the more they hustle the more they make.

In many work environments, work isn’t commissioned based. The expectation employer’s have however remains consistent. Come in, do what you’re getting paid to do and at the end of the day, ensure you’ve given your best and repeat this the next day and every day. If and when you’re not working at work; not being as productive as your employer deems is required, you will find your services are no longer required. They may tell you things just aren’t working out; pretty much as saying, “You’re not working out.”

While this can be difficult to hear, sometimes being released from a job where you’re not working out can be a good thing. Without that push out the door, you might not have left voluntarily, and you’d have been trapped for a long time perhaps in a job that was a poor fit for your interests and your skills. Many a person has been fired or let go only to find a much more satisfying job doing something else for another employer. Looking back, many will claim losing their job was the best thing that happened to them; although at the time it wasn’t so great!

So, when you’re at work, be productive. You should know what it is you’re expected to do and you should spend your time doing that work to the best of your ability. If you get to the point where you’re not really being mentally stimulated and this is important to you, you can talk to others in the organization about additional work or relocating to another area. This might be identified as cross-training; learning another job in addition to the first one you’ve mastered. This cross-training makes you more of an asset to the organization because you can be pulled from one job to work in another if and when someone is absent or demand for productivity increases in an area outside of your typical job. It can also help make you an asset worth keeping around if and when layoffs occur.

The one person in the organization – any organization by the way, who knows if you’re not working up to your full capabilities is yourself. Now, we all have a day here and there where our minds are elsewhere; we just can’t focus or work near as hard for some reason and as a result our productivity drops. A day here and there is one thing, but if you find those days are becoming more and more frequent – perhaps to the point of becoming the norm, this is a huge sign to change things up. If you read the signs and do something about the situation before others notice, good for you. But if you ignore the warning signs, you might find yourself brought in for a chat about your performance, put on some kind of probation or at worse, released.

As you’re reading this piece on being more than just present at work, is it speaking to you directly? I mean, do you see yourself being described; not really invested in the work anymore, and spending more energy at work trying to look busy than actually being busy? If so, heed the reason behind the symptoms. In other words, it might be time to move on, ask for additional responsibilities or even a change in work completely but remain with the same employer.

Continuing to miss or waste time at work is a warning sign you can’t afford to ignore.

 

Mental Health Issues At Work


A lot of people don’t get it do they? They may be sympathetic alright, but their sympathy doesn’t translate into fully appreciating or understanding why you falter. When they see you running late, having to leave early, missing days entirely, they wonder how much you really want it in the first place. To be fair, they only see you when you’re experiencing days that are good enough for you to get out in public. If they could see you on your worst days; the ones where you can’t even get out of bed, they’d have a different point of view – perhaps – and maybe their sympathy would turn to empathy.

These mental health issues aren’t what you want in life. It’s not like you go out of your way to take time off. When the anxiety and panic sends you running for the security of your home surroundings; one of the few places you can actually breathe and feel somewhat safe and protected against what assails you, you’re not bolting because you want to, you’re leaving because you have to. When you do get home and shut that door with your back leaning against it out of sheer relief, you don’t always feel happiness at being home but rather, sometimes great frustration that once again, you couldn’t finish what you’d hope would be putting in a full day.

Being normal; it’s not too much to ask for is it? Just getting up, feeling good, having a shower and washing away all the remnants of bad dreams and thoughts along with the water. Dressing, looking at yourself in the mirror and liking what you see as you lock the door and head to work with confidence, looking forward to meeting people, being productive, getting things done. Normal. Sigh… “Why can’t that be me?”, you wonder. Just a normal, average person living free of these constant mental health challenges. Oh to have a day free of meds, free of worry and fear, no anxiety – “do I remember a time when I didn’t have these things?”

Now we all have times in our lives when we experience anxiety and worry. We’ve had moments of panic, a few days or maybe a couple of weeks when something has caused us to feel added pressure and stress. Some major project at work, year-end inventories, staff shortages, some invasive dental work etc. The pressure and anxiety we feel in these moments gives us a small glimpse into what others with mental health issues feel; a good thing of course. However the downside of these moments is that we might feel we know exactly what someone with constant anxiety and depression feels. This can cause us to expect them to snap out of it eventually, put in the effort to pull themselves past the panic attacks and be stronger than their mental illness. After all, if ours passed, theirs should too.

Like I said, this is the downside of having moments here and there where we all experience stress, anxiety and sadness. Oh it’s completely understandable that we evaluate others behaviours based on what we’ve experienced ourselves. As humans, we all do this. We try and understand the behaviours and actions of others using whatever we’ve experienced that comes closest to what we see and hear. The problem in this case is when we see our own short-term challenge; one we’ve overcome, and we compare it to someone with an ongoing mental health challenge and expect them to put it behind them as we’ve done. That’s just not realistic. If these are the expectations we hold, we’re really not being empathetic.

It just may not be possible to fully appreciate and truly understand what we ourselves have not experienced. And many a person with anxiety, depression, panic attacks and constant pressure has told me they wouldn’t wish on anyone what they struggle with every day. I for one can only imagine the strength of character, determination and immense mental and physical effort it must take just to show up some days and then on top of that, work with a smile, look like you want others to see you as. What I can’t imagine is how hurtful it must feel if you were present on the job, thinking you were blending in (finally!) and then someone said, “You know, it wouldn’t hurt you to smile.” It would have to feel like a dagger bursting what you believed to be a pretty impressive rebuilding of your self-esteem.

This blog today is therefore meant to be for both you who struggle with mental health and those of us who work alongside you and are fortunate enough to live free of. Show some compassion; what you can’t understand do your best not to criticize or judge harshly. When your workload goes up because someone is absent again, be mindful that they aren’t, ‘goofing off’, or ‘having a good time lazing about’. Keep them in your thoughts and welcome them back with words of encouragement.

And you who have mental health challenges, problems, struggles – choose what you will – all you can do is your best and your best is all that can be asked of you. May you be surrounded by considerate, compassionate people who lend support, have your back and excuse/forgive us if every so often we fail to act at our best with words that may hurt unintended.

Understanding Teamwork


“Must be a team player.”

“Must be able to work independently and in teams.”

Some version of the above appears consistently in job posts these days. So much so in fact, that I’m getting kind of numb to reading over and over again in the resumes I start with a line that reads, “Can work independently or in teams.” I shudder just writing it there myself. Oh my goodness please don’t put this on your own resume and look exactly like 95% of all the other applicants you’re up against. B O R I N G !

Like any job requirement listed by an employer, it is imperative that you understand what the employer is asking for and why the position requires that particular skill set. When you understand the, ‘why’, you’ll find you suddenly have a much better grasp of their need, and so, when you include that skill or ability on your resume, you’ll do a much better job of presenting it, rather than just looking like you used copy and paste to get it on your page. How unimaginative!

I mean just think of the people on the receiving end, going over all those resumes they received. Imagine yourself in their shoes, and objectively ask yourself whether your own resume would stand out when yours, like most of them have the exact same words in that one line; “Work well independently or in teams”.

So what does it MEAN to work a team? Depending on the job, it could mean you listen to others, cooperate, share ideas, show flexibility, cover when co-workers are off, pitch in, collaborate, cooperate, support, encourage, engage, initiate, share resources, accommodate, etc. For a job involving teamwork you have to have excellent communication skills and sound interpersonal skills. Your team might be made up of people at your same level of seniority, but your team could also include interns, junior partners, senior management, front-line workers, administrative support staff. The folks on your team will not necessarily work in the same physical location if you think about it too. Could be they work in another department in the same building, on another floor, or across the city, in another province or state, or even on another continent.

Depending on the above, your teamwork might happen when you work face-to-face, over the phone, teleconferencing, face-timing over the internet, via email or fax, maybe even working collaboratively in a team with people you’ll only ever communicate with using a keyboard. Of course, for many of you reading this, your team will be comprised of your closest co-workers; the ones you physically engage with every day.

So first off, understand what the team looks like in the job you’re applying for. And there’s something not everyone thinks of when they do envision the type of team they’ll work with. Every team has a set of values, and it’s these values that they demonstrate as they go about their work. If you don’t know what the values are a team holds in high regard, it’s going to be hit and miss when you’re in an interview and trying to demonstrate what a great fit you are. If on the other hand you’ve done some advance work finding out what the team you’ll potential join holds dear, you can align yourself with that same set of values and you’ll then talk and act in such a way that it makes it easier for the employer to see you fitting in.

On the team I’m on for example, flexibility, creativity, and collaboration are values we hold. Anyone joining our team might show up at work and suddenly find that due to the absence of a co-worker on the team, their assigned role for the day is changing. That means in turn you’d have to be or learn quickly to be, flexible, adaptable to change. All the workshops we do involve working either alone or with a co-facilitator. Hence, collaboration and accepting the ideas of others is a job requirement. Positive interpersonal skills are essential because you’re not always in agreement with how a day will pan out, and when you’re making adjustments on the fly before an audience, they will be watching to see how you both interact with each other, consult and amend everything from switching the order of your lessons, shortening or lengthening a topic, adjusting break or lunch periods etc. And when the day is done and you’re tidying up, you need to work together to make adjustments, evaluate how things are progressing and turn to preparing for the next day.

Armed with all of that, it feels so inadequate to just say on my own resume, “Work well in teams.” How badly I would be marketing my abilities!

I might however say,

  •  Collaborate and work productively in team environments where flexibility, creativity, leadership and strong interpersonal skills are highly valued

Now I’m packing a lot more into the teamwork angle. I’ve included 4 traits that fit with what I’ve read or learned the employer values. Now imagine my every bullet was enhanced and strengthened in a similar way. Or rather, imagine YOUR resume was strengthened in a similar way.

What’s important to is to prove through your accomplishments which you document on the resume that you’ve actually had these collaborative team experiences. Just making an idle claim that you work well in teams isn’t good enough; it might not be true.

Would You Remove Them From Class?


I’ll put my position right up front; never. Nope, I’ll never remove someone from any class I lead with one exception. (Drat! There’s always one exception; and if there’s one exception I can hardly say I’d never remove someone now can I?)

Seriously, the only time I’ll remove someone from a class I lead is when it is clearly in THEIR best interests. I’ve known a lot of people over the years who kick people out of their classes simply for their own personal benefit. Oh they may say it’s for the good of the other participants but in reality, well, we know better!

Now you might not agree with my position on refraining from removing people from a class for sporadic attendance as an example. Well, here’s how I see things. Perfect attendance is ideal; after all you can’t learn what you miss hearing, seeing and experiencing. When you’re in a class where success is achieved by building on what was learned the previous day, missing class is a huge barrier.  However, the way I see things, when referring to adult participants, treating them like adults means the accountability lies with them rather than me. In other words, they get out what they put in. I’m here, I’m sharing and instructing to those who show up, and if you come and go, you have to assume the responsibility for both what you learn and what you miss.

I know unemployed people have more than just the job hunt taking up their precious thoughts. I’ve met a vast number of people who earnestly want to get a job. All they can control however – and make note of this point – is what they can control. That sounds trite but my point is unemployed people never just have the lack of a job to focus on; no, not ever, and they may lack resources to solve problems too.

Right off the top, the lack of a job often means the person lacks an identity. Instead of saying, “I’m a Carpenter and I work for ________”, they can only say, “I’m a Carpenter by trade”, leaving out the shared identity with an employer. Coupled with this loss of identity as employed is a huge hit to self-esteem. Why after all do you think people hide their unemployed status from family and friends as long as they can? And when was the last time you asked someone what they do for a living and they responded with a confidently delivered, “Why I’m unemployed and in receipt of government financial assistance. Thank you for asking.” Yep; never.

So lack of status, self-esteem and obviously financial income. No job, no money. No money, mounting bills. Mounting bills, increased debt. Increased debt, poor credit score. Poor credit score, no job in some organizations. All of these lead to soaring stress, anxiety, confusion; a trip along the rollercoaster of applying for jobs with high hopes, crushing defeats of being ignored completely, rising hopes when interviewed, dashed dreams of success when rejected..

Now let’s add the stuff that isn’t shared by everyone. You know, the specific problems a person has. Here you can choose from dysfunctional families, homelessness, threats of eviction, physical ailments, concerns with being too young or too old to be taken seriously. Literacy issues, isolation, depression, single-parent status with no childcare, lack of appropriate clothing for interviews, transportation, gaps on the resume, lack of current education and/or expired licences and certificates. Take a breath. How about rent payments due, lost bus passes to agonize over, mislaid identification, court proceedings with the ex to discuss support payments and visitation access. Let’s round things out with the parents who fret and worry about you being so vulnerable and who keep saying you just need someone to take care of you; totally undermining your long held belief that you are independent, strong and quite able to take care of yourself.

Yes, so with all the above going on – or if not all the above then certainly a lot of the above going on with those looking for a job, it borders on cruelty to misread someone’s sporadic attendance as entirely their responsibility or fault and penalize them by removing them. All this accomplishes is adding another failure to their growing list of things to feel bad about.

So when someone doesn’t attend the way you’d like in your class, demonstrate empathy and allow them to continue. Don’t ask why they can’t commit because honestly, they may not be able to articulate all the reasons. As for the others in the class who do show up daily and do contribute and do their best to succeed, praise them for doing so.  You might tell them that you’re taking notice of their good behaviours and that their actions are all contributing to their future success. You might even go so far as to remind them that the stresses they are experiencing may be similar to what others are going through, only the others have fewer resources than they do to cope.

The gift you give your participants is a new perspective; empathy for their fellow classmates. You are suddenly not just teaching people about job hunting or career exploration etc., you’ve just added a life skill; a human element that came as an added bonus not mentioned in the promotional brochure that enticed them to attend.

Well done!

Giving 100% Might Still Not Be Enough


Has this happened to you? You’ve just sat down to eat and you reach for the salt and start shaking it only to find all you get is a few grains of salt. While you did get every last grain you could out of the container, it was still inadequate. So you got up and grabbed a second salt shaker and got the quantity you wanted.

Whenever a group of people come together to learn, you’ll find those in attendance have varying abilities to receive, comprehend, internalize and then use the new information in the way it was intended by whomever gave it to them. Just like that first salt shaker, one person might give it all they’ve got, but it’s clearly not enough to term their experience successful. Others in the group might be more like the second in that they don’t need to invest 100% of themselves to grasp the lesson; they’ve got so much more to give and aren’t taxed to their limits.

This is something that you should remind yourself if and when you find yourself instructing any group. It’s easy to misread someone in attendance and openly question their level of commitment, their self-investment and how bad they want to learn whatever they’ve signed up for. It could be that other things going on in their lives have robbed them of what they would have otherwise loved to pour into your instruction. Yet, the multiple things that are occurring around them outside of your own awareness has them distracted, consumed with worry. As a consequence, they find it difficult to process what you’re sharing and then demonstrate they have mastered the learning.

This is true whether we’re talking about children, teens or adult learners. The major difference experienced by those in these three groups is only the things they worry or stress about; but the experience of being distracted itself is shared. So you may see a child unable to focus or pay attention in elementary school and make the error of assuming they are a daydreamer or assume they just wont’ concentrate. A teenager might walk into a class and look sullen, withdrawn, unmotivated etc. but really they are fixated on something they are experiencing in an all-consuming way. As for an adult, it’s not hard to now understand that while a person might tell us they are committed 100% to learning, what we might observe is skipped classes to work on solving outside issues that they feel take priority.

I suppose then it’s ourselves we have to look at when at the start of a class we tell the those before us to give 100% of their focus to the materials. While we assume our meaning is clear and direct, upon reflection, we might be failing to lay out what’s required in order for each person to ultimately be successful. Why? Life gets in the way is how I put it.

Let me use my own experience this week and last as an example. I started with the expectation I’d have 12 unemployed people and over the course of two weeks I’d share with them much of what it takes to successfully land a job. Cover letters and resumes, interview preparation and job applications, all crammed heavily into 10 consecutive days of 9:00a.m. sharp to 2:30 p.m. Before being accepted into the class, I spoke individually with each of the 12, going over their expectations and mine; specifically asking them if they were prepared to commit to these days and times. All 12 told me what I wanted to hear and accepted the invitation.

What I’ve observed is not all 12 have the capacity to keep to that commitment. It’s not that they are lazy, combative or don’t want to get the most out of time together; it’s that not all 12 are actually capable of being present for the 12 days. So what’s got in the way? Life. What does Life look like? It’s mental fatigue, mental illness, a threat of eviction, a bad decision to stay home and await a phone call with a job offer when they could have attended with their cell phone in hand. For some, it’s the trigger of something raised in class that’s brought back a haunting memory from the past of failure, shame and the need to, ‘take a day or two to work things out’.

What we can’t tell just from looking at someone, is how much they’ve got inside themselves to give. If I could line the 12 up and see them like 12 salt shakers, I could easily see how much they each have to start with, and I could also see how close they are to emptying everything they’ve got. The expectation I have for how much they need to invest in the first place to succeed and perhaps their own ability to accurately self-assess themselves may be unrealistic.

Maybe I should get a few salt shakers of various quantities and sizes and illustrate this point to the group. Perhaps it might save someone from feeling bad about not meeting my expectations or those of the course. Hey, when you give it all you have, it doesn’t matter how much is expected of you, you’ve emptied the tank. Demanding more of someone who has nothing less to give is unrealistic and does them a disservice as they are set up to fail.

Hmm… maybe this would be a good read for anyone who helps people.

What Don’t You Like About Your Job?


The majority of people, I believe, would say there are pros and cons to the job they hold. While we all want jobs that bring us fulfillment, happiness and positives, here today, I want to explore the not-so-good things about the work we do.

First off, I think it’s fair to say that when the negatives in a job build up to the point where they outnumber the good, it’s definitely time to strongly consider looking for a change. Well, honestly, if it were me, I’d have started to look for a change long before I let the negatives grow to such a point where they outweighed the negative. But that’s me.

Now the negatives in a job generally fall into two categories; things we can change and things over which we have no control. Take a job where you’re working outside in all weather conditions and you have no control over the rise or drop in temperatures, you can’t control hail, rain, sleet or blazing sun, but you can of course control what you wear in such conditions to mitigate the impact of the weather on you., Then there’s the length of time you may be exposed to such conditions, and in some situations and depending on the importance of the work or whether there are deadlines to be met or not, you might not even be compelled to work until conditions improve.

For many, it’s the people that we come into contact with each day that either make or break our jobs. Work for a supportive and encouraging supervisor and you might express your thanks by willingly putting in extra effort as you go about things. On the other hand, when there’s friction between you and the boss, that heightened negative stress may be so severe you get to the point where you realize your mental and physical health aren’t worth risking any further, and you walk away.

Here’s something to think about which you may or may not have already realized; the things that you find frustrating as you go about your day may actually be the things that keep you growing, improving and keep you stimulated. Huh? How can that be? And if this is how you grow and improve yourself, maybe you’d rather not!

Ah but it’s true. Sometimes we can coast along in our jobs, doing what we’ve always done and doing them well. We don’t stretch ourselves, we’re stable and reliable. What we do is what we’ve always done and others around us have come to see us as trustworthy, capable, competent and someone they can rely on. That sounds good right? Yes, of course it does.

But then adversity hits. Something or rather some things, come along and cause a wrinkle in how we go about our job. New technology, a new policy, some additional training we’re required to undergo, some personal health concern that impacts on our stamina, or anything which puts our performance in jeopardy. Yes, it could also be a change in your supervisor, new expectations, a shake up to the team, relocation or a move by your competition that changes how you’ll go about things moving forward if you’re to survive and thrive.

It is these things with which we can become frustrated. It begins to feel like we have to invest energy coping with whatever this new annoyance is; energy that we’d rather pour into the work we’ve done, doing it the way it’s been successful for us in the past. If and when whatever is causing this frustration is confined to us alone, we might also start to worry what others might think of us; will they question our abilities to adapt and succeed? It’s different for sure when frustrations are shared by others; as in an entire organization having to overhaul and redefine their place in the market.

The key is to identify correctly what your source of frustration is and secondly identify what you might do as options to work through things and get past these frustrating days. When you’ve identified possible solutions to implement, you move to action; actually putting into place one or more of the ideas you’ve brainstormed. If your actions reduce or eliminate what you find frustrating, you carry on. If on the other hand, the frustration remains or has escalated, you go back to the ideas you brainstormed and implement another. And don’t underestimate the value of sharing what your source of frustration is with others. You might find your solution is one that has worked for others and they are only too happy to share it with you.

You may end up stronger and have added a new skill to your repertoire as you look back on the frustration of the past when it’s behind you. And if there’s truly nothing you can do to eliminate this frustration that’s affecting your health and happiness, walking away is often not a sign of your failure, but rather your intelligence in preserving your dignity, self-respect, future happiness and good health. The wisdom in knowing how much to invest as you combat your work frustrations, and when it’s time to remove yourself from the situation altogether is what it’s all about.

Go ahead then. It’s good to share! What are you finding frustrating at the moment? Or if you’d rather, what did you use to find frustrating and how did you move past it?

 

 

The Benefits Of Having Had Many Jobs


I see a lot of resumes; it comes with the job as have as an Employment Counsellor. In addition to the resumes I’m privileged to see, I listen to more people as they talk about their work history. Some have long careers working for a single employer while others have an abundance of shorter term jobs, seemingly changing from one to another every couple of years.

It’s of interest to me that most of the time, those who have spent much of their life in a job, two at the most – tend to be proud of their long tenures. I can hear it in their voice when they talk about their work, and that pride increases if the reason they are no longer working for a company was beyond both their control and the control of people around them such as their boss. If they lost their employment because of a decision far up the chain of command to down-size or relocate, the now unemployed person still feels good about their longevity and all it implies about their work ethic.

On the other hand, those who have worked in many jobs where each was for a relatively short duration don’t come across as confident and proud. Most often, when they talk about their work history, they apologize flat-out for having such a seemingly bad-looking resume. Their resume they fear looks like they can’t hold down a job as they move quickly from one to another. In short, they get defensive.

If your own resume has quite a few jobs on it and they are for only a few years at most and many much less than that, let me give you some positive ways to look at it. Why? Simple really. How you perceive your work history will be communicated to those you talk with it about, and if some of those you talk to are potential employers, you want to come across in a positive way, not presenting yourself as a short-term liability, hired only to be replaced in short order.

The most obvious benefit of having held many jobs is that numerous employers have had the confidence to hire you. Never forget this. This fact should confirm in your mind that you perform well enough in those interviews to sell your abilities and potential value to more than just a few employers. Where some job seekers would love for just a single employer to hire them, you’ve got the evidence that several employer’s see benefits in bringing you onboard.

The best thing about having worked in many jobs, especially when those jobs have been in different lines of work altogether, is the fact that you have diversified experience. In other words, it is exactly because your work history crosses many fields that you’ve got both the experience and an appreciation for what it’s like to work in those various employment sectors. This isn’t a liability but rather a strength. Of course, if you believe it to be a bad thing, you’ll send this message to everyone you talk to and they’ll be inclined to see it the way you see it. Ah but the opposite is also true! See this history of various jobs in different sectors as your strength and those you tell will consider this perspective and believe it the more you sell it.

Suppose you’ve worked in the fast-food industry as a Cook for a couple of years. From there, you moved to being a Sales Associate in a mall, then after chatting over time with the Security Guard, you went and got your licence and did that job for two years. To increase your earnings, you quit and took on a job in a food warehouse and just shy of a year you left the job to work as a Landscaper with a friend.  So you’ve held 5 positions over 6 or 7 years. How do you view that? Can’t keep a job? Lack of direction? Not likely to stay in any job? Drifting and a poor bet to hang around long if/when hired again? See it that way, you’ll sell it that way.

But what if as I say we spun that around? You’ve worked as a Cook in the Hospitality Sector, Sales Representative in Retail, a Guard in Security, Labourer in a Warehouse and Landscaper in the Property Beautification sector. Suppose you pitched this summary as having gone out with the goal of gaining experiences; intentionally working in various sectors to gain an appreciation for various lines of work; discovering not only what the jobs entailed, but discovering more about yourself as you determined your preferences and things you wished to avoid. This accumulated work history has provided you with a way to connect with people in various lines of work, and having acquired this skill, now you’re focused on making a commitment to a longer-term position. One where your well-developed people skills and accumulated experiences working in teams, and of course your resiliency and ability to reinvent yourself will contribute to your success.

Read that paragraph again; maybe twice more. When you turn how you see your work history into a strength, you suddenly feel a confidence in defending your career journey. It can then translate into a benefit for a potential employer as they size you up.

Many jobs have one thing in common; interacting with people. Your diverse experience is suddenly an asset.

It’s Never Too Late For A Thank You!


With Monday being Canada Day, I walked into work on Tuesday to find a lovely email from a woman I’d worked with back in January of 2018. It began, “Hi Kelly, you may not remember me, but I just wanted to say a big thank you…”

I did remember the woman. What a great way to start the shortened work week. Her email expressed her thanks for the help I’d given her a year and a half ago in a two-week job searching workshop. She told me in the email how she still used the tools I’d supplied her with, including all the organization and motivational files located on a USB Flashstick that I include in the resources handed out. While she got a job outside her field way back in January of 2018, (a job she still holds by the way), she only recently landed a job in the field she went to College for, now employed in the public library system.

How thoughtful of her to remember me after this time and further, how kind of her to think enough of me that she’d send me an email and share her good news. She ended her email telling me how, “pumped” she was feeling, and I could tell through the words she used that she was super excited at the prospect of being in the line of work she wanted most. I was more than happy to return an email congratulating her on her success and letting her know that her success was due to her continued application of the tools. I was, and I am, proud of her!

Now the thing about that email is that it had a positive impact on me not only as I read it, but here it is days later and I’m still feeling good for her. This, I’ve already decided, is just the kind of thing I will talk about with people I begin to work with next week. Have some faith in yourself and in the resources shared with you, stick to your commitment to improve your life by finding work you really feel passionate about; success will come. Oh, and be grateful in your life to those who have helped you in some way along your career journey. Actually, why not just be gracious and thank others who help you in any way for that matter?

One of my regrets has always been my negligence in not expressing my personal thanks to a teacher I had way back in Grade 7. Grade 7! I know! What would I have been age-wise? Pretty young indeed. This gentleman told us on the first day of class that we were to rename our English class, “Thinking, Language and Interpretation.” He was an innovative Teacher who would spend the morning and afternoon teaching, but at noon he’d race out after having a bite, kick off his shoes, remove his socks and loosen his tie to play soccer with us. He’d go beat read in the face but get just as excited and boost our morale by having so much fun. Oh he was an inspiration. But you see, I never told him about the impact he had on me. By the time I woke up to that and realized the lasting impact he had on my own literary skills, we’d lost touch. How nice it would have been to dash him off a note of thanks or even better, shake his hand adult to adult.

But what of you? Whom would you now like to thank for helping you in some personal way? Surely you’ve had someone or maybe even more than one person who might be just as pleased as I was when I opened that email Tuesday morning.

You might be thinking to yourself, “Sure I can think of a couple of people right away that I’d like to thank, but I wouldn’t know what to say or even how to start.”

The secret is, just write. Whether it’s an email or an actual thank you card you mail in an envelope, just start getting words down. Whereas the email I received started, “You may not remember me…”, you could also start with:

  •  “Just a brief note of thanks for…”
  •  “Hi ______, I hope you’re well. I’d like to share my gratitude for…”
  •  “Thank you sincerely for believing in me. I’ve…”

Maybe you write a note of thanks for the person who delivers your local paper, the Counsellor who hears you out when you unload your problems, the butcher whom you buy your meat from each week, or someone that helped you land your current job. Why not thank your references? The neighbour who checks in on your property when you’re away this summer? Thanking the folks who repair a problem around your house, maintain your car, hey – yes, even your boss or a co-worker. When you think about it, there are a lot of people who would be touched to receive a note of thanks and no, it’s never too late.

As for effort, how long does it really take to write four lines of thanks in a card or a few paragraphs in an email. Surely those folks that came to mind as you’ve read this are worth that amount of effort on your part? Yeah, they are.

A note of thanks received can and does have a lasting impact. And it says a LOT about you too!

A Trusted Mechanic


When buying a vehicle, many people lay out a significant amount of their income, knowing that when there’s a problem, most will turn to someone else and trust them completely to fix it. Yes, we’re talking the Mechanics who work on our relied upon modes of transport.

The thing about getting your car serviced is most driver’s do little more than checking the oil and refilling the windshield washer fluid. Oh sure, we might raise the hood and look over the engine, but aside from perhaps cleaning the accessible parts with a rag, not too many driver’s go much further.

So when something goes wrong – and it will go wrong sooner or later – we all want someone who is both knowledgeable and trustworthy to fix the problem and get us back on the road. If you’re the kind of person who is looking for a job that will be in demand when you finish your training, a Mechanic is a good bet. There are dealerships all over this world, and in any one community you’ve got multiple dealerships plus numerous independents and franchise operations to choose from.

Unfortunately, the field is plagued with horror stories about poor service, scams and a lack of sincerity.

Now personally, I’ve had excellent service and I am so grateful for that. I mean, when you have a 97 km commute one-way to work where no public transit is available, you certainly depend on your car turning over when you turn the key and performing exactly as you’d expect. Sometimes though, it isn’t always the case. So I tip my hat to all the good folks at Whitby Mazda who keep me on the road with excellent service, friendly smiles, and who competently working to earn my continued business with every transaction. I feel valued and appreciated each and every time I roll my auto in for service.

Unfortunately, a friend of mine is experiencing anything but good service in her case. Just a week ago, she bought a two year old car with about 24,000 km on it. While a brand new car might have been a first preference, financially she’s had to balance out saving for a home, post-secondary education and the need for transportation; thus making the decision to take the middle road (note the pun there) between a brand new model and one dirt cheap that comes with expected service costs looming within a year.

She did some due diligence and took the advice of family as to what to buy and where to buy it. In other words, you do what you can to hopefully avoid dealing with a poor outfit. But what goes on behind the bay doors of the service department is completely out of eyesight and quite frankly I’m not sure we’d (you and me) really be able to tell a good worker from a poor one once they disappear under the hood or the underside of the car. In the end, we trust we’re dealing with honest, qualified and experienced Mechanics.

Sadly, that 30 day (yep, only 30 days) warranty on her purchase is being tested. She experienced a loud noise when in gear (not park or reverse) and went back for service. Well they fixed it alright, and it lasted right up to the first light as she drove away. Shouldn’t service be better than that? So back she went. They then told her to take the car to the manufacturer’s dealership of her choice and send her the bill. In other words, I suppose they are saying one of three things: 1) we’re not competent enough to solve the problem, 2) we have the skill to fix the problem but can’t be bothered to deal with it or you, or 3) please go away and take your problem car we sold you with you.

Now, here’s why this story appears in my blog about getting and keeping employment. I have to think the garage she went to is passing on her future business by sending her elsewhere to solve the mechanical issue. Through their actions, they appear to be earning a reputation for poor, ineffective service. After all, if they are prepared to pay for a dealership’s Mechanic to fix the problem, why not in the future just take all your future needs elsewhere? Yes, I think they’ve sized the situation up as selling her a problem car; just good enough to last a very short period of time and then when problems arise, she comes back and we take more of her money. If she complains too loudly, we send her elsewhere and repeat this process with others. Hmm…. would you take your car in for service there?

Now, with her car due to be fixed tomorrow at the dealership where the make of the car originated, it is probable and hoped for that those working on the car have more concern for their name and reputation. Provide good service and do it efficiently the first time and you have a happy customer leave and tell their friends.

Look, there’s good and poor Mechanics just like there is good and poor in any profession. In your case, be the best you can be; go about your work with integrity and keep learning so your skills are current and relevant. Earn your reputation for good service and should you fail to deliver, acknowledge that with sincerity and make it right for those you may have wronged.

Focus On The Good; Not The Bad


It may have started at home as a child:

“You brushed your hair nicely and I’m glad you brushed your teeth, but your room is a mess.”

Then in school it was:

“Gets along with others, does excellent in Math but could be better in History.”

As a teenager dating:

“You’re kind and thoughtful, but I wish you were taller.”

Finally as an adult the boss says:

“You’re hitting your targets and I’m pleased with your energy, but you could participate more in team meetings.”

Many people will identify with having heard comments such as the above. When you look back at each of them, there’s two positives and one to work on; two good and one bad, two strengths and a weakness. Depends how you hear it, interpret it and understand it.

These comments and their impact divides people into two groups: those that heard the positives and are uplifted and feel good about themselves, and those who zeroed in on the one thing that they aren’t doing well and need to improve upon. Which type are you generally?

For the last two weeks, I’ve been instructing a class of a dozen people who are just learning to use the computer. It’s computer basics, starting pretty much with how to turn it on. We’ve covered terminology, creating and using email, crafting a resume using MS Word, exploring the internet, using job search skills, working with a USB Flashstick, navigating employment websites, and applied for jobs. For absolute beginners, we’ve accomplished a great deal.

Yesterday I gave each person a 13 step assignment which would give them a chance to independently use their skills. Everyone found they could do more than half of the assignment entirely unaided. I’d guess it was around step 8 or 9 where the majority had to pause and ask for help from someone. No shame in that by the way; asking for help with the computer is something I see all the time in workplaces. Eventually the whole class did complete the assigned work, and I made sure to remind them to focus not on what they failed to remember and needed help with, but focus rather on all the things they did correctly and did remember on their own. What each accomplished far outweighed where they struggled.

You see, I believe that people don’t hear the good in themselves as much as they need to. Some in fact, have gone long stretches of time without hearing much at all from anyone when it comes to positive feedback. I think successful people hear and internalize the good when they get mixed feedback, whereas those who tend to only hear the suggestions for improvement tend to have a lower self-image of themselves. Sure we can all improve, but my goodness, there’s so much I see to praise in people.

But surely some of you are thinking, we can’t go around telling people how awesome they are and how great they are doing when in fact they aren’t! If we don’t point out their shortcomings and their faults how are they to improve? I had a boss like that once. He told me it was his job to point out all the little things I was doing wrong when doing one of my yearly performance appraisals. Yet on a daily basis he was happy with my performance. That comment he made during a 3 hour (yep, he thought a 3 hour appraisal was how best to motivate people) meeting where he did nothing but point out little things I could do better resonated with me then and still does 25 years later. His words were, “It’s not my job to point out what you’re doing right, but to point out all the things you’re doing wrong so you can improve.” I started job searching the next day and soon got a better job, more income, and worked at a higher level in the new organization. Oh he motivated me alright.

Perhaps it is the consistent memory of that bad experience that has given me great empathy for people I lead, partner with and instruct. If like me, you are in a position of some authority or influence in your job, it is a responsibility of ours to build up rather than beat down. It’s far too easy to point out what others are doing wrong, where they can improve, how to be better. It’s just as easy to point out successes, achievements, label and reinforce accomplishments. Why not choose to emphasize the good?

The thing is, you and I; we really don’t intimately know the past of many people we interact with daily. We can read notes in a file, but the person is so much more rich and layered than some file. We don’t know how many times they’ve had people they trusted and respected tell them they could do better, BE better. Could be they honestly feel they’ll never measure up; they’ll never be good enough.

Imagine then – and it’s not too hard really – how impactful you and I might be if we built people up with genuine positives. Genuine of course, not invented, but positive comments and praise. Then imagine if that same person heard some good from someone else, then a third person. Why we might actually see people believe more in themselves, like themselves better and build successfully on their successes.

And that my reader, is pretty cool.