Abused? In A Shelter? Trying To Work?


Here’s your situation…

You’re unemployed, the car needs $450 of work to even get back on the road. You’ve know a few people but none well enough to really call close friends, and certainly no one to really confide in and tell how you feel. You’ve had three failed relationships with men who’ve abused you verbally, emotionally and occasionally physically, but they were always smart enough to never leave evidence. Now you find yourself living in the shelter system, safe but removed from most of your belongings. Your family blames you for the choices you’ve made and your not even notified or invited to family functions; weddings, funerals and holidays included.

On top of the above, you’ve got no job, your references are weak at best, you’ve got little experience or it’s in a field you no longer want to work in because the jobs you have had in the past only put you in vulnerable situations, attracting the kind of people who only brought you trouble.

Now you find yourself receiving social assistance, a nice name for welfare. As your housed temporarily in a safe house for abused women, you’re only getting some funds for food and transportation. You’re safe for the time being but the stay isn’t indefinite, and you’ve got to find a place to move to within a looming deadline. Where you’re staying you’re surrounded by other women with similar stories, and while the humanity in you makes you open to feeling their pain, in another way you don’t feel it’s doing you good to be constantly hearing others talk about their situations. It’s all still kind of raw and open.

There’s the courts to deal with too, and that means you’re dealing with law offices and lawyers; yours and his. It’s not a world you ever thought you’d have to deal with and your out of your depths. So much paperwork, so many things to send by email and post, other things to record and organize, meetings to be kept and names and contact numbers to store.

Personally, you’re worried. Your decision-making skills seem pretty poor, your more confused than you remember ever being, little things seem like major problems, your self-esteem is fragile and no matter how much you try you just can’t seem to turn off your brain. Even reading a book or a magazine isn’t possible. After 20 minutes you find you’re still on the same page of a book and you suddenly realize you can’t recall what you’ve read anyhow. You’d go out for a walk to clear your head except it’s the evening and you feel more vulnerable as night descends and the house gets locked down for security reasons anyhow.

On top of all of this, you want to get a job. A job after all will bring you some immediate income. You worry though if you can handle it. After all, how many balls can you juggle at once?

For those of you that think I’m laying it on rather thick; that this might be an extremely rare situation for a woman to be in – maybe one in a million, I wish you were right. Unfortunately you’re not right and I’m not laying it on rather thick. This is reality for far too many women.

Having visited just such a residence and being a man, I’m a bit of a rarity. Men as a pretty hard rule aren’t allowed in women’s shelters. Even the nicest and best of men can trigger fear in those in residence there – being the one place they are assured they are completely safe. Having been in one on a professional basis, it’s given me some experiential insights I wouldn’t have otherwise. But even having made a visit to the inside, I’m not naïve enough to think I understand what it’s like to stay in residence there. I would never presume to feel that.

Can you understand perhaps even a little how difficult it must be to then go about rebuilding your life and trying to get a job? Whether you’re a Job Coach, Employment Counsellor, Temp Agency, Recruiter or Employer, you can’t ever know the story behind the woman who appears totally employable but for some odd reason is having problems moving ahead.

On the outside, this woman before you might seem pretty together. Perhaps she’s well-groomed, dressed appropriately, arrived on time for the interview and even interviewed well. Sure there’s the issue of very few references or little job experience but she seems to have the right personality and attitude for the work. Yet, why when you offered them the job did they decline? Or if they did take the job, why did they have to go and quit on you after just two days on the job?

It’s what you don’t know, and what they just can’t share with you that’s behind their apparent lack of respect for the trust you placed in them. At the moment their emotionally messed up to put it bluntly. There’s a gulf between what they want to do and what they are capable of doing. They know it, and now they feel guilt for having to decline a job offer they thought they could do.

If you knew their story, you’d get it. You might even Champion their efforts. Something to bear in mind if you find yourself puzzled with some woman’s behaviour.

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Making The Case Of Starting With A Higher Wage


Yesterday one of my connections contacted me with a personal dilemma and suggested his question might be right for a blog. I think that like him, there could be others dealing with the same issue, so here goes.

The situation is when you’re in the running for a job and the posted salary range is quite broad. It’s so wide, you can’t afford to take the job at the low-end, and you’re only considering the position should the salary you accept be toward the highest range. So how and when do you raise the issue of compensation?

To answer this question, you have to look at a number of factors. First and foremost is to separate what you need from what you want. Sure you want more, unless you’re so wealthy that you’re taking the job just to keep busy and working for $1.00 per year because you have to take a salary of some kind. But how much do you need to pay the expenses and how much do you want to live the lifestyle you imagine? Those are often two very different things. Essentially it’s a good idea to do the two budgets. Time consuming? A little yes, but a great exercise to know where you are and usually quite revealing when done properly.

Now it’s important to look at this situation from the viewpoint of the employer, not your own. This is critical and not a place most people start from. Most folks look at their experience, education and their accomplishments and come up with a number that in their minds is what they are worth. While that’s a healthy thing to do, it doesn’t impress most employer’s to simply say, “I’ve done my homework and I know what I’m worth.”

No, to make your case for a higher starting salary, you should make a business case. Business owners, Boards of Directors, etc. understand the business case model. It begins with what your hiring will actually do for the organization. Are you going to grow their business? If so, what’s your revenue stream, marketing plan and how do you plan on implementing it? If you’re going to solve an existing problem the company has, be ready to share it and you’d better understand and respect their business including their values, target audiences and their market share. Or if you’ve identified an opportunity for them which your skills and experience eminently qualify you to undertake, your services become more attractive.

And that’s it in a nutshell; you need to make hiring you attractive to them. This is a better approach than simply saying, “I’m 47, I’ve worked hard and I’m not taking less than x number of dollars.” You’ll likely be shown the door.

You become attractive when your services, ideas and energy synergize with the organizations objectives and goals. That being said, you also have to understand and accept that even if an organization does see the value in bringing you onboard, they might not be in a place to meet your expectations or demands. They may point out to you that they can hardly bring you in at a higher annual salary than other employees who have been at the organization for years doing essentially the same job.

Here you come to negotiation; and it should be a win-win strategy you propose. If you feel your business case is sound and you’re invested in making this work, what other benefits beyond dollars might you suggest be on the table? Perhaps there’s an opportunity to negotiate free monthly parking, your annual golf or membership, an extra two weeks vacation beyond what was offered, or build in some performance incentives.

Of course in many organizations these perks don’t exist. It may be that they are unionized and there’s no wiggle room, or it could be the company has never entertained the ideas you’re suggesting and will have to regroup and discuss your proposal.

What you do need to know clearly is the lowest number you’ll actually accept and if you’re offered anything below that number, are you prepared to walk away and look for work elsewhere? I know a woman who asked for $80,000 and when told the position was $46,000, she sheepishly said, “Okay”. This only after told the lower wage by the employer who was packing up, figuring she wasn’t interested. She ended up begging to be hired at $46,000 and her earlier number was just an ill-advised shot at the moon.

It’s important for your long-term mutual happiness that your wages reflect what you’re worth and that you are invested in the work you do to justify your wages to the employer. At an interview – or series of interviews – it’s up to you to show how you’re going to go about earning those dollars. This is where sharing your previous accomplishments adds validity to your case.

Examples! Examples! Examples! What are the specific examples from your past that prove you have the skills and experience you claim? Having shared those, now turn to the opportunity on the table. As your past behaviour is the best predictor of your future behaviour, relate what you’ve done to what you’ll do. If you make the connections for the new business, you may just get what you want – as shall they.

So know your worth; know their business, know your opportunity and go for the mutual win. Got ideas or experiences of your own to share? Comment please!

That Interview You Turned Around


When it goes bad you don’t want anyone to know; or at least not the details of your interview as it went from bad to worse. Then there’s that time it turned out to be an amazingly positive experience; that one you’ve shared with others I’m sure!

But what I’m most interested in hearing about, and what I’d love to have you share here with others, is the interview you turned around. You know, the one that got off to a bad or even terrible start; the one you were late for, the one where you spilled something all over yourself just minutes before you met the man who’d eventually become your boss.

Why? Simply put, your turnaround could be quite inspirational and beneficial to others. Let’s face it, there are a lot of people who have interview anxieties. Some fears are well-grounded and others are just overly active imaginations running unrestrained, picturing all kinds of bad scenarios full of what might go wrong. And as we all know, sometimes when one little thing goes wrong, a fragile mind-set can suddenly picture other things going wrong, and in no time at all, the person has predicted their own future and there’s a cascade of errors and bumbling’s which all started with that one little slip up.

So you can see I hope, that your personal experience might indeed be the very stuff that could assure someone that when something goes wrong, the interview can indeed be salvaged. So how did you do it? What did you say or do that hit the restart button, that changed the atmosphere in the room, that turned a nay into a, ‘you’ve got the job!’?

 

Allow _____ To Make Changes To Your Device?


Last evening as I initiated the shutdown procedures on my laptop, I was advised of a major update available, and so as I want to run the latest and greatest, (without really even having the remotest idea of what that entails) I said yes. Then I got the message, “This may take awhile”. So I went to bed.

At 4:30 a.m. I rolled out of bed and fired up the laptop, fully anticipating there would be a slight delay as the updates came on the screen. Sure enough, this particular update was more extensive; it not only affected the laptop but synced my phone so I could move seamlessly from one device to the other. Great! Now I sat here in the quiet of my sanctuary looking at two screens on two devices.

Of course up came the inevitable messages on both, “Do you want to allow _____ to make changes to your device?”

Now I don’t know about you, but when I get these messages, I feel like saying, “Gee I don’t know if I want such-and-such program to make changes to my device. Do I?” But more often than not I find myself clicking on the, “Sure go ahead I know exactly what I’m doing button and I’m intelligent enough to know this will be in my best interests to do so” button. You’ve seen that button on your device too haven’t you? I bet you have.

Sure it’s an online world; the update told me this in fact. “We’re protecting you in the online world” came up right on the screen of my laptop as the updates installed. That’s good I suppose.

It suddenly struck me as ironic; this constant decision I make and I assume many other users make, to trust the updates we install and although we might pause to consider, we inevitably click on the, “Okay” button to go ahead and give a program access to our contacts, send and receive emails on our behalf or track our physical locations. We assume these are things we’re supposed to do so we do. Well, the majority of us do.

So why the irony? Right, back to that. I find it ironic that people will give more trust to an electronic update of their devices storing all kinds of personal photos, phone contacts, financial banking and password information but when it comes to allowing someone right in front of them to make changes to their resumes or give them updated information on how to best prepare for interviews, many decline.

When you’re not having success interviewing but refuse to take advantage of free workshops and seminars on how to interview better, isn’t that akin to declining the latest and best updates on your phone or laptop? Updates designed to make your phone, computers, laptops, tablets etc. function better? I think so.

So we want the latest version of whatever piece of technology is available but when it comes to ourselves, the knowledge we have and the way we go about things, it’s like we’re okay walking around in a Windows 10 world masquerading as a Commodore 64 and expecting to be taken seriously.

Things change. Progress, updates, process improvements, best practices, accepted norms, innovation and new-age thinking; ignore these and you’ll stand out alright, but for all the wrong reasons. I read an article just last evening from Martin Ellis who lives in England. Martin is a respected colleague of mine though we’ve never met in person. You can find him on LinkedIn and view his articles through his profile. He was sharing for the umpteenth time his thoughts on resumes for the present day and how to best compose them. While acknowledging that there are many people with varying advice out there, his thoughts and ideas are worth a serious read. He offers them up with the intent of helping people.

Now so does my Kansas City colleague Don Burrows. Don’s written excellent books on the subject and famous for getting his clients to stand out like a meatball on a plate of spaghetti. He loves that analogy, and again, the man’s got testimonials attesting to the success of his methods and recommendations.

These two and the many others I could cite and point you to – as well as others I’ve yet to discover – want you to succeed. In order to do so though, you’ve got to be willing to do one thing and that’s embrace change. In other words hit the, “Sure go ahead I know exactly what I’m doing button and I’m intelligent enough to know this will be in my best interests to do so button.” Do it with confidence.

You may not really know at the start that what you’re doing will work or be in your best interests. So sure be cautious. However, like anything you update, use your personal judgement and actually reserve judgement until you can test the results of what you’ve learned. I suppose if I don’t like an update on my computer I can revert things back to the wallpaper I had before just as you can revert back to your old resume if you’re attached to it.

But like that old Commodore 64, your vinyl 78’s and that stereo console your parents had sitting on that 12 inch shag carpet in the late 60’s, things change; and for the better.

Get hip to the trip daddy-o and you’ll find it’s groovy.

Not Contributing? Just Hanging On?


You’ve met them and you recognized the tell-tale signs almost immediately; the apparent lack of interest and focus, the extended breaks and lunch periods, the internet surfing that doesn’t seem work-related whatsoever. I refer to the people who have lost their enthusiasm for what they once were passionate about; the ones who everyone around them knows should move on, but who for reasons of their own just keep hanging on.

It’s ironic that what such a person believes they are hiding so well from others is so blatantly obvious to anyone who spends any time at all with them. From the moment they park their car or get off the bus, you can see it there in their body language. You know, the casual saunter in to the office not a minute too soon or possibly even a few minutes past one’s starting time – on a regular basis. There’s no ambition to arrive a moment earlier than necessary, for there are 7 or more long hours in front of them to do whatever mundane tasks that come their way.

Of the real work that they are paid to do, there’s a noticeable drop in both quality and quantity. Frequent walks around the office, conversations with other employees, nipping out for a walk, doing their personal online shopping on company time or talking with people on the phone which appears to be personal and not professional – well, you get the idea.

So why do they hang around? Why not just chuck it in and get on with pursuing their retirement, a hobby or investing themselves in pursuing other lines of work they would be better suited for? Good questions!

For some of course it’s the pension. The longer one stays employed the more they are building up some company or government pension perhaps. Maybe they’ve looked ahead at their looming retirement and figured that whatever pension they receive will be based on their 5 best years of income, and so it makes sense to them to keep showing up for another 3 years to maximize that benefit for the duration of their retired years. Those 3 years seem like a prison sentence.

Thing is, it’s not just the employee now who is underperforming. Their quality of work has the potential to cause others to cut their own efficiencies to match the senior worker. After all, if he or she is dogging it and underperforming but from all appearances isn’t in any danger of losing their job, some others might feel inclined to do likewise.

Somehow though these senior staff seem to have immunity to discipline; well it can look that way to their fellow employees. After all they reason, everyone knows the quantity of work has dropped because others have had to pick up the slack. The fact that they keep coming in every day and underperforming would seem to show that nothing has been said to them or if it has, it’s fallen on deaf ears.

It could be a whole combination of things going on in that person’s professional and personal life that’s caused this drop in production and plain malaise. Personal disappointment that they didn’t advance in the organization as they once imagined; lack of recognition for what they’ve achieved, jealousy over others accomplishments they see as their juniors. Outside of the workplace, there could be pressures such as strife at home, health or financial problems, a mortgage that won’t be paid off 5 years after retiring, more financial strains caused by changes in family size, new grandkids, car payments, promised exotic trips that will put pressure on one’s savings. Who knows?

Weighing a persons contributions in the past to their present value is a tough position to be in for management. An employee might have the broad respect of the entire workforce for what they’ve added to a company or team, but the flip side of that coin is, “What have you done for us lately?” After all, businesses must stay competitive and their workers diligent to compete. Dead wood on the payroll at any level is a liability some organizations just can’t tolerate.

Of course other workers would be wise to focus not on the performance of others but rather on doing their own jobs to the best they are able. When it becomes problematic is when the actions, (or lack of actions) of one impact on the performance of others. So a Customer Service Representative who isn’t getting back to their client base, resulting in increased workloads of co-workers dealing with angry and frustrated callers who feel ignored becomes a major problem. Those frustrated customers might just take their business elsewhere and even more damaging, spread the word.

Know when it’s time to go and go out on top. Sounds like a reasonable plan when your highly productive, retirement is 18 years away and you’re still working with drive and commitment to excellence. Just about anyone can see this in others. Be it an élite athlete who’s lost their lustre or a musician that can’t reach the notes they once hit with dependability, there comes a time when … well, it’s time. Not many can hang around and still perform.

Look, you have to do what is right for you based on your own personal situation. However, the same holds true for employers with businesses to run. It won’t do you any good to be forced out. That could leave you bitter and resentful; and it’s likely you don’t want that to be your legacy.

Job Hunting: DIY Or Use An Expert?


What would you call someone who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill in a particular area? If you answered, ‘Expert’, you’re correct.

So you want a job. You can go about the job search process in several ways – and this is pretty much true of wanting anything actually. You can go about things yourself in a DIY (do it yourself) fashion, you can work with someone who isn’t an expert in job searching but is good at other things or yes, you can work with an expert in the particular area of looking for employment.

Now there are a lot of people who, no matter the job to be done, size up the situation and figure, “it can’t be that complicated, I’ll just do it myself. Why bring in an expert?” Think of that small bathroom or basement renovation you started two years ago last September. You plan on being finished one day but you’re either a perfectionist or a procrastinator. Or perhaps you did indeed finish the project, only to stand back and in taking things in, see the errors you made. Not bad for a do-it-yourself job, but by no means as good as someone who makes their livelihood out of doing renovations on a full-time basis. So are you the person who settles for, ‘not bad’ over ‘I love it!”?

Sometimes the easier things look, the more inclined we are to believe that anyone can do it. Take the résumé. It looks easy enough. I mean, it’s just words on paper, and with only a small bit of searching on the internet anyone can find resume templates and so it would seem a pretty simple matter to make one. As for the interview help, again, Bing and Google are logical places to look. I mean, doesn’t everybody turn to the internet for expert advice these days?

Of course the other place people turn for great advice and help is the people they know best and trust. The logic here is that your best friends wouldn’t steer you wrong and take advantage of you, and they are pretty good at their job as a Customer Service Agent. So it’s a pretty logical step in your opinion to imagine they must know a thing or two about looking for a job; after all they have one right?

For some reason however, few people tend to give the Employment Specialists their due. I suppose it does look easy. Dash off a résumé and send it in, sit back and see if you get an interview. Then go to the interview, do your best to answer the questions asked and then sit back and hope you get hired. Sooner or later you’ve got to get Lady Luck on your side; it’s just a question of probabilities; throw a lot out there and something has to work eventually.

Me? I’m an expert in my field. Sure go on and roll your eyes. I’m not an expert in everything; nor am I an expert in many things. When it comes to resume writing, cover and rejection letters, interview preparation, presentation skills etc.; yes, this is where I have an authoritative and comprehensive knowledge. It isn’t bragging; I can back it up with proof. Look, you’re the expert at what you do, so why doesn’t it stand to reason I can be an expert at something as well?

To we Employment Coaches, Employment Counsellors, Resume Experts etc., it’s interesting to see how many people approach us only after they’ve had a lengthy period of mixed results or downright failures. Then when learning some new ideas and reaching some small accomplishments turns into ultimately being successful and landing employment, we often hear, “I wish I’d come to you a long time ago! I could have saved myself a lot of frustration.” Maybe a person needs to tackle things themselves and see what they are capable of doing before turning to an expert – if only to appreciate the difference an expert can make.

Here’s something to consider though; if you’re going to use the services of an expert, you’d better be ready to get to work. Two weeks ago I met a woman who’s last job interview was in 1998. 1998! She applied for 3 jobs after some coaching and landed not one but two interviews. Of those two interviews, she got a job offer on one which she’s accepted and the other one has yet to short-list their candidates. While happy, she commented just yesterday to me, “I didn’t think it would happen this fast!”

Then there is another woman I worked with over the same two weeks. 64 years old, and she not only secured a job last Friday, she’s got another interview today plus she’s made the short-list for her dream job in two weeks time. Suddenly she’s going from desperation to interviewing with leverage; any new job offer has to beat what she’s already doing.

Yet, looking for a job appears so easy doesn’t it? Why call on an expert or consider paying someone to do what you could do for yourself or get your best friend to do for you? Hey if you do it yourself and it works, I applaud you. You’ve either got lucky or you’ve got the required skills.

However, if you want to get results with a higher probability of success, reach out to an Expert in the field near you.

 

Resiliency


Wikipedia defines psychological resilience as an individual’s ability to successfully adapt to life tasks in the face of social disadvantage or highly adverse conditions. The Oxford dictionary defines resilience itself as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties.

How resilient therefore are you?

I have been graced these last couple of weeks with the tremendous privilege of assisting and supporting some very resilient people during their quest to find employment. I would love nothing more than to share their personal challenges with you as proof of both their individual and group resiliency, but to do so might be well-intended but harmful and a breach of confidentiality, so I will not. Suffice to say, you would I believe, like me, be impressed with them.

So here’s a question for you: How often do you get a chance to just work on one need in your life without having others distract you and need your attention?

Take job searching as an example. When looking for work, wouldn’t it be nice to only have looking for a new position as what’s on your mind? Amen to that! However, add to your job search what’s really going on in the real world. Bills are piling up, student debt repayment has you in the red, you’re more irritable with people (so unlike you), your budget for the little things in life you found so pleasurable has been self-curtailed. You’ve got housing issues with landlords threatening eviction, people feel sorry for you but at the same time don’t do much to help except go back and forth between saying, “You poor thing!” and “Can’t you get a job?” So unhelpful really.

Your ego is fragile; the degree to which is linked to how far in your mind you’ve fallen. You’ve had it in the past; the reputation and status, the good paying job, the cars, the house with the garden house and 4 door garage. Now you’re unemployed, raising a family of 4 or 5, and being looked to by them to provide. Your self-doubts, insecurities, personal worries; these you feel you have to suppress and lock away or deal with in isolation because you figure you’re the only one in the family who has the strength to handle them.

How am I doing? Sound familiar? Maybe not exactly your situation but am I close? If not you, does this sound like someone you may know? If not, count yourself most fortunate indeed!

There are a lot of very highly educated people who have held prestigious jobs who are now in receipt of social assistance; who find themselves unemployed. What I find amazing and truly remarkable is the upbeat attitude many have. It’s true! They have an unwavering belief that they will ultimately be successful and what’s more they haven’t let their present circumstances detract from their innate goodness; they are still positive, cheerful, optimistic and above all else…grateful for everything they do receive.

Grateful for everything they do receive; every piece of advice, support and guidance, suggestions and feedback, ideas and referrals – grateful. There’s no poor attitude, no one demands help and says, “You owe it to me – it’s your job so just do it and don’t expect any special thanks.” No, not one person is remotely holding this attitude of entitlement.

In the face of true adversity; they have not let their present circumstances feed and grow bitterness, resentment, coldness or anger. Now, to be sure they are under all kinds of stress and they would be lying to say they don’t have their moments when they feel, “Why me?” Yet, it’s what one does with these feelings that defines them.

They have done – and continue to do – one thing that I implore you to consider doing as well when you find yourself overwhelmed and susceptible to the dark places. While acknowledging your present circumstances, carry yourself as best your able; continue to help yourself. Each of the people I’m working with at the present was identified by a colleague of mine as someone who is committed to their own success, is open to feedback, receptive to change and above all has the right attitude.

As one person said to me, “Why let myself miss opportunities because I appear negative? All I’ll end up doing is surround myself with negative people if I do.”

Adapting and recovering are two key words if you picked them out from the opening definitions at the top of this article. Survivors adapt and recover. I have to tell you that all the while I am providing these job seekers with tips, suggestions, aid, support etc., they in turn are mentoring me – if I’m wise enough to recognize the moments of learning before me. Sometimes I miss those moments but I catch enough of them to realize they are before me. I’m fortunate you see to stand in front of them in a classroom but still stand there as a student myself, receptive to receiving what they share.

Should you – yes you – be unemployed and dealing with your own mounting issues that have you wondering just how many more things you can handle, I bow to your resiliency. Take that label and wear it like a badge of honour. When job interviewers say, “Tell me about yourself”,  count yourself as resilient. You’ll bounce back and get past these adverse life conditions that while present, won’t hold you down forever.