That Negative Attitude In The Audience


If you’ve ever run a workshop, taught a class, or led a project, I think you’ll agree that one of your hopes is that all the members of your audience actually want to be in attendance and hear what you’ve got to say. After all, when you’ve put a lot of preparation in ahead of time, you’re hoping it will be appreciated.

So perhaps you can identify with the situation I found myself in yesterday. There I was standing before 16 people, just about to welcome them formally and kick off a 7 day Career Exploration workshop. My audience consisted of unemployed people choosing (for the most part) to take this free course and learn not only what jobs or careers might be the best personally fit, but a lot about themselves in the process.

Just as I was about to begin, one person said, “How long is this? I don’t want to be here but my worker is making me. And are you paying for childcare because it’s a PA day today and that’s the only way I could come today.” Now if it were you, what would you say? There’s a few different ways you could respond; kick them out, tell them that’s too bad, maybe even take them aside and tell them you don’t appreciate their attitude. I rejected all of these; none of them actually fit with my style.

I was sad of course, because this overtly negative attitude had the possibility of spreading and infecting others, and what she didn’t know – and still doesn’t – is that she had opted to sit herself down immediately beside a gentleman with phobia’s and severe anxiety. I was sad also to think that this negative attitude was also preventing herself from benefitting from being present. However, things had to be nipped in the bud.

I’ve done workshops and presentations for a long time now, and one of the things I know is that every person in the room starts forming an opinion of the presenter right away. Just like seeing someone for the first time in an interview, or any social situation, we start sizing other people up. So heads turned to me to see how I would respond to this person and what I would say and do. Not the way I would choose to start but a good challenge nonetheless.

“You don’t have to be here; none of you do in fact. You can get up now and walk out the door and miss the extra money, gift card and certificate for attending. You only have to attend one workshop and this isn’t it; it’s optional. If you choose to stay, you’ll not only get extra money, you’ll learn a lot about yourself that you don’t know and you’ll be better prepared to talk about the strengths you’ve got. We’re talking 7 days out of your entire life, and the thing is, it will be fun. So leave now or stay, but if you stay, why not choose to be more positive? You’ll have a better time and so will everyone else.”

She didn’t get up to go. But if you think that her attitude switched immediately, you’re wrong. It did however improve slightly. When I asked people to put their names on both sides of the tent cards in front of them, she put her name on the side facing her and on the other she wrote, “No Name.” Yeah, that wasn’t going to work. So I asked her politely to not fight things all the way, and she relented and switched it around. Oh well, name projecting out and to her, a little hold on her feisty attitude; a compromise. It’s not about wining her over by completely defeating her spirit.

We did an exercise yesterday where everyone developed a personal motto or slogan based on their beliefs and things they hold important. When invited to share her own, she did so, dropping an f-bomb and expressing how the world will mess you up. I decided not to take the offered bait and just thanked her and moved on to the next person.

Later in the day when each person was adding another bit of information to their summary page, I noticed her Motto section was blank. Questioning her, I asked why she hadn’t filled it in. She replied, “I want to take it home and think about it and come up with something better.” To me, this was a breakthrough moment. She was actually investing in the process – in herself really. “Good for you. I really appreciate you deciding to stay and with a positive attitude. Thanks for that”, I replied.

You know, a lot of people have multiple barriers and want their lives to improve. They want better futures for their children and some of the good things in life that they see on television, the movies or in watching other people. I don’t know what this young woman has gone through to get where she is now, nor do I know the effort that is required just to get to class. I hope she sticks out the 7 days and makes it back in today.

Sometimes the people who present with the most overt negative attitudes are the ones who later will appreciate most the help offered them. I hope this is the case here. I also hope the way I’ve handled things is a learning moment for others in the class.

You May Never Get Hired


As my line of work brings me in daily contact with job seekers, I get to be a first-hand witness of how they behave. In addition to pure observation I also get into conversations; the deep meaningful ones and surface conversations, both of which where I do much more listening than talking. Over the course of many years, this has allowed me to have an informed opinion on what works and doesn’t work when job searching.

A word of caution about the list of behaviours and actions before we begin; you might find some of the things on this list fantastic, incredibly foolish, and laughable. Then, just as you can’t believe people would act so silly, you read something that you yourself are doing. If so, don’t be offended and defensive; even though becoming defensive is a normal reaction. If you do find your behaviours or actions in the list, it might be time to pause and reflect; possibly even consider making a change.

One of the most foolish things I see people do and do often is to apply for employment positions and then make it impossible for employers to get in contact. If you have a cell phone, make sure you’re able to receive calls. Initialize your phone, make sure you’ve got minutes available, even if it means diverting some money from the small pleasures in life at the moment to your phone. Check and clear your messages so you have room for more messages.

As far as the phone goes, if you’re using some form of an answering service, identify yourself. When that automated voice tells the caller, “Hello, you’ve reached, _______” don’t leave that space dead. Fill it in with your name and while you’re at it, sound upbeat and positive. Put a little life into your voicemail and in addition to identifying who you are, tell callers you’ll get back to them as soon as possible, and then follow through.

If you’re an Employment Counsellor or hold any number of other titles where you work with the unemployed, call those you’re helping and purposely ask them to let the phone ring without picking up. It could be you pick up a big clue yourself about why your job searcher is having problems getting interviews.

Body art is becoming more mainstream, acceptable and in some cases even desirable. There are some very highly skilled artisans out there doing highly detailed and tasteful work. However, there are even more people out there learning the trade of tattooing, and some really questionable tattoos being engraved. Think carefully about what you’re getting and where you’re getting it. I recall clearly and always will, the one guy who had the 4 letter curse word that begins with, “F” tattooed right on his forehead. I suppose 4 letters costs much less than getting, “Unemployed for life”.

Watch the words you use both when speaking and writing. Asking, “What is it youse guys do? You hiring?” sounds like you’re hanging out on a street corner with your best buds, not at a place of employment. “Youse” isn’t a word for starters and “guys” is way too informal. Instead try, “What is it your organization does?” Talk in the barest number of words like, “You hiring?” and you might come across as crude, abrupt, curt. Ask, “Are you accepting applications for employment at the present?” says the same thing but with a little more professionalism and shows your manners.

Most importantly, put some effort into your outfit. If you’re not sure what to wear to an interview or even to drop in to check a place out as a potential place to work, ask. Wearing your jeans low enough that 8″ of your underwear is showing, or your top is designed in such a way that the back of your bra is completely on display aren’t good ideas. Even thought you might not care what others think, employers do. Get over this idea that you’re  good to wear whatever you want and if others don’t like it that’s their problem. You want a job? That first impression people keep talking about is important. If you don’t get it now, you will; eventually.

While the list could go on and on, let’s end with the attitude thing. Employers don’t owe you anything – especially a living. If you’re mad at the world, life is hard and you’ve got a history of being let down and disappointed, you might have a case to feel the way you do. So be it. However, to think that this gives you the right to be rude or entitled to a job when you do nothing to prepare for an interview? Well, this just shows you’re not the right person for the job.

While job searching often means being rejected several, or even many times, it doesn’t make sense to tick off a potential employer who doesn’t even know you because of your poor attitude. Still, I see a lot of people with chips on their shoulders, who feel hard done by and who could otherwise be very employable. That their attitudes are negative and the behave poorly is a shame because they’re missing really good opportunities.

Look, if you want to work, take control of the things you can control. Behave and act like the person you’d like to hire. If you’re not having success, get some feedback and think about the advice you’re getting.

Believe In Yourself, Then Get Going!


“It doesn’t matter if I believe in myself or not because that doesn’t change the fact that other people are holding me back, denying me my chances. Bitter? I’ve got every right to be. Unemployed, no job interview in years; at my age who’s going to hire me now? I haven’t got a hope. I might as well just pack it in and give up.”

The above pretty much is word for word what I was told by someone out-of-work recently. Examining what was said, breaking it down into pieces, here’s what I see as issues:

  • no personal accountability
  • self-perception as too old
  • loss of hope
  • bitter, frustrated attitude
  • lack of interview experience (perhaps fearful as a result)
  • unemployed

That’s a quick summation of what’s been expressed. I wonder as you read those words if you did so in your own voice or if you imagined another? Did you picture the speaker and if you did so, what did they look like? Have you pictured a woman or a man and how old did you create them in your mind? 64? 60? 58?

The above statement came from the mouth of a man of 51. His prevailing attitude is unfortunately his biggest problem because quite frankly he’s projecting a strong, negative image. An employer would find him a tremendous turnoff for he comes across as a cancerous virus, dumping his negatively on everyone he interacts with. He’s got a self-imposed scowl on his face, appears to look at people with smug disdain, and there’s no way he would be welcomed into a workforce for fear he’d infect those around him. Even though he’s of average height, he somehow appears to look down on those around him.

The irony is that he’s got job-ready skills and experience. The bitterness he’s carrying around with him however has left him with no patience for tailoring his résumé to each job. This he declares is an utter waste of his time. I didn’t point out that being unemployed time is one thing he has in abundance. Why go there and be provocative?

Now the one thing people know who have worked with me is that I’m not afraid to share with people my personal opinion when it comes to identifying their challenges. In other words, I’ll tell you what I believe you need to know and not only what you’d like to hear. It might be nice to hear only the things which you are doing well, but sometimes the most important information you can have shared with you are the things you might consider changing and/or improving upon.

After deciding upon what to share; the information the person needs to hear, the next challenge is deciding how to communicate that information. Sometimes a soft, gentle approach works best, lest you offend the person. Letting someone self-identify their challenges works well on occasion, or having the person tell you what others have suggested to get at what they’ve perhaps heard before. Ah but then there are times you decide that while this person before you is deserving of your respect, what they truly respect is blunt, raw, no holds barred, tell-it-like-it-is, is, in-your-face brutal honesty; “Your attitude sucks. You’re your own worst enemy. Stop using your age as your personal crucifix.” Take your pick.

When all is said and done two things really emerged; he’d stopped believing in himself and he wasn’t doing anything to help himself. Instead, he was engaging in self-destructive behaviour, threw up and fortified on a daily basis a defence that kept people away from him and limited himself in the process. To actually get the help he needs, he’d have to drop the façade, open himself up to trying and be receptive to intervention. Ironic then that before he could believe in himself, he chose to find someone he believed in and respected.

Getting some job interview experience is relatively easy. You start preparing by defining what a job interview actually is. You find the questions you’re likely to be asked, go over the format you’ll use to answer them, cover body language, first and last impressions etc. then have a go at a mock interview. Building on that, you ready targeted resumes with the help of someone who knows what they are doing. With better applications circulating, interviews are coming so get ready. So much for the easy stuff.

The more important and harder aspects of preparing for job interviews is what’s going on between the ears. You can improve your chances immensely simply by going in with a positive attitude which comes about when you actually DO believe in yourself. Look, no one owes you a job. Like most other people, you’ve got to prove you’ve got what the employer is looking for and needs, backed up with proof from your past. Are you going to face rejection? It’s highly likely so expect you’ll put in some effort that won’t produce the immediate results you want. Get over it. Don’t give up. Get going again. You owe it to yourself.

Job searching requires some mental fortitude. Believe in your ability to eventually succeed and get what you’re after. This must be your prevailing thought. Accentuate the positive and you’re not required to see the world through rose-coloured glasses.

If you have a hard time changing that attitude ask yourself honestly what it’s doing for you to keep it.