My Advice: Hold Off Job Searching

Sounds like odd advice from an Employment Counsellor to give on the surface of it doesn’t it; putting your search for a job on hold. Yet quite often, that’s the advice I give some of the people I meet with.

Now if you’re employed and see yourself first and foremost as a taxpayer and believe that everyone in receipt of social assistance should be completely investing 100% of their time looking to work, my apologies. There are some situations in which I believe looking for a job is not only ill-advised, it can set someone back tremendously from finding employment in the long haul.

Take yesterday as an example. For two weeks, I instructed a dozen people in the basics of using the computer. I’m talking basics here; using it to make an email, learning how to access the internet, find employment opportunities, make a resume, apply for work with that resume. We did more as well, but I like to instruct with practicality in mind, so as most were unemployed, why not learn the basics of the digital world and at the same time, showing them how competing for employment these days requires computer skills? Anyhow, there I was yesterday, seated with one of the participants from that class, doing a follow up appointment.

Typically, I plan on giving someone feedback on what I observed over those two weeks, encourage them and point out moments of success and accomplishment. However, I threw all that out the window yesterday when this one woman came in and we sat down in my office. She was 15 minutes late, and said she had almost decided not to come in for the scheduled meeting. Two developments on the day before our meeting occurred; she was contacted by her Doctor who said she must meet immediately with her to share results of some medical tests and her 13 year old daughter was committed to a hospital for a few days after telling her own Doctor that she was thinking about killing herself.

Suddenly, giving feedback on computer skills and talking about using these new skills to job search seemed entirely inappropriate. Of greater importance in that moment was listening, supporting and responding to her disclosure, her fears of what her Doctor knows and must share in person immediately and her own daughter’s thoughts of ending her life. At a time like this, the focus on receiving, comprehending and processing these two major life events supersedes any encouragement to get out and get a job.

Besides, if you believe that she’d be able to effectively job search at the present moment, I’d venture you’re views are based in ideology and not practical reality. Do I think governments always get this? No. I suspect when they look at stats, they focus solely on how many people start a program, how many finish and how long it takes someone to find employment after taking a program to determine its effectiveness. Numbers don’t tell the whole story; not by a long shot.

“Will I get in trouble for not looking for a job though?” she asked. So I took an hourglass from my desk and flipped it over, letting the blue sand fall. “You only have so much energy. Right now, your focus and energy is on receiving your own diagnosis and whatever implications that holds. As a caring mom who has a daughter in crisis, the two of you have a lot to work through, you’re probably blaming yourself and you’re scared. You just got two extremely upsetting events on the same day. Forget the job search for now; you won’t be in trouble.” She looked at that blue sand accumulating in the bottom half and said seeing how the top was emptying was how she felt.

Near the end of our meeting, she told me how glad she was that she’d decided to come because she’d considered staying at home. There she was, expressing gratitude to me for making her feel better. It’s pretty humbling to hear someone in the midst of heightened anxiety and trauma be so genuinely kind and thoughtful. When she left she hugged me; we hugged each other. Somewhere in that simple act, some of her fear melted into me, and some compassion for her suffering flowed from me to her.

Do you really believe she should be focusing 100% on looking for work? Do you really think I – anyone for that matter – who counsels and supports people looking for work should pressure her into making a job search her first priority? And where I now wonder does any government making funding decisions and program cut decisions factor in this kind of experience?

I tell you this, were I that woman, receiving these two pieces of information, I’d sure be grateful to meet with a compassionate, understanding and patient person. Yesterday I was fortunate to be that guy, but this is not about me. I believe there are people with equally, even better responses everywhere, having similar experiences daily.

Something as simple as removing an expectation of finding work and assuring them they won’t have their benefits suspended, can do far more good in the long run by building a trusting, human connection. For who is equipped to deal with either of these situations let alone two on the same day?

So yes, put aside the job search; there are times when it’s not priority #1.

And your thoughts?

Can You Spot a Good Employee From A Bad One?

I know you’ve had interactions with people during the course of your daily life, some of which have been wonderful experiences, some rather unremarkable in any way, and some which have been downright terrible. It’s only common sense that this is the case, based on the wide diversity of people in any part of the world.

Have you for example, ever been approaching the checkout counters in your local grocery store and quickly observed not only the length of the lines, but the identity of the people operating each checkout? I bet you have. Further, I’m willing to bet that you might even opt for a line which is slightly longer if you perceive that the Cashier is friendly, smiling, efficient and will make checking out a more pleasurable experience.

Using the same image and situation, you might see a slightly shorter line open up, but you remain in your line because the Cashier in that line appears grumpy, disinterested, almost robotic and the people being served almost appear to be an unpleasant necessity of the job. You get the picture and the image, and I suspect you have the skills to determine which of the two Cashier’s is the more engaged, happier and communicates that working in that grocery store is a positive experience – AS IS CHECKING OUT WITH THEM.

And that’s the point people. Employers are looking for the right people to pay to work for them. There will almost always be a pool of people who have the technical skills to perform a job. Being able to scan items, bag groceries, receive and process payments is not really the most important part of the job at all. The biggest challenge for those who make employment decisions is locating and selecting people who bring enthusiasm for the work and a positive attitude to the workplace, which translates into a great experience for the customers the store serves. Lose the customers to your competition and profits drop, employees hours are reduced, layoffs occur, stores reduce operating hours and close up.

It stands to reason then that in every single interaction with a potential employer, be it in your cover letter, a phone conversation, walking onto their property, in an interview or after you’ve been hired, you should be aware of the overall message you communicate with those you come in contact with.

Smiling; not a forced painful looking smile, but a genuine smile and good manners, (please and thank-you) are never out of style and too overused. You see, if you and I can spot a good employee from a bad one, it only makes sense that others are also observing us and evaluating their experience when interacting with both you and I. This is essential information whether you are a City Sewer Worker, an animal Vet, a Police Officer or the person who picks up the recycling at the end of people’s driveways.

The real measure of a successful person is when they are putting forth their best effort, working with enthusiasm, and generally appear to be enjoying what they are doing. But I can hear you questioning aloud how an unemployed Information Technology Worker can genuinely look pleased to be working temporarily making submarine sandwiches to pay the bills until they can get a job in their field. Surely the frustration they must feel, the annoyance with the underutilization of their skills entitles them to look disgusted while asking, “Want to make that a combo?”

My answer is that their frustration might be entirely justified, but if they allow themselves to only see the underutilization of their skills and that results in poor service, they are hurting themselves more than they know. Take for example the possibility that the owner of the sandwich shop owns not just the one operation but 3 or 4. That person probably has some technology needs. Might they need some IT assistance from time to time? Might they as a small business owner have many other contacts in the hospitality sector and know people he or she could speak to on their behalf if they filled their own tech issues? You bet.

Good employees invest themselves in the work they are paid to do and do it with focus. They leave their problems outside the workplace as best they can an immerse themselves in the work at hand. If it’s a customer service job, they take a real interest in understanding their customers needs, practice their listening skills, problem-resolution skills, customer retention skills. Those same skills if you re-read them are all transferable skills. YOU CAN TAKE THEM TO YOUR NEXT JOB!

Not to be paranoid, but people are watching us. It might be our boss who notes how fast we learn, our co-workers who know how willing we are to lend a hand, our customer’s who put in a good word with Management on how friendly we are. These people may all be a future job reference for the smart employee working outside their field; and at the least they represent good examples of your skills in future interviews.

Every day you have a choice, as do I. We alone choose to be positive influence or a cancer in our places of work. Stop justifying your bad attitude if you do that; stop blaming your upbringing if it was poor. Start making the time you have now productive, positive and work with enthusiasm.

Choose to have a great day!


My Plan To Be Scruffy At Work

I am a proponent of people taking pride in their personal appearance when it comes to showing up at work. Nonetheless, for the month of November I will be growing day by day a moustache, all in support of Movember; the cause that raises awareness and funds for men’s health – especially prostate cancer.

My objective is a lofty one for someone who is taking part in this cause for the first time; I want to raise $1,000.00. Yesterday evening was my first shout out to those I know, and I started the evening with exactly zero dollars. The first three on board were my daughter and her husband, a couple who are long-time friends, and a member of my extended family. All three have generous hearts, and stepped up almost immediately upon hearing of my request for help.

So here’s how it works. I joined a team of men who likewise work for the same employer, albeit at a number of locations around town. All of us will start the month clean-shaven, and will allow the hair to grow under our noses for the month of November. As we do so, people will notice, ask about it, and we’ll explain the reason and maybe collect a donation along the way.

Now to do something like this, you need the permission of your employer because after all, you still represent the organization with whom you work, and in my case, I have to be sensitive to the fact that the clientele I work with may take my unshaven face as a green light to go scruffy anytime and all the time. And that would be missing the point. It is not permissible to show up for a job interview unshaven or without some grooming and expect to have this ignored. While you may explain your cause if job searching in November, you run the risk of being judged negatively and not respecting the hiring process you are in.

The opposite could of course be true, in that the organization you are interviewing with is fully aware of this cause, has staff of its own partaking, and supports social causes such as Movember. If this is the situation you stand a much better chance than say, showing up for your Vice-President of a financial institution interview looking like you have little care for your personal grooming. is a link to my personal Movember page. If you are so inclined, you can visit the page and click on the,”Donate To Me” link. If you don’t choose to donate, I’m entirely okay with that too because so many of us get requests for assistance and donations. However, I’m hoping of course that you get behind both me and the cause.

So let’s talk openly about cancer and the workplace. There are a number of people who are hesitant to use that word aloud when someone in the workplace has it themselves or has a friend or family member who gets diagnosed. We don’t seem to mind talking about other illnesses, but I suspect cancer is talked about less frequently because the implications for death are heightened; and if not death, certainly a dramatic change in one’s health.

In my organization, it was only last year that a very well-respected and loved Manager was diagnosed with this, and she has only recently returned to work. Just prior to her diagnosis, she accepted a promotion and got all the well-wishes she deserves which were considerable. Knowing she had a huge group of well-wishers and supporters here in our office meant a lot to her apparently, and that’s a fabulous tool in tackling the illness – support.

I don’t have cancer; my dad passed away from it, and quite frankly in his early seventies I know how much I would have appreciated him around all these years later. But it got him. And if it wasn’t that, it would have had to be something else because we don’t live forever. Do you know someone affected by cancer?

But here’s the real deal around men and illness; generally guys aren’t like me. I talk openly about illness and last year had my first colonoscopy. Men seem to avoid medical check-ups more than women, as if somehow if we don’t get checked out, nothing can be confirmed or discovered. Weird. If there’s something to find, why not find it early, treat it, overcome it if you can by making changes or surgery, and then live longer? Maybe not forever, but you might be there to see your kids buy their first home, throw the ball around with your grandchildren, or just be with the love of your life a few years more?

So no pressure intended, and I’ll not think any less of those who opt not to sponsor me, but I have to at least ask you to consider sponsoring me and supporting the cause of men’s health and prostate cancer screening specifically. If you can afford it, big or small, visit and give what you can.

And a big thanks in advance for all your ongoing support!