On A Career Journey? Learn From Tracey


On March 1 I received a message via LinkedIn from a woman who had read one of my blog posts and was touched by it enough that she reached out to me and asked if I’d be willing to meet with her face-to-face to hear first-hand about my career path. On her own career journey, she respectfully asked for 20 minutes of my time over a coffee, and even then said if not, she’d understand and wished me well in my passionate endeavors.

First thing I did was look up her profile on LinkedIn and read up on who this person was and what she’d done to date. We exchanged a couple of messages and the short of it is that we agreed to meet last evening in a public café. I mean here was someone doing exactly what I and many others so often suggest doing; reach out and network, ask for 20 minutes and see what you can learn. I was impressed.

So last evening we met at our agreed time and after introducing ourselves, Tracey made good on her offer of buying me a tea. In exchange for that small investment and the cost of the gas to get to and from the meeting, what she got was more than 20 minutes. We sat there and had a great conversation for…are you ready?…..3 hours. Yep, 3 hours.

When did you last meet someone for the first time and not only found yourself happily immersed in talking but found this interest reciprocated for so long? This was special. The conversation had a nice flow back and forth, both of us sharing experiences, and how those experiences have us where we are in the present. There was something in that post of mine that prompted Tracey to feel she could benefit from meeting; perhaps gaining some insight into what she herself might do with her own career moving forward.

So I shared my working philosophy, the significant characteristics I believe are essential in this line of work, the benefits I derive, what I actually do and what I learn in return. As I spoke I observed Tracey and noted many positive qualities which we’d all do well to replicate in similar situations should we initiate such meetings ourselves.

She listened attentively, made excellent eye contact, smiled, commented on what she heard,  added her own experiences to the conversation so it was a two-way exchange. She was well dressed, came prepared with some written questions and had a pen and paper at hand. Now ironically, the questions she’d prepared didn’t play much of a part in the meeting, as our conversation went back and forth at a comfortable pace and apparently satisfied her questions.

I was interested to hear that in addition to myself, she was meeting with others too; people she had been referred to by others. She said it this meeting was the first time she’d reached out on her own to someone she didn’t know, and we laughed a bit at that. It’s prudent to be cautious when doing so of course, but we were meeting in a public space and sometimes that courage provides new perspectives; hearing from others actually doing the kind of work you might be considering yourself.

I found it interesting that she’d spent 4 years teaching abroad, has recently invested in upgrading her education in Social Sciences and has experience working as a Researcher. More significant to me was hearing her speak about her own love for helping others, having a need for innovation and creativity and how much she enjoys interacting one-to-one. Like attracts like, and so being innovative myself, connecting with others one-on-one, loving helping others and being creative I envisioned her as a professional colleague in the same line of work. Having just met, I don’t know her inside and out, but still, I started to read her and see if she had what it would take to be in this field and succeed. No question about it.

What struck me was her dilemma. What to do? Look for work in the field she just upgraded her education in or possibly pursue a career in something else. Now as I said to her, if her heart was in the work she’d just went to school for, she likely wouldn’t be sitting in a café having a conversation like the one we were having; she’d be enthusiastically out there applying for jobs. Yet here she was. That is a most telling reality; seems to me she’s looking for some work to do with passion herself; helping others in some capacity and looking to feel fulfilled. That apparently hasn’t manifested itself where she is right now.

In the end, it will be Tracey who makes up her mind as to where she goes from here and what she does next in her career journey. She’s an intelligent woman gathering information and others perspectives, and I’m very interested myself to stay in touch and hear what transpires. I’ve made myself available in any way that she might find helpful too, be it further conversations in-person or otherwise.

Now as for you and me, this is yet another example where connecting via social media is a good start, but leveraging these connections into actual conversations and truly networking is what we could do more of. 3 hours you might not get I acknowledge, but asking for 20 minutes…priceless. Happy networking!

 

Take A Short-Term Job? Why?


So you’re looking for a job. Excellent! Good for you. You even know what you’re looking for and it’s something you’re qualified to do in terms of your education and experience. The problem? It’s taking longer than you would have thought. Your financial resources are being depleted and the stress of unemployment is mounting. Sound familiar?

While it’s commendable that you have this narrow job focus and aren’t being distracted with the temptation of every job opening that comes your way, you’re entertaining the idea more and more of applying for positions other than your targeted career. Is this something you should or shouldn’t do?

These jobs you are thinking about applying for more and more are typically called survival or transition jobs. The idea of pursuing these kinds of jobs while at the same time still putting the bulk of your time and energy into your ideal career job has been around for a very long time. So if you’re thinking more and more about going this route, you’re in good company.

Let’s look at some of the pros shall we? So we are clear, you haven’t given up entirely on your career job. You’ve just come to the point where you looking at another job for the here and now. Don’t worry about that voice in your ear that keeps telling you if you seek out one of these other jobs you’re somehow a failure and have given up on yourself. That’s rubbish and can only lead to lower self-esteem and is anything but productively helpful.

First of all a transition or survival job (and from here on let’s use either one of these terms interchangeably) is short-term in nature. By short-term, the actual length can vary and is only intended to be kept once secured for as long as it takes to land your career job; a longer-term proposition and source of income. The fact that it is short-term should appease that fear you might experience of making a big mistake by taking one.

These jobs are typically entry-level positions in organizations and come with lower pay as a consequence, but the lower pay and the entry-level status also means you’ll have fewer responsibilities and that in turn means you should have both physical and mental energy left to devote to your career-based job search. Please don’t misread that I believe short-term transitions jobs are always filled by people who don’t have to use their brains whatsoever and you could do the job blindfolded. We’re all made up different and so the job you take as a sideline until something better comes up might at the same time be someone else’s career job bringing them great satisfaction. I’m not judging the people holding these jobs and you shouldn’t either.

As these are entry-level and lower paying positions more often than not, there is also a greater number of people available in the job market with the necessary skills to fill vacancies as they come up. Hence if and when you quit a short-term job you’ve taken as a survival job, the employer will have less of a challenge filling it come your departure. Less guilt for you if you’ve got a conscious.

A job by its very nature is going to provide you with income; income you need perhaps to pay some bills and keep your debt to a minimum. The nice thing about seeking one of these positions is that you’re likely to hear the words, “you’re hired” quicker than holding out for that dream career position you’ve been applying for. There’s likely only one interview, two at the most; and you’re in. That’s good for the self-esteem; ie. somebody wants me.

Another benefit of these jobs is the human connection. Job searching is isolating as in unemployment. It’s you against the world and it seems like you’re the lone wolf scavenging to stay alive. When you’re working in a transition job you benefit from being part of a team, meeting people and having adult conversations about just about anything other than your own lack of employment success. So even if you’re making someone a sandwich or selling them a sweater, what you’re doing is exercising your people skills; communication skills, customer service skills etc.

Play it right and you might also be working in a job where one of the other benefits is a break on the purchase of whatever it is your producing. Need some shoes and income? Take a job in a shoe store and perhaps you get an employee discount. Need to update your wardrobe? A job in a fashion store means they’ll want you wearing their goods, so count on some of your income going towards an outfit or two which could in turn become your new work clothes when you leave.

You won’t lose sight of your long-term objective in a short-term transition job. There are people however who have taken short-term work and found they liked it so much they actually stayed for years and it became their career jobs as they moved up the ladder. Hey, if you like it once there, why not?

Other benefits? They get you out of the house, keeping a good pattern of behaviour, fill up your gaps on a resume and get you current references. There’s a lot of good to be found in short-term survival jobs if and when you’re ready.

 

Do You HAVE To Bring Passion?


Q. “As a condition of being hired, you have to bring passion to the job every day. Can you do that?”

A. “Absolutely. Never met her but give me her address and I’ll swing by on my way to work.”

Funny? Maybe. And if you want to go ahead and steal that from me, be my guest. It’s original; well as far as I know anyhow.

I ask you though, is it essential that you bring passion to work on a daily basis? Given that there are billions of people on the planet and a broad spectrum of jobs out there, it’s conceivable that some jobs demand it and others don’t. Look at a lot of job postings these days however and you see that word more often than not.

So this becomes problematic if you aren’t the demonstrative sort. You might in fact be the very kind of person who isn’t really passionate about anything in your life be it professional or personal. That by the way doesn’t make you negatively abnormal, nor does it mean you are disinterested in your work, or are you destined to be any less likely to succeed.

It does mean however that some employers are going to pass you over because you don’t exhibit that key quality which they’ve identified as essential in each of the members of their workforce. This isn’t the end of the world; it just means you’re not well-suited for that particular company and if you were hired, you’d undoubtedly not be a good fit with the others working there. In passing you over, the employer has done themselves and you a big favour by wisely hiring someone else who best exhibits that enthusiasm and passion so necessary to perform at the levels they expect.

So instead of lamenting the fact that you don’t bring passion to the job, or worse yet trying to fake it and be something other than your authentic self, turn your attention to your natural strengths and disposition. It is of course quite possible to be punctual, reliable, work hard and work to meet deadlines with a high degree of regularity without necessarily needing to add passion to the mix. These are also highly desirable qualities which employers value too.

Take the assorted tools a Gardener would use. Whether it’s a shovel with a rounded head, an edger, a pick axe, a hoe or a rake, each tool is the right tool; the perfect tool, depending on the job you use it for. Likewise, each tool is not well designed for some jobs and no tool is the best tool for all jobs. The same can be said for any personal quality you have.

In fact, that analogy of the Gardener’s tools is a good one for you to think about and possibly even share with an interviewer if they are questioning your passion and you meet the job requirements in every facet except that one. You can have a solid work ethic without it for example and should you be able to extol this virtue, you might win over an employer who started out looking for passion in their employees but didn’t themselves really understand why.

Returning to the notion of faking it, is it possible to, ‘fake it until you make it’? Well I suppose anything is possible. The notion that you could fake being passionate about your job responsibilities until one day you wake up and realize you are genuinely passionate about it might occur; who am I to say? But I suspect that would be a rare thing. Far more likely is the idea that you could fake it and get hired only to find you can’t maintain the pretense of bringing passion to the job and then you are exposed. Besides, do you really want to start off this way and feel you have to keep up appearances instead of being your genuine authentic self?

To do the above, it would consume a tremendous amount of mental and physical energy; energy which you would be better advised to put into the very work you are being paid to do. You only have so much of it to start with and if your mind is split between the work to be done and trying to keep your body language and attitude attuned to what a passionate person would look like, you can’t be working at your best.

Now don’t get me wrong. Any employer has the right to establish the qualities they desire in the people who join their workforce and passion may be one of them.  Good questions to approach your research with when considering applying for such an employer are, “What do they mean by passion?” “What does passion translate into on a daily basis?” “Why is passion defined as critical?”

Keep in mind that the work you are looking for is likely out there with a variety of employers. So if passion is sought by one employer and not another for essentially the same work, choose your employer and pass the other by. The fit has to be right for you as well as them. If however you note that this single quality is sought be every employer in your line of work, that would be something to reflect strongly on.

All the very best to you this day and every day to come!

 

“So Tell Me About Yourself.”


You’re fortunate if the job interview starts off with this question. Not everybody agrees of course; in fact, this question seems to rank pretty high up there on the list of questions people dread in an interview. So let’s look at this question; why it’s asked and most importantly how to answer it intelligently so you get off to a positive start in the job interview.

To begin, imagine yourself as the interviewer; sitting on the other side of the table and meeting job applicants for the first time. Presumably the number of applicants has been reduced from all of those who applied down to a few people who – at least on paper  – meet your stated qualifications. After all, whether your company used applicant tracking software or human eyes, it’s highly probable that the reason you were invited in to meet with company personnel as a potential new hire is that you have done a good job matching yourself up with their needs as stated in the job posting.

At this point, you as the interviewer are coming face-to-face with people for the first time. Your job is to meet these candidates, listen to them respond to your questions, confirm their credentials, expose any liabilities and in the end, determine the best of those you meet in terms of finding a fit for the organization. Make the right choice and you add to the overall strength of the company; choose the wrong person and you have two problems: a) you let the right person walk away and b) you’re going to have to release the person you’ve hired and return to the interview and selection process costing you time and money.

As the interviewer, you can look at the resume of the 5 or 6 finalists for the position you are interviewing people for and compare education achievements and professional development. If the job requires a diploma or degree, presumably all the people you are meeting will have this credential. Not much point wasting valuable time confirming that in person, unless of course you’ve requested they bring in the original document for confirmation. Even so, that would take less than a minute to verify.

What you’re really interested in is getting information from the meeting itself which you will compile in order to form a complete picture of the person you are interviewing. Your ears will pick up the person’s vocabulary, ability to express themselves, hesitations and uncertainties and quality of their answers. Your eyes will provide information you’ll use to form a first and last impression based on their clothing, their grooming, posture, facial expressions, gait, smile etc. Your hands will note their handshake quality and will relay information you’ll interpret as their confidence, nervousness, confidence etc.

Leading up to the interview, you’ve no doubt sat down either alone or with someone else and come up with the questions you plan on asking in order to best extract the information you want and need to know in order to make the proper job offer to the best candidate. Some of these questions will focus on technical skills, past experiences, future plans and all the while the interviewer is listening and gathering information they’ll need to determine the right person.

In addition to the objective education (your formal schooling), experience (have you previously done the work required of you now) and skills (how well or poorly have you performed) the interviewer is focused on determining the right personal fit. From your words, tone of voice, visual cues, body language and your own questions, they are sizing up your attitude, values, personality and visualizing how you might fit or not in the environment that makes up the workplace. They know the other employees in the department you could be assigned to, the supervisor you’d report to, the qualities of the best employees they currently have who have made a success of the work. They are in short, measuring you up against this unique knowledge they possess, trying to determine not only if you have what it takes, but the impact of your hiring on the existing workforce and ultimately the services and products they produce for their end-users. Whew! No pressure there!

Okay, so upon first meeting you and the other candidates, they only know what they’ve read on your CV or resume and in the 23 seconds they first eyed you and you took your seat across from them. They are now ready and take the lead on the conversation welcoming and thanking you for coming in to meet them. The opening question is really the ice-breaker; the in-depth questions are yet to come but in the beginning there’s one question that’s really just designed to hear you speak and give them some lead data from which to add to a first impression.

To answer the question intelligently, respond to their stated needs as outlined in the job posting. Get them checking off their own needs based on your answer. You’re a proven professional in your field with the required years of expertise. You’re passionate about your industry and identify your strengths as they relate to the job at hand. Ensure your body language and words reflect your enthusiasm for the opportunity.

Personal hobbies? Avoid these unless they add to the position. Family situation? Irrelevant and could expose liabilities. What’s your motivation, what will you add?

Look at the job posting; don’t wing your opening answer or you may find by their reaction you’re going to be spending the rest of the interview in damage control.

Those Drawn To Social Services And Other Professions


Name any profession that you have even a rudimentary understanding of what the people in that job actually do, and there’s a good chance you can accurately come up with the personality traits and basic skills that you’d find in many of the people in that profession.

For example, Firefighters likely have excellent stamina, a high level of physical fitness; a genuine concern for educating people on how to safeguard themselves against injuries or death caused by fire. Fashion Designers likely share creativity; a flair for fashion in general, and enjoy clothing others perhaps with colour, affordability, trends or materials foremost in mind.

Those drawn to Social Services work are no different. There are common traits and qualities that dominate those who you find in the profession. Let me amend that statement. There are common traits and qualities that dominate those WHO ARE SUCCESSFUL in the profession. For the field of Social Services is just like all other professions in that you’ll find similar qualities amongst most of the workers but you’ll always find a small percentage who don’t align with the majority.

What becomes magnified and of tremendous importance is that the few in the field who don’t represent the majority, ply their trade and go about their work all the while interacting with fragile, vulnerable people who can ill afford to be served by people who would appear to be, ‘in it’ for the wrong reasons.

While most people drawn to social service work have the very best of intentions to serve and assist the vulnerable, you may just find others with different agendas. Yes some in the field are in because they want a 9-5 job, maybe the benefits that go with it, maybe it’s something they can do that isn’t too taxing on the body or the mind. Depending on the employer, you might also see some in it for the money, the benefits, the stability and protection of a unionized body behind them.

Some of my colleagues in the field but with different employers in different areas or countries will laugh out loud at that last paragraph about being in it for the money. I can tell you though, in some jurisdictions Social Workers and Social Services staff are paid quite well; just as in all professions there are some who are paid better than others.

It is hoped – at least by me – that those who are drawn to the field of Social Services are the compassionate ones; the ones who you and I ourselves would like to see sitting across from us in our own moments of need. We’d like someone empathetic to our needs with an open mind and receptive ear. We’d like to be believed after being heard, and we’d like a responsive person who can and will work with us to improve our situation whatever it is.

What we’d rather not experience I feel it is reasonable to state is a person who is going through the motions, detached from their job, abrasive, disinterested in their work and who forgets that there are people affected by their actions or lack thereof. Ironic isn’t it that some people would be in the field of serving others yet go about their day almost seeming to complain about the people who make their job so frustrating by being so needy!

What I don’t think we in the field have to have as a pre-requisite is having lived the lives of those we serve and support. It isn’t essential to have been homeless yourself; to have had an addiction to cocaine or be a recovering alcoholic. I don’t think having spent time in jail makes you more qualified to help ex-cons than someone else who hasn’t been in the correctional system.

What we all do need I believe is tolerance, patience, empathy, understanding; a willingness to listen without prejudice and judgement, condemnation or preconceived attitudes. In fact, there’s an argument to be made that the ex-con, recovering addict or alcoholic are not the best people to assist those they serve because they revert to their own experiences and sometimes in doing so fail to hear the unique experience of the person in front of them. Someone with no personal experience to shape their opinion will be listening in the conscious moment hearing the person they hope to help as they tell their story.

Sure it’s nice to think that we in the field can make a difference; that we can influence others for good, help support people who want to make positive changes in their lives. Honestly though, and as someone who has been in the field for some time, you’ll be disappointed in the setbacks some of those you have high hopes for experience. You might feel let down, or that you let them down. You might feel frustrated that someone didn’t follow through on your plan of action; that they were weak and succumbed to temptation and had a number of false starts.

You are human. It’s most important to be there. If people always call you first when they are the most needy, rejoice in that because your name came to their mind as the one person who is most likely to give them what they need in their moment of greatest need; what a privilege.

Talk to people in the profession you’re drawn to and see if you personally ‘fit’. Now that’s good advice.

When The Mind Is Willing But The Body Is Done


Are you one of those people who has got to the point in life where your body is no longer able to keep up with what your job requirements demand, yet that job is all you really know how to do? If so, this can be a stressful, even scary time for you as you ponder what job or career you will pursue now.

This kind of situation is actually very common, especially in positions requiring manual labour skills such as the construction field. I’ve listened to many a person tell me their stories and they share a similar theme; the person started working early in life out of necessity, often not completing high school. The money early on was good and they were young, strong, enjoyed the physical demands of the job and how it kept them in good shape. Then as time passed, they felt the aches and pains lingered on longer when the job was done and eventually they were in constant pain reaching the point where they had to quit because of back and joint pain.

The situation above is very real; the mind is still willing but the body can’t take the physical demands of the job anymore and there are younger and stronger people coming onto the job sites who will work for less money and these combine to push the person out of work. Now in their late 40’s and early 50’s, here is the person left wondering what else they could possibly be qualified to do. The resume doesn’t look all that impressive with less than high school education and a ton of experience doing construction or general labour work which they can no longer do hence the dilemma.

So is this you and your situation? Someone you know perhaps? This is a tough one isn’t it and no one knows better than you the struggle to figure out what you’re going to do with the years you still want to be productively working doing something. At your point in life going back to school to get your grade 12 diploma is scary too; after all you’ve only got your long ago memories of high school to go on and if it was difficult to finish school when you were in your teens, you imagine it can’t be easier now that your 50ish!

Well let’s look at some options shall we?  First of all, getting your grade 12 completed is an option. It doesn’t mean you have to do this, but it is an option isn’t it? What you might not know is that if you’ve only completed grade 9 or 10 and figure you haven’t got 2 or 3 years to spend in a classroom at this point in life, relax; you don’t. You’ll find that adult education schools in your area likely have programs in place that will recognize your life experience and give you credit for this. Could be you only need to take 3 or 4 courses to get that grade 12 diploma and your classmates will be adults just like you, not 17 year olds. As employers often see grade 12 as a basic requirement, getting yours could be the right move to start with.

The next thing to figure out is what exactly you’re going to do now career-wise. For some people, this is a crippling problem; all you’re qualified to do is what you’ve done and you haven’t got the ability to do that anymore. First of all, do you want to work in the same field of work anymore? If you could take your knowledge and move into a leadership role or teach younger workers what you know, would you take that kind of job? Or do you want or need to get right out of that line of work altogether?

Here’s some good advice; take one or two computer classes for people who know very little or nothing about computers. In 2016, you have to have basic computer skills to even apply for jobs. Don’t plan on just walking in and introducing yourself and asking for a chance to work. Yeah this kind of disappeared in the 90’s and except for the odd place, it’s never coming back. Today, you have to apply online or use email. You should head on down to an employment centre in your community as well as adult education schools and look into adult computer classes for beginners. You likely won’t be a computer expert, but you need more skills than you have at the moment for sure.

My final piece of advice – just to keep things short and cut to the key things – get some help from an Employment Centre where will find Job Coaches, Employment Counsellors or Career Advisors. I’m one of them but this isn’t about self-promotion. (If it was I’d name my own Centre or give you my contact details). Look, you’re an expert at what you’ve done all your life, and these career professionals are experts at what they do which is helping people like you figure out what to do next in life. You may just find their services are free anyhow.

You and I both know you want to be productive and useful. Getting the above help will keep you relevant, help you realize what you’ve got to offer and craft your resume to positions you’d genuinely be interested in.

Don’t put off getting the help you need from people who deal with people just like you every day!

How To Get Ahead In The Organization


Not all of us are bound for glory at the top of the organization. Quite frankly, not all of us value being at the top at all. For those however who do want to rise from the rank of the entry-level, there are a few things you can do that will increase your opportunities of moving up. Identify your goal. Rather than letting fate determine where you end up, look at the organizational chart where you work.

Name the job. Identify what for you is be the ideal position to be in that would make use of your skills and satisfy your desire to be in a position that you’re happiest. You’ll do this throughout your career by the way, so if you identify a position that’s really three or four moves away, look closest at the move one up from where you are now in that sequence of upward movement.

Check your skill set. It could be that you’ve already got all the requisite skills required of the job you identified in the step above. If you do, wonderful; you’re positioned to apply with confidence if and when that position becomes available. If however you can identify skills and qualifications you lack at the moment, you’ll be happy to know that although you’re lacking, you have made an important discovery. Now is the time to start looking into how you can acquire what you need. Is it a course, a certificate or degree program? Is it leadership on the job in some kind of project?

Establish a timeframe. This step requires you to realistically step back and look at where you are and where you intend to be and accurately measure the time between the present and arriving where you plan to be. This is a crucial step not to be overlooked. While you can’t predict perhaps when someone will vacate the position they now occupy that you covet, you can make some educated guesses. How long for example has the person been in the job? What’s their age? Talk to them and find out their plans by taking an interest in their career path. Is your company contracting or expanding?

Share your vision. If you’ve got the kind of employer that values succession planning and whom takes a real sincere interest in employee development, share your goals with your supervisor. The boss is in a position to get on board with your plans and can approve training opportunities that will give you the necessary skills that you determined earlier you lack. It could also be that the boss knows more than you do about other employee’s plans and while they are unlikely to share that information for reasons of confidentiality, they can give you good advice on what to do now so you’re ready when the time comes.

Network. This step is often the one that people grumble about. Not sure really why that is, but if you don’t warm to the word, ‘network’ than how about converse, talk, engage, mingle etc. Don’t let the word stop you from doing what is essentially just getting to know and be known by the people who may be in the best position to help you in your career moves.

Be authentic. Can you spot a phony? Sure you can. Don’t be the woman or man who is the office bootlicker. If you flatter others in a disingenuous way, you’ll be pegged a mile off. You don’t have to tell people of influence that they look amazing every day or that you soooo admire them and every decision they make. Do this and you set yourself up to be used and abused. You’ll be known as such an obvious step climber that you’ll be given the worst jobs to do that nobody wants just because in your mind it will look good so you’ll do them without complaint or objection.

Put in the time. Not always, but typically speaking, those that contribute more of their own time beyond what they have to, advance. When you put in extra time you’re sending out the message that by your actions you’re committed. If you are putting in this time and being authentic about it, (see the point above), you’ll probably be doing so at some point because you care and you want results. While more time alone doesn’t mean you do better work or achieve better results, it does send the message that the company is important to you, and you’re not above investing yourself in its success

Get feedback. You need to know fairly early and often how you are perceived by others. Seek out some honest opinions about how your personality and character fit with what the organization is looking for. You may have all the skills and qualifications for a job, but if you get denied it again and again, it’s likely that you’re not seen as a good fit for other reasons. When you ask for feedback make sure you listen more than you speak, and take the feedback openly. If you get defensive and argue about that feedback, people will dry up and fail to give you what you really need most; honest feedback.

Like I said, not all of us want to move up in the companies we work for. Positioning yourself now to take advantage of future opportunities is wise advice though.

 

 

What Do You Want?


What do you want to experience in your life that you currently aren’t? More money? Power? Flexibility? Job satisfaction? A stronger intimate relationship with someone? Knowing what you want can help you realize it. Not knowing what you want can seed frustration, anger, regret and confusion.

So let’s say you’ve identified that you want more income. Having decided on more income you can then move on to looking at your options; taking on a secondary job, applying for better paying jobs, investing your funds to grow them faster etc. The choices are yours to make but they all have one thing in common as they all seek to increase your overall wealth.

When it comes to relationships and wanting a deeper, more fulfilling one, you can opt to put yourself in more situations where you’ll meet more people, you can risk telling someone how you feel, or you can send out the word that you’re on the market and / or join some dating sites. Already in a relationship? You can invest more of your conscious energy in making that relationship stronger.

Now as for your career, again I ask, “What do you want?” Some people are very happy in their life just moving from job to job, doing different things, gaining a wealth of experiences, and of course being paid to do those jobs. For others, this idea of floating along and not having some overall master plan is not satisfying at all. No, some people are happier identifying what it is they want early and then taking the courses and gaining the experiences that will ultimately put them in a position to take advantage of things and realize their long-term goals.

You know I’m guessing the people in your workplace that everyone can easily identify as the go-getters. They volunteer for committees, they move with the right people, they climb the corporate ladder with speed and purpose. It’s like they’ve got a career path all laid out and are acting the plan. Well good for them you say to yourself; and you either mean it sincerely or you say it wishing it was you on that path instead of them.

Of course what we want career-wise has a lot to do with the factors we experience. If we are in our late 50’s vs. our early 30’s, we might not want to invest much time and energy aspiring to reach the top if we’re not close to it. After all, it might be we just want to play out the string, get paid for our work and then retire early enough to enjoy life without having the stress of putting in the extra hours required to impress the higher-ups and get that plum job which we might have under different circumstances reached out for.

Where we live can play a big factor too. Maybe we’re just not into a long commute, we don’t want to arrive early and work late; we’re content with how things are and to make a big corporate leap would mean moving from our cozy urban dwelling into the heat of the city; all dusty, busy and noisy. No thanks.

What do you want? It keeps coming back to these four words. What you want is very personal; there’s no right or wrong answer, but there is a personal answer. It requires some thought doesn’t it? I mean, what do YOU want?

Some people think that just wanting something is akin to dreaming. Write it down they say and it’s a goal. Plan to make it happen by developing some written steps that have some kind of timeframes attached and you’ve got a workable map that will lead you to the goal you’ve described. But there are a lot of people who have their goal in mind and they still make it happen without the benefit of writing it down and mapping out the steps.

Then of course there are those who have no goal in mind other than seeing how life unfolds. If opportunities arise with respect to their career, they’ll think about them at the time rather than plan now to stand at that crossroads. To be honest, in some fields there are new jobs that didn’t exist even a short time ago, so how could anyone have planned to make the move to the jobs that didn’t exist? So there are many people who are content to find something they enjoy doing and just plan to continue doing it until they no longer enjoy it; then and only then do they look around and say, “Okay so what are my options?”

When you’re in school, good advice is to keep all your doors open down the road by getting all the education you can; the degree over the diploma so to speak. It can open more doors down the road; doors you don’t even know exist. But what about post school? What actions can you take to keep your doors open?

Take advantage of learning opportunities your employer presents. Network positively and often. If you get the chance, take the lead at work on some project so you both learn and stretch a little while getting known to those you don’t normally interact with. Keep looking every so often at other job postings just so see what’s trending. Could be a perfect job comes up and you find your next move.

What do you want?

Underemployed?


Being underemployed means your that while yes you’re working, you’re in a position that isn’t what you are qualified to do based on your education and experience. It’s likely that you are also underpaid, as you’re working in a job quite possibly that is in another field and at an entry-level salary, because you’re not entirely qualified in that second field for a more senior position.

Still, it’s a job. Needing money to stay afloat and pay some bills, you’ve taken this job on a short-term basis. The good thing about the job is that it keeps you busy and there’s less time to sit alone at home brooding over your lack of success. It’s also good for the self-esteem in that an employer picked you up and hired you so your skills are validated. The people you meet on a daily basis don’t know about your situation and let’s face it, not many of them care quite frankly. Everybody has a story and while you’ve got yours, they’ve got theirs. That’s just the fact of the matter.

Now on the downside, while you’ve got some immediate income, the income itself isn’t sustainable; well not for the lifestyle you had or the lifestyle you’re aiming for. You’re living tight, paying the bills to get by but there’s not much of a social life with such a small reserve of what’s referred to as discretionary spending. Another downside is the work itself; this isn’t what you went to school for in all probability.

Now while you’ve taken on this job for the positives; including filling up a broadening gap on your resume had you not taken the job, you’re worried about the possibility of getting lulled into this new job and not having the time or energy to work hard at getting back into the field you went to school for. You don’t want to be the poster child for the person with two University degrees who is now flipping burgers for a living.

Okay so what to do. Well first of all, the decision to take a job sometimes referred to as a survival job or transition job is or was, yours alone to make. As there are pros and cons, you have to take the responsibility and accountability for having made the decision to accept this job based solely on your own unique circumstances.

I’ve known some career seekers who actually switched to job seekers and it worked out wonderfully. You see an entry-level job that requires less qualifications than the career position you’ve been going for over a long period can actually be a huge positive. There’s much less stress for example dressing a submarine sandwich or fitting someone for a new pair of shoes than there is scratching your way alone in the financial sector while managing an investment portfolio for a firms clients. That drop in stress could be just what the doctor ordered, and this can give your brain a chance to turn down the constant need to be checking stock markets and interest rates.

Now before anyone jumps on entry-level service industry jobs as being more than I’m pointing them out to be, let me say that learning the ropes is just as critically important to the owners of these franchises and businesses. I used to be a shoe and clothing salesperson; but selling shoes and clothes was much less stressful than making decisions as a Social Services Caseworker that could result in someone not getting the funds they expected and being out on the street – literally.

If you are underemployed, you’ve got to find for yourself that fine line between taking a transition or survival job just long enough to ground yourself and not too long so it becomes your new normal. You want to give the employer who hired you a return on their investment in you, both in terms of time on their payroll and interest and commitment to their success. At the same time, you do want to focus some of your energy and time to getting on with your career; and at the moment you’re not in the right employment sector.

Get in a routine and commit to it. That could mean looking for work every morning until your afternoon shift, or it could mean committing to 3 hours of job search activity at some point in your day. Whatever you choose, a regular commitment will keep you from missing the perfect opportunity. Don’t think I mean just looking at want ads either. Today there’s online learning, night school, webinars, social media platforms that promote discussion and networking. There’s a lot you could do beyond just looking for job openings.

One of the most useful things you could be doing right now is initiating and nurturing new relationships with people you don’t know at the moment but who work for the company or companies you’d most like to target. Connecting with someone today and asking them for a job tomorrow isn’t going to work with most people. However, connecting with someone today and cultivating that relationship to the point where you seek out some assistance as a job opening appears will likely mean your contact is happier to pass on information to help you out.

Being underemployed but working has its pros and cons. It’s up to you and you alone to decide what’s right for you. Remember however that lyric of the Beatles that goes, “Get back to where you once belonged.”

 

Turn Your Passion Into A Job? Not Always.


You’ve probably heard some people who give career advice suggest that you take something you love and then see if you can find a way to get paid for doing it. There is some merit in this as the work you would be doing on a daily basis would be something you’d enjoying doing and to get paid for doing it would seemingly give you endless days of pleasure, giving you the seemingly the perfect job. I beg to differ.

This past weekend in Canada where I reside, we had a 3 day weekend owing to the fact it was Victoria Day. Where I live, each of the three days was warmer than the day before it, and while the first two days were a nice mixture of sun and cloud, the third was sunny and a scorcher. Here we haven’t hit summer yet, and the May 24th weekend is the signpost that we use to do much of our garden plantings as all danger of frost is usually over with.

Can you see where I’m going? I love gardening. On any given weekend I look forward to waking up and getting out and about the property to see what’s sprouting up, what needs weeding, fertilizing, watering or cutting. Some days I know exactly what I want to accomplish by days end, and other days I find myself looking back on a day where I got things done I had no idea of working on until I got taken with some inspiration along the way. Yes, I really do enjoy spending time gardening.

As late afternoon Monday rolled around; it being the last of the three days off, I found myself showered from the dirt and grime of the garden beds and sitting back looking out at the backyard with my wife. We counted ourselves fortunate that we live where we do, have our health and the serenity that comes from having a nice place to come home to each day where we can relax and enjoy the peace and tranquility of our little piece of the world. What I could not do on my own in this space was haul the massive armour stones that frame our waterfall, nor do I have the equipment to dig down deep and eventually lay out our back two patios which have a lot of curves and required some fine stone cutting.

From time-to-time I’ve thought about landscaping and property maintenance as a career. I know when I create a garden from what was a plot of grass, I feel good inside looking at the finished product and knowing how much improved the space looks. Over time I’ve learned quite a bit about what plants to grow and how to group them so they are attractive to the eye, which bees, birds or butterflies will be drawn in with the choices I make etc.

So a career in gardening, landscaping, property maintenance etc. might on the surface be a good choice for me. Alas my friends, it is not so. For starters, I’m not at the right time in my life to entertain such a career even if I were looking for a change (which I’m not by the way. I love my current job). While I don’t have the heavy equipment needed for some jobs, I know I could rent these things as needed and keep my costs down. I know too that on a small-scale, I’ve got some of the basic tools of the trade; the lawn mower, shovels, rototillers, wheelbarrow, edger, hoe, weed-puller and a pick axe. Pick axe you say? Yep, a pick axe is a great tool for skimming off grass and breaking up hard soil or removing rocks from the ground. Tools therefore would not be an obstacle to getting started.

What I wouldn’t like about the job is that; well…it would become a job. Right now this hobby of mine is mine to do as I please. It’s a little too hot, I stop. It’s a little too chilly or wet, I don’t start. My choice you see; my time. However, if I was to be employed as a Landscaper, I’d feel that very real sense of duty and commitment. It would possibly turn this activity I find so rewarding into a source of income but I’d be disappointed if somewhere along the way this turned into something I had to do rather than loved to do.

Now sure I’ve offered and volunteered my time and knowledge to help with enhancing friends and neighbours properties. This I think is what being a good friend and neighbour is all about; lending a hand.

In my case at any rate, I want to separate my paid employment from one of my hobbies that brings me joy. Were I to go back in time and choose a different occupation I may well have done very well to choose Horticulture and launch a career in that field, (no pun intended) but back then I didn’t even think of this and wouldn’t have known how to go about getting started if I had.  The ironic drawback might be that I’d be so busy improving other people’s properties that my own might be neglected as I wouldn’t have the drive to landscape from 8 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and then come home to work on my own.

What are your thoughts on doing what you love for a living? Is this always a good idea?