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.

 

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So You Want To Help People?


The majority of people I come into contact with professionally have as one common denominator, the lack of employment. Those that do have a job are almost always dissatisfied with the one they have at the moment and are looking to find another; one that will ultimately bring they greater happiness, be more of a challenge, stimulate some new skills, increase their financial health etc.

As an Employment Counsellor therefore, I find myself working with others when they are often vulnerable and emotionally fragile. Sometimes the good skills and strengths they have are obscured, not immediately obvious, and this isn’t because the person is consciously trying to hide them, but rather because they have come to doubt those strengths.

In asking someone to both show and share their good qualities, strengths and that which they take pride in, it can be a very intimate discussion. While a person who has only recently become unemployed has much of their confidence and self-awareness intact, someone experiencing prolonged unemployment may feel very little to be proud of. In fact, there are some who, while looking ‘normal’ on the outside, are walking around feeling they are completely devoid of anything of any value. Sad to say, they cannot think of anything whatsoever they like about themselves, they have no faith that anyone would ever choose to hire them, and this isn’t modesty in the extreme, it’s a void of identity.

So imagine you’ve come to find yourself as such a person. You honestly see nothing in yourself that would be attractive to a perspective employer. Skills, mental health, self-confidence, experience, education, attitude all empty and wanting; doubt, lack of self-worth, zero energy, high vulnerability all in great supply. Now you hear others advising you to market yourself to employers, to ‘fake it ’til you make it’, and you just feel so much more out of sorts and incapable. You’re literally incapable and immobile. There’s no way you can do that; you can’t even imagine yourself for a second ever being what your being asked to be. The interview therefore is a non-starter. There’s just no way you can perceive self-marketing yourself and being the first choice of any employer over others.

Let’s not delude ourselves here; helping and supporting such people is no small undertaking and it’s going to take a significant amount of time to aid such a person as they rebuild their self-image. Incapacitated is how they feel, not belligerent nor unwilling, just not physically or mentally capable of doing anything in the beginning to get going.

Can you also imagine therefore in such a picture which I’m trying to create for you, that such a person is going to have many setbacks? Sure they are. There will be many false starts; where they agree to try something you’ve suggested and fail. Where they lack the skills you and I might assume they have to circumnavigate even the simplest of barriers. Good intentions get them going, but without support they fail to move ahead. In fact, small setbacks become magnified in their eyes and thinking; more reasons to feel a failure.

A real danger is to look from the outside at such a person and judge them to be lazy, improperly motivated, unwilling to move ahead, happy to stay where they are and heaven forbid – not worth the effort. These are people who are susceptible to scams, vulnerable to being misled, easily taken advantage of – largely because they have come to look for others to tell them what to do and take care of them, and as such they are often abused financially, emotionally; and each abuse makes their distrust of someone with the best of intentions all the more real.

Wow! Helping such a person seems to get harder and harder with every paragraph I write. Think of the investment of time, effort and with such a high probability of failure, are you up for the challenge? After all, why not turn your attention to helping other people who have higher probabilities of success? That would seem so much easier!

I tell you this; there is immense self-satisfaction in working with people who are so innately vulnerable. Seeing the good in people; not for what they might become but for who they are at the moment – this is often extremely challenging but so worthwhile. It’s like saying, “Until you have the ability to believe in yourself, accept that I see much of value in you; that I believe in you.” Sending that kind of message, that this person is deserving of your attention and your time is something to start with.

You might not of course have what it takes to help such people. This doesn’t make you a bad person or flawed in any way. It just means your wish to help people lies in other areas, helping in other ways with other issues. You’ll make mistakes as you go and that’s to be expected and natural. You’ll make mistakes after years of service too, and you’ll always keep learning from those you work with who are unique from every other person you meet. You’ll never get so good you’re perfect for everybody you meet.

It’s been said that Hope is the last thing one has to lose; that when all Hope is gone, there’s nothing left. Now what if in their eyes, you represent that final Hope?

You Can’t Win The Race From The Sidelines


Bad news, unfortunate circumstances, poor luck, worries, stresses, pains and LIFE; all reasons for putting off looking for work. Might as well add in low self-esteem, anxiety, an unreal perception of one’s reality, lack of motivation, money in the bank, a dependency on others or possibly contentment. Yes there are many reasons why people – perhaps you? would put off looking for employment.

By the term, ‘looking for employment’, I mean really looking for work. Casually glancing at want ads for three or four minutes a day isn’t job searching so let’s not delude one another. Looking for work these days – as has always been the case by the way – means making a serious investment of time and going about it intelligently with an injection of enthusiasm.

In order to be successful and win your next job though, you’ve got to throw your name into the mix. There’s no way you’re going to win out in the end if you’re not even in the race. Whether you start strong and count on your stamina to hold off the competition or you go at a steady pace and gradually pick up steam near the finish line to surge ahead of the others competing for the job you want is up to you. Sit on the sidelines though and one things for sure, you’re not winning. And whether it’s a thoroughbred horse, an elite athlete or even a beer league hockey player, the longer you’re not practicing and training, the longer it’s going to take to get into game shape and do anywhere near your best.

Have you heard the phrase that looking for a job is a job in itself? It’s likely you’ve heard some version of it. Looking for work is work; which is why many people avoid looking for work. After all, it takes effort and it doesn’t pay anything until it pays off with a job in the end.

Now I understand if you’ve been out of work for a long time or under whatever your personal circumstances are that you might be deserving of both some empathy and some sympathy. Sympathy by the way isn’t a bad thing; even if you say you don’t want or need others sympathy, a lot of folks actually do appreciate it. Neither sympathy or empathy however will ultimately get you a job. Eventually, you win the job by putting in the effort to land interviews and market your skills, experience and attitude to meet an employer’s needs. It’s you in the end going to those job interviews and performing well.

Make no mistake; I agree there are personal circumstances that impact negatively on one’s ability to job search. At the extreme, there’s a death in the immediate family, everything’s been lost in a natural disaster, you’re reeling from being unexpectedly fired, you’ve got ailing parents and suddenly you’re the only caregiver. Of course there are some sound reasons for NOT giving your job search  your total focus.

However, as I acknowledge the above, you have to similarly acknowledge that the time you spend away from seriously looking for work is working against you. Your references become less significant or completely irrelevant. Your knowledge of best practices, leading technology or even your keyboarding speed drops faster than you’d think. Self-confidence starts to fade and erode.

I know. Everyday I work with people who have been out of work for various periods of time for an assortment of reasons. Those who have not been looking for work with much success often tell me at some point, “I had no idea that how you look for work had changed so much. No wonder I’m not having any luck.”

The thing about looking for work is that yes, you might get fortunate and have a short search and end up working soon. However, while most people HOPE this is the case, it rarely is. It depends largely on the kind of work you’re seeking and the level you’re applying to in an organization, but seeking work generally takes stamina, character and persistence. Those three just aren’t that often immediately present in people who have been out of job search mode for long stretches.

Look, you might be smarting a bit, even resentful because there’s no way I know your personal situation and to make these kind of blanket statements is unfair. You might indeed take offence to what’s coming across like a shot at not just your job search efforts but you personally. Where’s that coming from though? Is it bitterness that you’ve had a lack of success? Is it hearing what no one close to you has told you out of not wanting to hurt your feelings, but you know to be true?

Deal with whatever needs attention; absolutely. I’m not cold and unfeeling! However, not indefinitely. The longer you put off your job search, the longer too you’ll need – perhaps – to steel yourself for what could be a prolonged search. May I suggest you get help; both to deal with whatever you’re going through that stands between you and looking for work with 100% focus, and get help with the job search itself.

Being out of work can be isolating. Getting support during your job search from a professional who knows best practices can not only get you off the sidelines and into the game, but help you get out in front of the competition.

 

Under Pressure?


The things to know about pressure are:

  1. What is causing it?
  2. How much can you take?
  3. How long can you take it?
  4. What can you do to ease it off?
  5. What can you do to end it?

Under pressure. Carrying around a burden for a short period is something most people are used to doing. Think of the pressure of an upcoming exam, your expectation of a first kiss, sitting beside the Driver Examiner as you do your driving test, watching your favourite team bat in the bottom of the ninth, down a run and down to your last at bat.

You might find the above examples bring back memories for you of tremendous pressure; or conversely you might see the examples I’ve provided as relatively minor sources of stress or none whatsoever. It really depends on the person and how you perceive each event. Of equal importance is how many other sources of stress you’re experiencing at a given moment.

So while going to the game to, ‘get away from it all’ for a couple of hours might be your friends idea of helping you cope with whatever stress you’re under, it could all backfire and be just the thing that sets you off. It may just put you over the top while those around you are hopeful for win but not incapacitated while the outcome is in jeopardy. Yes, you could be exiting the ballpark in the 8th inning and nowhere in sight in a close ball game, just unable to deal with one more potentially stressful event.

Looking for work, looking to get ahead at work; even just looking to keep the job you’ve got now, these too may be immense sources of frustration from which pressure to succeed is incredible. My experience assisting people with their employment aspirations continues to show that almost every job seeker has multiple sources of stress in their lives. If getting a job was the only thing they worried about and had to concentrate on things would be easier. By easier, I mean their concentration level and focus would be sharper, their ability to put into action the necessary steps to find the work better, and this would make the period of unemployment shorter.

However, finding work isn’t all that’s going on. There’s bills piling up, rent and child support to pay, reliable childcare to find, late buses to deal with, dirty clothes to clean and keep up-to-date. There are utility costs and interest on unpaid credit cards to pay down, expectations of family and friends to, “just get a job why don’t you!” that constantly irritate, resumes to write, ink for the printer to buy, food needed for the table, a throbbing toothache and growing anxiety that you’ll always be a burden. On the outside of course, you’re doing your best to fit in, look normal, smile to world and not let on that you’re floundering.

Really though, you’ve been under these pressures for so long, this constant state of chaos has become your new normal. Maybe that’s why self-medicating, forgetting everything for a couple of hours, seemed like something you could handle. Yeah, that didn’t work out as planned. Nope, when you’re honest with yourself you know you’ve got yet another problem, and you know it because you’re on the hunt for your next fix far too often; you’ve become dependent and that’s so typical of just how you see yourself.

No column is going to give you the fix for all the above, nor would I try. If you’re fortunate enough to have none of the above as your personal issue, you might be thinking I’m laying things on rather thick; that surely only a very rare few deal with what I’ve laid out altogether. I know you’re mistaken in that belief. In fact, I welcome the comments of any and all readers who might want to back up what I’ve said with their own experiences. It’s so hard to cope and focus on just getting and then holding down a job when a job is only one of maybe 30 things that are going on and adding to one’s pressure.

I suppose a good analogy is a juggler. If you start with only two balls, you might be able to go without dropping one or both fairly easily. Okay, add another. Now keep that going without dropping one – not for a few seconds but rather for 20 minutes. Could you? Okay add some more; not one more you understand – 4 or 9. At what point did it become overwhelming? Are you surprised with how little you could actually handle when a professional makes juggling look not only easy but actually fun?

I tell you this…take a single parent of two, one of which has a learning disability, add in no job, dependency on social assistance and food banks, no internet, mounting bills, seeing a Credit Counsellor, a Mental Health Counsellor, a Family Doctor, frequent meetings with a School Vice-Principal to discuss behaviour problems at school, and volunteering at her child’s school 4 days a week, and you’ve likely got someone who out of necessity, has become an expert on how to deal with stress. To us on the outside, it looks like a life in chaos. The worst things we could say is, “I think it’s time you thought about getting a job. Don’t you want your kids to be proud of you?”

 

When You’re Lost And You’re Broken


Sure I’ve said before that having a job gives you a sense of identity; you see yourself as an employee of a company. When introduced to others you’ll often say as part of your answer what you do and who you work for, and conversely when you are out of work you’ve lost this part of your identity.

That being said, when you’re lost, trying to figure out what direction to go in life; when you’re feeling broken and what isn’t broken feels fragile, you may be wise to put your job search on hold. Now, sure an immediate job would indeed restore – if only shortly – that sense of who you are and give your flailing sense of confidence a boost. However, what a job gives you may be outweighed by what a job demands of you, and I’m just saying you might not be in the best frame of mind or have what it physically takes to keep it and be successful.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed at this time with many areas of your life seemingly in chaos and confusion, you may find it comforting to know that what you’re experiencing is indeed quite normal. That doesn’t make it any easier perhaps, as it’s personal and it’s happening to you of course, but knowing that other people – and many of them – are or have experienced the same feelings you are can give a person a sense of hope.

So what I mean is that it isn’t just the lack of a job that’s likely got you worried. If only it was just that! No, it’s probable that you at also dealing with a growing lack of confidence and self-esteem. Could be you’re wondering more and more, “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I just have a normal life?” Without employment, you’re no doubt cutting back on buying healthy foods and buying them in the same numbers you used to. Maybe you’ve got growing anxiety as you feel left behind more and more and it’s leading to depression. You’re sleeping patterns are totally off, you can’t sleep when you do go to bed and you’re zapped of physical energy when you feel you should be up and going.

On top of all this you’re more irritable, negative thoughts seem to last longer and longer; drugs and alcohol to self-medicate give some short-term relief but the thoughts return and then you add guilt for having used them. Financial worries, accumulating debt, calls from creditors, losing time on your phone…when will it end?

So does this sound like the right time to be putting yourself out there as an attractive option for an employer? Likely not. More likely is the fact that you’ll try with little success to get a job and after having been turned down again and again, you’ll add to your growing frustration and just feel like giving up. Possibly worse, you may not even be aware that what you believe you’re doing a good job of concealing is on full display and a lot of other people can see the changes in you and know you’ve got issues going on.

Think I’m laying it on rather thick? That it couldn’t possibly be this bad? Well, sadly, I’m not illustrating the life of a handful of people here but actually sharing the experience of a rather large segment of the population. It’s sad yes, but for many of these people its debilitating. So it’s not helpful to say to everyone who lacks a job to just pick themselves up, dust themselves off and get out there and get a job. Don’t you think that given the choice they’d love to be working and feeling productive?

Thing is these are people with what appears to be invisible disabilities. There’s no cast on an arm, label on a forehead, crutch supporting their walk or warning sign they carry. Without these easy to read indicators, it can be difficult to then see what might explain erratic or self-destructive behaviours. Hence, the broken and fragile might not get the empathy they could use; the understanding and support that would be a start. As a result they may withdraw further and increase their isolation, loneliness, and ironically retreat to the places depression feeds and grows.

It’s hard to know where to start when so many things seem wrong and need attention; in fact it can be overwhelming. Reaching out for help does take effort, and yes it might take a few tries to find the right people who can counsel and offer the aid you want and need to help you on your way back. No one knows your personal struggles like you; you’re the expert when it comes to what you see as wrong, or needing attention.

A good doctor who listens and will make a referral is a good place to start. Seeing a Mental Health Counsellor (look them up online in your community or if you haven’t got a computer with internet access, visit a social services agency where you live.)

Rather than work on and fix all the areas where things are wrong, start with one. Just one thing to improve. Don’t give yourself the pressure of a deadline to ‘fix’ it either. Give yourself credit and give yourself permission to try perhaps with some room for setbacks too. May your efforts move you forward to a healthier and happier you.

Have You Failed By Taking A Short-Term Anything Job?


Suppose you’re one of those people – and there’s a lot of them out there these days – who have some education beyond High School. You’ve planned all along on pursuing a job that makes use of that education. However, with a widening gap of unemployment on your résumé matching your growing frustration at not working, you’ve found yourself finding the idea of just taking a job – any job – more and more appealing; something you thought you never would. There’s this nagging notion that you’ve failed though that keeps you from actually applying for work outside your field of education. So have you?

The short answer is no, you haven’t. Exhale and breathe a sigh of relief. Do that a few times and read on.

There’s a lot of common sense involved in doing exactly what you’ve contemplated and like I pointed out in the beginning, you’re one of many who are well-educated and unemployed. It is not only understandable that you’d be looking at broadening your job search at some point – perhaps where you are at the moment – it’s also a very good idea.

So how come? I mean, Employment Coaches and Counsellors often say you should stick to your career plan and never give up on what you really want. Doing anything else is just settling isn’t it? What happened to finding your passion and not letting any setbacks get in your way of going after what’s going to make you truly happy? Flipping burgers, selling clothes, walking school kids across busy intersections: these aren’t the kind of jobs you thought you’d give more than a passing glance at. Could you ever imagine you’d actually be seriously thinking of going after one of these jobs at this point having finished College or University?

Hang on and settle down. We’re not talking forever here. No one is suggesting that you start your first day down at the fast food outlet and pump your first shouting, “Yes! I’ve arrived!”

The jobs we’re discussing here have been in the past called survival jobs. More and more they are also called transition jobs; work that bridges the gap of time and space between the present and a job in the future. These are typically short-term positions outside your field of training and education.

When you find yourself browsing these ads more and more and seriously thinking about actually applying, may I suggest you change your line of perception. Instead of thinking that you’ve failed; that your post-secondary education was a waste of both time and money, consider the positives of these transition jobs.

First and foremost, the income from a job – any entry-level job – will stem some financial bleeding. Admittedly while likely minimum wage, money is money and some is better than none. Perhaps more important than money however is the inclusion factor. Right now you’re outside the workforce; remember feeling that everyone has a job but you? That so many people you see from your window seem to have somewhere to go, something to do, while you sit and grow despondent, frustrated and perhaps depressed? Uh huh. Yep, getting up, showered, dressed and out the door with a purpose is always good. That routine you’ve been missing is more important than you might have thought.

Now if you’ve looked at that School Crossing Guard advertised on some Municipality’s website and scoffed at it, think again. First of all those hours; before school, at noon and late afternoon leave you two chunks of time – mid-morning and mid-afternoon – to continue your targeted job search. Of even more significance perhaps is that once you land a Crossing Guard job, even though you’re working outside, you’ve at the same time become an internal employee. Had you considered that? Yes, you’re now able to see and apply for the internal jobs with that Municipality; jobs that up until now you had no access to. Full-time jobs that pay much better and perhaps come with benefits too.

That Crossing Guard job might be one you have to take for 3 or 6 months before you’re eligible to apply for anther internal job. Okay so be it. Do the job at present and do it with a positive attitude. You’ve got this job so you might as well enjoy it and keep telling yourself you’re in transition from this to your next job – the one you really want.

Remember you don’t have to add a short-term job on your résumé, but consider doing so because it does bridge a gap. In your cover letter or at an interview you can certainly state with confidence that you took the short-term job where you are working to pay the bills but you’re highly motivated to seek work in your field as this is where your passion and strong interest are.

A failure? Far from it. You’re wise enough not to let pride get in the way and perhaps it even demonstrates your belief that no job, and certainly not the people doing them, should be looked down on. Perhaps it’s helped you learn humility and an appreciation for the hard work involved which you’d previously overlooked. Perhaps too you’re actually better for the experience and will be all the more grateful for the opportunity to work in the field of your choice doing what you love.

Suddenly, you might be more attractive to your employer of choice.

 

Bulletin Board Of Inspired Quotes


Last week I had a moment of inspiration while spending some time in our Resource Centre. Just like you; just like anyone I suppose, that moment came where I thought, “I wonder if other people will think as much of this idea as I do; it has a lot of potential.”

Now ours is a place to go exclusively for those in receipt of Ontario Works or Ontario Disability Support Program social assistance programs. So essentially those who make use of it may be there for a number of reasons. Some look for jobs, housing, attend workshops and seminars or get help finding community services. Others use it as a place to network, socialize, have someone they can trust hear them out, make a phone call or use the fax/copy services. We attract a variety of purposes, even though our centre is at present limited to these two groups.

At the rear of our drop-in Resource Centre are 5 boards we’ve typically used in the past to put up the latest job postings. Observation of these boards has suggested that while some people continue to scan them for employment possibilities, more and more users tend to sit down at one of the 20 computers we have and look for jobs themselves; finding them as they are posted throughout a day.

This has led our team to re-examine the effectiveness of having all 5 of these boards filled with jobs and duplicating what people find themselves. I stood looking at an empty board the other day and thought about what I or we could do with that board other than job opportunities. Then it came to me. I’d search online for motivational quotes and stick them up on the board with the invitation to take whatever a person wanted or needed. But would it work?

I began by turning to the internet and went to Bing. Sorry Google, but I’m a Bing man. I searched, “Quotes with pictures” and clicked on Images which gave me the result of photographs and illustrations with various motivational or insightful quotes overlaid on them. These I scanned, choosing the ones I thought might particularly appeal to the audience they would attract.

Characteristically, the people who would stand before this board might be unemployed, anxious, perhaps lacking career direction, feeling despair, loneliness, isolation, depression, dwindling hope, low self-esteem, medically and mentally fragile and frustrated. On the other hand they may also be resilient, determined to succeed, need support, adaptable, hopeful, open to change and thankful.

When I found a quote I liked and hoped might speak personally to someone in a public space, I saved the photo to the computer I was on and then copied and pasted the photo/quote to a Word document I called, “Quotes with pictures”. Yes, painfully obvious; but that’s what file names are supposed to be right?

Then it was left to me to print several pages of these gather quotes with pictures and make sure they were of various sizes, so they’d appeal more to the eye as a collage and not looking too institutionalized. With 7 or 8 pages of these quotes, I cut them all to size and pinned them to the board, taking care to ensure they were randomly placed by theme, size and image. In the center of the board I placed, “Please Take What You Need”; an invitation to help yourself to anyone looking.

That was just Friday last and yesterday combined. With anything new, you’ve got two choices; direct people who don’t notice to what you’ve done or allow people to discover what’s new on their own. In a place like ours, people can get robotic; come in, do their thing, leave, return, repeat. I opted to let people go the self-discovery way. After all, I didn’t want people to feel they had to compliment me on the board, nor did I want people to feel they should take something just to please me.

I was delighted to later have a fellow come up to me with 7 or 8 of the quotes in his hand and double-check to see if he really could take them with him or if he was expected to photocopy what he took and replace them. When I told him to help himself; that they were there for the taking, he smiled and appeared quite happy. I could have asked why those 7 or 8. I could have looked at them to know which ones to replace. I could have started data collecting to see what speaks to people and then use that information to start conversations with people on whatever they wanted to talk about. I didn’t do any of these things. I replaced the quotes with more.

If you like this idea or some resemblance of it, feel free to duplicate it all or in part and adapt it to your space and your audience. You can also search by topic: leadership, hope, goal setting, courage, team work, strength, wisdom – the list is only as long as your own imagination. There’s other ways of arriving at the same finished products too; you could make your own quotes and insert them as text over your own photos. You could also use a colour printer. Or what about one colour photo in a sea of black and white ones – just to see the impact?

Conversation starter or source of inspiration; my share with you to start August 2017.