Reassessing A First Impression


To look at him, he certainly didn’t make a positive first impression. He needed a haircut, needed to trim that attempt at a beard, and the clothes he had on didn’t fit properly, nor were they clean. The resume he asked me to look at and help him improve was even worse. Spelling errors, terrible grammar, irregular spacing – it was just plain awful.

However, I look back on my encounter with this young fellow and find I like him.

He had walked in with his girlfriend a little uncertain, approached me at the staff desk with hesitation, and as I said, asked if he could get some help making his resume better. Didn’t ask me to do it you understand, asked me to help him.  I give a lot of credit to people who recognize their weaknesses and seek out help. And make no mistake; I knew I could help long before he showed me the resume. I had the same feeling as the folks at home improvement stores must have when I approach the counter for help. It’s not that I look completely helpless, but I’m convinced they can tell I’m not a renovation expert just the same.

Now the thing about working in a drop-in Resource Centre is that when it’s your turn to work there, you deal with whatever and whoever walks in the door. Other times I might be conducting a workshop or working 1:1 with a client, but in the drop-in area, you can be run off your feet or continuously busy helping others – both sometimes on the same day too.

I could have told him the same thing a colleague apparently told him previously; that he should show up at our Resume Writing workshop on Fridays. In other words, leave now and come back Friday. Why would I do that though? Sorry if you disagree but I believe it is incumbent on me to help the guy standing right in front of me in the here and now. I had the time, so provide the help the guy was asking for – especially when it’s what I’m paid to do! Isn’t that putting the person’s needs front and center? What ‘lesson’ would I be teaching him otherwise?

So I looked at it and there wasn’t a single thing – not a single thing – that didn’t need changing. Multiple spelling errors, poor grammar, irregular spacing, varying fonts and dates and bullets didn’t line up correctly. The woman at his side complimented him well; they made a nice couple; she very quiet, paid complete attention to the changes and suggestions I made, held his hand and both of them slowly started to grasp some of the basics of putting together a stronger resume.

This is the single thing I liked about them above all else; they listened, they were focused, and they made a genuine effort to comprehend ideas that were new to them. I checked twice giving them the perfect opportunity to have me just do it instead of going through the long but educational process they were sitting through. Each time however, the fellow asked me to keep going, keep explaining the things I was doing, and he showed evidence of comprehending what was new to him and sometimes made comments that proved some new ideas were sticking. The more engaged they were in the process of learning; the more I wanted to give them.

You see the two of them had thought I’d just fix up the spelling and give them a generic resume which he could hand out to any employer. The idea of targeting the resume to meet the specific requirements of a specific job posting had never occurred to either of them. With every key word or job requirement found on the posting which I replicated on his resume, he saw how the overall impact was a stronger resume with a better chance of getting him an interview.

Only once were we interrupted while I provided help to another client. When I returned to the resume after a two minute absence, there they both were, talking about the resume, how I was creating it and how it made sense to them. When I sat down, he said, “Thanks a lot; I really appreciate your help.” He may not have a great education, he may have a learning disability for all I know and literacy issues, but the man has good manners. Turns out the fellow has his grade 12, 2 jobs in the past and 4 years’ as an Army Cadet. That time as an Army Cadet no doubt provided him with some discipline, some structure, some respect for authority and those qualities might just appeal to employers to bolster his chances.

Reserve final judgement when you interact or work with people; sometimes they can surprise you; impress you; if you give them the chance. As in my experience here, check your first impression of others as you interact and confirm or alter your original thoughts.

We should strive to be open, be willing to meet people where they are, speak with them using their words but most importantly listen. Hearing others is essential. One of the biggest frustrations people often express is not being heard, not being acknowledged, not being listened to.

The weaknesses we see in others should not inhibit our abilities to see strengths in the same people.

Step 1 In Landing That Job: Take Inventory


Taking Inventory
Whether it’s looking for a job because you are out of work, or looking for a promotion, I don’t think you can get better initial advice than to take an inventory and KNOW yourself.

In any interview process where a job is up for competition the overall point of an interview is the employer, (as represented by their interviewer), is getting to know you better so they can ultimately decide if what you have to offer will fulfill their current and/or future needs.

So what is ‘knowing yourself’ all about?

1. Know what is prompting you to consider a position. Are you looking for an increase in your income, a change of scenery, a move to a new community, is it economic necessity or desperation? Have you had your eye on a specific opportunity and it’s finally opened up to external candidates? Are your parents forcing you to get a job or perhaps the spouse is egging you on to get a big promotion so the status you’ll get will also apply to them?

2. Know your strengths. If the things that you do well are strong requirements for the job, you’ll be more confident and able to demonstrate those strengths in an interview. This is turn makes it easier for the interviewer to see you in the role, performing the duties and succeeding.

3. Know your weaknesses. Thinking of the promotion, the new responsibilities beyond those you currently have, or the completely different things you’ll have to do from what you are currently doing, what would you need some time, training, support and guidance to achieve? Even in a case where you believe you could do the job right from day 1, are you really saying that three or four months into the job you’ll be no more efficient than you will be on day 1? That’s what, “I have no weaknesses” would mean and you’re either outright lying or you don’t know the job and yourself all that well and how the two will impact on each other.

4. Know your needs. If you require a certain shift, compensation level, accommodation due to health etc., you should be in clear possession of that data right from the beginning. If you aren’t aware of these, you might end up wasting your time and that of the employer which will only end badly and leave them thinking you’ve wasted their time. That could really mess up future advancement.

5. Know what jobs lead to other jobs. Sometimes you’ll hear of people who apply for a job, get the interview but the job is offered to another candidate. In feedback sessions, the person is often told they need more perspective and experience; so taking a lateral position in another department or under a different Supervisor is required in order to be more diversified. Diversified simply means you’ll bring a wider perspective to the supervisory role you ultimately want. Doing nothing but your current job could mean you’ll be forever passed over and held back.

6. Know what sparks interest. What are you motivated to actually do? Are you the creative sort who likes re-working existing practices and procedures, delving into new and better ways to work? Or conversely, are you the sort who gets a buzz from pleasing others, providing outstanding customer service or inventing things that save people time? What turns you on?

7. Know what you find deadly boring. Knowing what you don’t want to do is often just as important as knowing what you do. Start ruling things out. Can you see your brain cells dying as you perform some manual labour job in a factory setting? Would you hate being in a position where you type letters and take inventory again and again and again? Where some thrive, some die. Good advice for the teenager and even those into their twenties is to try a number of careers and jobs before feeling you have to pick one and that’s it for life. It isn’t; people often change jobs or careers 8 or 9 times in their adult working life.

8. Know your potential. Do you usually sell yourself short or do you even want to live up to your potential? Everybody has potential by the way – everybody. Some have amazing potential to move mountains and change the very fabric of society by developing new energy sources, new communication models, new technologies. Good for them, we need them. But someone with a disability has potential too. Rather than focusing on limitations, what CAN you accomplish? That’s potential. And as for the risk of failing? Who hasn’t at some point or other?

9. Know people. Network and talk to people. Find things in common with them and don’t be afraid to initiate communication. What’s the worst that could really happen? When you know people, and think about this….THEY KNOW YOU. Ahhhhhh….. And when people know you they are in a position to help you with information, tips, leads, references, insider data, and all of this can lead to your success.

10. Know ____________________. There are more than 10 convenient things you should know in order to really say you know yourself. And so, what would you add as number 10 on the ‘Knowing Yourself Inventory’?

All of these things translate into applying for the right job; one that will be a good fit. You’ll do better at interviews too, because you’ll know more about the job and yourself than ever before. That means you answer with stronger answers and more confidence.