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!

 

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!

 

Remember What The Dormouse Said


Old enough to remember Grace Slick of the group Jefferson Airplane belting out that line at the end of their 1967 classic, “White Rabbit”? Sorry about the reminder it was that long ago by the way… Whether you are or whether or not you’ve only heard it being spun on the radio since, you may recall that what the dormouse actually said was, “Feed your head.”

Now let’s not get into a debate as to what Grace was actually advocating we put into our head; after all it was the 60’s man and there were all manner of counter-culture  happenings in that groovy time; not the least of which included experimentation with mind-altering drugs and hallucinations. Feed your head… good advice actually. Let’s spin that for the current year; a whole 50 years after Grace wrote it and it first hit the charts.

How do you feel about acquiring knowledge; developing your expertise, stimulating the little grey cells, learning in general and reading? In my experience I’ve found that while some folks go out of their way to do these things with a love of learning, there are others that seem to have grown stagnant. They know what they know and count on that acquired knowledge to sustain them. The problem they eventually experience is that because they are not invested in learning what is new, they are spinning outdated practices and information out of sheer ignorance; they don’t know what they don’t know because they only know what they knew long ago.

So what’s the problem? The problem for you and I manifests itself when we come into contact with these people in our professional capacities and to some extent in our personal lives and we are dependent on them for their knowledge to aid our own learning. We assume incorrectly that because of the position this person holds; perhaps as our Mentor, Teacher, Consultant or yes even Employment Coach, that they are up on the latest and greatest.

When you think about the job application process, one of the key requirements interviewers often examine in the candidates is their education and professional development. In the case of the person with recent training and a fresh degree or diploma, they would do well to emphasize the fact that their competitive advantage is that they have learned current best practices; that their using the latest technology, etc.

Now suppose in your own case, the certificates hanging on your wall are old and faded dating back to the late 60’s like, “White Rabbit’ itself. Sure you have that diploma or degree but of what relevance is it anymore? What have you done since to keep pace with changes in your industry, new trends, improved practices and the knowledge required to excel in your field? If you are an older worker, you’d best be doing something to counter the stereotype of being an old dog who can’t learn new tricks.

The last thing an employer wants is to hire someone who is not only out of date with current practices but who has a resistance to investing the time required to get up to speed. It is going to cost that employer money in the end if most people are pulling in one direction and one or two are just going along for the ride as dead weight. This only makes others have to work harder and that’s going to breed discontent in the workplace and lower overall productivity.

I imagine that if you’re honest, you can fairly quickly identify someone in your own workplace who is looking forward to retirement. Whether it’s one year away or 4 years away, they may be so focused on that big day that they have neglected to invest the mental energy in the job they have in the here and now. Be more than cautious about the person who has actually figured out and is counting down the days. Stand a little apart from the person who announces each day, “Only 1 year, 4 months and 6 days to go!”

Some interviewers ask questions of those they interview like, “What are you reading at the moment?” or, “What are you doing to keep up on trends in the industry?” If the latest thing you’ve read is the label on your prescription medication, you are in deep water and about to hear those classic words, “Well thanks for coming in. We’ll be in touch.”

Brush up on online learning which can be free. Invest some time reading the thoughts of people who currently work in similar roles you want for yourself in discussion groups on LinkedIn. Get interested in websites that pertain specifically to your industry. Libraries for many are growing redundant but they are still great places to go if you need some professional help tracking down publications, literature and most of all advice as to where to find it.

However, before you can benefit from any material you come into contact with, you must have an attitude that is receptive to what you’ll discover. This is going to require a certain amount of letting go of your old, outdated knowledge and that can be disturbing as you realize how little you actually know of what’s current.

Should you embrace life-long learning and, “feed your head” as the dormouse so accurately put it, you may just find that your past life experience and your current knowledge make you the ideal candidate.

“I Don’t Like Boasting About Myself.”


When it comes to preparing for job interviews, a great number of people I help tell me that one of their biggest problems with the process is that they find it hard to talk about themselves. They say that from an early age they’ve been taught not to boast about themselves and so to sit down and tell an interviewer how great they are is hard because it’s just not something they are comfortable with.

Fair enough. Now while I don’t advise being boastful to anyone preparing for an interview, I do look and listen for reasons a person may not have a history of excelling in the interview process and so if this is a widespread issue it needs addressing.

What’s really needed to overcome this situation is a re-framing of what it means to articulate ones strengths and then market these strengths as assets to be desired by the employer. Keep in mind that the employer, as represented by the person or people conducting the job interview, is evaluating each applicant against the company’s needs. The candidate(s) who most closely fulfill those needs are the ones offered employment.

So you have a problem with boasting about yourself? Excellent! I couldn’t agree with you more so please don’t think I’m going to try to convince you that in job interviews you should make an exception and do exactly that. Let’s be clear however what boasting actually is though shall we? Boasting is exaggerating ones abilities beyond what they truly are.

The major issue with boasting is that you have to live up to whatever claims you make, and if you said, “I’m the best Plumber in the entire mid-west”, what kind of proof could you offer up to make this claim as an empirical fact? Unless they have some event pitting all the people in that trade against one another to determine the very best, you’d be hard pressed to have people just take you at your word.

Don’t be boastful then. Yes mom and dad and/or your childhood teachers were right.

However, I do advocate and strongly advise that you market yourself in the same way marketing firms promote products and services to we consumers. Not only do they tell us what products are, they would have us believe that the benefits of those products are so good that we simply have to have them. They promote the products often and in a way that attracts the attention of those to whom they see as their target audience. Their goal? Be memorable and prompt you and I as the consumers to act and purchase the products.

Like those commercials, you too should walk away from any job interview feeling that you’ve made an impression on the interviewer(s). You want to be memorable and the best way to accomplish this is to sell them on how having you join the organization is going to benefit them.

Make no mistake about this; you can accomplish this whether you are shy and naturally a reserved person or a confident extrovert. It’s not about how loud you are but rather how well you communicate  what it is that will as I say benefit the company. Are you a solution to their problem? Will you bring stability to the position? Is your combination of experience, education and personality going to mesh with those who you’ll work with better than any other candidate?

So how do you go about selling yourself without being boastful? First off, know yourself. No seriously! No one has taken the same path in life to get where you are right now, so what have you done, learned, overcome, struggled with in the past, achieved, accomplished, been noted by previous employers and co-workers as your strengths and desirable attributes? If you shared this information with an interview in a matter-of-fact way, you’d be marketing yourself not boasting about yourself.

Try this out loud: “I am a ________.” (Name of your profession.) Now say this out loud: “I am a good ________.” Now say out loud, “I am a very good _______.” While most readers will find they were able to state their job title in the first sentence with relative ease, the number of people who were able to go on and say they were good and then very good at it drops off as the one word accelerates the degree to which you state your high worth. So would you be able to say, “I am an excellent ___________?”

Understand that a company ideally wants to hire the best candidate for a job opening. They count on applicants to share with them the information they’ll need upon which to base their hiring decisions. Even if they don’t ask it outright, they are constantly thinking, “Why should I hire you?” It’s up to you to give them examples from your past which prove you have the skills you say you do – and examples by the way keep you from making claims you can’t support (boasting!).

Think to yourself: Okay here’s who I am; these are my strengths. I’ve accomplished these things and here’s what others have complimented or appreciated about me in places I’ve worked. I’m a good fit for this job based on my personality, attitude, qualifications and personal motivation. You’d be well-advised to show some enthusiasm for the position too.

Boasting and marketing are not the same thing. Market yourself dear reader!

 

Don’t Be Surprised At An Interview


As an Employment Counsellor, I often work with people who are looking for employment. My job also entails meeting people in a drop-in resource centre who I’m not working with on a one-to-one basis but rather on a spontaneous one. In both cases, I often catch up with people after they’ve had a job interview and it always intrigues me when people tell me how surprised they were with some of the questions they got asked.

Now sure they might get an interviewer who threw out some odd question to test their ability to think on their feet. You know, “If you could choose the sense you’d lose which one would it be and why?” or “What’s your second favourite colour and why it isn’t number one?”

These seemingly bizarre questions have their purpose, but honestly, I wouldn’t put much time aside in preparation for a job interview in trying to anticipate such questions. These questions are intentionally meant to catch you off guard and get you to think on the spot. Therefore, think on the spot as they are asked but never lose sight of the job you are interviewing for and try to connect your answer back to the role you’re interviewing for and the company you’ll be working for.

However, let’s focus on what you can likely predict with some degree of confidence in the job interview so that you aren’t surprised. Shame on you actually if you are surprised at what you could have reasonably predicted would have been asked of you

Let’s look at a posting shall we so we can see how to predict with great success the kind of questions asked.

Wanted: Customer Service Representative

Qualifications:

  • Excellent customer service skills
  • Problem solving and conflict resolution experience
  • Experience using POS systems
  • Teamwork
  • Good with people, 1-2 years’ experience
  • Shift work required including weekends, holidays and evenings

Okay so play along here whether you’re looking for this kind of job or not; the job isn’t important but the process is critical and applies no matter what job or career you’re out to get. For now, you’re out for a Customer Service job in a retail store setting.

Here’s what we can get from this job posting:

  • Always refer to the job you are applying for –whether in writing or verbally as a Customer Service Representative position. Don’t error and call this a Sales job, Salesperson or any other title. Call it what the employer calls it.
  • Same goes for the people the company sells to. These are customers as the first bullet states not clients, so always call the end-users and the people you’ll sell to as customers.
  • The second bullet mentions both problem solving and conflict resolution so this must be a fairly common issue and in both ways they’ve phrased it, they want solutions from the people they hire, not just people who can pass on the problems to the Supervisor.
  • Don’t know what ‘POS’ means in bullet 3? Look it up on a search engine like Bing or Google. It means, “Point of Sale’; in other words a cash register or computer terminal where customers check out. If there’s some words in your job posting you don’t get, look them up!
  • Teamwork is a required skill in the job; you’ll be working with other Customer Service Representatives (CSR’s), your Supervisor(s) and you will be expected to work cooperatively in order to be productive and hit sales targets.
  • The second last bullet says you need 1-2 years’ experience and you must be good with people. The 1-2 years simply interpreted means they want you to have some basic experience in the past doing this kind of work but they want you to be open to their training and be trainable, not set in your ways and hard to change. You’d best have some enthusiasm for connecting with people around you too – show some personality in other words.
  • The last bullet is about flexibility and being willing to work what some people won’t; right up front you know weekends and holidays are involved so don’t apply if you want a Monday to Friday 9-5 job.

Okay, so in this scenario, you should expect to be asked questions that focus on the above. These questions might start off, “Describe your experience with…”, “Tell me about a time when you…” or “What do you enjoy…”

The questions you get asked in this hypothetical interview would likely focus on problem solving, customer service, teamwork, previous experience, people skills and flexibility. To prepare properly, it would be best to think back on jobs you’ve had in the past – both paid and unpaid – and come up with examples you could give that would prove you’ve dealt with these things. For each of the items beginning this paragraph, have a story or two ready to share.

Now to you personally and the job you are after. Do the same exercise but use the job posting you’ve got before you. What skills and qualifications are they looking for? What stories or examples do you have from your past that demonstrates your personal experience, proving to the interviewer you’ve got what they are looking for?

Be prepared to tell them who you are, why you want to work with them and do a little research on the company itself so you know who they are.

When you can anticipate the questions ahead of time, you’ll be more confident when they ask them in the interview.

 

 

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?

A Better Frame Of Mind


Whether you’re out of work and looking for a job; feel trapped in your current one and are looking at a transfer or promotion, or yes even burnt out and counting the days to retirement, do a self-check on your state of mind.

You see how you feel is no doubt being picked up by those around you, those you meet, and those you work with now. How do you want to be perceived and viewed and most importantly is the way you want to be viewed by others close to how you feel?

It is a good practice to do a self-check from time-to-time no matter how you feel. For example, when you’re working doing your job, try to keep the same expression on your face and get to a mirror. Without relaxing any facial muscles, smiling or changing in any way, look at your face reflecting back at you. What do you see? Are there furrowed brows, crease lines on your forehead, droopy eyelids or a frown? What does you face communicate to you as you look at yourself.

As you stand there, change a little at a time. Add a smile, relax your jawbones or stop clenching your teeth. Breathe out and in deeply a few times and then re-examine the face in the mirror. Does it now seem different to you and if so in what way? If it does, why does your, “I’m in the middle of work” face look different from your, “I am consciously relaxing” face?

Most importantly, does your face communicate openness and do you seem approachable? Or does your face send the message that everyone should steer clear of you? If you’re trying to position yourself for that promotion or transfer, it might help your cause to look positive, engaged, pleasant and approachable. Remember that positive people generally like surrounding themselves with others who are positive. If you go around looking hostile, burnt out or miserable most of the time, you just might attract others who look like you do; misery does like company. The danger here is that once surrounded by others who are negative, you might find yourself much more miserable and having a dour outlook on things you once felt positive about.

Reminding yourself that you, as a member of the organization which employees you have a role to play in keeping the culture and atmosphere a positive one is critical. Too many times I’ve listened to unhappy employees blame Management for the rotten atmosphere they say they work in. We all have a part to play in making our workplaces an enjoyable place to work, and while it can be the case that some others just seem to look for reasons to be negative, you need not be one of them.

One thing you can do with respect to your self-check is compare how you feel about your job on a typical work day with your time away from work. Do you feel anxious the day before you return to work or do you look forward to going into your job? While you don’t have to love the work you do with giddy infatuation, you should certainly enjoy the job and being around most of those you work with as you’re going to be spending a significant amount of time working surrounded by these people. If you’re not happy most of the time, if you don’t feel inspired or feel that your work is meaningful, why are you still dragging yourself in? Look around, life is too short to spend it in misery. Start planning your departure from this line of work or employer, and then be gracious when you leave for something better.

Now if you’re out of work, you’ve got to work hard at projecting your demeanor; coming across as someone who will have a positive influence in a new employer’s workspace. If you are brooding, look frustrated, look far too serious and weighed down with personal issues, it’s unlikely you’re coming across as attractive to those who might be in a position to hire you.

Of course when you’re unemployed and need to work you are under stress. The anxiety of mounting financial liabilities and any shame or embarrassment you might be experiencing by being unemployed can be a burden for sure. Add in some other stressors in your personal life and it gets harder to constantly project that rosy exterior that says, “Life is good and I’m glad to be a part of it!”

Yes I get that. You need to understand or perhaps be reminded that your issues are exactly that – your issues. Potential employers don’t really concern themselves with resolving your issues because they have no investment in you until you join their ranks. To join their ranks, you and I both know you have to come across as qualified, experienced and a personal good fit; meaning you have to be attractive in some way.

So, mind what you think and how what you think is being communicated non-verbally through your facial expressions and your body language. Move with confidence, smile more – even if in the early days you find yourself having to force this trial period. Like most habits one tries to change, alter or adapt to, things become more matter of fact and routine the more you do them.

And you’re never fully dressed without a smile!

Sustaining A Full-Time Job Search


If you are out of work, it’s likely that you’ve heard at one person remind you that looking for a job is a full-time job itself. I imagine there are times you actually go at it with a high degree of determination too, but if we’re totally honest here, you probably would acknowledge that you’re not actually job searching 7 hours or more a day, 5 days a week, 4 weeks or more a month.

This isn’t a criticism of your effort, nor meant to be a jolt to get going and take things seriously. It’s extremely rare to find anyone who can reach and maintain such a high level of intensity a full-time job search requires. After all, there are going to be setbacks, rejections, employers who won’t even acknowledge your application, resumes and cover letters to write, additional costs to get around and….well….let’s not overdue the obvious and just cause you even more stress. The bottom line is that it’s challenging to go at any one thing full-time all the time without some measure of progress.

The key in my mind to staying focused and energized during a job search lies in the variety of activities you actually undertake during each day. This I believe is where so many who look for employment fail miserably; especially when they are working on a job search independently. Allow me to explain.

From my observations and discussions both with job searchers in person and via the internet, many people go about looking for work in the following way: 1) look for work on a job website, 2) make a resume for the job, 3) send off the resume, 4) repeat. After doing this for some time, the same people lament that there are no more jobs to apply to that they are qualified for, so they stop the job search out of frustration until the next day and see if there are more new jobs to apply to. Many of these people are looking for new websites, thinking that there must be some websites that have many different jobs, but try as they may; they just find the same jobs in a multitude of different places.

The problem with the above isn’t that the person is looking for different websites, it’s that sitting in front of the computer scouring the web for jobs isn’t part of their job search; it’s their entire job search activity.

You’ll find yourself more motivated and the unemployment period much shorter if you go about looking for work using a variety of activities rather than just one. So in addition to sitting down in front of a computer, I’d suggest adding the following to your job search:

  • Compile your references
  • Contact previous employers for openings
  • Research companies you want to work for
  • Use LinkedIn to connect to company employees
  • Update your LinkedIn profile
  • Sign up with a Temp agency in your field
  • Schedule a little fun time during your day
  • Get out of the house and network
  • Exercise your body and your mind
  • Hydrate with water and snack on health foods
  • Give an updated resume to your references
  • Write a thank you note to your references
  • Clean up your social media web pages
  • Take a WHMIS or First Aid course

Now, there are many, (And I do mean many) other things you can do to round out your job search. This list is actually very short. You should also use your phone and call up some employers directly and take the initiative to request a short 20 minute meeting where you go on a fact-finding mission and become the interviewer. This is an information interview and you’re not actually looking for them to interview and hire you but rather, you’re networking, getting some insights into the field and will later use those insights to improve your chances of employment.

Short-term courses like a first aid course will add to the section on your resume where you’re listing your professional development, and provide you with tangible evidence that you are in fact accomplishing something during your job search. In a future interview, if you’re asked what you’ve been doing since your last job, you can point to this and say you’ve updated some skills. Yes this training will cost you some money; it will cost you more to do nothing however so think of this as an investment in yourself.

A variety of activities keeps you fresh and your brain stimulated. Schedule your day into a routine where you check your email at the beginning, middle and end of the day. Build in some short breaks to read a chapter or two of a book you enjoy. At least once a week, get out to some networking activity; a training event, drop in to an Employment office for some people contact. The suggestion I’m making is to tackle your job search using a variety of activities so your brain stays stimulated as you move from one thing to another instead of expecting yourself to do the same one or two things for hours on end day after day and remain committed.

Varying what you do to look for work isn’t any different from varying what you’d do in a job during the day. Employers build in formal breaks so their employees return to their work with energy and focus so you should too when looking for work.

 

 

Giving Your Best Vs. Being The Best


Only one person can truly be called the best. The term, “the best”, is actually losing it’s meaning in everyday conversation when you overhear someone saying things like, “Oh you’re the best friend ever”, or “This is the best ice cream ever”. Those people don’t really mean they’ve compared friends and ice creams and are making it official. They simply mean the friend is a really good friend; the ice cream tastes really good.

However, in the world of business and employment, there are ways to measure who is the top Salesperson, the team with the most consecutive days worked without an accident or the employee who produces the greatest number of defect-free products. These are examples where one person can truly be said to be the best and there is evidence to back up those statements.

However, giving your best may mean that while you don’t sell the most, or you still have an accident or produce products with defects, you improved on your performance and have had better results than previously. So yes your best resulted in an increase of 7% over last months totals; still short of the actual sales numbers of the top Salesperson, but your numbers when compared to your past numbers are higher.

It is the norm in some organizations to ensure that each person has an individual target for performance that is measurable and achievable for that one person. If the top Salesperson in a company is regularly selling 20 cars a month, surely 20 cars a month is unrealistic for someone who is just starting out. They might be given an initially target of 3 cars the entire month, and that number would be adjusted as their experience and skills improve.

Other companies do give the same targets to every employee no matter how long you’ve been there. When it comes to safety on an assembly line, all employees might be collectively working towards days with zero accidents. Telling one team to work accident-free and telling another team of relatively newer employees that 4 accidents a month is okay for them isn’t likely. They all work accident-free or they all start at day one again the day following an accident. It’s a collective target.

Now giving your best is something that everyone can achieve and be recognized for. The targets vary for performance, and each person is compared not to others in the workplace, but to their past performance. You sold 3 cars last month, your new target is 5. What other people are achieving isn’t factored in to your performance. You’re expected to give it your best, and if your best fails to result in targets the company sets, you can still be released, it’s just a case of your best falls short of their needs.

Take a Call Centre. They may have expectations that the length of your calls be a certain length, that you answer a certain volume of calls, sell a number of products or services on those calls. Your performance may be better than any other employee for the month – making you the best. Your performance numbers may actually be quite a bit lower than those at the top, but your best might show an improvement over the previous week, and you’re improving; your best is getting better.

Giving it your best may mean improving on your attendance, working with more focus and fewer distractions, investing in the training opportunities you are provided with, and generally putting more energy into your job.

You find in some organizations where all staff in a job classification receive identical pay each week that there is a noted difference nonetheless in the actual performance of employees. Some are truly invested in their work, strive to do better than they have in the past, etc. Others in that same role might not be as committed to working beyond what they have to do to keep their jobs. They all get the same pay, but some are giving it their best and some are not. One of the most frustrating things for Management might be getting the best out of each employee when pay is identical regardless of experience and skills.

If you want to find value in what you do, go home happier at the end of the day, and enjoy your work more when you are at your workplace, giving it your best is recommended There are many who sleep better and longer, nodding off with a smile on their face content with knowing their best was achieved that day. When we don’t give our best the obvious question to ask is, “Why aren’t we giving our best?”

My point here has not to do with that question, but more with encouraging us – yes I include myself here) to give our collective best each day. While some of us are motivated to win the title of, “The Best _______ ever”, I think a far greater number of people are better off being recognized for giving it their best.

If giving it your best is less than what an employer needs, being terminated and released means your fit with that kind of work or that specific employer was wrong. If you find yourself released or terminated and you know you didn’t give it your best, you should own up to that too and learn from the experience.

Strive to be your best – perhaps starting today and see where it takes you.

 

 

Know Somebody Out Of Work?


My guess is you know someone right now who is unemployed. That person could be a personal friend, a family member, the neighbour next door or one of your acquaintances. If I’m right, your mind has already identified them by name as you are reading along. What if anything are you doing to help them out?

I mean that’s what you should be doing isn’t it? Helping someone out at a time when they need more help than they are asking for? If you’ve ever been out of work yourself, you know what it’s like. While it’s a different experience for everyone it can be a time of embarrassment, shame, humiliation. For the lucky among us, it can also be a time of opportunity, a fresh start in a new direction or the same direction but with a new organization.

So what can you do? Well to begin with it’s pretty important to find out first-hand how the person you know is handling things; get their perspective on being out of work before making any assumptions. You might for example be all prepared to be sympathetic and understanding, talking almost with reverence in hushed tones only to find out they are euphoric.

If its genuine happiness that they are no longer working for an organization and are greatly relieved to be free, you yourself might have to change your intended role from a comforting best friend to a cheerleader. How comfortable are you with those pom-poms?

Conversely, you might be more comfortable speaking with a person who has already started to move on and is looking for alternative work, but the person themselves is still in shock and denial. You might be ready for the next stage where seeking employment is what it’s all about, but your friend is still feeling like a casuality in a train wreck called Life. Switch off your employment counselling and start with emotional triage.

This is a sign of a really valuable person; the ability to listen and observe a person in a given situation, make no pre-conceived assumptions, and then adapt oneself to what you see and give them what they need at that time. This is so much more beneficial than giving them what you perceive they’d need because it’s what you’d want in the same situation.

Now you may not have a level of comfort dealing with someone in whatever state you find them. This of course is your issue, not theirs. Given that one of you is out of work, I’d say it’s your responsibility not theirs to adapt. Can you do that? Some can and others can’t. You might be the kind of person who is more than willing to help but only when the person snaps out of what you call their own pity-party. In the nicest way possible, you might be entirely right to gently let them know when you will be most useful to them if it’s not now.

You run the risk of course of being seen later by the person as not being there when they needed you. That of course isn’t the real issue; you made an offer of help but didn’t have the necessary interpersonal skills to deal with the person in the state you found them. You made an offer of help when they themselves transitioned to a place where you could meet them and provide help then.

Now one of the most common things people fear who are out of work is that they get left out and forgotten. In their minds, the world is carrying on quite nicely and they are missing out. The solution for these types is to keep them connected. Maybe it’s a phone call, dropping off a meal (which gives you another opportunity to speak with them when you collect the serving dish you delivered it in).

Having someone over to watch a comedy movie and share some drinks and snacks. They feel connected and included, there’s no awkwardness over money as there would be in paying to see a movie at the theatre, and the laughs the movie generates would do everyone some good. By the way, totally avoiding the topic is NOT a good idea. Talk about how things are going, where are they at and ask how you might help them best. Then show the movie and sound genuine when you say goodnight and you’ll stay in touch.

What else can you do? If you both have a previously paid for membership in something – the gym, the golf club etc., make plans to go and keep that part of your relationship ongoing and them active. You might hear bitterness, talks of revenge and anger. Make your own assessment of how serious the person is and don’t over-react and think they’ll carry through on 90% of what you hear.

You can also look for jobs they might be interested in and pass them along, offer to be a personal or character reference for them. Offer to proofread anything that might help them out. Just plain ask what you could do to help. You don’t have to have all the answers to solving their problem.

If they are willing to give you their resume, you could also speak (with their permission) to other people and see what if anything you can come up with to help them get back in the game.