Tired Of Finishing Second?

While some of you are trying to figure out why you aren’t landing job interviews, there’s other folks who can’t figure out where they are going wrong who not only get interviews, but apparently perform really well. Not only are they getting short-listed and interviewed, they perform well enough to have second and third interviews. All these interviews boost their confidence, have them thinking they are so close to landing a position and then, again and again they get informed that the job has been offered to and accepted by another candidate.

The enthusiasm required for a sustained job search is indeed bolstered by initial success, but when the job offer is just beyond one’s fingertips and gets snatched away, it’s a tough experience to go through. Now repeat that several times over a period of six months to a year and you begin to sense how frustrating that must be for the people concerned. To add to this frustration, not only are they not getting hired, but when following up with employers to get feedback, it’s hard to hear that they think the candidate performed really well and there’s no tangible piece of advice they can pass back to improve on future interviews.

In other words, in attempting to figure out how to improve or where they are falling short, they get nothing to work on, nothing to adjust. So if they can’t figure out where they are going wrong, the feeling arises that they are likely doomed to repeat the experience. They’ll fall short again and again because they’ll go on acting as they’ve always acted, saying what they’ve always said, and hoping for a different outcome.

It’s not like they want to hear about some fatal flaw in their approach, but at the same time, they’d actually rather have someone find something to address rather than hear a sympathetic, “You did great. Don’t change a thing.” Sure it’s affirming and validates all the effort they put in to perform at their best, but the end result is the same, no job offer.

For a moment, let’s de-personalize the application process. Instead of talking about you specifically, let’s look at a reality. In any competition; for a job, a race, a trophy etc., there has to be a number of entrants for it to truly be a competition. The bigger the prize, the stronger the competition. Each individual or team competing trains and competes to the best of their ability and in the end, wants to feel they’ve given it their best shot. Some know they are longshots to win and others feel they’ve got a legitimate chance of winning it all, seeing themselves as a favourite to win. The one thing all of the competitors know without a doubt though is that there can only be one winner. The longshots who finish eighth often cite pride in doing their best and acknowledge that those who finished first and second are just that much better; they are at a different level of compete. The second place finisher? For them it stings. They were so close they could taste it. Next time around they vow to get hungrier, so they work harder, they make adjustments, but they also acknowledge they did their best, they just came up short to a competitor who on that day, performed better.

The competition for a job is much the same. You know when you apply that there will be others doing likewise. A reality is there’s one job to be had and therefore there’s going to be one successful candidate and everyone else who will fall short. This is a reality you have to accept when choosing to apply. Your job is to position yourself so you come across as the best candidate. What’s meant by, ‘best’, is responding to the needs of the employer. If you succeed in addressing all their needs, (this you can control), it’s going to come down to their preferences in the intangibles, (this you can’t control).

In other words, there isn’t a shortcoming in you. You are doing nothing wrong. There’s nothing to fix, there’s nothing to change in your performance. You did the best you could, you stayed authentic and genuine in your delivery and represented yourself to the very best of your abilities. In the end, they made their choice and this is their prerogative. It stings absolutely. If you still want it bad, let them know. Those hired don’t always work out, or new needs arise and you might be considered a month or two after this disappointment.

But all competitor’s for a race or a trophy have one thing you may not have; a Coach. Someone who they listen to, take advice from, someone who will give them honest feedback and push them to find that elusive next level of compete.

So who’s your Coach? Excellent advice is to find someone you can establish some chemistry with. It’s no guarantee, but perhaps they can indeed give you some single piece of advice to consider that in the end makes a difference. Whereas an employer might not feel comfortable sharing how to improve, a professional Coach, someone experienced and with a track record of partnering successfully with others will. I’m not talking about your girlfriend or sister’s friend here, I’m talking about a professional Employment Coach.

It’s not the answer for everyone, but it just might be the answer for you.


Want To Be A Great Employment Counsellor?

Now and again I hear people say to me, “I’m sure I could do your job; it doesn’t look that hard.”

That comment is one I take with a smile and usually respond with, “Thank you! I’m succeeding then in making it look effortless when in fact it takes a lot of preparation, planning, skills, experience and mental energy. If you’re ready to put in all the effort to continually get better every day, why not?”

Like any profession, you’ll find Employment Counsellors of varying abilities; some strong, others learning the ropes, many improving and some stagnating and using out-of-date techniques. Why should this field be any different from others?

Let me share what I believe are some of the key qualities, skills and traits which many of the very best of us hold. It’s a list that’s open to debate, but here’s at least this professionals take on the job from someone in the position. Please comment and indicate if you’re in the field now, in training to join us, receiving the help of an Employment Counsellor yourself or are considering the field. Dialogue and comments can be very productive!

  1. A good listener. While we hear similar stories from those we aid, no two people have exactly the same background and their path to the present is unique. The best of us remember that and listen attentively; picking up on the person’s interests, motivators, barriers real and perceived, hopes, goals and dreams. When we actively listen in the moment, we engage and establish credibility and hear what we’d otherwise miss.
  2. A positive influence. We often meet people in periods of desperation, frustration and hopelessness. It is imperative that we remind ourselves of the stress and pressure people are under. The faith they place in our ability to help; whether great or small is what we must take and work with. There’s great potential in those we help and we must through our actions bring out the best by encouraging and above all providing hope. We must influence action with positivity.
  3. Enthusiastic. Ah if you know me you just know this has to be in the list. Enthusiasm is contagious and infectious. I think it safe to say that most if not all learners hope to be in the presence of a teacher or mentor who goes about imparting their knowledge with energy and enthusiasm. Enthusiasm means we embody and display the most desirable trait employers themselves are looking for in the people they interview; enthusiasm!
  4. Knowledgeable. Broadly speaking, all learners hope that those they learn from are sharing best practices, state of the art techniques and what is proven to work. The best of us are never above doing self-checks, reaching out to our colleagues, continuing to grow and learn ourselves. This is self-investment that keeps us relevant, imparting not what we believe works but rather what we know works; and yes there is a difference.
  5. Creatively flexible. Now here’s a key piece! The great in this profession know that when we identify a person’s needs, responding to them in a way that the person will both comprehend and come to own mean we may have to use a number of strategies to get the message through. How we were successful with one person doesn’t mean the same delivery will work with others. Our approach may have to be as unique as the people we help. Rather than expecting the learner to conform to our own style, we often change our approach to reach others where we find them.
  6. An appreciation of service. Just as we expect to receive great customer service when we are the customer, exceptional Employment Counsellors know that we are essentially service providers ourselves. We therefore practice good customer service skills; deliver on what we promise, work to satisfy both the customers wants and needs, share tips, advice and assure our availability when needed after service.
  7. Honest feedback. Great Employment Counsellors give honest feedback on what they see. Be it a résumé needing an overhaul, hearing self-defeating language in a mock interview or observing poor hygiene and clothing issues, a trusting relationship with those we serve will best allow us to provide the critical feedback that people need to hear. The best deliver this feedback from a helping perspective, choosing words with sensitivity but saying what needs to be said. Honest feedback can get to the heart of a problem quicker than dancing around an issue and wasting their time.
  8. Praising. The best praise when needed, ensuring the praise is legitimate not fabricated. We find what is good in others, encouraging them to do more of what is working in a person’s favour. Positive reinforcement of good behaviours, praising effort even when success isn’t necessarily forthcoming sets people up to eventually realize their goals. Remember looking for work is fraught with ups and downs, highs and lows, raised expectations and dashed hopes. As an Employment Counsellor, you just might be THE one person they are hanging all their hopes on until they can once again be self-sufficient.

So there you have it; a short list of some the essentials needed to be not just a good Employment Counsellor but a great one. And why not aspire to be the best you can be? Whether a Coach or Counsellor, the best look to get better and see room for self-improvement always.


Hate Resumes? This Is For You

So you’re looking for work or looking for a different job. That’s great news and I commend you for making a good decision to improve on your financial health; the job you are looking for will hopefully make things a whole lot better for you both in your wallet and in how you spend your time.

All that stands in your way of getting a job offer it would seem is getting to meet the people who make the hiring decisions in the places you’d like to work. The thing is of course; and it’s easy to overlook – there are a lot of other people who are also hoping to meet the people who make the hiring decisions in the same places you want to work. Not only are you applying, but so are others. In fact, it’s the case these days that employers get about 75 – 150 applications for each job they advertise. That’s a lot of people competing for their attention!

I’ve sat down with two people this week who are looking for work and they couldn’t have greater differences of opinions when it comes to the value of resumes and how to go about looking for work. Let me tell you about each of them and you’ll see two different attitudes; and I assure you both are very real people, not just made up to make a point.

The first was a man in his 20’s with an extensive criminal record who has only ever worked under the table and done some volunteer work. He’s muscular, done general labour in the construction field and even a little cooking here and there. His job ambition? Anything. His thoughts on resumes? A waste of time and useless. He’s anti-resume because quite frankly he doesn’t like the idea of making one and doesn’t have the skills required to make one; skills like keyboarding, formatting, computer skills in general. What he doesn’t like he has no patience for.

When it came to putting together his resume, he sat beside me and actually told me to just make up stuff. “You know what to put down so just say I’ve worked at some places; it doesn’t matter if it’s true or not.” He wanted one resume just to send to his Social Services Worker who strongly suggested he get one, but he wasn’t planning on using it at all, hence the lack of regard for what was on it. When completed, he sent one copy to her and walked out with none for himself – in fact he refused to take one. His plan? Go to job sites all over town and introduce himself in person until somebody would hire him.

Surprisingly, this might actually work for him. Someone will look at his muscles and plan to use him for the grunt work until he either injures himself, quits, returns to jail or they lay him off for the winter. He’ll be trapped in an entry-level, physically tough job with little chance of advancement and all the while becoming increasingly bitter and angered about his situation in life. His choice though.

The other is a woman with one child also in her 20’s. She sat down with me and said right off the top that she was here for help as she knows her resume is flawed and she wants to learn how to make it better.

First thing we did is quickly find a job she actually wanted to apply for using the internet which took us all of 4 minutes. An excellent investment in time. Next we targeted her skills and qualifications on the resume to match the job requirements for the position she wanted. Again and again as we went through her resume line by line she said things like, “I get it now, ugh, I can’t believe I made so many mistakes. I thought it was at least okay but now I see how I’ve been coming across to employers. No wonder I wasn’t getting anywhere.”

It takes a wise person to see how they’ve been making mistakes, admit those mistakes and then take the steps to eliminate making those mistakes moving forward. This woman is such a person. She not only left with a strong resume for the job she wanted to apply to, she left knowing how to change and edit that resume for any subsequent job she wanted to apply to; even if those other jobs had exactly the same title.

Look, I want you to be successful. I want you to use your time productively; not just making resume after resume without any success. I want you to make strong resumes that will get employers interested in meeting with you (interviews) so you can sell yourself in-person and then get an offer of employment. Then of course, you will no longer need to make a resume until such time as you want a promotion or different job to improve your happiness at work and your finances.

So here’s good advice for those smart enough to take it; don’t get someone to make a resume for you – get an employment professional to make one WITH you – someone who will empower you so you’ll know how to do it on your own in the future. This way, you won’t be dependent on someone every time you apply for a job. Put in the effort, pay attention and learn how to make a resume with a good attitude.

Telling It Like It Is

Sorry if it sounds rather blunt, but there are certain jobs in this world you just aren’t cut out for. This statement is I’m guessing coming as no big surprise. Together, you and I can probably come up with many jobs that are way beyond what you’re qualified to do; an Astronaut, Nuclear Technician, Rocket Scientist, Head of the United Nations. No problem agreeing these jobs are way beyond your ability to obtain. Am I right?

However, where you might take an issue with me and/or with other professionals in your community that are in a position to give you employment coaching advice,  is that there are other kinds of jobs you’re likely never to get either; jobs closer to home; jobs you think you have a shot at. I’m here to tell you…you don’t.

“Now hang on a second”, you say. “Aren’t you supposed to be encouraging me? Be positive? Tell me I can be anything I put my mind to?” Well, that may be what mom and dad told you years ago; might even be what you’re hearing from people who want you to like them now. The blunt truth however is that there are some jobs you think you’ve got a good shot at that you, uh, well…don’t. It’s never going to happen. The odds are so stacked against you and you’re deluding yourself if you think you’ve got a legitimate shot at getting these jobs. Sorry, but there it is.

Now why would I or any other person in the employment coaching business tell you something that appears on the surface to be callous, hurtful and just plain mean? Believe it or not, it may just be to help you avoid putting in a lot of effort, time and money and ultimately being discouraged, frustrated and in debt. After all, if I encouraged you to go after a job for a couple of years with no success and then you came to the realization yourself that it wasn’t going to happen for you, the last thing you’d want me to then say is, “Yeah I’ve known all along you didn’t have a smidge of a chance but I decided to let you find that out for yourself.”

You see, were I to meet you and sit down for a few conversations with you, I’d start assessing you right from the moment I laid eyes on you. (You by the way would be doing exactly the same thing of me so don’t say you wouldn’t judge me like I’m judging you.) I’d be sizing up your first impression on me, listening to your language skills, determining your listening skills, check your written language skills. I’d inquire about your education level, aspirations, what you’ve done in the past, whether you had a licence to drive, a vehicle, criminal convictions. I look at your clothes, ask about your wardrobe, what you’re interested in, how much or little you’re prepared to work etc. And these are just for starters.

What I – and others like me – am really doing is listening to what you say you want in the future, contrasting it with your present reality, and then assessing the gulf between the two. How likely is it therefore that you who wants to work in some capacity with people is likely to be successful with your attitude, patience (or lack of it), listening skills and your commitment to go to school and get some formal education in the field you want to work in?

What I’d also want to learn is why you have failed in the past to achieve whatever goals you’ve had; assuming in the past you’ve had some goals for yourself at all. Here’s what might come as a shocker to you: The single biggest obstacle to realizing success (whatever that represents for you personally), isn’t the economy. Nor is it demanding employers, the time of year, the floundering dollar, or anything else you can point to, ‘out there’. The single biggest obstacle to realizing success is you. There; I’ve said it. Get all worked up and your nose out of joint if you want, but there it is…you.

Conversely, when you are successful in obtaining whatever job is in fact within your capability of getting, you alone are deserving of all the credit in doing so too. It’s a two-way street. So give me some credit for giving you the credit. Even if you work with an Employment Coach or Counsellor and they teach you all kinds of new things that you put into action and get a job because of it, you alone made the decision to accept that help, use those techniques, and you alone went to that interview and you alone impressed enough to get offered a job. A job I say, that is within your abilities.

Here’s an easy thing to ask and a hard thing to do. If you are working with a professional, ask them right at the start to be honest with you. Be prepared if you do, to hear things that you might otherwise take offence to or want to argue. Let their words sink in and reflect on their words for a day or two. They may or may not be right of course, but you still need to check out what it is about you that is giving off whatever impression they are receiving. All the best.

What Exactly Can A Job Coach Do?

All over the internet you’ll come across people – and I am one of them – who will prompt you to enlist the services of a professional Job Coach. Whether you pay this person, they provide their services for free, or they are paid through another source, you really should take advantage of their expertise.

So let’s talk about exactly what that Job Coach can do for you. Knowing the benefits of having one after all, will provide you with the information you’ll need to decide whether or not this is a person who can help you or not.

First and foremost, a good Job Coach will need to speak with you and find out your skills, interests, positive and negative past experiences, education, training needs and certifications. A good Job Coach will also probe into why you’ve left jobs in the past, why you are currently unemployed, what you’ve been doing to stay relevant, ask about employment and character references, and look into your job maintenance skills specifically. After all, getting a job is one thing, keeping it is another.

This person needs to discuss with you pretty early on the topic of receiving feedback and whether you are open to listening, reflecting on the feedback and considering making changes. Because if you only want to pay someone to tell you things you want to hear and refuse to hear anything that might suggest you’ve got some changes to make, this person isn’t for you; get a dog instead. Dogs think every owner is the perfect person just the way they are.

Everything related to employment is on the table with a good job coach. This includes: your attitude, clothing, non-verbal communication, technical and job-specific upgrading, interview skills, work ethic, professionalism, your commitment, communication and interpersonal skills, listening and speaking skills, writing and vocabulary skills.

A good Job Coach takes the time to show you what someone successful in your field acts like and looks like, and then holds a mirror up for you and says, “So, what do we need to change so you become that successful person?” Far from just trying to make every successful worker identical to every other person, the Job Coach has to work with whatever you present with. Building on whatever you present with, the Job Coach has to understand what it is you want, the kind of progressive acceleration you may wish to realize, and your definition of success. You may only want a relationship that gets you an entry-level position and then terminate your relationship. You may want to retain their help for the first six months of the job until you pass probation. Up to you.

And of course when I say it’s up to you, the Job Coach may or may not have restrictions on their involvement with you too. If they work for a company, they may only be able to work with you up to a certain point and then have to terminate the relationship. This could mean when you get hired, or for a year whether you get hired or not for example. If they are self-employed, they may stay helping you until you stop paying!

A Job Coach is someone you can contact when you’ve got an issue at work and need to get the external, non-partisan advice of someone on how to best handle the problem. Maybe it’s a problem with a Supervisor, a change from what you expected the job to be, a transportation problem getting to work because of a shift change, or you’re not getting paid consistently and are thinking of quitting. Before making a knee-jerk decision, the Job Coach might be worth contacting and laying things out for them so you get some advice. A huge problem for you might be something relatively easy to address and you could not only keep the job you want, but handle it professionally to following their suggestion.

If you’ve got anxiety issues over certain questions that you just know you’ll face in an interview, a good Job Coach can help you prepare solid answers for these, and then grill you in a mock interview so when it’s asked in a real interview, you’re composed and confident in your reply. And those crazy questions that are just plain stupid and an insult to your dignity? Well, the good Job Coach can explain why companies ask those questions, what they are getting at, and how best to frame a response that answers the question and sets you apart.

So how much does a Job Coach cost? Well, the smug answer is to ask you this: “How long have you been out of work and how much income have you lost during that time trying to get a job without a Job Coach?” Seriously though, it varies. It depends on whether the person is self-employed and this is their source of income, or perhaps they work for a government agency and their services are free for you to access. It also can vary depending upon the length of time you need them, what you are asking of them and what they can deliver.

A poor question to ask is, “How much do you charge and what do you do?” A good question to ask is, “I know I need help preparing for upcoming interviews, and I’d like to get along better with my co-workers. Can you help me in these areas and what do you charge for your services?”