Making Bad Choices, Then Feeling Bad


Out of control; moving from one chaotic event to the next, over thinking things and then having everything you do questioned, analyzed, evaluated, summarized and judged; these the things you do to yourself.

Sometimes the one who judges us the hardest isn’t a stranger, family or friend, but rather the one who greets us each morning when we look in the mirror; ourselves. After all, we know ourselves more intimately than anyone else. Only we know each thought we have, why we do the things we do. Check that last one… there are times we haven’t got any explanation for the things we’ve done. Could be we often ask ourselves, “Why on earth did I do that? What was I thinking?”

Living daily in chaos and under constant pressure and strain stretches our resources to the point where our thinking becomes skewed so the decisions we make are flawed. We end up making bad choices we then regret; lowering our opinion of ourselves and feeling worse than before. Rather than learning from our mistakes, they get repeated, and later repeated yet again, and how we perceive ourselves sinks each time. The pattern of feeling bad about ourselves a lot of the time can lead us to make even poorer choices.

The funny thing is (only it’s not funny at all), when we make all these bad decisions, they seem so right at the time. That’s the hardest part for us to understand later. Trying to explain this or justify this to someone else who questions us is just impossible. We can’t help feeling so small; like a child being scolded by an adult who catches us doing something dumb. But as a child, at least we could be forgiven for not knowing better. By now, we should have grown up, matured, learned to make better decisions and have our stuff together. Instead, we can’t even make simple decisions without a struggle; like what to pack the kids for lunch.

You’d think that asking for help would be easy; a logical step to make sense of all the chaos, but think about that – if it was easy, you’d think you’d do that – so is not asking for help just another thing you’re doing wrong? Figures!

If everything above sounds familiar to you, you’re not alone. If you struggle to do things that others find simple, like find something on the internet, open a bank account, file your taxes or get your child tax credit, don’t feel you’re the only one so there has to be something wrong with you.

The thing about making decisions is that when you make a good one you feel better. Make a second and a third good decision and you develop a pattern. Repeat the pattern and you start to gain confidence and view yourself as having good decision-making skills. The same however is true when the decisions you make don’t turn out the way you’d hoped. One bad decision on its own is exactly that; just one bad decision. A second followed by a third etc. establishes a pattern and you can easily feel that based on results, you make poor choices.

Decisions we make are always based on the information we have at the time. So when trying to figure out what to pack the kids for a school lunch, we look in the fridge or the cupboards and what we pack is based on what’s available. We can’t send what we don’t have. While it’s clear to someone else we sent something inappropriate, it was at the time the best choice we had, avoiding sending something worse or nothing at all. Unfortunately, other people only see what we sent and judge our decision-making solely based on what they see, not what possible items we rejected. In other words, you may have actually made the best choice anyone could have made based on what you found as options.

The same is true for the big decisions that go wrong in the end. You might choose a job that doesn’t work out and then another; then start to question why you make such bad choices. It could be that you just lack the right information in the first place about how to go about finding a good fit. The thing is, at the time, the choices you made – and continue to make – seem right. You’re not dumb or stupid; you lack the knowledge to make a better informed choice. Without that necessary information, its like a game of hit and miss; with a lot more misses.

Getting help with making decisions from people you trust is not a sign of weakness, but rather wisdom. But I get it; people you’ve trusted in the past, abused your trust and things didn’t go well. That’s led you to only trust yourself, and as things aren’t working out any better, this has you feeling worse, with no one to turn to.

Decide for yourself of course … but you may want to find one person you can share small stuff with and see if they can help you. If they do help you make good decisions, they might help you with the bigger things later.

Good decisions are hard to make in times of chaos – for anybody. Learning how to make better decisions, like any other skill, can be learned and could be exactly what you need.

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Inclusivity


The practice or policy of including people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized, such as those who have physical or mental disabilities and members of minority groups. Source: Oxford dictionary.

Who doesn’t like to feel included? Whether we’re talking about children having fun on a playground, being invited to a high school party or being successfully hired, we all like to feel both included and welcomed.

Many organizations have looked at themselves with an objective eye and found a discrepancy in their hiring preferences; preferences which have over time favoured some people over others.  That this should occur should not perhaps be inherently surprising in itself; like attracts like in a broad sense. In any particular country, you may find those whom hire, tend to select candidates who speak a similar language, share common beliefs, have a common educational background, perhaps even share a skin tone. However, as population demographics change, one would expect that an organization would gradually reflect the communities around them through their hiring practices.

Historically, an available pool of candidates vying for work tended to be homogenized; of a similar or uniform composition. An interviewer might peer out to see all 6 candidates in a reception area to be of the same skin colour, gender and to the eye all appeared to be physically fit. This may have been the norm in days past – and may still be the norm depending upon where in the world you’re living – but times change, demographics change.  Now an interview might look out to find 6 candidates with very little in common upon first glance.

Some companies have consciously gone about making adjustments to their hiring practices. They have developed policies which have created more diversity in the workplace so that the organizations better reflect those in the communities they serve. In short, they want to look representative of those who consume their services. They’d like you to walk in and find people from various racial backgrounds and cultures, who speak more than a single language, who have physical, gender and age differences.

Yes great strides have been consciously taken in many workplaces to better visually represent the full spectrum of the general population. However, we’re a long way from achieving that goal of full inclusivity. Biases and preferences still exist, and sometimes those biases go so far as to be prejudices. Unfortunately prejudice does rear its head; that conscious decision to exclude segments of a population, leaving those in some groups marginalized and excluded.

Keep in mind as you read that some companies have made great strides; that they have consciously taken steps to be more inclusive is indeed commendable. I don’t believe there should be an award for doing so, but it is worthy of a, ‘good for you’ when an organization breaks with traditional practices and evolves to better diversify its workforce.

I said earlier that when an interviewer looks into reception, they tend to see more diversification in the interviewees; a good thing. However, we have not yet evolved sufficiently to always include what we can’t see; mental health and income as two examples. There exists unfortunately a preference (if you want to emphasize a positive) or a prejudice (if you want to emphasize a negative) against hiring people who receive welfare or social assistance. Some jurisdictions have even changed the wording of such benefits to fend off such discrimination or bias.

To be fair, organizations don’t typically have written polices that discriminate against the poor. Yet every so often I see an employment application that requires an applicant to provide the source of their current income or their combined family income level. When you’re out of work and living in poverty, you tend to feel the hurt and pain of providing such information, and you can’t help but wonder how that information is going to help them decide whether you’re the right candidate.

The thing about poverty is that it isn’t always visible – similar to mental health. Poverty might just limit the ability of a person to impress however. A job interview held over lunch or dinner might severely restrict the financial ability of a candidate to compete, as might their lack of transportation funds nullify their ability to get to all the interviews they’d otherwise choose to attend.

Poverty can also force a person to make tough choices between paying rent and eating versus getting teeth taken care of, staying well-dressed if their wardrobe needs updating etc. Poverty itself might be invisible, but it can explain why a candidate might not quite fit in. Hire them and give them the income that comes with the job however and you would see an improvement in those areas now that they can address things their lack of income prevented them from doing so.

Inclusivity is gaining momentum and I applaud it. This accounts for more women in the workforce, older workers having legitimate shots at getting hired, gives hope to the people who want to financially support themselves and not sit on the sidelines as “disabled”. It allows people with gender differences to stand and compete based solely on their ability to do the work at hand.

If your job has you in the position of hiring, be honest with yourself and look at your hiring biases, preferences and practices. If you look at your workforce and it’s not representative of the larger community, perhaps it’s time to change.

The Hand-Written Thank You Note


How many of you have recently wrote a hand-written thank you note? Hands up out there. Hmm… not many; no not many indeed.

Okay, another question if I may. The last time you received a note of thanks from someone expressing their gratitude, how did it make you feel?

Interesting isn’t it? You enjoy receiving but aren’t doing the giving. Now of course many of you out there might just be the kind of people who are very thankful and gracious with your words of thanks, it’s just that your saying them face-to-face or in an email. After all email is so convenient, accessible and immediate. You can dash off an email expresses thanks in the same time it would take to put on your coat and find your car keys. That trip to the stationery store to buy a card just seems so unnecessary.

I admit the card of thanks takes more effort. Yes, you have to go to the store, pick out a card or a set of cards that expresses thanks but doesn’t communicate the wrong message with some flowery verse on the inside. Then there’s paying for the cards, (because email is free), and if you misspell a word as you write in pen, there’s no delete button to quickly erase your error. Then there’s the exorbitant cost of a postage stamp, addressing the envelope, the trip to a mailbox. Just too much effort!

Or is it?

Think for a moment what someone has done for you in the first place for which you might be contemplating issuing words of thanks. I suspect what they’ve done, or what they continue to do is worth a bit more than the total cost of an envelope, card, postage stamp and your time. In fact, I’d wager your effort and words of thanks pale mightily in comparison. Too much effort on your part? How unfortunate if you feel this way.

The thank you card could be composed and presented to any number of people and for many reasons. Here’s a few to inspire some action on your part:

  • An interviewer after a job interview
  • A co-worker who has your back when work piles up
  • Your Administrative Clerk; the one who ‘does everything’ for you
  • Your job search references; those who back your credentials
  • The Barista who makes your every morning must-have
  • The Teacher who instructs your child
  • The Child Care Provider who nurtures your child
  • Your neighbour who looks out for you in your absence
  • The Receptionist who greeted you on interview day

That’s a lot of people you COULD be thanking. Better get a stack of cards when you’re out and save yourself a lot of return trips. If you look over that list by the way, you’ll note I hope that not a single note of thanks requires postage at all. Nope, each one can be hand-delivered.

The thing about a note of thanks is that it is short and yet powerful; so powerful in fact that many people will hang on to notes of thanks long after they’ve been received. An email of thanks by comparison may be read and deleted in the same day, or immediately after the person replies with a ‘Thanks’.  Then they switch gears and get on with their day.

I give my job seekers with 5 cards of thanks – blank on the inside – and 5 envelopes. I recommend they make use of them and there’s more available if they need them. Sadly, many don’t even issue one. Those that do however, find them surprisingly effective. Oddly enough, they feel better too when the person expresses thanks and a little shock at having received one.

Take your references as an example of people to thank. These are the people you provide to a potential employer as those who will attest to your work ethic, accomplishments, personality, teamwork, etc. After you’ve done your best to wow an employer, they are the ones who will either close the deal or raise some doubt on your application. Suddenly I think your protest that a card of thanks being too much work is failing miserably.

“Just  a few words of appreciation for standing with me as a valued reference. As I transition to a new place, I’m grateful to have your support.”

Now honestly, how long do you think that would take for you to write? Time surely then, can’t be your argument for not writing one, and we’ve already talked about the cost.

So if time and money aren’t the real reasons, we’re left with you don’t know what to say – see example above – or you just can’t be bothered – which means you truly aren’t that grateful. You could have literacy issues I suppose, which I grant.

Need another example? Okay…

Thank you for meeting with me this afternoon. I found our interview informative and enlightening. I’m grateful for the opportunity to work together and look forward to this with enthusiasm. I am excited about the next step in the hiring process.

Short and to the point. Come on people, you can do this. You’re looking for an edge over your competition aren’t you? Don’t be the candidate who just goes home and waits for the phone to ring. You can pen this one sitting in reception and hand it in right after the interview to the Receptionist.

Or not.

“Fake It ‘Til You Make It” = Lying?


One of my colleagues at work is often heard advising those who attend her workshops to, ‘Fake it ’til you make it’. This advice when taken out of context can sound like she’s giving people the green light to outright lie – lie about their experience, education, skills etc. Wow, such advice could really land someone in hot water, not to mention put a company in jeopardy if what the person is faking is serious enough.

Now me personally, I don’t like this phrase at all, and for the very point I just made above. The message intended may be quite different from the message received by listeners and unless clarified, they could walk away telling others that Kelly says it’s okay to lie on the résumé, at the interview or on the job.

As an Employment Counsellor imparting knowledge, opinions and suggesting actions, it’s not always clear that the information we pass on is understood by those receiving the messages although we often assume exactly that.

Last evening I was talking with a friend and she suddenly said she’d had a tough day at work but, “I’ll fake it ’til I make it’. What she was referring to was that she hadn’t had the time she’d planned on to prepare for the evenings play practice. We are both involved in a production of, ‘The Little Mermaid’ and were scheduled for choreography of a musical number.

We had a chat – albeit brief – conversation about this phrase, and she used a great example. As an experienced Nurse, she often mentors some new to the profession, and every so often one will say they are afraid of injecting a needle and taking blood from a patient for the first time. “Fake it ’til you make it” is her advice. In other words, she’s advising that the Nurse act like she’s done this many times and that it’s not a big deal. By faking her own comfort level when in fact she might be squeamish or unsure of herself, she’ll make things easier by comforting the patient and eventually she will find the process routine. Were she to say that this was her first time taking blood and let her nervousness show, that lack of confidence might stress the patient and the combination of a nervous Nurse with a needle and a worried patient could go badly.

In this scenario, it is clear that the, ‘fake it ’til you make it’ advice is appropriate.

However, with some people, faking something is often synonymous with lying. Faking that you’re of legal drinking age by producing a modified birth certificate isn’t acceptable. Neither is telling a Police Officer that you left your driver’s licence at home by mistake when you don’t have one, but are going for the test in a month or two. Faking and lying aren’t the same in this context.

So here’s the essential flaw in the imparting of any advice quite frankly; we don’t always have a shared understanding with those we are speaking with. We may all speak the same language and understand how words are pronounced, but the context of how we use our words and our own past experiences will often dictate how we interpret the things we hear.

Now if we were to check each time we said something to those within earshot to make sure they understood things the way we intended, our conversations would be very long and drawn out and we’d communicate much less than we do now. It would be a huge outlay of energy to constantly ask people to paraphrase what we’ve just said each and every time to ensure complete understanding.

As for job searching, faking that we have a diploma, degree or specific certification required by an employer is never okay under any circumstance. If you don’t have a certificate but you’re planning on taking the course within a few days, your advised to state that clearly and upfront. Sure you expect to pass that First Aid or Health and Safety course, but what if your plans are derailed with a family emergency and you can’t even attend? Then what? You didn’t attend, you don’t have the certificate and the next opportunity to take it isn’t for some time but you told the employer you’d be happy to present your certificate to them the next day. You’re off to a bad start in this new relationship if  you’ve misled them on your credentials. Suddenly everything you’ve said comes under suspicion.

As for employer’s themselves, they’ve been burned too many times to just take the good word of applicants and extend them the full trust they’d like to. They ask for proof of credentials like hard copies of education and call up your references solely because they need to verify the claims you make. Past candidates have been, ‘faking’ credentials and exposed companies to risk and unfortunately this practice seems still in vogue by some job seekers.

Don’t fake that you know how to run some dangerous machinery and count on learning on the job to figure it out. You might injure someone, possibly kill someone (no exaggeration), shut down a plant and throw people out of work, all because you tried to ‘fake it ’til you made it’.

In the right context I get it; however, use clearer ways of expressing the idea behind the phrase for a mutual and therefore better understanding of your intended message.

 

This Is Not About Mark And Julie


When Mark was first approached with the offer of help finding a job over a couple of weeks, he accepted the invite, but openly expressed his doubts that I could teach him anything he wasn’t already doing on his own. You know what? I relish that honesty in people; I wasn’t insulted in the least.

Now Julie on the other hand? While her feelings were similar, her choice of words and her decision to decline the help offered was received quite differently. Not only was she sure I couldn’t do anything to help her, she said two weeks with me would be a complete waste of her valuable time.

What made Julie’s reaction and decision all the more puzzling at the time was that a highly respected colleague of mine had referred us to each other and Julie was touted as a ‘Superstar’; someone I’d absolutely be impressed with. Well she made an impression. I can’t convey in words the tone of voice she used on the phone, the emphatic disdain she communicated for the help offered.

So you should know, what both Mark and Julie were offered was to be one of twelve participants in a two-week intensive job search group. All twelve have to have: 1) A résumé 2) Basic computer skills 3) A clear employment goal 4) strong motivation to find work 5) Give me permission to give them honest feedback and 6) come dressed daily in business casual clothing ready for interviews – because they will get them. Beyond making the self-investment of time to realize their financial independence, the cost to attend? Free. In fact, I’d see they got money for clothing and grooming needs, full transportation costs to get around, funds they could use for lunch if they chose to and when they did get a job anywhere up to $500 to buy whatever they needed to get off to a good start.

Now to me, this is a pretty easy choice to make. After all, Mark, Julie and the other people I extend this offer to are all unemployed or severely underemployed; sometimes working part-time outside their field of training or volunteering. Now I know that most people are already doing a job search on their own, and that some of what people are doing already is quite good. However, if the results are not forthcoming, doesn’t it seem sensible to take advantage of free help from someone recognized as a professional helping others find work?

My accumulated years of experience has told me that when most people don’t seize such opportunities, something – or some things are going on beyond what is known. Yes, they could be secretly working and don’t want to be found out, but that’s not typically what’s going on. One of the key things I do actually is work with people and after establishing mutual respect and trust, make it a point to get at what barriers they are facing which prevent them from moving forward and realizing their goals.

Now you might not think this approach is necessary; if you help somebody write a cover letter and resume, prepare them for the interview and wish them the best, they’ll get work soon enough. That may be true of course, but if this is all you do, you’ll be puzzled and disappointed when they lose their employment in short order. Some will contact you and ask for more help, while others will feel embarrassed and not contact you as they don’t want to let you down.

You might wonder then how far I can get with twelve people in only two weeks to set up the trust required to have each person open up and share what they would otherwise keep buried. I tell you this, the faster a person opens up and the more they share, the better the counsel I can offer, and the more effective the help will be they receive. In the end, what most end up with is a job best suited to not only their education and experience, but in an environment where they’ll not only survive, but thrive. Now as an unemployed person, doesn’t this sound enticing?

The most significant factor in achieving success is wanting what you’re after with enthusiasm. If you want it – I mean REALLY want it, that inner motivation and enthusiasm will be exactly what it takes to get you through when the roadblocks pop up. Instead of throwing up your hands in exasperation, you’ll roll up your sleeves and dig deep. Make no mistake, the job seeker has to want work more than the person helping them find it.  If it’s the other way around, lasting success won’t come.

Here’s the thing about Mark; recall if you will he’s the guy who expressed doubts but accepted the offer. When we wrapped up our time together, Mark told me that he was really suspicious but it was at noon on day 1 that he realized how thankful he was that he got the offer and accepted. His is a success story in that he did find work. He ended up moving from Ontario to British Columbia, accepting a full-time job at $120,000 per year. Quite a significant change from receiving social assistance and feeling frustrated, low self-worth and getting less than $15,000 per year.

When opportunity comes your way, make a change; say yes if you typically answer with a, ‘no thank you’. There’s a lot of great help out there to seize!

Where Do You See Yourself In 5 years?


When you’re looking for a new job; whether now or at some point in your future, how much does advancing within the organization play a part in determining what positions you apply to?

The extent to which a company promotes from within, and the increased probability of advancing beyond the role you’re applying for seems to be a big attraction for some. Somewhat ironically, many of those same people when I’m preparing them for upcoming job interviews express anxiety over how to answer one question in particular; “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

Their dilemma is that while they want to advance, they haven’t got any idea of what the next job might be. Therefore, intelligently answering this question when asked by a company employee who knows the job titles next up on the organization’s hierarchy seems awkward. They also worry that choosing to say they expect to be in the place they are applying for now would be the wrong answer because it might show a lack of drive or commitment.

Consider that this interview question has remained exactly the same over many decades. The job market as well as both employer and employee loyalty however, have evolved. In other words, where a company might have in the past kept an employee on for 40 years, they now see frequent turnover as a norm. The same is true of employees. Years past a person would typically take a job in their early 20’s and they would be happy and content to stay, working day in and day out with predictability in their daily work and changing employers would be abnormal and something to remark on. In 2018, a person may go through 6 – 8 jobs and even switch careers completely 2 or 3 times on average.

So what’s behind this rather traditional question of where you expect to be 5 years down the road?

First let’s acknowledge that like every other field, there are excellent interviewers good ones, poor ones and there are rookies. So you might get asked this question by someone who doesn’t really even know WHY they are asking or what a good answer looks like. It’s unlikely with a seasoned interviewer; as they’ll have a definitive reason for asking all the questions they pose, even if it doesn’t seem immediately clear to you what they’d ask a certain question for.

The question of where you’ll be in 5 years isn’t actually fixed on 5 years anymore; think of the 5 years as representing the future you who has come to master the job you are only applying for now. By the time 5 years has passed, you’ll not only have the job down, you’ll have come to know and understand the company brand, culture and value system. So what’s really be asked is this: To what do you aspire once you’ve got a solid, working knowledge of this job and the organization itself? Do you have any ambition beyond this job? Do you want more responsibility? More stimulation and challenge? There’s also a strong belief among some employers that your personal value will rise substantially if you move into senior roles having worked in ground floor jobs within the organization.

There’s a trap in this innocent question however, and you can easily fall into it and remove yourself from the competition if you’re not careful. If you come across as so set on advancing that you’re already looking well beyond the job you are applying for now, you could cause the interviewer to fear they’ll be going through this same hiring process in less than 6 months’ time. They don’t want to constantly be hiring for this position, so they might pull you out of the competition, tell you you’re overqualified and suggest you reapply when other jobs come up that would be a better fit. Of course, if the next position up is theirs, you might also be denied a job to preserve their own!

So what to do? One option is to show that your first priority is to focus on the job you are applying to now; to make sure the company gets a good return on their faith in hiring you. At the same time, you’d like to place yourself within the organization to take advantage of opportunities as they arise through training, development and any recommended networking or project contributions.

After all, a lot can happen in 5 years time. Your priorities might shift in ways you cannot possibly imagine in the present. An organization might contract, expand, take over a rival, add a new division, promote an early retirement incentive to change over it’s working force. Who knows?

Personally, I prefer looking 2 years down the road. I think 2 years fits better in our current climate and fits better with job market trends. 5 years is almost abstract to most people.

The other thing to consider is that not everyone wants a promotion or to advance. Excellent employees who find their motivation within and not from external sources can continue to be engaged, motivated and challenged in the same jobs for long periods of time. They might not be understood by those who have to climb the corporate ladders to feel successful but their aspirations are just as valid.

The key is just that; to remain invested, challenged, motivated and to be productive. Convince an interviewer of this and you’ve answered the question well indeed.

As always, be good out there and please consider passing this on.

Motivational Interviewing: Establishing A Tone Of Trust


One thing I’m extremely thankful for is that I’ve never lost the respect for everyone I meet and that each person who comes to me for help is unique. Every person has their own unique back story, and even if I were to think it sounds remarkably like others I’ve heard, I know I’ve never heard this back story from the person telling it to me now. Remembering to listen with full attention to the person before me is critical if I’m going to create a trusting climate where they feel safe enough to open up and tell me the important things that lay deeper than the surface stuff.

A poor Employment Counsellor – and yes poor examples exist in my field just as there are in any group of people – will neglect to fully listen. One of the most attractive traps one can fall into is to hear only enough from the person you’re helping to figuratively lump them in with others with similar stories. When doing this, your active listening stops, and your mind starts perusing your ready-made solutions that worked in the past, and you pull out solution number 4 and present it as the panacea to solve all this person’s troubles. “I have the perfect answer for you! Just follow the steps of my plan here and you’ll reach the end goal. I’m so happy to have helped!”

That’s just not going to work. What’s more, the person before you is intelligent enough to know you’ve tuned them out and you’re not really engaged with their unique situation. In short, they feel you don’t really understand because you didn’t hear them out; and they’re right.

A situation like this was shared with me just yesterday when a colleague consulted with me about someone she was working with. The fellow has a degree in Economics and some Employment Counsellor in another agency advised him to go after one of the job postings she had for a Restaurant Server. He felt shut down, unheard, misread and told her as much; she branded him a problem client.

Listening sounds like one of the easiest things to do; our ears pick up sounds without us having to turn hearing on and off, so we assume what we hear is 100% of what the person is saying when in fact we don’t. There are techniques like paraphrasing and saying things like, “Tell me more about that” which are designed to both acknowledge for the person that they were heard, and communicate a genuine want to hear more about something. Eye contact is critical too. I mean, how do you feel yourself when someone you’re speaking to breaks that eye contact and looks to your right or left as if something more interesting just happened behind you. You feel that connection is broken.

Have you ever considered your eye contact is one of the strongest ways to forge a bond? All those poets and authors who talked about seeing someone’s soul through their eyes; they were on to something there and they understood. If you want to make a subtle change that requires little effort but at the same time make a huge impact on those you counsel, work on maintaining eye contact. Don’t go for the beady-eyed, burn-through-your-skull kind of freakish look; that only scares others into thinking you’re getting kind of scary.

Direct eye contact that communicates enthusiasm for what this person has to share is what you’re after. From time to time in the conversation you’ll want to speak in a quiet voice that communicates concern and strong interest, such as when they relate something unpleasant. When they share something lighter or amusing, it’s okay to reflect warmth, smile, laugh along with them and that’s the moment to take that look away. Humour is essential to break tension, offer a break between heavy topics, and release some tension.

Of course what all this is really doing is continuing to build a trusting climate between you and this person before you. It is a huge mistake I think to start your meeting off with a statement that says, “We’ve only got 60 minutes to do your résumé so let’s dive right in – where did you work last and why aren’t you there now?” This kind of opening does set the tone that this is a business meeting with a clear goal, but it also communicates your time is more valuable than they are. All you’re going to get now is dates, past jobs and education. All the nuances of why they moved, what they found pleasing, what they want to avoid, where they feel most comfortable or most vulnerable; you’ve shut that down with your opening salvo.

The unfortunate message they receive is that whatever you’re doing in 60 minutes trumps your time with them now. Whether it’s your lunch or morning break, another client squeezed in to your schedule etc. they don’t really care, but they only have time now to do a token resume. The ironic thing? 60 minutes might be the same time you’d need to do a superior job that meets their needs and gets the document finished had you started by thanking them for the opportunity of meeting them and inviting them to share openly and honestly throughout your meeting. Some open-ended questions might set the tone of trust.

Challenge yourself; perhaps today – listen like you’ve never heard the story you’re hearing now; because you haven’t.