Career Or Job?


Are you on the hunt for a career or a job? There’s a couple of assumptions here; a) there’s a difference and b) you know the difference.

A career involves employment in a specific field over a period of time, during which you apply the education you’ve achieved. A job on the other hand, is typically shorter-term in nature, undertaken with a goal of gaining experience or money. A job does not always make use of one’s education.

Hang on. Do you buy those two distinctions? Is it as simple as I’ve set it out? If someone walked into a store and applied for a Cashier position, we might say they have a job as a Cashier. It’s not likely we’d agree the person is a career Cashier. However, what if we were to check in with them 9 years later and they are still in the same role? Would we then say the person is working in Retail as a Cashier and has a career? So then does the length of time a person works in a job transform the job into a career?

I don’t know that it really much matters to be honest. Oh I suppose when you’re out at some swanky affair and people invariably ask what you do, it might have social advantages to have a career over a job; well to some at any rate. But both careers and jobs have similarities. Both provide income, both can be rewarding to the people in them, and both can lead to promotions and be of varying length. There is no guarantee that a career will last longer than a job.

That last comment about the length of time one invests in a role might have some in disagreement. Suppose you graduate from University with a degree and take a position with an organization. You were specifically hired in part due to your academic qualifications. I think it fair to say most folks would feel you’ve just launched your career. Said this way, you are at the beginning of your full-time work life and yet, many would also say you’ve landed a full-time job. Perhaps then they are interchangable.

But hold on. Suppose you quit high school in order to take a position with the local lumberyard doing yard clean up and helping customers load their purchases. Again, most folks will say you’ve got yourself a job, but how many would say you’ve just launched your career? Fewer I imagine than the example in the previous paragraph. And yet, if you advanced through the business from yard clean up to Foreman, then moved inside to Sales Representative working with Contractors based on your accumulated experience, then were promoted to head up the Construction and Renovation Sales division, would we then say you’ve carved out a career for yourself? Would people say your’e a career lumber guy or woman?

I’ll tell you this; there are a lot of people holding out for some career to provide them with direction when what they really need is a job. Likewise, there are people searching right now for jobs who would be well-advised to pour their energy into pursuing their careers.

You might think at this point I’m only messing with words and confusing you for the sake of my own amusement. In truth however, there are people – many people – who fret and worry feeling immense pressure to pick a career. Likewise there are people who feel incredible pressue to get a job.

What really distinguishes the two to my way of thinking is how a person perceives them based on their own value system. Let’s make that personal. If YOU hold a career as being more prestigeous and look at jobs as holding less worth, then YOU set yourself up to feel inadequate and underachieving unless YOU are in a career. Then throw in the happiness factor, the I-need-a-career-that-fulfills-me factor and you’ve set yourself up for a high-stress period while you search for a career that will fulfill you and bring you happiness.

But there’s work to be done out there people and the truth is we need people in jobs and careers in order to get it done. Working in the trades as a Plumber, Electrician, HVAC Technician, Carpenter etc. takes job-specific skills and some aquired knowledge to become an expert. Try telling the Electrician she or he holds a job but not a career and I think they’ll beg to differ. Again, it’s about perception.

You likely hold up certain professions as loftier and holding greater value over others. How do you view a Lawyer vs. a Roofer, a Mechanic vs. a Receptionsit, a Truck Driver vs. an Architect? I’ll tell you this; your view may change depending on your need for that individual. When your shingles blow off your roof, you want a career professional up there fixing it, not someone who ‘just’ holds a job.

Think about your own perception of jobs vs. careers and think also about how your values are passed on to those you influence most; your children. While it’s natural to have your own value system, it’s incumbant upon us all to equally respect the values of others, especially if they differ from our own. If we do this, a lot of people would feel less pressure to pick a career, less stigma when considering a job.

“I Need A Job Not A Conversation”


When I meet people for the first time in my line of work, one of our first interactions starts with me asking how I can be of help and getting the  response, “I need a job.” That makes sense, because supporting people in their quest for a job or career is what I do.

Like you’d expect, I ask a few questions about what they’re looking for, whether or not they have a resume and if so, I ask for a once over which is the quickest ways to see their career path to date. What you might not expect however, is the direction I steer the conversation in. Sometimes the biggest mistake I could make is pulling up a website and looking for a job for them to apply to. This is exactly what they hope and expect I’ll do, followed by sending off their resume and then saying goodbye while they go home and wait for the phone to ring.

What I have found far more effective however, is having a conversation; some meaningful dialogue that gives me information I’m after in order to make the most of our time together. The odd thing is were I to ask directly the questions to get at what I want to know, they’d likely shut down the conversation with the response, “Look I just want a job. Are you going to help me or not?”

The conversations I work to develop are my way of getting insights into a person’s backstory. Knowing the backstory might not seem to you to be any of my business; like them, you might agree that I should, “just get them a job.” Well-meaning rookies in the employment field do that, and that’s no slight to their intelligence, they just lack the experiential awareness that comes with having tried that approach and learning it doesn’t work.

While I’m looking at a resume for example, I’m not just looking at their work history. I’m wondering about the decisions that prompted changes in jobs, looking for promotions that suggest competence, an employer’s belief that they were ready for increased responsibilities. I note gaps and want to hear those so I can hear first-hand how they might similarly explain these to an interviewer. The spelling and grammar, the simplicity or well-developed vocabulary they have gives me clues as to their literacy and written communication skills. The education they have completed gives me insight into their academic achievements and whether I see additional courses and certificates or not gives me clues to their belief in the value of continuing self-development. But the only way to verify all my assumptions is to respect the person enough to ask. And rather than ask direct questions that would come across as an interrogation, the kinder thing to do is have a focused conversation.

The positives I’m listening for in this chat are the good decisions they’ve made, achievements, acquired skills and I’m watching their face and listening to the tone of their voice so I don’t miss what they are proud of and what recalls good memories.

On the other hand, I’m alert to anything which causes their eyes to drop, their head to turn away, the things they skip or skim over, drops in the volume of their voice. These are clues to current employment barriers, problems in past jobs which if not fully addressed could be repeated in future ones. The more we talk, the more trust is established, the deeper we go and the better I get at responding to their initial request to help them find not just a job, but the right job.

Not all the time of course, but it happens where a person pops in expecting to leave in an hour with a shiny new resume and all we’ve done to the casual observer is talk, having accomplished nothing. A second meeting is needed to do what could and should have been done in the first meeting. Stats-driven governments and organizations that put numbers ahead of people encourage that approach. Not a single person ever went into the employment counselling and coaching profession with the goal of being a churner of impressive statistical data. Every single one of us without exception put helping and serving people first.

It’s conversations; human connections from which we learn best of others. These are where we connect with people and in the job seekers situation, where we can have a significant impact and accelerate their job search. What this translates into is not just finding them their next job, but partnering with them to better help them know themselves, find a good match with an employer, and increase their chances of finding lasting, meaningful work.

Looking at conversations this way, the investment of time in people pays off. It might look to outsiders like a nice conversation with very little productivity to show for it. I suppose however it depends on your currency – what you see as a productive outcome.

These conversations are what true professionals long for and rebel against most strongly when they are threatened by short-sighted people who see them as luxuries we can’t afford. If you really want to pump up your stats and get people jobs which last, you’ll be wise to help job seekers with a healthy conversation.

 

Out Of Work? Opportunities Are Knocking


Right off the top, let me say that I’m sorry if you’re one of the people who lost their job because Covid-19 closed the doors of your employer either temporarily or permanently. I feel for both employers who invested their personal equity and for the employees who, having even less control, find themselves out of work. It’s not a case of who is hurting more; whatever loss you’re personally feeling is legitimate and valid. My sympathy might be appreciated and hopefully shared by others for you, but I know it doesn’t do anything on its own to alter your situation.

I’ve been thinking however, as I’m apt to do, that there’s opportunities to be had; opportunities which you might consider taking advantage of. Choosing to do so could make the difference between continuing to live as you are now or improving your mental health, finances and self-esteem. Interested?

At the best of times, I understand that job searching is often an isolating experience fraught with ups and downs of expectations and let downs. Finding and applying for jobs you’d love to do that you feel qualified for and then hearing you didn’t get the job or even worse, just no response whatsoever for the effort you invested in applying. Feeling ignored with no feedback at all is demeaning, hits our pride, leaves us confused and if repeated again and again, can turn us bitter and disillusioned.

Add to a frustrating job search the further isolation brought on by Covid-19 where you shop curbside or online, going out less often, avoiding interaction with purpose and feeling there’s less jobs to apply to and you only add to deteriorating good mental health.

So what of these opportunities? I believe many people will find employer’s empathetic to applicants who have current gaps on their resumes; the explanation needing nothing more than, “Covid-19”. Two problems though… because your competition for employment will say the same thing, you won’t stand apart. Secondly, while an employer will understand the loss of employment was beyond your control, they will wonder what you’ve done in the 6 months or more to improve yourself – which is 100% within your control. How will you answer that question?

Jumping on the internet, you can find online courses for free that will add to your resume with 2020 (soon 2021) filling widening gaps. Here’s a few sources:

Health and safety in 4 Steps https://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/hs/elearn/worker/foursteps.php

Coursera   https://www.coursera.org/

LinkedIn Learning https://www.linkedin.com/learning/me?trk=nav_neptune_learning

Agelic https://education.agilec.ca/resource/learn/signin

Of course, you can also find courses that cost money to take and you should consider those too. While money may well indeed be tight, it’s equally possible that what you’re saving in transportation costs and eating out could be reinvested in academic or skills upgrading. Not a bad trade off.

On to opportunity #2. You’re forgiven if you’ve been avoiding dropping in to your local Employment Centre out of fear of contracting either the full-blown virus or the common cold. However, make sure you know what you’re avoiding and not what you believe you’re avoiding. Prior to the pandemic, many such Centre’s were bustling hives of activity where many people came and went, where Coaches met you with a handshake and someone invariably coughed, sniffed and spread their germs like others spread their charisma. That might be your recollection of what such a Centre was, but it’s an inaccurate picture of the current reality.

These days, many drop-in Employment Centres are back open, but they have rigid screening systems in place – designed to keep both those staff and YOU, healthy. Handshakes are a no-no, as are fist pumps and high fives. Masks are mandatory and the hand sanitizers are more prevalent than bottled water. Desks and computers you sit down at are wiped before you arrive and after you depart. Even where you walk and the distance you sit apart from others has widened and is enforced – all with keeping everyone safe as the number 1 priority.

And here’s the thing…many of these Employment Centres have far fewer people dropping in – precisely because of the well-founded fears people have of becoming ill. So, you might be the only person or one of two or three in such a place. You can use their WIFI, save your data, get help one-on-one if you want it still feeling safe, and advance yourself past others who are at home waiting out the pandemic and the all-clear to get about.

As an Employment Counsellor, I tell you this, employers are still advertising for help. The ones I’m talking to are sharing how hard it is to find qualified people too. What do they say they need most? Enthusiastic people who will show up dependably and punctually, with a good work ethic and focus on jobs to be done and get to work. They want people who work well with others, who they can trust to get the job done when they aren’t being watched, and people who are willing to learn. Yep, they can’t find these kind of people.

Look, you have to decide what’s safe for you and the ones you love. Everyone agrees with that. At the same time, if you need or want to improve your chances of finding work while doing so safely, you can choose this too.

Stay healthy in mind as well as body and thanks for the read.

Be A Beacon Of Hope


“When faith gives way to fear
When motivation disappears
All is lost if one abandons Hope”

These are the final 3 lines of lyrics from the 1977 song called, “Hope” by a Canadian band called Klaatu. Lovely song and you might like a listen.

These lyrics come into my head often in the course of my work; meeting with and interacting with people who are either unemployed or dissatisfied with their current job or career.

For many, that period of adrenaline and excitement at the prospect of breaking away from a job or employer they want to leave behind has past, That initial optimism that came with having made a decision to land a job and the belief that it wouldn’t take too long has ebbed and been replaced with doubt and worry. Those of us who work as Employment Counsellors and Coaches know intrinsically that this is often the point we interact with such folks; their belief or faith in their ability to find meaningful work is giving way to the fear that they won’t.

When we meet for the first time and walk awhile together, each on our own career journey, it’s hope more than anything else riding on this relationship. And thus, it is critical for us to remind ourselves of this because it’s far too easy to get distracted and caught up in the files and job boards that need updating, the academic courses we’re undertaking or the break we’re overdue for. In other words, tuning in to the person before us and empathizing with them is critically important. In these moments, we have a caseload of one person; the person before us. We are their hope.

Now for me personally – and I’m only going to speak for myself here – I do my best to offer the support and partnership to others that I’d benefit from the most if the tables were turned and it were I seeking help to find meaningful work. One of the biggest mistakes I believe we can make in this occupation is failing to appreciate that those seeking our help are intelligent enough to tell when we’re not focused on them. Whether a person has a grade 8 education and is after an entry-level job or they hold a Master’s degree and are hunting a senior position in a multi-national organization, people know when you’re distracted or zeroed in.

There’s a cartoon that just came to mind which has two employees under a customer service sign facing a long line of shoppers. The one says to the other, “This job wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the people.” Hmmm….

Ah but we’re human aren’t we? We have things on our minds such as the struggles our children are going through, the housework that’s waiting for us when we get home, the groceries that have to be bought and the parents we have to visit when we finally do get a chance. We are entitled to be concerned and think about these and the many other things going on in our own lives because yes, we are humans too. And because we’re human, sometimes these ‘things’ enter our minds at the most inopportune times. We don’t consciously seek out things to distract us, they just come calling. So we have to work harder to focus.

But back to that bit about giving the level of service we’d like and expect were it us on the receiving end. I know you can recall times when you’ve felt like someone’s lower priority. Customer service is promoted all the time as a key qualification in so many jobs but it doesn’t always translate into the experience received by customers and clients.

One tip I have found that serves me well is turning away from my computer keyboard and facing the person seeking help head on. Giving them 100% of my body language communicates that they have my full attention and I’m listening. This isn’t symbolic. I know I can hear the words they speak even if I look away, but I need their facial cues, their posture, their eye contact (or lack thereof) etc. in order to fully take in the complete message they are communicating. This avoids miscommunication and encourages them to share what they otherwise might not.

The short of it is by investing in the conversation, I invest in the person. When this is done, they feel hopeful in the depth of the relationship being established, because here is a person who is listening – really listening. Although that story they’re telling has been heard by me before, I’ve never heard it told by THIS person.

And then it clicks into place; hope. When it’s time to turn back to a computer screen, the job seeker feels fully heard and understood, feeling they are my priority.

If you’re considering joining us in the employment coaching or counselling field, I sure hope you appreciate that you’ll be someone’s beacon of hope; many if you’re good. We need empathic, caring and compassionate people, focused on serving others in partnership as we walk for awhile together on our career journeys. You’ll be enriched, you’ll be challenged and you’ll fail sometimes by the way. If you don’t fail every so often, you’re playing it safe.

Be a lighthouse shining a beacon of hope for those you serve today!

 

Delivering Honesty With Kindness


One of the kindest things I do every now and then is tell someone I’ve just met that they don’t have a realistic shot at getting an interview for the job they want to apply to.

On the surface, that would appear to go against one of my key goals which is establishing and nurturing a partnership between myself as an Employment Counsellor and them as a job seeker. I mean, at a first meeting, you’d think I’d be going out of my way to have them see me as a nice fellow who leaves them feeling inspired and full of confidence. That would be nice, and for a lot of people I meet for the first time, this is exactly how they perceive me when they walk away.

Here’s the thing though; I’d rather a jobseeker come to see me as authentic, helpful and sincere in my desire to see them ultimately succeed. That ultimate success means taking the time to find the right job, the right employer, the right match for their skills, experience, interests and their needs. And in fairness to the employers I am working with to find talent, it also means sending them job applicants who are qualified; of the right character fit with authentic skills and experience.

Recently I was introduced to a person looking to make a career shift from the job they have now to another. On the upside, I give credit to this job seeker for several things: 1) seeking out the professional services of an employment agency 2) realizing the need for a better resume and 3) having the resiliency and courage to move from a position they are performing at well to a new position where there will be a steep learning curve.

However, on the downside, the person not only lacks a specific software knowledge the employer has described as a strong asset, they lack required experience in basic computer skills. Further, they have no experience in the environment which the employer has stated is expected.

It was evident to me within 5 minutes of meeting them that there was a gulf between the employers stated needs and this applicants experience and skills. It wasn’t going to be fair to send them off with a shiny new resume, full of false confidence and have them compete against applicants with years of experience and education to match. In the field they were considering, it is well-known that the labour market is flooded with highly-qualified candidates.

What I did do was gently but nonetheless clearly, tell them that without the mandatory skills required, they didn’t have a shot at the position. Had I stopped talking and left things there, it wouldn’t have been a good conclusion. They walked in for help after all, and I was determined to provide it; albeit different from what they had expected.

Well, we constructed a resume together that promoted the transferable skills they have, focused on their character and personal qualities that would be a desirable fit, and printed it off. The wording on the resume had them sitting up straighter, feeling really good at how they came across on paper, promoting skills and qualities they hadn’t verbalized but yet I had discerned and labeled from listening to them describe their current and past work.

But what really has them feeling better is a promise I made to them which they hadn’t expected when they came in the door. While I provided a resume for them to take to the job fair they were heading out to, I told them that I or one of my colleagues would like to work with them to better explore their skills and abilities and find a position for which they would compete as a strong candidate.

This offer of unexpected help to better get to know them and find the right fit, more than anything else, had this job seeker leave expressing gratitude for the honesty and willingness to help. They remarked as they left that they didn’t expect to get the job anymore and if they did somehow it would be a nice surprise. But this person wasn’t disappointed and thanked me for sharing the truth.

Employment Counsellors are good at what we do. We read people and do our best to meet people where they are in life and support them on their career journey with the goal of setting them up for success. We recognize that you as the job seeker are the expert of you; you know yourself better than we ever will. The key is to work in true partnership together; you knowing you and we knowing how to draw out your accomplishments, rich experiences, achievements and then marketing these in language that not only appeals to employers, it just makes you feel empowered.

It’s a risk to tell a person you’ve just met that they aren’t in the running for a job when you know the needs of an employer and what an applicant lacks. However, the risk/reward almost always pays off with a relationship they can trust in; knowing they’ve partnered with an Employment Counsellor who has their best interests in mind. The goal therefore is to deliver honesty with kindness out of a deep set respect for the person, rather than only telling someone what you believe they wish to hear.

 

You Ruin Your Application With This Error


In my role as an Employment Counsellor, I have the distinct pleasure of being invited to walk alongside people for a time while on their job search journey’s. This often means providing resume and cover letter advice, helping people see and own the many skills and abilities they possess, helping them prepare for interviews and counselling them through multiple barriers they face to employment.

Some would find what I do to be mentally tough. I mean come into lives when  people are out of work and feel the frustration that accompanies the job search process. They may be at a pretty low point in life. If it were only the job it would be bad enough, but having no job often means bleeding or depleted bank accounts and life’s savings. For some it means being unable to pay the rent and having to move, being more irritable because the lack of work is a constant demon to live with. And living with that demon has caused many relationships to strain and eventually break, leaving the person not only without a job but also without support from some person who has been the most important person in the world to them.

You might expect then that such people would carry with them bitterness and disillusionment; that these feelings would transform them into walking timebombs where a well-meaning comment would set of an explosion. Yeah, there are some like that I’ll admit. For such people, you stand by near to be of help but give them the space they need. Waiting until someone is truly ready to receive help is so much more effective than pushing things at them they are unable to bear.

But for the majority of people struggling to find employment, I am constantly impressed and humbled by their openness to suggestions, their gratitude for support; their sincere appreciation for assistance. These are, for the most part, quality people with hopes and dreams like any of us. And it’s imperative to remind ourselves that the major difference between us and them is our ability to apply the knowledge and experience we have acquired after having been in our roles for years. We’ve become experts in what we do, just as any professional comes to know their field or trade.

To illustrate, many a homeowner has decided at times to take on what they consider to be a doable home improvement rather than call in a specialist. What we want to achieve seems straightforward enough, such as insulating the walls of your garage, applying a plastic barrier, putting drywall up, taping and sanding the joints and finally painting the smooth surface. Why pay a pro? While it might turn out okay – even good – the odds are that a professional with years of experience will do it quicker, do it with less waste and it will be done to a higher quality.

Making a resume and writing a letter of introduction to go with it seems even easier; surely anyone could do it rather than search out a pro. After all, it’s just putting down all the things on paper you’ve done in your life and no one knows that better than you. Well, sadly, I’ve met way too many folks who have spent months job searching with inferior resumes and shoddy cover letters, who have grown increasingly frustrated with the lack of results. Just like that drywall job in the garage will remind the owner every time they pull in and see the reminder of their overestimation of their abilities.

Take yesterday. I received an email with a resume attached. Before I even opened the resume I knew it was bad. How? The poor choice of what they had called the resume tipped me off. In saving their resume, they called it, “Copy of a copy of a copy of Jane Doe”. Jane Doe substituting in for their name. Now I know that as a potential employer moves their cursor to click and open the resume, they read the name of the document. This simple step was somehow lost on the owner as they quickly typed whatever came to mind. Even if it was a surprisingly strong resume, that poor choice of wording might put off an employer from opening it.

While this error is a simple one to correct both in explanation and time, it will likely be repeated until pointed out and explained. And here, you find at its heart, the core of employment counselling. It’s passing on best practices and advice while being supportive and empowering. While the Home Improvement professional often works apart from the homeowner completing renovations, the Employment Counsellor works best in full partnership with job applicants, explaining and thus empowering with each improvement as they go.

Sometimes it stings to hear you’re own work isn’t up to scrutiny when a pro tells you so. Done correctly, it can be welcomed news however, improving your odds at being chosen as the successful applicant. One of the biggest joys I have in the role is when a person I work with receives a suggestion, considers its merit and then demonstrates on their own the mastery of the skill shared with them.

May we all learn something that helps us this day!

Photograph On A Resume


Prior to writing my blog this morning, I had a quick scan of my LinkedIn feed. I scrolled through and suddenly someone’s post caught my attention. It was a thoughtful and kind post from one person who was sharing the resume of a friend in the hope that at least one reader would help their friend land a job.

I opened up the 12 comments to see the kind of support and encouragement the post had generated and was disappointed. 8 were simply re-sharing the post meaning to be helpful and 4 passed on good wishes for success. As nice as those well-wishers are, they really don’t advance the applicants chances of getting an interview. Those who shared the post also didn’t do the fellow any favours in my own view, as they took a flawed resume and continued its circulation.

In the comments section, I wrote that the applicant should immediately remove the photo from the resume, as many employers would immediately pass on assessing his suitability for the job based on this single image. Why? Because some organizations don’t want to expose themselves to possible calls of having biases, preferences or outright discrimination when it comes to the people they select for interviews and eventual hires. I realize of course that hiring practices are varied around the globe. I’ve worked with people immigrating from countries where birthdate, marital status, religion, gender, parental status and political affiliation are mandatory inclusions.

Were the practice of including a photo on a resume to take hold, it would certainly change the hiring landscape. On the positive side, it could assist an organization to hire with diversity in mind. Taken at face value (pun intended), employers could knowingly add a younger applicant to an aging workforce, a mature worker to a younger workforce, a person of a certain skin colour or cultural background to better represent the people they want to serve. Were we all so well-intended, a photo would empower the best of employers to be better diversified.

Yes a photo provides employers with visual information. You know that statement, “A picture is worth a thousand words”? Well, that photo would work for and against applicants; depending on the past experience the employer’s and Recruiters have in interacting with similar people to the one in the photo.

Let’s set aside outright prejudice for a moment as that’s an obvious problem when it comes to selecting candidates and let’s talk of hiring preferences. You’ve no doubt heard excellent advice encouraging job applicants to do their research prior to applying for jobs and going to interviews. One thing that I often hear is to try and find a personal connection between yourself as an applicant and the person you’re going to be interviewed by. Perhaps you went to the same school for example.  So in an interview or in a thank you note after the interview, you’re wise to remind them that you went to the same school in an effort to really say, “we are alike in this way”, and you hope this shared connection tips the scales in your favour. Anything wrong with this?

From the hiring side, some interviewers and decision-makers also have preferences and natural biases to hire people who may have come from a certain school. If it’s right for you as an applicant to hope pointing out a similarity will work in your favour, it should be likewise right for those making decisions. Unless of course you come from a different school. Then it seems unfair as your education is just as valid or legitimate. Then this hiring preference is wrong.

The inclusion of a photo for some applicants likewise seems an enhancement of their application. Just as the resume is checked for error-free grammar and spelling and the wording carefully considered, the photo is likewise thought out. “Here’s me looking my best”. Like the people who went to the same school and think that works in their favour, the photo might be thought to work for the beautiful people; the healthy, vibrant ones. But like those who chose a different school, the photo could work against a person who looks different.

Some excellent organizations therefore have a rigid rule that immediately disqualifies applicants who include a photo on their resume. They do not wish to subject their candidate selection panels to any claims of hiring biases, preferences or yes – outright discrimination. It not only stops at photos, but some go so far as to remove the actual names of applicants from resumes that they put before selection committees. This keeps the focus on a candidates qualifications. Only when the person is selected for an interview is their name shared.

But what of that LinkedIn photo? What of that social media search? To be sure, you’ll find their photo if its there when you search by name, and organizations do see the photo when the HR departments do an initial search prior to putting candidates to their interview panels. But if the names are removed from the resumes at that point, those making the hiring decisions don’t initially have that information before them when at the initial screening phase.

Interesting topic to consider, whether you’re for or against the practice. And generating ideas, thoughts and discussions is a good thing.

A Job Search Daily Plan


Have you ever gone for a walk and found yourself seeing things you’ve missed despite passing them everyday in your car? I know I do. I see peeling paint on wooden garages and patterns in the bark of long-lived trees. I smell freshly cut lawns more intensely and oddly enough the occasional but intense odour of a laundry exhaust. Yes, when I slow down and pay attention, things come into my consciousness that I realize are there all along, I’ve just been missing them.

Looking for work is similar. While your employed, you may look at what jobs are out there, but it’s only when you turn to job searching with more intensity that you see opportunities anew.

It’s understandable I suppose. I mean you don’t always inform your network that you’re open to moving on to something else because part of you dreads having to explain over and over again why you’re looking. The urgency isn’t the same either. No, when you’re working, especially full-time, your focus is split between the job you’ve got and the next one. When you reacquire those 7 or 8 hours a day that your job used to fill, it’s like the world slows down and more options suddenly appear.

An excellent decision when job searching is to commit to it. Well, if you’re goal is to find work rather than go through the charade of looking for work; and there’s a difference. The people who go through the illusion of job seeking can occasionally have success, but the statistics reveal the odds are low. Like a lottery, you often hear of the big winners, but we know there are an awful lot of losers whose stories are every bit as real but not told.

Now the people who commit to a job search see and ‘feel’ the job search differently, similar to my experiences of walking around a neighbourhood rather than taking the car. Just as you take in more when you walk, you’ll find more employment opportunities when you slow down and open up those jobs and read what they are all about. When you reach out to connections as a committed job seeker, you open yourself up to online calls, virtual meetings, maybe grabbing a bite and diving into the conversation about where you’re headed. You have the time to take a course that your previous working life kept you from doing. Your perspective changes on what your priorities are and you appreciate things you previously took for granted.

A healthy exercise to undertake when you’re out of work but committed to finding employment is to establish and maintain a focused routine. ‘Focused’ being the key. Waking up late, casually browsing jobs for 15 minutes and watching television might be a routine yes, but not a job search focused one.

A focused job search could look like this:

Wake up, have breakfast, shower and dress. Go for a walk around the neighbourhood for 30 minutes, clearing your head. Once home, sit down in your dedicated job search space – your ‘office’; and job search. This I’ll expand shortly. Mid-morning, grab some fruit and water the houseplants or read a chapter of a book you’re enjoying. Take 20 minutes. Back to the job search. Around noon or so, have lunch and for an hour, do whatever makes you happy. No more than an hour and a half at most though. Back to the job search. Mid afternoon, get up and get out and go around the block; maybe grab the mail down the street but get some air and a change of scenery. Late afternoon, document what you’ve done with your job search and perhaps get back to people you found were unavailable in the morning. Wrap up with some ‘me’ time before having to start making dinner. Enjoy your evening and feel good about what you did during the day.

As to the job search, what I don’t mean is endless scrolling on multiple websites, looking at the same jobs over and over again. That’s not job searching, that’s trolling.

Job searching needs to be stimulating if you’re to keep at it, so break it down into activities. Here’s some but not all the things you could do – all job seeking focused.

Contact your local first aid provider and sign up for First/Aid and CPR. It will add to your resume and fill two days in the next week or so. Define your existing skills and do it on paper, not in your head. Of these skills, determine which you want to use in the next job. Determine what companies you’d most like to work with and start researching their online content. When you know them intimately and know how you would fit in, send them an expression of interest letter even if you don’t see jobs posted. Create or update your online profile in the social platform of your choice; the one you’ll use. I’m a LinkedIn guy myself. Reach out to colleagues and get recommendations if they are willing posted on your profile. Articulate your brand and your value. Who are you? Why would they want you? Update the resume of course and get it looked at for areas to improve by booking a meeting with an Employment Counsellor or Coach.

This is but the tip of the iceberg. Good job hunting my friend!

 

About That Big Gap On Your Resume


One of the most common worries many come to me with is a lengthy gap on their resume. You might find my thoughts on this matter helpful whether you too are in this situation or like me, you’re in the business of providing help and support to those seeking employment. Let me just say here and now that I’d absolutely love to hear your own thoughts in the comments section; perhaps the advice you’d give yourself or what your personal experience has been – the good and the bad.

To begin then. When I first hear someone tell me they are worried about a lengthy gap on their resume I ask them why; not why there’s a gap but rather why they are worried about the gap. What I’m listening for are a couple of things. The first is hearing what they believe an employer’s possible objections are in order to hear if they accurately understand just what the gap implies. The second thing I’m listening for is actually the tone of their voice. It’s in the tone of the voice that I will detect anything and everything from utter despair and hopelessness through to defiance and bitterness. Most are somewhere in the middle actually;  does it SOUND like they really want to work and do they FEEL they need to overcome this barrier in order to get a job offer.  The tone is perhaps as important or in some case more so than what they say.

Now of course I want to also hear the truth when it comes to what they’ve been doing with their time during the gap, as it is often unexplained on their resumes. My direction to them is to tell me the blunt honest truth so that in that knowledge, I can determine the way to craft a few potential strategies in responding to the problem.

For a problem it is. Anything that undermines a person’s self-confidence and stands between themselves and their goal – in this case an employment offer at the conclusion of a successful interview – is a problem. One thing I’ve found over and over by the way is that when you hang on to your problems, you don’t often resolve them as quickly as when you share them with someone who has the knowledge and experience to provide you with options for reaching a resolution. Be selective with whom you share your problems of course, for telling anyone and everyone about your problems is seldom a good idea.

So, exactly how lengthy a period or gap are we talking about? For someone used to working their whole life, a 1 year gap can be their big worry. In the case of another, it could be 8 – 10 years. The length of time we’re talking about here is critical to know because there’s your perspective and the perspective of a potential employer, and they may not be the same shared view.

One positive thing about a gap in the present day is that it’s far less uncommon that in years past. Today more people transition from job to job, companies relocate, others downsize and reduce their workforce. More people find themselves as primary caregivers for aging parents because quite frankly medical advancements mean longer life spans than in years past. Sheer numbers alone play a factor too; with more people than ever working or looking for work, the odds of many of those people being out of work (after all there’s just so many jobs to go around) is up.Then there’s the people who were off due to physical or mental health issues.

One thing good to know is whether you’re unemployment was due to an issue which no longer exists. Caring for an aging parent that has passed away, or raising children who are now school age are two examples.

When I listen to a person tell me about the reason why they have this unemployment period, I always ask them what they DID do during that time, rather than what they didn’t do. Did they do any self-improvement activities such as volunteering, take a course of any kind, address some personal health issue such as losing weight, having a surgery, etc. All this information is what I’m after before I can offer up a few potential strategies on how to respond to the issue when it comes up in an interview.

My goal in responding to the person asking me for help is to provide them with three potential angles to choose from in addressing their gap. From these, they can best pick one that they feel most confident and comfortable with owning for themselves. It is remarkable to see first hand how having a good response can shift a person from dreading the question about their gap to hoping it actually comes up in the interview.

Once a strategy is selected, I’ll ask that person 3 questions which are:

  1.  Explain this gap on your resume.
  2.  What did you do between (date) and (date)?
  3.  I want to talk about this gap…

Yep, any version of the same issue asked 3 times. This gives you the chance to hear what the person actually says and gives them the chance to practice until they feel they own it and can confidently reply. With confidence, not only does the answer given satisfy the gap, the body language, facial expression and tone of voice come across as assertive.

Don’t Apply For Jobs In December


There are many job seekers who see a lot of logic in not bothering to apply for work in the month of December. They’ve determined that companies are soon shutting down for the holidays and the people responsible for receiving all those resumes and selecting candidates to hire are really looking at taking time off.

If you’re one of the job seekers who holds this belief; that it’s pointless to job search in December, you’re making a huge mistake. But please! By all means yes, continue to avoid applying for work this month! You’re making it so much easier for the people I’m partnering with in their job search. In fact, let me extend a sincere thank you for reducing the size of the competition.

As you know, applying for work is a very competitive endeavour. There are more people applying for various positions than ever. Apparently, from the information I’ve gathered from employers, for every job advertised, there are approximately 150 – 175 applications received. The fact that you’re doing your part to reduce that number and increase the odds of those I’m supporting to land interviews and get hired is most appreciated!

Next week I’m holding a two week job search group; that’s December 9th – 20th on the calendar. Yikes! What  tough time of year to job search right? There’s the Christmas traffic, the Christmas hustle and bustle, the kids Christmas concerts in school, people to buy or make Christmas presents for, the house or apartment to decorate for Christmas, the shopping for the Christmas ham or turkey. Why you’re likely exhausted just thinking about it. Best you put your feet up and recline in the lazy boy. Add a job search to all that? No, of course not; you best take it easy.

Still, my little group and I will be at work, researching opportunities, writing cover letters and resumes, practicing our interview skills, and above all else, applying for jobs. While there’s every possibility that we might land a hire or two in these two weeks, it’s probable that the interviewing and hiring won’t actually take place until the new year. That’s absolutely fine with us; we’ll be ready.

Look, any job seeker will tell you how difficult it is to land work and that any advantage they can see they’ll seize. So, when the competition starts to falter for lack of enthusiasm, that’s the very time to ramp up the effort. The same goes for rainy days, extreme cold or heat periods, and Mondays. You see the same folks who have stopped job searching in December are likely the kind who wake up, see the clouds pouring down on them and choose to roll over and go back to sleep. Again, thank you if that’s you!

Job searching IS work. It takes sustained energy and focus to successfully job search. You’ve got to have a willingness to carry on in the face of what appears to be indifference or rejection by some employer’s. All that work researching companies, targeting resumes, writing cover letters, completing online profiles and repeating this process again and again. It can certainly get discouraging. I think this is why the people who have accepted my invitation to join my group are so looking forward to the experience. You see, they’ll partner up with me; someone they believe will motivate them when they feel the urge to slow down. They’ll also be supported by their fellow job seekers, and enthusiasm my reader is contagious!

If it’s true that attitude determines your altitude, we’re aiming high. We aren’t hoping to get interviews and jobs; we’re EXPECTING to get interviews and jobs! You see, the belief I plan to share and instil is the same belief I’ve always held; if we create strong resumes, quality resumes and improve upon our interview skills, the chances of success rise – substantially. If we then work to improve on our quantity of quality applications, our chances of success rise substantially again. Quality first, followed by quantity.

But you can do your part to help us along. If you’re a job seeker yourself, take the month off; nobody is hiring anyway right? If you’re an Employment Coach or Counsellor, suggest your clients ease back on the job search and conserve their energy for the new year; nobody is hiring anyway right?

Of course this advice is entirely tongue in cheek. If nobody is hiring, why then are there jobs being advertised? Do you think companies advertise just to falsely get people’s hopes up? That they have too much time on their hands and want to conduct interviews for jobs that don’t exist just to meet people? No of course not! They are advertising jobs because they have a need for qualified and enthusiastic employees.

Remember this basic truth; if they advertise a job, THEY have a need. Sure you need a job, but they need an employee. It’s not all desperation on your part and no stress at their end. They have to find someone and it can’t be just anybody. They are looking at hiring the right someone, and this is where your research comes in. Present yourself as the right candidate.

Of course, if you were looking for a sign that you shouldn’t bother looking for work until 2020, take this blog as your sign. Pack it in, put on, “White Christmas” and cover yourself up with that warm throw.