Projecting Expectations On Others


I caught myself yesterday in the act of projecting my own expectations of someone on to them instead of solely celebrating their achievement. It wasn’t a major gaffe, and it didn’t create any friction but that was only because I recognized what I was doing and changed my response. Maybe you’ve done something similar to this too.

You see, I am co-facilitating a brand-new initiative where I work; a one-week only, quick dive into the basics of job searching. My co-worker and I created this and have given it the name, Job Search Fundamentals. We invited 12 people in receipt of social assistance to partake; some are post-secondary students off for the summer and returning to school in September, and others are just looking for full or part-time employment. This program also bridges between two other programs we run, a three-week workshop looking at what employers want these days and a two-week intensive job search program with higher expectations that not everyone is necessarily up to.

One participant came highly referred by a colleague of mine. She’d taken an Office Administration program for 18 weeks prior to this week, as she had recognized that to compete successfully for employment, she’d need to upgrade her skills. Yes, she’s a smart one. Anyhow, she came highly referred and after having met her on the first day, I could immediately see why. She did all the small things that mark someone as ready, professional and committed to their ultimate success.

She constantly takes notes, writing down key information shared. Where others nod their heads and show they are listening keenly, she’s doing that and documenting what’s being shared with her because honestly, no one is going to remember all the gems shared with them as new ones come at them all day long. She smiles, laughs, engages with her fellow classmates, asks questions, has excellent eye contact with us as facilitators and most importantly, when it’s time to work independently, she has demonstrated a consistent ability to take what’s shared with her and then implement those new ideas into her own work. She’s in my so-called top 5 I suppose of people who have made a lasting, positive impression on me; she’s that good.

Yesterday her commitment to finding employment paid off. She received a call and stepped out of class and when she came back in, she was in a state of absolute jubilation. “I just got a job! I’m so excited!”, she said. Everyone was happy for her. Turns out this job she got was with a private education centre, where she’ll be working three days a week starting in September 2019. Between now and then, there will be some training in late May and early June before they recess for the summer. This was a job she was really hoping for among those she has been applying to.

Now me? As much as I’m happy for her, I couldn’t help but think, it’s only part-time and it doesn’t start until September. She can do better. While it pays more than minimum wage, the salary isn’t going to get her and her two children off of assistance; not without an increase down the road or additional hours at any rate. In seconds, I asked her then if her plan was to exit the program after only the three days, or was she going to complete the remaining two day and look for a second position to create more hours overall or find perhaps a better job that starts sooner, with full-time hours and higher income. She decided to remain and finish out the week with us to everyone’s delight.

So, there I was, wanting more for her; seeing more potential in her, knowing she could win herself a position with more hours, higher pay, benefits, etc. I even started to share this with her – removed from the group where we discussed the details of the job. And then, I caught myself. I was in the act of projecting my expectations for her on to her; trying to get her to see things as I saw them. It was like I was saying, “I’m not as excited as you are… you can do better.”

Luckily, I stopped and changed my mindset. While I know some of her life’s journey to date, maybe this is exactly what she needs and all she can handle at the moment. It may be perfect for her, allow her the summer with her two children, and have this job to look forward to in the fall when they return to school. Maybe as she gets into the role, she will indeed want more, gain confidence in her abilities and with this job on her future resume, compete better for a job that does indeed have her realize her financial independence for good. In other words, in her time, not my time. It’s her life, not her life as scripted by Kelly Mitchell; well-meaning and meaning-to-be-helpful me. So yes, I’m excited for her and thrilled to see the way she shared that excitement for the others around her to join in because jubilation is contagious.

I share my experience as a reminder to us all. We may want more for those we see great potential in. It serves us well to celebrate progress in others, be aware of our own expectations and avoid imposing or projecting them on others.  

The Expectation of Hope


Think about the services and or goods you offer your customers or clients. Every one of the people who choose to receive what you offer do so in the expectation that what they get fulfills a need or want. In short, they hope that you can deliver on a promise and their expectation will either be fulfilled or left wanting. Never forget this.

The greater the hopes of the person with whom you interact, the greater the responsibility to deliver on your service to meet and/or exceed their expectations. So think for a moment about the demographics of the people you serve. How needy or desperate are they? Have they cause to feel skeptical or perhaps even cynical about what they might receive? For many people, their trust has been taken advantage of numerous times leading up to their encounter with you. All those past negative experiences, most of which you know little or nothing about whatsoever, go a long way to explaining their obvious lack of trust in what you can deliver.

If we lose sight of this when we first encounter someone – and it’s not inconceivable that the very best of us do so from time-to-time, we might misinterpret their lack of enthusiasm for our help as being indifferent, unmotivated, disconnected or only mildly motivated at best. The actual truth may be that they are indeed seeking out help with great earnest, but when it comes to having faith and getting their hopes raised only to be dashed yet again, their cautious. No one but the person knows how many times that hope was given and abused or neglected with the care it deserved.

This is a position of trust we’ve got you and me. As a Service Provider, our client or customer is the very reason we’re in business. Treat our customers well and deliver on what we promise and we get a following. Mistreat our customers, play on their blind trust and abuse them in the process and our reputations suffer as a result. Not only our reputations by the way, but the reputation of our employer by association and this extends further out into the public domain. Hence people generalize and say things like, “All retailers are so and so, all government workers are this and that,” and eventually, “you can’t trust anyone.”

So it’s not hard to imagine that look of exasperation on their face, that smirk of disbelief, and you know you’re only getting lip service in reply to your offer of genuine help. It’s easy to misinterpret such behaviour and body language as communicating a lack of commitment or even laziness. You might wonder, “What have I done to deserve this? I’m trying my best and getting nowhere.”

Move away from your own perspective, from one you need to get out of the meeting. What’s important here is to focus on the person before you and empathize with their situation, questioning and listening with compassion to understand their perspective; all of which comes out of the sum of their past experiences. The most vulnerable of people are often the ones who trust blindly and without reservation. They innocently believe people will always work in their best interests, deliver on what they promise and do what they say they will. When that trust is betrayed and the person left wanting again and again, eventually that innocence and trust is replaced with mistrust and self-preservation.

Our responsibility then when we first meet people is to ensure that whatever we promise we can indeed deliver on. We don’t want to be yet another person that let them down, that promised something and didn’t come through on. For who knows, we may not just be “yet another person who let me down”; we just might be, “the last person who’s going to let me down – the final straw.”

People come to us with hope. They hope that we can be helpful, that we can move them forward toward whatever the goal they wish to reach is. Whether it’s a purchase made online, help determining career direction, employment advice, or help repairing a fragile relationship, they come with hope.

Don’t always expect that hope and trust are given. In some ways, the bond you forge with someone who initially presents as suspicious of your motives and holds back from fully investing their hopes in you and what you might do can be richer and far more rewarding when their trust is gained. Those initial first seeds of hope that you sow in someone’s mind can be cultivated over time to produce a lasting change; possibly even renewing their confidence and faith in believing in others.

Hope is why people even show up to meet with you and I. Oh sure they might have to come to meet some legislative requirement or ‘play the system’ to get a desired outcome. I get that. But to think they have zero hope at the same time is a mistake. Hope is a wonderful thing to possess and an even better thing to know you’ve reciprocated and delivered on. To act in such a way that supports what you’ve promised and have someone express gratitude for what you’ve done for them is a wonderful thing.

Today, think about the hope YOU represent for the people you meet with. See if this awareness in the moment changes the dialogue.

 

Feeling Pressured?


You’ve probably heard somewhere along the way that life is a journey? I imagine so, or some other analogy such as life being thought of as an adventure, etc. Whether you use the word, ‘journey’ or ‘adventure’, both suggest movement; heading from one place to another. So who is plotting the course in your travels? Is anyone behind the wheel or are you aimlessly floating along being sent off in numerous directions based on how the wind blows?

Some misconstrue this idea of Life being a journey meaning they aren’t really living unless they go out and physically travel the world. Whether you are a jet-setter visiting different time zones or countries on a regular basis or someone who has never been out of your town of birth, you’re still on that journey.

But I want to talk about things from a more personal perspective and at a different level. Forget for a moment the idea of physical travel to far away places, and let’s look at the regular day-to-day existence. In your daily life, who is calling the shots? For example why are you in the kind of work you are now, or looking for a certain kind of employment? Did you choose the job because it was expected of you by someone else? Did you make the consciousness choice on your own because it presented itself as something you wanted to do?

For many people, parents are one of our earliest guides. We take for granted they know what’s best for us, they steer us along helping us grow up. Some parents give their kids at some point the freedom to make their own choices and with that, the consequences of those decisions in order to prepare them for bigger decisions later in life. Other parents do everything for their kids and make all the decisions, which can ill-prepare those same kids as adults later on who haven’t developed those decision-making skills and the responsibility for the consequences that follow.

Conflict can happen when family members put pressure on a young adult to, “do something with your life”, and comments like, “you should have figured things out by now” made to a 21-year-old are really value judgement statements. These can be detrimental because they come across as negative assessments of the person. You haven’t figured out at 21 what you should be doing for the next 40 years therefore you are a failure; a disappointment, somehow faulty.

The same kind of feelings – not measuring up in some way – can occur when a person compares themselves to friends or other family members. “Why can’t you be more like Brenda? Brenda has a great job, she’s a real go-getter, and I hear she’s expecting!” Or the classic, “Why can’t you be more like your big brother?” Ouch. The only thing that might be worse is if you are being compared to a younger not older sibling.

In trying to please everyone you may please no one, and that can lead to poor self-esteem. If the people closest to us who know us best all see us as a disappointment and underperforming, then maybe it’s true; we are. That leap in thought is dangerous and wrong.

Your life is, well…YOUR life. I’ve always thought the role of parents is to help their children when they are young develop some life skills. In teaching their children as they grow with small decisions and consequences, exploring choices etc., they then can consider themselves to have done a good job of parenting if the children can then go out into the world and continue to take responsibility for their own choices. Certainly most parents want their children to succeed, but being successful can have many meanings.

So are you living your life or the life someone else wants for you? Are you in University or College because it was determined by someone else that you would pursue a certain career? If you enter school for one career but learn about others are you free to switch your major and go after a different degree leading to a different career or job? Would you parents approve if you announced you were going to be an Electrician instead of a Nurse?

There is in my opinion, too much pressure on young adults to have the next 30 or 40 years all mapped out. Your early years as an adult is a great time to experience many jobs, learn about work you didn’t even know existed, dream a little, try things; some that will work out and some that won’t. Even jobs that you thought you’d enjoy but find out you don’t are still valuable experiences. I really think any work you do be it paid or volunteer will at some point down your road pay off and give you a richer appreciation or understanding later in life, and that makes it useful.

Sure it’s good to talk with people: parents, guidance counsellors, career advisors, friends, teachers etc. All the advice and suggestions you’ll get could be helpful. In the end however, finding your own way – whether it’s by design or accident is still your way and it’s perfectly okay.

Trial and error, falling and getting back up, falling again, rising again, getting hired, maybe fired, rejected and accepted; that’s the journey. And if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.

 

 

 

Living Through Other People


Some parents of children are often cited as examples of where they are living or re-living a dream through their children. You’ll see a father perhaps cheering his son on in the stands at a hockey game, and while he is excited and happy for the boy, the father himself may actually be imagining himself years ago when he himself was on the ice. It can become a problem if there is pressure to excel, to train, to focus and unrealistic expectations of greatness and achievement are not shared. A child expecting just to be involved and having fun and a father expecting to be recruited for an all-star team might be on a collision course for disaster.

In the workplace, and while looking for employment, a person can also feel immense pressure to deliver and be successful; be it a meteoric rise in an organization, or a short unemployment period and having multiple job offers to choose from. On top of all the pressures of a job search, having a parent for example tell everyone how tremendous you are and how you will be employed in a matter of days, isn’t going to do anything but set you up for possible failure.

So why do some people tend to live through others? Well, in the case of a parent, it could be largely that the parent wants to see their child succeed and be happy; that makes sense. However the other element is often some resentment or frustration on the part of the parent that they themselves never made it that far. If they did excel right to the top, then it is often that they want the same for their child because they see somehow that it reflects on them, and what frustrates them as parents is that they have no control over promotions, hiring decisions or if they think the child isn’t working hard enough or doing enough to get that promotion, they demand more.

Another group of people who might be living through someone are spouses. A spouse may by association, feel that if the partner is successful, so too are they. When at a party or any social gathering, a question may come about such as, “So what does your husband or wife do?”. There may be daily pressure to get into some team at work, to again rise faster than others, to be noticed for hard work, to exceed targets and goals the company establishes etc. This pressure to be something more than what a person is may actually be the spouse living out the role themselves.

If you catch yourself from time-to-time living out your fantasies, childhood or otherwise through someone else, consider backing off. If you aren’t the one playing the game, job-hunting or attending that job interview, then remove your expectations while still being an enthusiastic cheerleader. Accept the results be they what they may for what they are, which is out of your control. A partner in a job search needs to be emotionally supported, and yes it is hoped that they are self-motivated to do their personal best to put themselves in a position to do well. However, ultimately they can research a company, practice their interview skills, look the part and still not get the job or promotion. It may be a numbers game where there are so many applicants, there was little more to do beyond what the person actually did do.

Sure go ahead and tell your partner or child that you believe in them. Tell that however too that win or lose, succeed or not at getting a specific job or promotion that you’ll still be there, you’ll still be behind them. When the pressure to excel is reduced to a healthy level, ironically there may actually be an increase in performance from the person affected. Without those lofty expectations of immediate success, and knowing that you are still loved and validated by your partner or parent one way or the other, a person can actually focus better on the job or task at hand.

So if you find yourself saying things, like, “We need this promotion”, “Sure you’re in mid-Management but I want more”, or “I can’t afford for us to be out of work any longer” and you aren’t the person whose looking for a job, recognize your aggressive behaviour that may be part of a problem and step back. There is a significant amount of pressure on job seekers everywhere to do well, to get a pay cheque, to bring home a higher income, and sometimes the extra pressure brought on by family and friends may actually be immobilizing and prevent the person from being at their best.

Everyone has their own life to live, and while a child may or may not make the decisions that you as a parent would like, you have the benefit of years of experience behind you. As a partner, you might find yourself being directly affected by the income your partner brings home (or not in the case of unemployment), but this doesn’t give you a right to apply unrelenting pressure and transfer your expectations and demands. Ideally, both partners want to contribute to a relationship by bring in income together, or in the case where one partner remains home, both contribute to the running of the household in their own way. Setting up demands on your partner may be harmful; identify where those demands are really coming from.

Cheers.

Expecting Vs. Hoping


I’m fortunate in that behind my home, there is a field that is operated by a farmer who rotates between soy and corn crops. Our home is but three years old, and I’ve been told by my wife that there is to be no development in that area for a minimum of twenty years. Apparently the reason why is that with the existing development in Lindsay where I live, the existing planned areas for homes must be completed prior to any additional building sites. Nice.

Since we moved to our home three years ago, we have been fortunate to spot deer, wild turkeys and coyotes in the field from time to time. During the winter months, the spotting of wildlife is easier against the white background of the snow instead of the Spring and Fall when things are neutral in colour and the animals camouflage themselves better. Not much point in looking in the summer as the height of any crops pretty much makes spotting shorter animals an impossibility.

I’m always looking however and hoping to spot wildlife. During the Christmas break however, I’ve decided to stop hoping to spot life and started to expect to spot it. Oddly enough, today I spotted 36 wild turkeys and one coyote in the early hours at 4:30a.m.! Now just because I expected to see wildlife doesn’t mean they all got together in the other end of the field and bush and came out just for my benefit. To think differently would be peculiar as if I had some magical control over the fate of animals to make the rounds for my sake.

However, because I expect to see wildlife, I’ve made more of an effort to look out the window, and when I’ve looked, I’ve looked with more intensity and for longer periods. Then I got to thinking, isn’t there a parallel between this activity and the art of job searching? You bet there is.

What a difference between just hoping to get a job and actually expecting to get a job. The difference in this case, much like my decision to look more intently for wildlife, is to put more effort into the job search because the results are expected. This involves a shift in mental energy and sets up personal expectations for favourable results that I believe I have the power in influencing. Put in a concentrated effort with some enthusiasm and energy, and the likelihood of a positive result is heightened rather than just hoping to get a job.

Doesn’t it even sound more assertive and confident to say, “I expect to be hired shortly” instead of, “I hope to be hired shortly”? Of course if you don’t ACT with confidence and do the required work, just saying you expect to be hired won’t work any better than rubbing a lamp and hoping for a magical Genie to appear and grant you three wishes. (By the way, if this actually DOES work, I’ve never heard of anyone wasting their three wishes by wishing to have a job!).

When you are talking with other people, for example an Employment Counsellor like myself, using this kind of assertive language is like a breath of fresh air. Tell me you expect to be hired shortly and I’m more motivated to put forth some effort to match your positive attitude, and even this is multiplied if you Demonstrate via your behaviour that you are doing what it takes to land interviews and succeed in doing them well.   

I worked helping a woman this past year who hoped to get hired. She had skills, attitude, looks, but needed help crafting her resume and cover letter. She had pretty decent interview skills too, but there were two questions she answered with anxiety and it showed. Now once she opened herself up to accepting help and we pinpointed where she could improve her overall image, she walked into the room one morning and you know what she said? No kidding, she said, “I expect to get an interview today, I’m done with just hoping”.

Now in her case it took another two months before she landed the interview and as I suspected, once she actually got the interview, she landed the job the following day. Hers was a competitive field where not too many jobs are actually advertised so it may not take as long in your case depending on what you are going after, but the point is her attitude shifted, and the results followed.

Do you hope to get hired in 2013 or do you expect to get hired in 2013? If you answered that you hope to get hired, think about making this slight change in wording and then act differently the way someone would if they actually expected it. If you answered that you expect to be hired in 2013, you’ve got to now start working harder to get your applications out on a more consistent daily basis and with better presentation.

Do your homework and research companies, network more, set up meetings, apply for jobs daily, do a single resume for every single job you apply to, and make a cover letter that is powerful as your marketing tools should be. Get out and badger an Employment Counsellor. Set up a meeting with an Employment Counsellor, walk in and introduce yourself with confidence, head held up, hand extended for a firm handshake and say, “Hi, my name is ______________ _____________, I’m expecting your very best today, and you in turn can count on me to do whatever you suggest to improve my job searching. I expect to be hired in the near future with your assistance!”