Heading Back And Moving Forward


When the Covid-19 pandemic first starting gaining traction and gaining world-wide awareness, I recall resolving to abstain from blogging about it. First and foremost, I felt it was so prominent in the news, that this coupled with social media adding to the information already out there could potentially create fatigue in readers saturated with too much on the receiving end.

Now however, as many organizations recall or prepare to transition their staff back to workplaces, I feel the climate might be right for a read. While many have talked about a return to what once was deemed, ‘normal’, I personally rather feel that our, “getting back to work” might look very different. I’m just not sure in all cases if what becomes our new, ‘normal’ will be recognizable as what we’ve experienced and how we’ve gone about work in the past. 

It is clear that some businesses were forced to adapt how they moved their services and products into the hands of their customers. For many, this meant creating webpages, learning how to conduct transactions online, discovering anew how to market themselves and yes, go find their customers who in the past were the ones finding them. For many, I gather this was not such a bad thing whatsoever. In fact, some business owners have said they knew the need was there to explore online marketing or sales, and the pandemic gave them the push needed to adapt rather than fold.

Employees who were fortunate to keep their jobs during the worst days of the pandemic had in many respects, the greatest adjustments to make. For those who worked in the community in face-to-face contact with the public, their customers or clients and guests, this meant using personal protective equipment. Where that used to conjure up images of someone in a nuclear power plant or working in a lab, it meant ordinary folks were donning masks, face shields, using hand sanitizer frequently, refraining from getting within 6 feet of others, and sneezing into crooked elbows and all the while refraining from touching their faces. Did you notice just how often we reflexively touch our faces?

For the employees who suddenly found themselves working from home, there too was adjustments. There were Zoom, Teams, Skype and Ring Central Meetings to learn about. There were webinars and online team meetings to attend, renovations to be made so space became private and business appropriate. There were children passing in and out of camera views, tails of cats suddenly walking by online and dogs heard barking off screen who needed to be taken out and let back in. A knock on the door became a true event of curiosity and excitement; after all, we were in the belly of a pandemic and people just weren’t supposed to be out and about.

Some business thrived though. Courier vehicles delivering packages started making more than the odd appearance – dare I say daily as I observed. Amazon and Wayfair simply buzzed with activity and many chose to avoid going in supermarkets altogether and simply ordered their food in advance and waited in their vehicles for personal shoppers to bring out their purchases. That $3 or $5 fee for the service might have initially seemed an extravagance, but compare that to the many dollars saved when not buying impulse items. Personal Shoppers and Covid Checkers outside businesses were jobs that came about only because of the pandemic.

And now, we contemplate or have already begun the business of returning to work. How are you feeling about that transition? I remember John, Paul, George and Ringo first singing all those years ago, “Get back! Get back! Get back to where you once belonged.”  Odd how we might feel trepidation or anxiety the first few times we get back. The problem is that some people will immediately revert to handshakes and hugs while others will be cautious and adhere to social distancing. What do you do when someone shouts your name and walks over briskly with their arms open wide? What do you do if you’re the one looking for a hug and a previous hugger suddenly holds up a hand and says, “Whoa! What are you thinking?” 

And this is where Management teams have to assert themselves and both educate their workers as well as set the standards themselves. If and when people ignore the health standards and requirements, just like any other health and safety offence, a conversation and/or discipline has to follow. 

Maybe that’s the understanding we all have to have; right now, shaking hands, hugging, choosing not to wear your mask properly – these are similar to not wearing your steel-toed boots or tying off your safety harness. The only difference being you get in a nail in your own foot or you fall and kill yourself. When you don’t wear your mask or don’t respect distancing, you potentially harm not only yourself, you potentially harm co-workers, their families and anyone they come into contact with. 

People’s feelings are to be respected and are valid, no question. When one’s beliefs don’t align with others, in this instance you turn to science and experts; not the kind you find in a random online search, but subject matter professionals. 

When back in the workplace, my hope for us all is that we feel safe, secure and respected; whatever our new normal becomes.

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!

 

Job Searching During Covid-19


Looking for work under normal circumstances is challenging. There’s resumes and cover letters to write, people to find and network with, interviews to prepare for and attend, traveling costs, phone calls to make and of course lots of time spent in front of a computer monitor trying to find the right jobs in the first place. That sounds like an exhausting process to undertake – especially when exactly how long you’ll be in job search mode isn’t known.

Now throw in the Covid-19 pandemic. Remember when it was just beginning? Nobody knew (or knows) exactly the length of time this pandemic would or will run. Will it be over by the end of this year or drag on well into 2021?

Living through 2020 hasn’t been easy for most people. Even if you’ve remained healthy, you’ve been forced to make changes to your every day routines. Shopping more online and using curbside pickups, having dental and optical appointments postponed, seeing your doctor over a computer monitor, more home cooking and far less eating out. And missing family. With every change, there’s a hit to your mental health; just another small stressor that forces you to adapt from your norm.

It’s scary for many to think of job searching at the best of times. If you’ve lost your job in 2020 however, you’ve likely felt it harder to reverse your fortunes and find employment. Why? Well, you either fear exposing yourself to people you don’t know who could transmit the virus to you, or you’ve had to learn how to meet and be interviewed over a computer screen.

Having had conversations with some unemployed people, I’ve found some put off the job search in the Spring because they thought the pandemic would be over quick. Why risk exposure? Then it dragged into the summer and these unemployed people ‘took the summer off’ to enjoy what they could. Don’t judge them too harshly; it may have preserved their mental health. With the rising numbers now in the fall, those same out-of-work folks are writing off 2020 entirely and looking to job search in 2021.

Some readers will feel that these unemployed people are likely the kind of people who are looking for excuses not to job search; and the pandemic is convenient. Like I mentioned earlier though, I can understand that protecting one’s mental health as well as one’s physical health is what they feel they are doing. To be blunt, people have died; a lot of people have died. Being out of work is pretty small compared with exposing oneself to a deadly virus and leaving loved ones behind for a new job at minimum wage.

Yet, despite the world-wide pandemic, people are looking for and finding work; employers are still advertising, interviewing and bringing new employees on board. The prudent thing is to be responsible and smart as you job search or hire. Take the time to look and you’ll see business owners being extremely mindful of increasing their safety measures. Hand sanitizer and facial masks are the new norms now, as is the 6 foot distancing rule. Handshakes are out, and while it’s taken some getting used to, we demonstrate that we are in fact a higher species when we adapt without exaggerating, “how simply impossibly inconvenient” these new norms are.  Those that complain about having to put on a mask to enter a store to shop for 10 minutes should try working as an employee and wearing a mask for a 7 hour shift.

Job seekers have had to learn how to use Zoom, Teams or Skype and mobile phones are no longer luxuries but mandatory items of business. Working remotely has happened in companies where it would not have been thought possible less than 6 month’s ago. Adapt or go under.

Those who do job search at this time are doing so in innovative ways, networking via LinkedIn and WhatsApp. Can you imagine the problems we’d all have had the pandemic hit when we had no cell phones? It sounds ironic and odd, but in some ways I believe we’re closer to people than we were before the pandemic. Truly, we care more, we reach out more and we collaborate more in remote team meetings etc.

Maybe we’re healthier too? With less cars on the road, maybe we get out to ride bikes or take walks more often. Maybe we take in the sun in our backyards while in team meetings rather than sitting congregated in office spaces without windows.

There are advantages to seize if you’re job searching if you look for them. When you are interviewed, you can have all kinds of resources on your desk that you couldn’t take to an interview. You’re in the sanctity of your own home and you never have to worry about wind-blown hair or excessively sweating in scorching sun before arriving for your interview.

You have to decide for yourself when it’s the right time for you to job search. Just saying, “Not now when there’s a pandemic” isn’t good enough though, because people – a lot of people – are having success doing so. Whether it’s right for you personally is another thing and it’s okay if now isn’t the right time. On the other hand, being safe as you job search has always been good advice whatever the year and whatever the circumstances.

Take care people.

 

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.

Victims And Their Predators


Yes I suppose I’m upset, but more accurately, I’m disappointed; again.

I’m sad too, because once more, some good people have every reason to become cold and hard. Most are women – but there are men too; the victims of abuse. I ask you read on.

Why oh why I ask myself again and again are some people so intent on ruining the self-esteem, confidence and self-perception of others? Why is it that small people determinedly go out of their way to elevate themselves in sick, disturbing and twisted ways by intentionally diminishing others? What makes some people pour their energy into financially, emotionally, sexually and physically hurting and exploiting others?

Her name could be Sandra, Delores, Kelly, Cindy, Fatima, Tatiana or any other. She could be living in poverty, entrenched in the middle class or among the well-to-do. She just might have a degree or her Masters, dropped out before getting her high school diploma or be back in an adult education classroom. Her height, weight, eye or hair colour don’t define her, nor the country of her birth, the family she calls her own. She is at the same time anyone and everyone; your next door neighbour, the person you share the bus with, the driver in the next lane, the co-worker you admire for her good work habits. She could be your daughter; and you could be entirely unaware. And not be excluded, his name could be Dan, Keith, Jordan, etc. with the same realities as those above.

I’ll tell you this: he or she didn’t deserve what’s happened. She didn’t ask for it, he didn’t seek it out, neither one is in the least deserving of being on the receiving end of an abusive relationship. Let’s make it personal. YOU; yes you, you are blameless. You deserve better; you’re worthy and your not at fault. What you looked for, what you thought you’d found, wasn’t the abusive, manipulative relationship you ended up in. Those emotional beatings you’ve been on the receiving end of are just as real, just as devastating as a physical assault.

So what’s prompted this? Well, as you’d have guessed, once again, I’ve encountered victims of abuse; suffering at the hands of their past and current partners. What do these predatory men who’ve inflicted this abuse on these people have in common? Here’s their description:

  •  They are polite, well-spoken, charming and well-mannered
  •  They introduced themselves as caring and loving
  •  They discouraged contact with the victims friends
  •  They separated the victim from receiving help/support
  •  They went too far, apologized, said it would never happen again
  •  They bought gifts, they came smartly dressed
  •  They keep the victim guessing, on their guard and nervous
  •  They set impossible standards, demean and shame

Recognize anyone you know? These are the fellows who can charm parents of the victim into actually taking their side, who act and sound remorseful when it suits their needs and punish, pummel and humiliate when they are in the mood for, ‘fun’. These abusers dash hopes routinely, snoop through purses, get their mutual friends convinced they are the, ‘good’ one. These are the ones that turn kids against the victim; making it out that the victim is to blame for the fights, the arguments, the separations, the divorces. They are often extremely intelligent, convincing, likable and their greatest skill is manipulation. You might even like them very much yourself and come to doubt the truth of the victim’s claims.

I’m working closely with two victims of abuse at the moment. We’re looking to move forward with interviews that will lead to employment offers. I’ve only a small glimpse of the abuse suffered and endured. I’m hurting for them – and I’m not being trite – I’m being serious. But my hurt is absolutely nothing in comparison to theirs and please don’t think I’m suggesting it is.

What I see is two beautiful people both inside and out. They’ve got a lot to offer potential employers. They are bright, intelligent, well-spoken, educated, have superior interpersonal skills and… they are fragile, damaged, but not for a moment are they anything less than amazing and deserving.

What they want; what they deserve is decent jobs and stable, caring, meaningful relationships in true reciprocating partnerships. What annoys me and saddens me is when good people – strike that – beautiful people become jaded and hardened towards the world; when they distrust (with reason) others and miss the very healthy and secure, loving relationships they so crave. Those abusive, small-minded, evil abusers at that point have won.

If you know an abusive individual, stop pretending they aren’t doing any harm. Distance yourself from them and call them out. Abusers don’t like being in the light. If you know a victim, offer support, believe them and stand with them. Be a good ambassador for humankind. At this point, more abusers are male, more victims female. If you’re a male, you’ve got an onus to be one of the good guys; to keep alive the slim glimmer of hope for some woman that good men, while hard to find, are still out there. This is especially true if you’re in a position of authority and work with vulnerable populations. It falls to all of us however to be decent.

If you’re moved by this, impacted by this, add your voice. A like, a thumbs up, a comment. Let us stand together.

You’ve Been Fired. Now What?


So you’ve been fired. Two questions if I may. Did you see it coming or was a complete shock? Secondly, does it come as a relief now that you’re no longer employed or would you go back there if you could? These two questions are important because both get at where your mind is my friend, and your thinking is probably not at it’s clearest right now.

Sometimes you see it coming as a distinct possibility or probability. It still stings when it happens of course, but it was looming. Maybe it was a poor performance review or a warning. Could be you hadn’t got past probation or weren’t hitting sales targets. In any event, the writing was on the wall and you even started taking personal possessions home with you in anticipation of this very thing. If this is your situation, you could even feel a sense of relief because the strain of going to work and wondering if this would be the day they let you go has been mentally exhausting.

On the other hand, when things are going well, you’re well-liked and you feel blindsided by your firing, it can stop you cold. In fact, you’ll feel pretty numb with the news, in severe shock and disbelief. When caught off guard, you’re at risk of soon doubting anything and everything around you because you don’t want to be similarly surprised again. This isn’t a healthy attitude but it’s an understandable reaction to the news.

We’re built different you know; some of us would just get back out there the next day, while for others, a lengthy period needs to elapse before starting to look for work again. The length of this period will depend on 4 things: 1) whether you see this parting as an opportunity, 2) if it was anticipated as a possibility, probability or complete blindside 3) the length of employment, 4) your personal resources and supports.

When the news first hits you’ll undoubtedly have felt shock. A few seconds earlier, you were an employee and now you’re not. There’s that, “What to do?” feeling as the news is received. Sometimes you get the news outside of work; a phone call, email, text etc. This might sound unbelievable to some of you, but yes, a text. More often, it’s in person. There’s the dreaded walk out and you’re not only dealing with this terrible news, you live this walk of shame by your now former colleagues without the chance to slip out quietly.

Maybe though, this job was actually getting in the way of you moving forward. It was holding you back because it was comfortable. This parting is somewhat liberating and needed but resigning is something you likely wouldn’t have done on your own. In such a case, your mind can turn to what’s ahead more readily than others perhaps. Now you can get back to the field you were trained in or turn to something you’ve always wanted to do but couldn’t because you had this job you had to go to every day. And if you really disliked the work you did, it was a long commute, the co-workers weren’t anything you’ll miss etc., yes, it can be liberating.

Generally speaking, most people need a mental break. While being unemployed isn’t what you’d choose, rushing out to get a job the same day somewhere else may not be the best action. It’s important to balance your need for income and purpose with your need to clear your mind. Any feelings of bitterness, anger, revenge, failure, sorrow and regret need to come out and be addressed. You my friend, need a period of grieving for your loss. Depending on your financial health and resources, you might need to immediately tighten your belt and think twice about all your purchases. Then again, some people have been known to take a vacation and realign their frame of mind.

So many factors now to consider. Where are you on the age spectrum? Is not working at all as you’re so close to retirement attractive? How’s your health? Is this something you can now concentrate on improving? Are you the only income earner or do you have a secondary source of income that can soften this blow?

Yes you’ll want to update the resume but before you do this, it’s rather important to know whether you’re competing in the same field for a similar role elsewhere or are you heading in a new direction and therefore need to overhaul the focus of your resume?

Something to consider is who to tell. Many don’t want friends, former colleagues and family to know. Keeping silent until you land a job might either protect your dignity or result in missed opportunities. The sooner people know you’re looking and what you’re looking for, the greater the likelihood that your network might come up with opportunities to explore.

Some general advice then? Eat healthy, get some regular exercise – even a morning and afternoon walk to clear your mind. Avoid turning to drugs and alcohol as an escape. Do little things that will make you feel good; even doing the dishes can ease your mind when you look at the kitchen.  Make sure you apply immediately for any employment benefits you may be entitled to as they start when you apply, NOT when you stopped working.

Lose bitterness; it’s not attractive. This too shall pass.

Work No Longer What It Once Was?


Call it running on autopilot or coasting on cruise control, the stimulation you used to feel when the job was challenging has disappeared. When you’re talking with friends and family, you’re heard telling them you could do this job with your eyes closed and one arm tied behind your back. When you first felt this way, it was a statement of bravado and self-assurance, but more and more, well, it’s become mundane and easy.

It seems like you’re never completely satisfied. I mean in the past there seemed so much to know and you struggled to master all the information required to be really good at your job. You wondered how those co-workers around you knew so much and performed so well. Suddenly though, you became one; now you’re the go-to person who effortlessly sails through the day, never really having any drastic lows or highs. You’re dependable, productive and instead of using your head to increase your intelligence of the job, you’re using all your mental energy just to get through the days. It’s not that it’s hard to do the job, but it’s exhausting when you keep hoping and looking for additional challenges and find there’s none to be had.

Now you’re in this dilemma aren’t you? You know, the old problem of choosing to either stay in this comfortable role you’ve got with a decent income and some security, or to step out into the stimulating world of job searching once again for something better. Hmm… security vs. stimulation. Autopilot vs. sanity.

I bet by now you’ve already had the little voices in your head whispering conflicting thoughts. “We can’t leaves; obligations we has.” “Stay we must; easy it is, nasty job searches – hates them we does!” You’re inner Gollum has taken route and when there’s nothing around you but the silence, the conflicting differences of opinion and positions keeps whispering. How’d you get here you wonder?

It really does come down to a matter of choice. It may eventually come down to whether or not you stay in this current job or whether you leave for another employer. However, before those become your only options, are there other possibilities at work? If you could transfer to another department, take on another role in your own area such as cross training or maybe even develop a new job position to present to Management, would that be possible? If you could do any of these things, you’d maintain your security, pension, seniority, vacation entitlements and of course income, but you’d feel rejuvenated and stimulated anew.

It’s not possible for me sitting where I am to know if any or some of the above are options for you in your workplace with your specific circumstances. Creating your own job when it doesn’t exist in the organization you currently work in might be an option you’d not thought of. Not only is the idea of doing something new a spark, but the energy required to conceptualize what this new role might be, prepare yourself to present and defend it to Human Resources or Senior Management and then extol the virtues of how it will positively impact on the bottom line could be exhilarating. If you only go to your boss and ask them what they’d say to you inventing a new job for yourself, it’s likely to go nowhere.

Like I said above, it may or may not be possible in your work to transfer to some other area. If you’re a welder and the whole company is 3 of you, there might not be any movement possible.

You might also be a person who has been doing the same job for twenty years or more, and feel that this job you’ve come to master is all you know. Reinventing yourself at this point might be too much of a challenge; returning to school, re-training, having to come up with money for all that and then facing a job search without the security of knowing you’d be hired. Are you worrying about that infamous dilemma, “Who’d hire me when I finished school at my age?”

It’s scary isn’t it? This problem of whether to stay in a job that’s easy but consuming yourself or venture out with great uncertainty; being afraid that whatever you choose will be the wrong choice. Consider that it’s going to be a struggle either way though. You’re either going to struggle coming into work knowing you lack the courage to do something about your fading self, or you’re going to berate yourself because one day you’re going to look back at this point in time and regret you lacked the courage to take a leap of faith.

Perhaps it’s the very lack of a guarantee that you should be thankful for. I mean, that’s part of the stimulation, the invigorating feeling you get from self-determination and creating your next chapter. Yes, you’ll have setbacks, barriers, challenges, raised expectations and disappointments. You may just feel alive again too, find a new identity and come to admire yourself for having the required courage to take a chance and risk your life on something better.

I’m certainly not going to tell which is best because I don’t know what your existing skills and education are, what you’re considering, what you’re gambling on and how stuck you are at the moment. But I do know somebody who knows all these…you.

My Advice: Hold Off Job Searching


Sounds like odd advice from an Employment Counsellor to give on the surface of it doesn’t it; putting your search for a job on hold. Yet quite often, that’s the advice I give some of the people I meet with.

Now if you’re employed and see yourself first and foremost as a taxpayer and believe that everyone in receipt of social assistance should be completely investing 100% of their time looking to work, my apologies. There are some situations in which I believe looking for a job is not only ill-advised, it can set someone back tremendously from finding employment in the long haul.

Take yesterday as an example. For two weeks, I instructed a dozen people in the basics of using the computer. I’m talking basics here; using it to make an email, learning how to access the internet, find employment opportunities, make a resume, apply for work with that resume. We did more as well, but I like to instruct with practicality in mind, so as most were unemployed, why not learn the basics of the digital world and at the same time, showing them how competing for employment these days requires computer skills? Anyhow, there I was yesterday, seated with one of the participants from that class, doing a follow up appointment.

Typically, I plan on giving someone feedback on what I observed over those two weeks, encourage them and point out moments of success and accomplishment. However, I threw all that out the window yesterday when this one woman came in and we sat down in my office. She was 15 minutes late, and said she had almost decided not to come in for the scheduled meeting. Two developments on the day before our meeting occurred; she was contacted by her Doctor who said she must meet immediately with her to share results of some medical tests and her 13 year old daughter was committed to a hospital for a few days after telling her own Doctor that she was thinking about killing herself.

Suddenly, giving feedback on computer skills and talking about using these new skills to job search seemed entirely inappropriate. Of greater importance in that moment was listening, supporting and responding to her disclosure, her fears of what her Doctor knows and must share in person immediately and her own daughter’s thoughts of ending her life. At a time like this, the focus on receiving, comprehending and processing these two major life events supersedes any encouragement to get out and get a job.

Besides, if you believe that she’d be able to effectively job search at the present moment, I’d venture you’re views are based in ideology and not practical reality. Do I think governments always get this? No. I suspect when they look at stats, they focus solely on how many people start a program, how many finish and how long it takes someone to find employment after taking a program to determine its effectiveness. Numbers don’t tell the whole story; not by a long shot.

“Will I get in trouble for not looking for a job though?” she asked. So I took an hourglass from my desk and flipped it over, letting the blue sand fall. “You only have so much energy. Right now, your focus and energy is on receiving your own diagnosis and whatever implications that holds. As a caring mom who has a daughter in crisis, the two of you have a lot to work through, you’re probably blaming yourself and you’re scared. You just got two extremely upsetting events on the same day. Forget the job search for now; you won’t be in trouble.” She looked at that blue sand accumulating in the bottom half and said seeing how the top was emptying was how she felt.

Near the end of our meeting, she told me how glad she was that she’d decided to come because she’d considered staying at home. There she was, expressing gratitude to me for making her feel better. It’s pretty humbling to hear someone in the midst of heightened anxiety and trauma be so genuinely kind and thoughtful. When she left she hugged me; we hugged each other. Somewhere in that simple act, some of her fear melted into me, and some compassion for her suffering flowed from me to her.

Do you really believe she should be focusing 100% on looking for work? Do you really think I – anyone for that matter – who counsels and supports people looking for work should pressure her into making a job search her first priority? And where I now wonder does any government making funding decisions and program cut decisions factor in this kind of experience?

I tell you this, were I that woman, receiving these two pieces of information, I’d sure be grateful to meet with a compassionate, understanding and patient person. Yesterday I was fortunate to be that guy, but this is not about me. I believe there are people with equally, even better responses everywhere, having similar experiences daily.

Something as simple as removing an expectation of finding work and assuring them they won’t have their benefits suspended, can do far more good in the long run by building a trusting, human connection. For who is equipped to deal with either of these situations let alone two on the same day?

So yes, put aside the job search; there are times when it’s not priority #1.

And your thoughts?

Awkward Or Weak First Impression? Relax!


Are you an Employment or Job Coach? At some point you’ve likely said to those you’re supporting, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” If you’re in the regular practice of saying this to those you help, please stop. You’re unknowingly doing more harm than good; much more harm. I grant your intentions are nothing but well-intended, but your words have the potential to have dire consequences; you’re setting those you work with up to fail.

I used to buy in to the extreme importance of making an excellent first impression myself, whether it was at a job interview or starting a new job with a lot of people to meet and get to know. Like you, my intentions were always good. So I’d pass along the typical advice for making a good impression. Have a firm but not overpowering handshake, make direct eye contact, smile, be aware of your body language, etc. Like I’ve said, all well-intended and pretty standard advice.

Those I work with confess to being nervous when I’m coaching them for some upcoming meeting. Typically it’s a job interview or meeting someone who they believe might be in a position to advance their employment possibilities. They may be quite comfortable and self-assured in many situations, but as the butterflies in their stomachs begin to take flight seconds before and into a first meeting, so too in many cases does their growing anxiety. And in 2019, a LOT of people have anxiety, so it’s incumbent on us to respond to this.

All it takes is a slight stumble in that first meeting; a pregnant pause in replying to a question they’ve been asked, sweating excessively, arriving 2 minutes later than planned for, incorrectly pronouncing the name of the interviewer and feeling an overcoming urge to apologize; it’s then that it hits them. They suddenly remember the wise advice you gave them as you sent them off brimming with confidence; “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.” So what are they now thinking? “Ah great! What’s the point of even continuing then? I’ve already blown it! I might as well just apologize for wasting their time and try better somewhere else.”

The thing is, you aren’t there to help ground them, tell them they can re-group and still save the interview. If you were a fly on the wall and you had the power to freeze time, you could stop the moment you picked up on their facial expression that they are in distress and you could coach them through this momentary attack of low self-confidence, then unfreeze time and they’d perform better. But you lack these special powers and you’re not there. You can’t see what those you help actually look like, you can’t observe first-hand their performance, and so all you have to go on when you assess how things went and how to improve is their own recollection of events. And, surprisingly, this person you’re helping who was actually there, may be not all that aware of how things went wrong and how they looked, because their mind was on performing well.

Take heart though. I’m offering up something I feel is a better message to send that they may find far more helpful. It’s the last impression rather than the first, that is the most significant. The way I see and understand things now is that the first impression covers the first 30 seconds or so of an encounter. A face-to-face meeting or interview may go anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, and so there’s all that time beyond the first 30 seconds to either confirm or change that first impression.

Now I’m not suggesting we dismiss the value of first impressions. No, I still extol the importance of making as good a first impression as possible. However, it’s the last impression people remember more. You know the saying, “What have you done for me lately”? It means that although you may have performed well in the past (possibly an early or first impression), it’s recent performance that matters more at this moment, (the lasting impression).

This advice gives a person reason to hope when things don’t get off to a perfect start. There’s lots of time to ‘save’ a first meeting. In fact, actually saying, “Gee I’m sorry, let me start again” may be the reboot someone needs to launch an answer with confidence instead of bumbling along and fretting over a miscue. If the whole point of a job interview is to market oneself to the needs of an employer, you unknowingly put a massive amount of pressure on those you support when you send the message that those first 30 seconds will make or break the opportunity.

So instead of rehearsing some elevator pitch to the extreme, what will they say to leave a lasting, positive impression? Based on what they heard as they listened, what opportunity can they pick up on and what will they say that shows enthusiasm for wanting to be a part of the solution?

First impressions are important but the last impression is more important as the final impression is entire summation of the time together. If it started well, excellent; keep it going. However if it started awkwardly, relax, breathe deeply and concentrate on the remaining time together rather than worrying about how things started, which is beyond your control.

 

3 Problems To Resolve


In my role as an Employment Counsellor, I’ve looked over job postings for literally thousands of various careers and jobs over the years; thousands that is, with no exaggeration.

One thing that I’ve noticed when looking at the qualifications required to be successful in the majority of these postings is the need to bring problem solving skills. While some postings leave it at that, others give clues as to how they want them handled. With key words such as, ‘tactfully’, ‘quickly resolve’ and, ‘troubleshoot’ included in the job description, they provide us with key words to use when constructing the application resume and during interviews.

And so it is that I introduce those in my job search classes to three problems, which I share with you here today. My goal in doing so, is to observe how the participants address each one as they work in small groups. I pay close attention to not just the resolution, but listen carefully as they discuss and share with each other their own thoughts. It’s these thoughts and possible courses of action that help me best understand what a person is thinking and how that thinking stands up with the others, is dismissed or accepted, built on or ignored.

So, while I can’t do the same with you my reader, I present them nonetheless. You might find the problems here mundane, easily resolved or tricky. Let me tell you that each one here is a real life situation for someone I partnered with. For each, what would you do?

Problem 1

You wake up and realize you slept through the alarm. You’re 45 minutes later than usual, the car doesn’t have enough gas to get you to work and you’ve got $3.75 in change. The top you’ve put on has a mustard stain, the dog needs to be fed and just threw up on the kitchen floor. Oh and yes, that is a cold sore next to your lip. Welcome to day 3 on your new job.

Problem 2

It’s like the person next to you in your new job hates you and wants you to fail. They ignore you at best, give you incorrect information and tell you flat out that you aren’t wanted there. For this problem, consider not only what you would do, but what might be going on with that coworker which is causing the hostility.

Problem 3

After accepting a position and working for 4 days, you get a new job offer from one of the positions you previously interviewed for. This new offer is slightly more money, has no benefits, is 20 minutes further to commute to one way, and could provide more advancement. Your first 4 days have gone really well by the way.  For this problem, what are the factors you weigh and if you decide to stay, what do you tell the employer with the new offer? If you decide to take the new offer, what do you say to the employer you’re working for now?

Okay, so how did you do?

Problem 1

If you rely on a device to wake you on time, always set a second one. In this situation, that will help going forward but not at the moment. You’re late. First thing is to know the policy and practice of your employer. In some, you have to speak in person with your boss or another supervisor. In others, an absent line will do. Immediately report in when you arrive, explain yourself, apologize and offer to make up the time. Change the top or add a light sweater/jacket. Get the dog out while doing the above and while some have cleaned up after the dog, others have said they’d let it sit there until they came home. No comment! As for getting to work, when you have no gas, bus fare one way might work if transit is available. Can you call on family, a friend, a neighbour? Can you take a cab, share a ride, carpool?

Problem 2

If things start off this badly, it’s more about them than anything you’ve said or done. “Can we talk?” might be a good approach and then gently tell the person how you feel and ask what’s going on as you want this to work. If you get a resolution, good. If not, and only now, escalate your concerns. In this case, what was really happening was the long-term employee had hoped a personal friend of hers would get the job and they didn’t. Talking it out was healthy, the person apologized for their behaviour and they actually became great co-workers.

Problem 3

There’s incomplete information in this problem. Are you getting benefits now? What are the two jobs and are either of them a dream job? How much money are we talking about? Still, you’ve got a decision. The key is to preserve the relationship with the employer you turn down. Don’t for example, just stop going into work and refuse to answer their phone calls. If you do leave, make it clear you stopped actively applying once accepting their offer, thank them for their confidence in hiring you and hope they understand. After only 4 days, you’re not indispensable. Going from the stress of no job to the stress of multiple offers happens when you apply with a strong resume/cover letter and improved interview skills.

While not major perhaps, resolving any problem prepares you for the big ones by honing your problem solving skills.