Change Is Coming. Are you Ready?

When it comes to change, one could argue there’s three camps of people; those who embrace it and seek it out, those who can roll with it when it arises, and those who resist it. If you’re not creating change, you will nonetheless experience it; then it’s going to be how you react to change that will demonstrate whether it’s a positive experience for you or not.

In the workplace, change can come in many forms. Your company might have to bring in changes to keep up their place in the industry; to stay competitive, to realize their expected profit margins. Resisting change could close a business, resulting in layoffs for all the employees, some of which may have wanted changes themselves, but who could not in their positions, bring about the necessary changes required to stay viable.

Most changes are brought about with a positive result in mind by those who initiate change. The management of an organization might want their workforce to undergo retraining of their employees to keep them current with customer expectations, to get ahead of trends and be in on the cutting edge of technology. Sometimes change means tweaking current practices while other times change might mean a complete review of priorities,  values, direction and modernization of what’s been the norm.

The thing about change is that most people don’t mind change as long as they feel they’ll be able to manage the process between what they know and do in the present and what they’ll be expected to know and do in the future when the change has been implemented. While some see this period of flux as stimulating and invigorating – a real workout for the little grey brain cells, others resist change.

It would be a shame to make the mistake of labeling those who resist change as dead weight or negative. As each one of us is a sum of our past and present experiences, the same is true for those who are reluctant or dead set against change. So if, ‘organizational change’ is brought up at some team gathering, it could trigger panic and alarm for someone who was let go in a past job when a company shuffled their line up and promoted positive change leading up to what was essentially a dismissal. Until the change has come and gone, that single person has every right to feel threatened and suspicious. Their past negative experience might be playing out in their consciousness for month’s as change is mulled over, talked about openly, piloted and then fully implemented. How stressful it must feel to come into work each day wondering if this is the day you’re to lose your job for a second time and be powerless to do anything about it when the decision-making is out of your control!

Now I suppose one way to better handle change is to prepare yourself as best you can when things are stable and change isn’t whispered about on the work floor. The question really becomes then, how do you prepare for change when you don’t know what direction that change might take? Excellent question!

The answer of course is that you can’t guarantee that your actions will safeguard you for all possible changes to come, but you can improve your odds of surviving and even thriving when change inevitably comes – and it will. This is best done by increasing your current value to the employer. When you were hired, your skills, education and experience were obviously enough to land you a job. Great. However, would those same three things get you the same job today? What have you done to increase your knowledge? What courses have you invested in? (And by this I mean what have you invested YOURSELF in?) Have you sought out any cross-training to learn other jobs?

As upsetting as it is for some people to contemplate, imagine you knew you were going to have to look for a job in 3 months time. You’ll need to have an updated resume for starters. Have you kept your résumé updated with courses and on-the-job training over the years? Do you even know where that dreaded resume is at the moment? You might not feel motivated to hunt for it now, but if you do, ask yourself if you’d be able to compete with more recently trained competition for similar jobs. Sure you’ve got them with your year’s of hands-on experience, but will their education and experience with technology and emerging practices make them more attractive to an employer? If you haven’t kept up with training because you didn’t see the point, you might really regret so later.

Yet, here you are – you’re now employed, feeling secure and you like the routine of your job; you feel competent and safe. You my friend have the benefit of security for the time being, and you just might want to think about doing something now so that when the whispers of change reach your ear, you can exhale and know you’ve prepared as best you can for whatever is about to come.

Of course I’m only talking here of BIG changes. Little changes happen all the time and some will affect you more than others. Getting a new pair of work boots might take some breaking into; your office chair might be upgraded. You let the old ones go.

How do you feel about change?

Learn New Skills On The Job

It’s wise to know when to take on more responsibility in your workplace and when to let those opportunities pass you by. I suppose what it boils down to is making sure you can take on new tasks that require expanding what you know without your present workload and performance standards suffering.

There will always be those who never voluntarily take on anything new, never volunteer to do anything more than they’ve done for years, and can’t understand why any of their co-workers would either if those new responsibilities don’t come with money attached.

Conversely, there are those who prior to mastering existing skills and performing their current roles to the best of their abilities are already clamoring for more.

It is as I say, wise to first master what you’ve now been assigned and then start looking at what else might be available. Often, those other things that might be available involve stretching yourself a bit; perhaps in your knowledge and skills, perhaps in your time commitments and your ability to multi-task.

Surely you’ve got people who come to mind who seem on the fast track in your workplace? You know, the ones who barely are into a job who then are already submitting applications and resumes for positions they know are promotions? The go-getters; the ladder-climbers. They’ve got ambition and they spend much of their time in the workplace networking with anyone they see as advancing their own careers. They smile often, might be taking some classes in school outside of their full-time jobs, and they’ve got favour with people in senior positions in ways you can only guess at.

Nothing right or wrong by the way for those that work hard to accelerate their own careers. For them, it may indeed be the right thing to be doing. A mistake you and I might make would be to judge them for their actions; which is odd because that is precisely what many people suggest isn’t it? Judging people for what they do not what they say.

You see, you and I, we might be very content in the jobs we have. We might one day hope to advance, look to get a promotion or two ourselves. Could be that we figure it takes time to fully comprehend and master the job we now do. Quite often how a job is performed in January isn’t how the job is done in December of the same year. It can take time in our opinion to really master all the fine points of the position and have that expertise.

Some however see things different. Yes, unlike you or I, they might have only taken a job as a stepping stone to the next one or the one after that. So mastering a job isn’t something they have any real investment in. No, they might only want a general knowledge of one job and be able to do it satisfactorily or maybe even well before they can move on. Their goal and your goal might be decidedly different. What’s important to note is that this is okay.

Now on the other end of the spectrum is the co-worker who has been at their job for decades with apparently no interest or motivation to move up or even laterally into another position. In some organizations this is frowned on. These organizations might indeed hope to leverage all that knowledge and ability by moving it around and bringing that person into regular contact with others where they can mentor or share what they’ve mastered. The companies that do this might even be concerned that they don’t want a person to grow listless and bored and then want to leave and take all their performance expertise with them.

You and I could look at them and just shake our heads and wonder at such people, wondering how on earth they could come in and do the same thing day after day, month after month, year after year for what seems like forever without new stimulation and new responsibilities. Yet again, we’re all different and motivated in different ways – and that’s a good thing.

I believe however that it’s impossible to know with certainty how you’ll actually feel 5, 10, 15 years down the road and what you’ll want to do – whether it’s to take on a new role or stay with what you’ve got. Of importance is putting yourself in a place to take advantage of future opportunities should they arise if we choose to do so; and this often means seizing training and stretching yourself to learn new things. After all, stay in a job for a length of time and you’ll likely know it very well. If you continue to love it and do it well then good for you. However if you decide at some point you need a change and you’ve not taken advantage of learning new things, you might find your position is the ceiling; you’re stuck and can’t move because they need the skills you lack. This is when you might experience regret over your decisions of the past.

As we have seen and continue to see these days, new jobs crop up all the time. Sometimes its existing jobs with obscure, fancy new titles. Sometimes however, the job is indeed new and could hold real excitement. Good for us if we’re in a position to go for it!

Simple Ways To Get Ahead At Work

Trying to figure out how to get ahead at work? Angling for some big future promotion perhaps? There are simple things you can do – and do now – positioning yourself positively to take advantage of opportunities when they arise.

  1. Be punctual. This means being where you’re expected on time. Get a good reputation for showing up when you should.
  2. Be reliable. Be one of the employees with the solid attendance record.
  3. Use your manners. Make the words, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ part of your every day language as well as, ‘excuse me’ and ‘may I?’
  4. Take responsibility. Be accountable for yourself; both your achievements and your shortcomings.
  5. Avoid gossip. Gossip is the Devil’s radio. Avoid being in conversations that put others down, refuse to spread potentially damaging remarks about others.
  6. Bring enthusiasm. Go about your work with a genuine excitement and love for what you do.
  7. Know the purpose of your work. Always strive to know how what you do on a daily basis contributes to the overall organization and the impact of your work on the end results, products or services.
  8. Show respect. Give people their due; for their time, experience, skills and abilities.
  9. Appreciate differences. Acknowledge and seek to understand varying views, opinions and outlooks.
  10. Stay relevant. Ensure your practices are best practices.
  11. Network. Connecting with people and having conversations with them brings you to mind with familiarity and avoiding being seen as only an opportunist.
  12. Work with integrity. Apply yourself, working to establish your good reputation built on honesty and sound moral standards.
  13. Have fun. Bring out the humour when appropriate. Flash a smile, share a laugh.
  14. Pitch In. Roll up your sleeves when help is needed, get involved and get noticed.
  15. Be courteous. Whether needing supplies from a Clerk or calling for a Caretaker to unplug a toilet, courtesy always gets you off to a good start.
  16. Dress appropriately. If you have to ask yourself if you can get away with wearing something, you probably shouldn’t. Know the dress code.
  17. Be positive. Like attracts like; be positive and you’ll attract others who in turn will energize you and make your workplace a better place to be.
  18. Laugh. Physically and emotionally you’ll feel better as will those around you.
  19. Do the work. Whether paid or volunteer, do what’s expected of you instead of being perceived as smoke and mirrors.
  20. Show your pride. Your accomplishments are your legacy.
  21. Celebrate others. Recognize and show appreciation for the accomplishments of others around you. They’ll appreciate it.
  22. Think. Pause before you speak and organize your thoughts.
  23. Listen. Open yourself to receiving others’ ideas, needs and wants.
  24. Improve. Learn, take courses, train, reduce errors, get better, emulate the best.
  25. Contribute. Do your part, sharing something that improves things.
  26. Encourage. You may never know how much a supportive word means to someone who needs to hear it; say it anyhow.
  27. Be kind. Open a door, ask if you can help, share a load. Kind people are always in demand.
  28. Be patient. Go easy on yourself; with others do likewise.
  29. Check it out. Bypass guesswork and get the facts. It saves time and money.
  30. Be accountable. If you’re to work on Monday, don’t party so hard on weekends you take every second Monday off to recover. Think nobody sees this trend? They do.
  31. Be approachable. Whether it’s an open-door policy or being non-judgemental, be receptive and welcoming to those around you.
  32. Lead. Show some initiative, show your vision and your ability to work with others to meet common goals.
  33. Share credit. When others deserve it, make sure they get their due.
  34. Prepare. Get postings for career moves now and take steps to get the skills, courses and expertise for the jobs you’ll eventually apply to down the road.
  35. Be healthy. Get out for a walk, eat healthier, stretch often, park further from the workplace, cycle in and back.
  36. Update the résumé. Get and keep it up-to-date with courses, dates, titles all known so you’re ready for openings with short application deadlines.
  37. Build references. Forge relationships with the people you’d like to count on later to speak well of your skills, abilities and performance.
  38. Get known. Take on new things that bring you into contact with others you otherwise wouldn’t be exposed to.
  39. Watch the hygiene. Brush your hair and teeth, use deodorant and mouthwash.
  40. Take an interest. Ask how others are doing, inquire about their hobbies, what makes them happy. Show awareness, acknowledge their ‘thing’.
  41. Get organized. If you had an unexpected absence, would others be able to quickly find documents, know your schedule and complete your work? Make it easy for others to do so, especially where you mutually collaborate.
  42. Mind your time. Adhere to the designated length of your breaks and meal breaks. Abusing these by over-extending your leave will work against you.
  43. Flush! Sounds trite and trivial, but if you routinely leave the shared washroom a mess, you may be discovered and you don’t need the reputation that follows.
  44. Be considerate. Leave the odd note of thanks for the people who clean your office; the ones you never see.
  45. Praise effort. Results are highly desirable but results don’t happen without effort; initiative therefore is to be commended.

So there you go; 45 suggestions to help you get ahead at work: and not one costs a penny.

What Do You Want?

What do you want to experience in your life that you currently aren’t? More money? Power? Flexibility? Job satisfaction? A stronger intimate relationship with someone? Knowing what you want can help you realize it. Not knowing what you want can seed frustration, anger, regret and confusion.

So let’s say you’ve identified that you want more income. Having decided on more income you can then move on to looking at your options; taking on a secondary job, applying for better paying jobs, investing your funds to grow them faster etc. The choices are yours to make but they all have one thing in common as they all seek to increase your overall wealth.

When it comes to relationships and wanting a deeper, more fulfilling one, you can opt to put yourself in more situations where you’ll meet more people, you can risk telling someone how you feel, or you can send out the word that you’re on the market and / or join some dating sites. Already in a relationship? You can invest more of your conscious energy in making that relationship stronger.

Now as for your career, again I ask, “What do you want?” Some people are very happy in their life just moving from job to job, doing different things, gaining a wealth of experiences, and of course being paid to do those jobs. For others, this idea of floating along and not having some overall master plan is not satisfying at all. No, some people are happier identifying what it is they want early and then taking the courses and gaining the experiences that will ultimately put them in a position to take advantage of things and realize their long-term goals.

You know I’m guessing the people in your workplace that everyone can easily identify as the go-getters. They volunteer for committees, they move with the right people, they climb the corporate ladder with speed and purpose. It’s like they’ve got a career path all laid out and are acting the plan. Well good for them you say to yourself; and you either mean it sincerely or you say it wishing it was you on that path instead of them.

Of course what we want career-wise has a lot to do with the factors we experience. If we are in our late 50’s vs. our early 30’s, we might not want to invest much time and energy aspiring to reach the top if we’re not close to it. After all, it might be we just want to play out the string, get paid for our work and then retire early enough to enjoy life without having the stress of putting in the extra hours required to impress the higher-ups and get that plum job which we might have under different circumstances reached out for.

Where we live can play a big factor too. Maybe we’re just not into a long commute, we don’t want to arrive early and work late; we’re content with how things are and to make a big corporate leap would mean moving from our cozy urban dwelling into the heat of the city; all dusty, busy and noisy. No thanks.

What do you want? It keeps coming back to these four words. What you want is very personal; there’s no right or wrong answer, but there is a personal answer. It requires some thought doesn’t it? I mean, what do YOU want?

Some people think that just wanting something is akin to dreaming. Write it down they say and it’s a goal. Plan to make it happen by developing some written steps that have some kind of timeframes attached and you’ve got a workable map that will lead you to the goal you’ve described. But there are a lot of people who have their goal in mind and they still make it happen without the benefit of writing it down and mapping out the steps.

Then of course there are those who have no goal in mind other than seeing how life unfolds. If opportunities arise with respect to their career, they’ll think about them at the time rather than plan now to stand at that crossroads. To be honest, in some fields there are new jobs that didn’t exist even a short time ago, so how could anyone have planned to make the move to the jobs that didn’t exist? So there are many people who are content to find something they enjoy doing and just plan to continue doing it until they no longer enjoy it; then and only then do they look around and say, “Okay so what are my options?”

When you’re in school, good advice is to keep all your doors open down the road by getting all the education you can; the degree over the diploma so to speak. It can open more doors down the road; doors you don’t even know exist. But what about post school? What actions can you take to keep your doors open?

Take advantage of learning opportunities your employer presents. Network positively and often. If you get the chance, take the lead at work on some project so you both learn and stretch a little while getting known to those you don’t normally interact with. Keep looking every so often at other job postings just so see what’s trending. Could be a perfect job comes up and you find your next move.

What do you want?


Being underemployed means your that while yes you’re working, you’re in a position that isn’t what you are qualified to do based on your education and experience. It’s likely that you are also underpaid, as you’re working in a job quite possibly that is in another field and at an entry-level salary, because you’re not entirely qualified in that second field for a more senior position.

Still, it’s a job. Needing money to stay afloat and pay some bills, you’ve taken this job on a short-term basis. The good thing about the job is that it keeps you busy and there’s less time to sit alone at home brooding over your lack of success. It’s also good for the self-esteem in that an employer picked you up and hired you so your skills are validated. The people you meet on a daily basis don’t know about your situation and let’s face it, not many of them care quite frankly. Everybody has a story and while you’ve got yours, they’ve got theirs. That’s just the fact of the matter.

Now on the downside, while you’ve got some immediate income, the income itself isn’t sustainable; well not for the lifestyle you had or the lifestyle you’re aiming for. You’re living tight, paying the bills to get by but there’s not much of a social life with such a small reserve of what’s referred to as discretionary spending. Another downside is the work itself; this isn’t what you went to school for in all probability.

Now while you’ve taken on this job for the positives; including filling up a broadening gap on your resume had you not taken the job, you’re worried about the possibility of getting lulled into this new job and not having the time or energy to work hard at getting back into the field you went to school for. You don’t want to be the poster child for the person with two University degrees who is now flipping burgers for a living.

Okay so what to do. Well first of all, the decision to take a job sometimes referred to as a survival job or transition job is or was, yours alone to make. As there are pros and cons, you have to take the responsibility and accountability for having made the decision to accept this job based solely on your own unique circumstances.

I’ve known some career seekers who actually switched to job seekers and it worked out wonderfully. You see an entry-level job that requires less qualifications than the career position you’ve been going for over a long period can actually be a huge positive. There’s much less stress for example dressing a submarine sandwich or fitting someone for a new pair of shoes than there is scratching your way alone in the financial sector while managing an investment portfolio for a firms clients. That drop in stress could be just what the doctor ordered, and this can give your brain a chance to turn down the constant need to be checking stock markets and interest rates.

Now before anyone jumps on entry-level service industry jobs as being more than I’m pointing them out to be, let me say that learning the ropes is just as critically important to the owners of these franchises and businesses. I used to be a shoe and clothing salesperson; but selling shoes and clothes was much less stressful than making decisions as a Social Services Caseworker that could result in someone not getting the funds they expected and being out on the street – literally.

If you are underemployed, you’ve got to find for yourself that fine line between taking a transition or survival job just long enough to ground yourself and not too long so it becomes your new normal. You want to give the employer who hired you a return on their investment in you, both in terms of time on their payroll and interest and commitment to their success. At the same time, you do want to focus some of your energy and time to getting on with your career; and at the moment you’re not in the right employment sector.

Get in a routine and commit to it. That could mean looking for work every morning until your afternoon shift, or it could mean committing to 3 hours of job search activity at some point in your day. Whatever you choose, a regular commitment will keep you from missing the perfect opportunity. Don’t think I mean just looking at want ads either. Today there’s online learning, night school, webinars, social media platforms that promote discussion and networking. There’s a lot you could do beyond just looking for job openings.

One of the most useful things you could be doing right now is initiating and nurturing new relationships with people you don’t know at the moment but who work for the company or companies you’d most like to target. Connecting with someone today and asking them for a job tomorrow isn’t going to work with most people. However, connecting with someone today and cultivating that relationship to the point where you seek out some assistance as a job opening appears will likely mean your contact is happier to pass on information to help you out.

Being underemployed but working has its pros and cons. It’s up to you and you alone to decide what’s right for you. Remember however that lyric of the Beatles that goes, “Get back to where you once belonged.”


What Does Who You Hang Out With At Work Say?

Unless you have just started a job, you know those with whom you work alongside as you go about performing your job. Are you surrounding your free time (breaks, lunch, dinner) with the same people day after day or do you change it up all the time? What does who you spend your free time with say about you?

Interestingly, who you choose to socialize with and get support from could be advantageous or hurt your chances for advancement. Suppose for example you spend the majority of your own time at work joining those in the clerks department on their coffee runs most mornings. While some people might feel that this should have no bearing on anything work-related, many others might feel you could be better served spending time with your own team of workers. Why though, when after all you’re working with them throughout the day?

The main rationale is that when you work next to someone you are both focused on the work aspect of your time together. When the time comes for lunch or breaks, were you to continue to eat together, your conversations would likely move to personal things like your families, weekend plans, upcoming holidays, opinions on things in the news. There are all kinds of real life examples where people work in a group but have very little idea of the person themselves outside of the workplace.

You might find it advantageous for example to sit down for lunch with someone you know only by voice or name that you deal with over the phone or by email too. Getting to know the person can sometimes prompt them to help you out with advanced notice of a job posting, a discount on office supplies if you’re the one who orders them or possibly changes about to come down the line.

Another reason for chatting over a meal or beverage could be just so people know a little more how you tick. Suppose you have a reputation you aren’t even aware of as being distant and aloof. Through conversations, co-workers might realize they’ve judged you wrong, or that the rumours in the workplace about you just aren’t true. By getting to know you as a person as well as a co-worker, you might find they even talk better about you to management or customers too.

Now I entirely realize that breaks and meals are down time for many; a chance to literally take a mental break. Therefore one might not be best advised to be planning an Excel spreadsheet on whom to share this time with in the organization and beyond. How you spend those moments should really be spent in ways that rejuvenate you.

I know personally that from time to time I’ve mixed things up at work and departed from my usual routine which is to have lunch with my office co-worker. While most of the time I’m happy to talk sports, family, trips, etc., every now and then I also meet up with people from outside the organization altogether. Call it a working lunch if you will, but it’s just two people sitting down face-to-face who work close enough to meet in between at an arranged site.

The first time I’ve proposed meeting, there is the usual, “What do you want to meet for?” question. I suppose that’s because so many people these days are suspicious that something is wanted of them beyond getting to know a person. Even after having met and chatted about this and that, sometimes people still end conversations with a question about whether or not I might want something of them. The answer is truthfully that just by meeting, faces can be put to names, voices to faces and profiles, and the door is open wider to helping each other out at some point in the future.

Have you ever asked your immediate supervisor to share lunch with you? Not to buy it for them or anything, but perhaps sit down together and just chat over lunch? Conversations such as these can drift back and forth between the personal and the professional. Having them get to know you as a person outside of work can be good for both you and them.

There are many of course who are more than happy to keep their personal lives and work life completely separate. They don’t aim to make friends outside of work with their colleagues, don’t get together for pool or skating parties, etc. Nothing wrong with this whatsoever unless of course you work for one of those trendy companies that believe those that work together should also play together. Make sure you fit that culture if that’s the case or you could be let go as a poor fit.

There are also those with big aspirations who target senior staff to meet with both socially and professionally. They hope and are often successful at getting promotions because they are well-known at decision time, and will be a good fit with the chemistry the decision-makers. You can spot these people easily and again, nothing wrong with knowing what you want and how to achieve it best.

There is no right or wrong with whom you spend your free time. It might be you just like to jog and so does someone else or you like to read alone. Good to think about however and realize who you spend time with and what it might say about you to others.



Angling For A Promotion

After you’ve been in your job for a while, it’s only natural that you might start thinking about a promotion. While some people are challenged and happy to stay in their job for many years, others look for new stimulation, new opportunities and additional responsibilities.

My belief in this regard is that it’s effective to demonstrate through your work that you are dedicated, skilled and competent and as opportunities arise, you put yourself in a position to transition from your current job to another. Then as you apply for the job and get interviewed, you speak of earning the opportunity and convincing them you are the ideal candidate based on your performance.

And be assured of one essential fact: any employer interviewing an internal candidate is going to use the sum of their interaction with that person as the basis for their assessment. In short, your entire work history to date at this company has been like one long job interview. So now as you seek a promotion, the employer is looking at how well you’ve worked, and whether they believe you can transfer you skills and work ethic into the new position you are after.

I’ve seen people who don’t put in the extra effort it requires to get ahead suddenly transform themselves into someone they historically aren’t the day they submit their application for a new position. It’s like they flicked on a switch and are hoping to fool those interviewing them that this go-getter is the real deal. In fact, the employer is going to base their opinions of the person not based on how they’ve been acting for the past few days, but will on how they’ve acted over the past three years or so.

So if you have any aspirations of a promotion in your future, now might be the very best time to start thinking about making some changes so you are the logical candidate to be considered at that time. For starters, think about the job you’ve got already and honestly assess your performance. Have you been letting a few things slide here and there? Maybe not putting in your best effort because you could do the job with your eyes closed? Working with integrity and enthusiasm means putting in your best day after day. If you’re not giving it your best and others are picking up on that, they just might assume you’ll not put in your best in another position; and that other position could be one with greater responsibilities so they might not want to entrust you with that if it appears you aren’t giving the company your best.

So let’s look at what you might do now to put yourself in a position to move forward. First get a hold of the job description for the job you have now. Don’t pull out the one they gave you when you were hired, but rather get a hold of a current one. Look at what’s required and make sure you exhibit all the requirements each and every day. Note anything you are expected to do but haven’t been.

Next get a hold of a job description for a position you might be interested in applying for one day. Your Human Resources department probably has one, and they should be receptive to your request and impressed quite frankly that you are doing some research into a potential future transition. Looking at this description, highlight the existing requirements you do now in one colour and the requirements where you are lacking in another.

Knowing what you’ll need to do to address your current shortcomings is the basis for your new goals. If you need additional qualifications, maybe a night course is in order. If leadership is required, seek out opportunities in your present job such as putting your name out there to lead a project. You might even want to get involved outside the company with some volunteer organization in a position of leadership. While your motivation might be self-serving, the organization who gets the benefit of your experience will be grateful regardless.

Another fix you should think about has to do with your physical appearance. Look at people currently in the role you are interested in. How they dress might be a cue for you to update your own wardrobe. If you wear sandals to work and your shirts look more suited to a beachfront vacation property while the people in that role now are wearing business suits, that might be a reason for a shift in your clothing choices. You want to make it as easy as possible for people in positions of influence to picture you in the new role.

Look too at your behaviour. Do you spend more time than you should at the water cooler when you should be working? Examine your habits both good and bad. If you’re the office gossip, or you like to spend a lot of time making the rounds and chit-chatting with everyone for 30 minutes at the start of each day, you might be ruining your own chances if this behaviour has been noted. This is your work ethic under the microscope.

Finally, talk to people; network with those in the role now. Set up meetings and get to know the people and the real job requirements. Put yourself in a position to succeed!

Who Can I Network With?

Networking; everybody promotes it these days as something people looking for work or looking to advance in their work should do. “But how do I get going? What do I say? I don’t even know what networking really is in the first place!”

Networking is having conversations with people about topics that go beyond the original reason for speaking. By way of example, you go in and buy a hammer at the hardware store and talk about two or three different styles before buying one. Essentially the clerk interviewed you to determine what your needs are, but then the sale was made and you walked out. No networking happened even though you talked to each other. Now you go back and buy a tape measure. Again he asks a few things:

“What do you need it for and how long?”
“I’m helping a neighbour frame his basement and 45′ should do it.”
“Done this kind of thing before or first time?”
“Oh yes. I’m a framer by trade; looking for full-time work actually, having recently moved to this area.”
“I might know a guy. Many contractors buy their supplies here. You should leave me your name and number.”
“I’ll do better than that. I’m just a few doors down, I’ll bring you back a resume to pass on if that’s okay.”
“Sure thing. My name is Nick. You ask for me.”

The original reason for the conversation was to buy a tape measure but you can see the conversation expanded and soon it had moved beyond a tape measure and the opportunity to talk about work and job searching was seized. Networking; a conversation where the topic went beyond the original reason for speaking.

Fair enough but who to network with? Could I suggest the answer is everybody? One of my co-workers shared a tool she came across some time ago. It’s called a FRANK list. Under each of the 5 letters in the word, “FRANK” there is a column for you to write down people you know who are a good fit in the column. ‘F’ is for Friends, ‘R’ is for Relatives, ‘A is for Acquaintances, ‘N’ is for Neighbours, and the ‘K’ is for Kids.

For the purposes of this exercise, you would write down everyone you know who should fall into one of the categories. Your Dentist, the Dental Receptionist, the Bus Driver on your route, he kid who delivers the papers, the guy at the hardware store, your mom and dad, former teachers, the neighbour two units down, EVERYBODY. At this stage what you don’t do, is mentally rule out people you know but don’t want to talk to. So yes, your ex-spouse goes down, the brother you don’t talk to, the guy who picks up your garbage etc. This is a brainstorming exercise after all at this point.

Now the natural instinct when you are out of work is to tell as few people as necessary. We don’t want our shame or unemployed status to be shared with everyone out of a sense of personal pride, but the second we get a job, we’ll be telling everyone the good news! How ironic. Ironic? Why is that ironic? It’ ironic because right now would actually be the ideal time to tell all those people we’re looking for work and put our resume in all those people’s hands! In other words, because we never know exactly where our next job will come from, it could very well come directly or indirectly from one of the people we currently know. If they don’t know we are even looking for work or what work we are looking for, how could they possibly think of us when opportunities arise that they hear of?

Now in the case of the paper boy who I mentioned earlier, ‘kids’ is the final column and I want to clarify how that column works. Don’t think for a minute I’m going to take my newspaper with my left hand and with my right hand give him my resume and say, “Hey kid, know anyone who’s hiring a Framer?” That’s funny.

Here’s what I did just two weeks ago however. I actually came home just in time to catch the new newspaper boy walking up my driveway with the paper. He introduced himself as Jack, and Jack’s mom was pulling the wagon as she walked him around on his initial delivery route. After saying hello to Jack and showing him where I’d like him to put my paper, I walked down the driveway, introduced myself to his mom, and found out they live a block over from me. Then I pulled out a business card of mine and handed it to her. Jack came and got the next paper and walked to the next house while we too chatted about what she did and my job.

Now just imagine that scene if I was looking for work. I’d be seizing that chance to tell the woman what I was looking for in terms of a job, and instead of my business card, I’d be putting a resume in her hands and asking her to keep me in mind if she hears of anything be it an actual job or a lead. And I’d be friendly, smiling, and trying to make a good impression on the paper boy’s mom. How do I know her husband isn’t a contractor, or she herself isn’t a contractor? Bet you hadn’t thought of that possibility!

Never Burn Your Bridges

“I’m so glad to be out of here! I’ll never have to work for you or see this place again!”

Ever wanted to leave and tell somebody exactly what you think? You know, the boss who made your life miserable, the support staff who drove you insane with their never-ending chitter-chatter, the co-worker who made sharing office space only slightly better than nails on a chalkboard? Bite your tongue.

Unless you’re super power is knowing the future with 100% accuracy, you’d be surprised at how many times life finds people either going back to work for former employers or possibly needing their good word in the form of references. How terrible would it be if for example you got a third interview for that absolute dream job you’ve wanted your entire life, and then your potential new boss calls your former employer to conduct a routine reference check, only to find that you dished out some pretty choice words the day you walked out.

Now in my work life, I once worked for the City of Toronto in the capacity of Social Services Caseworker. For three years I worked there and traveled two hours just to get to work. When my only child was very young, I made a joint decision with my wife to quit that well-paying job and trade it for a local but lower paying job.

About seven years later, my daughter was older, and I saw her for longer periods of time in the evenings so I approached my former employer who welcomed me back for what turned out to be another three years. My good reputation and the way in which I’d left had me on good terms with people who worked there, and I’m grateful to this day they let me return to that job.

But I hear you saying that the job I’d had was one I liked. What about quitting jobs you don’t like and making sure the boss and anyone within earshot really knows how you feel? Well, still not a great move. Again, I’ll draw on my own career path. I once worked in a non-profit organization and had a boss that I grew increasingly ill at ease working for. When I walked away I kept those thoughts to myself and thought it best to make a clean break. How surprised do you think I was therefore to find he was on the Board of Director’s for the organization I was just starting with? Good thing those thoughts were kept locked away inside.

The image of a burning bridge is so perfect for this process. When the bridge burns, it collapses, and there is no going back unless the bridge is mended and once again provides a passage back. Some relationships are forever strained beyond repair because of a loss of self-control, a momentary thrill of letting someone have it right between the eyes; but that moment might be a poor trade-off for years of regret.

Think about your image and reputation in the industry or your field of work. Word does get around. On a television sitcom, it’s funny when someone says something they shouldn’t and the person is standing right behind them. It’s equally funny when they put down the boss to their face. But that’s television. Producers even build in laugh tracks so we have the okay to laugh along. But in real life, it isn’t that funny. And those we offend don’t get all fuzzy and forgive us within the 30 minutes of a television show either.

You could find yourself in situations where one employer talks to another – they do network you know. They meet each other at Chamber of Commerce meetings, company cross-training events and you might come to feel you’re on some ‘no hire’ list. If you get ‘blacklisted’, and you live in a small community or the field you work in is a tight-knit kind, you may find it will take a career change to really kick-start things and get the earnings you need.

This same logic applies to the interview when the question is, “Tell me about your last Supervisor”, or “How would your previous employer describe you?” If you say nasty inappropriate things in the interview about a former employer, the person asking the questions today may well be your former employer some day in the future and wonder what you might then say about them.

Wouldn’t it be most unfortunate if your former boss was this person’s golf or poker partner? What if they are in-laws or pals on Facebook. You could have a damaging tweet beat you to the rest of the world before you even reach the parking lot. And worst of all, you may be totally oblivious, thinking to yourself, “Well I nailed that interview! And when I get this job, I’ll call up that idiot Perkins and rub it in his face one more time. Ha! Said I’d never need him and look at me now!”

Problem is, comments like these say more about you than they do about the person you are referring to; and it’s not good!

Good advice is to mend any bridges now no matter how hard it may seem. The best advice however is don’t burn any in the first place so you never have to worry if your career or life journey circles you around to those in your past.

Time To Talk About Time

Time; its the same number of seconds, minutes and hours for everyone and each day contains the same finite amount for each of us, excepting leap years and if you live in a zone where clocks are twice annually adjusted. So why is it that some people have all the time in the world, and others never seem to have enough time?

As the quantity of time is a set amount, it would appear that those whom are busiest with many things to do would often be the ones complaining about not having enough of it, and yet this is not the case. There is a very real and true axiom that goes, “if you want something done ask someone busy to do it”.

People who are busy have one exceptionally well-developed skill, and that is the ability to schedule and manage their list of things to do in order that they not be running around but not getting much actually done. They have electronic gadgets in which they enter their appointments, their tasks, projects and any upcoming events that might impede on their ability to accomplish things.

Now contrast that with the person – and maybe you know them intimately – who tends to have a more relaxed schedule, not too much on the go that they can’t handle, and yet when something comes up that they are asked to do, they seldom seem to be able to rise to the challenge. In their home life it might mean that they suddenly have that, “I have no idea what to make for dinner” moment at 4:30 p.m. – but they experience it four times a week. At work, they may be the kind that comes to meetings unprepared because it took a casual, “What time is the meeting today?” comment from a co-worker half an hour before the scheduled get-together.

These are the kind of people who usually don’t put things in their work calendar’s, but jot things down on paper at the meeting and then the next day, neglect to transfer that note into their agenda. Projects they are responsible for may get moved down on their daily to-do list until they have to be done rather than planned in advance with sufficient time to ensure all steps are taken in a ‘timely’ manner.

Now these seemingly unorganized people aren’t bad by nature, and in fact may be some of the most well-meaning people at your workplace. They just have underdeveloped organizational skills that require some constant effort to refine and hone. The question then becomes, as they knowingly have a weakness or deficiency, what are they doing to improve upon it so that as a weakness, it diminishes. Most employers will tolerate a weakness in their employees, but expect those same employees to improve upon those areas if they will mean increased proficiency and productivity.

Now time itself is what people use as an excuse; “I’d love to go to the gym but I don’t have time”, or “The kids are growing so fast, Where did the time go?” Well if your aren’t being living in self-conscious awareness, you too might find that things seemingly happen without your knowledge until you realize some huge gap of time has flown by. But actually, what has happened is that you the person made different decisions about how to spend the time you had, and those decisions have repercussions. Now you’re talking priorities.

At work, your priorities can be simple things like three of your closest co-worker friends going out for lunch and inviting you. There’s a choice to be made between what you want, (the social lunch inclusion), and the need, (getting something accomplished). If you consistently make choices to pass on the friends and get work done, you may find yourself invited less often, but be viewed as dedicated. To it’s extreme, you might even find others questioning your ability to do your work in the time allotted, if they quantity of work, and the time to do it are the same for everyone.

Conversely, if you go out all the time and pull yourself aware from what must be done to indulge your social side, you may find others feel your priorities are wrong, and you won’t be handed important assignments and may be passed over and wonder why.

If you are unemployed and job searching, make efficient use of your time so that at the end of a day, you can feel proud of how you used the time you had to apply for jobs, network, follow-up, phone people, get references, look into training, revise resumes and cover letters etc.

The decisions you make while unemployed can help or hinder you even when you apply for your next job. Suppose you were asked this question: “Tell me about how you’ve been spending your time since you left your last position.” What would you say if you were being entirely honest? If you find yourself making up things to tell the spouse or extended family to put yourself in a better light than your reality, consider choosing better uses of the time you’ve got.

The clock is ticking…