Getting The Best Of Your Staff


There’s things we are good at, things we are great at, and there are things that we get excited and enthused about. If we’re lucky, the things we’re enthusiastic about are also things we’re great at. In the workplace, if we’re fortunate, we land in a job where our boss recognizes and appreciates the importance of these things we are great at and love doing, and finds a way to put us in a position to use these talents.

This isn’t always the case though is it? I mean there are some Supervisors who fail to appreciate the talents their employees have. You may have actually experienced someone who in their wisdom, wanted those of their team to be interchangeable, and therefore rotated their staff around, making sure everyone did a little of everything. As a consequence of this thinking, many employees on a given team tend to grumble; frustrated that what they’d like to be doing most isn’t what they do, and the people doing whatever that is are a little jealous that you’re doing what they’d love to do too.

Now I get the interchangeable dream. When you know more than one job, this cross-training makes it far easier to shore up needs as they arise. Be it short or long-term absences or an increased demand for people performing a certain function, this keeps things running at a high degree of efficiency. The Supervisor who uses this thinking puts more emphasis on having a team of equally skilled employees to draw on than they do on assessing the individual preferences of their staff.

However, consider that an employee who performs work they love doing and does a great job as a result, can transform a job into a passionate career. Now multiply that single person who loves what they do right across your team, and suddenly you’ve got a force to be reckoned with! When people love what they do and they perform great works, they come to work happier, they invest more in their time while there, attendance improves dramatically, and the culture of the workplace becomes dynamic.

I believe therefore, that this way of going about managing human capital in the workplace is a better model. It becomes critical for a Supervisor to get to know their employees; to learn what they are good at, what they excel at, and where their passions are. I feel there are too many Supervisors who make assumptions about those on their teams solely through work performance statistics and casual observations. Investing in people by having regular conversations to learn where their interests and passions are is a great way to learn about the people you are responsible for. And it follows that if those under a Supervisor’s watch collectively perform at a high level of efficiency because they are doing work they love and doing it well, that Supervisor in turn is going to be recognized by their own Supervisor for achieving results. We now have the win-win; the employees win, the Supervisor wins, the company wins and most importantly, the customer or consumer wins.

In reality, it doesn’t always follow that the above is what we experience though. There are those in Management positions who abuse their power. They may be disgruntled themselves and go out of their way to break the spirit of the great worker they see emerging, by removing them from doing what they obviously enjoy doing and relocating them to some other task they perceive will be less enjoyable. This abuse of power is exactly that; while they explain their move by saying things like it will help the individual grow, become more valuable or learn a new skill.

This isn’t the case of someone being in a rut and plateauing in the workplace who could benefit from a shot of stimulation. No, this could be the case of an unhappy boss, jealous of the worker who arrives happy, works happy and leaves happy. It’s also putting their own needs above the organization they both work with. Sure it’s petty, but many a Supervisor is gainfully employed doing exactly this. Maybe you’re working for one now.

Ah but the best Supervisors are the ones who invest in the people they supervise. You know, they listen, they observe, they go out of their way to get to know the people on their teams; what makes them happiest, where they can be put in positions to excel and succeed. This takes some effort on the part of the person to do these things on top of their other tasks. The investment in this process however creates a better culture. People feel they are being listened to, accommodated where possible and they appreciate the thoughtfulness of the Supervisor. And because we evolve, our needs and wants change, this should be an ongoing, living practice rather than a one-time conversation.

When you do work you love, and that work is something you do really well, you show more pride in your accomplishments, you’re a better ambassador for your organization and you also pull harder for the person who’s given you this opportunity.

As an employee, it’s important to communicate your preferences to your boss and do work that motivates and stimulates so you become a highly valued employee.

If you can’t find work you love and you’re good at? Move on. Your good mental health is at stake.

 

Recharged. Thanks Algonquin.


For me it was camping. The location? Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada. The park is so vast, there are multiple campgrounds and hiking trails within its borders as well as logging areas, a Logging museum, an Arts museum, outfitting stores and vacation resorts. . It’s home to Bears, Loons, Moose, Beavers, Wolves, birds and its lakes and rivers home to fish, turtles, aquatic life.

I had some time up there last week and today is back to work day. For me, it’s not an escape or a get-away destination as are some places but rather the opposite. It’s a return and a get-to destination. When I’m there, my perception of time slows a little, I breathe a little deeper, I feel the soft pine forest beneath my feet, walk soundlessly in those forests, and feel grounded; connected.

One particular trail of only 1.9 km in length takes the traveller through a forest of birch, maple and pine culminating with a view over a cliff face. From there, you can look across miles of the pine forest canopy; see Lake of Two Rivers, the undulation of the landscape before you, shaped and molded from the passing of vast sheets of ice in what was the ice age. The view is blue skies above and shades of greens below. In a month, much of that green will be ablaze in red, orange, yellow and rust; the colours of Autumn.

It was just as I was departing this view when I turned to my wife behind me and saw that she was taking my picture. I reached out my right hand and placing my outstretched arm against a tree upon the crest of this cliff, I said, “This is a pose my dad would have taken.” Wow, I hadn’t done that intentionally, but I recognized in that pose the image of my father. My father who had with my mother, exposed me to Algonquin and camping all through my childhood. And so, again, instead of getting away for a week as co-workers will see it, I was in fact returning not just to a park, but to a memory of my own past.

Do you have a special place of your own that brings you peace, sanctuary, relaxation; somewhere where you connect with a part of yourself that you just can’t find anywhere else? It’s spiritual in a way, because my spirit is always affected when I’m there. It does me good, and I’m good for another year. When I don’t make it up there, something is missing and I feel it until I’m back. Four nights there and I’m changed, again, reminded of what’s important – to me at any rate.

And it doesn’t stop when the sun dips below the skyline. There’s the campfire. How many people have spent time seated before a fire, drawn into those orange flames that curl around logs, the glowing red and blue embers that radiate intense heat and the sounds of crackle and sparks. Looking up at the plume of smoke that disappears in the darkening pine canopy, the stars above in a cloudless night are captivating; and they’d have to be to steal your view from the campfire.

Gaze long enough and you’ll see the moon ascend, moving on it’s trajectory across the night sky, but in the forest it appears to hide and reveal itself continuously behind the trunks of the tall pine giants.  There are no street lights, just the campfires from others. Noise travels more at night and at this time of year, there are few occupied sites; those with children are back at their homes, their children in schools. Every so often a lone cry is heard from a Loon. It’s magic in the woods.

At this time of the night, there are no electronics on; no wireless internet, no television, radio or even reading of a book. Every so often a laugh from another group of campers is heard; one by one the fires are extinguished, campers move to their tents or travel trailers. It’s cool at night; not cold mind you – that will come in the weeks ahead. No, it’s perfect for a sound sleep with the air cool, the sleeping bags warm and waiting. It’s like a long lasting hug, cocooned inside where you body heat is all you need to spend a warm night. And dark? It’s void of light here; an exhale of content, and drifting away…

Sitting back here at home now, I’m ready for the day ahead. In ten minutes, the routine of a shower, dressing, breakfast, a packed lunch and the commute to work will bring me back to work. It’s okay and it’s good.

I hope that you who read this also have had or will have a vacation that gives you what it is you seek. Be it a strengthening of your spirit, a memory you make with your family or a solo adventure of travel and sightseeing, getting what you want and need is my hope. If you stay at home, may you be in your happy place, for it’s not always a big trip with lot’s of stories that we need.

If you’ve the interest, share your favourite vacation spot in the comments. How is it spent? Is it a road trip? Whether campsite, resort, backyard retreat or tourist attractions, it’s all good.

Mentally recharged and sincerely grateful.

Yes! Get Excited About Getting Stuff!


I’m sure by now you’ve come across those social media posts where there’s a lovely picture in the background and some famous quote or suggestion someone has for living your life in the foreground. I see this on a regular basis and if you enjoy these, just type, “quotes with pictures” in your favourite search engine and you’ll see thousands.

So yesterday evening, I happened to come across two such items and in both cases, they were broadcasting a similar message; don’t get too hung up on acquiring stuff because one day you’ll realize it’s people, not owning things that’s important. Now these random quotes that pop up unexpectedly have become for many, the words of wisdom which in generations past, you’d have received from the revered and older members of your family; i.e.. pre-internet, pre-computer world. Someone you greatly respected would tell you to live your life a certain way and you’d think about that seriously, because of your respect for them. Not only that, you didn’t have too many people giving you this sage advice way back when.

However today, all you have to do is go online and it seems everyone is not only sharing such quotes they like with the world, they are creating their own words to live by and taking or finding pictures they feel convey the right mood to go with them. It’s not like these are being passed on by the elders of a village, a wise man nestled in some mountain retreat, or a woman who has lived a long, rich life having traveled the world several times over and experienced life to its fullest. No often these quotes on how to live your life are coming from adolescents who haven’t reached their 14th birthday yet, troubled people looking for an outlet and/or audience to make them feel validated, heard and followed. How much living have they done? Based on what are they in a position to prescribe how you and I should live our lives?

I thought for a moment and paused over this post that came into my evening unasked for. There it was, reminding me that wanting and getting things in life isn’t important, and that one day I would realize that it’s people I should be going after, not things. And I thought, “no; you’re wrong.”

There’s nothing wrong (in my opinion) with going after things in life we want, surrounding ourselves with objects and possessions which bring a smile to our face, that make us feel good and that just by owning, make us happy. We can still get and have these things in our lives AND have positive relationships with people if we so choose, at the same time. In fact, for those that don’t enjoy being surrounded by people in their lives, owning things that make us feel comfortable and good – well, that’s a good thing.

Take the 4 or 5 year old at their birthday or Christmas. We encourage excitement, happiness and good feelings as they open presents. If such a child said, “Well thanks, but you know, none of these really do it for me, I’d rather just go over and spend a few minutes with dad”, we’d be both amazed and question if we got the wrong thing. We might wonder why they aren’t happy and as excited as we’d have expected. No, we set our kids up to be excited when given a gift or possession. As they get older, we get excited when they show us something they’ve bought that makes them feel good; we say things like, “Well done! I’m so proud of you!”, when they buy their first car, rent their first apartment, get handed their diploma or win some competition in school or community sports.

For most of us, surrounding ourselves with the things we want means needing to exchange money for those goods; money that typically comes from employment. Whether it’s a souvenir from a trip, the latest technology, a dress, shoes, new tattoo, comfortable bed or a new car, all these things bring us some measure of happiness. There is nothing wrong about going after them and being excited to acquire them. Nor should we feel we have to hide our accomplishments, like getting our Masters, passing a course with great marks, or getting a promotion or raise at work. These are THINGS to share with pride and yes, we who hear of others good news should just applaud their accomplishments and be happy right along with them.

Somehow though, a warm and cuddly picture of a puppy with the quote, “Get a job, get money, buy stuff”, wouldn’t go over as well I don’t think. So perhaps it’s the balance of acquiring things that make us feel good (and feeling good is what we’re all after) and having people in our lives (if this is what we want of course) that we strive for? Just perhaps. The thing is this… no one person has ever come up with a quote or way to live your life statement that universally applies to every person who has ever been, nor who will ever be, nor who lives at the moment.

Live your own life, go after the stuff that makes you feel awesome inside. An outfit, new wheels, toys, trips, a job, furniture or an address. Go for it! Get excited about that stuff!

 

The Impact Of A Smile


A smile is one of the most positive and powerful things you can do for yourself when you find yourself in the company of others. It’s free to use, and it sends a message to other people that you’re approachable, your mood is favourable and it can often transfer to other people you interact with, making your interaction with others likewise positive. Wow! All that from a smile!

The lack of a smile can produce the opposite too. Your lack of a smile can communicate that you’re all business; maybe even a little cold or impersonal. It can send the message that you’re not approachable, your mood is not good, and those you interact with may feel guarded when dealing with you.

Think for a moment of people you interact with often; perhaps your co-workers if you have them. If you’re not employed, think perhaps on someone you see fairly often. Now picture if you can whether they smile often or not, and then consider whether you general consider the interaction you have with them positive or not. My guess is that you generally associate smiling faces with more positive interactions, and the less frequent the smile, the cooler the interaction. Am I right?

Now picture yourself out shopping, at the bank or returning an item to a customer service area. You’re in line awaiting your turn and if you’re like me, you’ve probably looked ahead at the possible people you might interact with and hoped it’s a certain person over the others. I know when I’m standing in a line, I always do this instinctively, and I’ve noticed I usually hope for the man or woman sporting a smile. I just assume my experience is going to be more positive because they’ll make it so; theirs is a cheerful face to start with and hence our interaction will get off to a good start too.

Now employers know the power of a smile. Look at job postings; specifically in the introductions where they describe the role and not the hard-core qualifications. You might see phrases like, “If you’re a people-person”, or “If you’re passionate about providing guests and customers with outstanding service”.  These phrases are put in job postings to alert readers to jobs that will match the right person with what’s to follow. These employers are saying that they are really interested in finding people who will derive immense joy and satisfaction from the high level of interaction you’ll be exposed to. They want people who will come to work energized by that interaction and so find themselves in a good mood; your smile is your visual display of that good mood, positive energy and passion you feel.

We don’t all speak the same language, nor do we experience many things in the same way when we’re from different cultures with different values, etc., but the one thing that is universally understood is the power and effect of the smile.

Now of course, many people don’t smile by nature. It’s not that they are unhappy or cold, it’s just that their resting face tends to have the ends of their mouth droop downwards instead of up or horizontal. It takes these people considerable effort to remember to smile, and the effort is hard to sustain. Consequently, they seem less approachable or maybe overly serious. What’s more, these people are well aware of this themselves from the many people over the years who say, “You look so serious. Anything wrong?” or, “It wouldn’t hurt you to smile a little.” Believe me, you’re not telling them something they don’t already know. For them unfortunately, smiling is a lot of work.

A smile can often be hard to come up with too when you find yourself in a situation that you find stressful. A job interview comes to mind. You’re sitting in reception feeling nervous and trying to remember all you can about the company you’re applying to. You’ve done your homework but are nervous because first impressions mean so much. You’re mentally going through possible questions, what you want to be sure to mention, going over that one challenging thing you expect and then you’re interrupted when you hear your name called. Smiling at this moment means everything, but it might be hard to produce and sustain because the pressure or strain you might feel would seem to call for a serious expression.

Smiles are so important. They can light up a room, and in many cases, it’s the smile that has a ripple effect on the rest of your face. It can make your cheeks glow, your eyes shine a little brighter or twinkle, and completely captivate your audience.

Okay so consider this. When you’re in an interview – typically a stressful thing for many, consider smiling when you recall something pleasant. So if you’re giving an example of your customer service skills and recall interacting with someone whom you had a positive experience with, smile as you recall the moment. it will translate positively and communicate to the person listening that you are positively affected when you deal with others. This is the kind of thing that employers are looking for isn’t it? People who enjoy working for and with others.

So I urge you to smile today; think about it consciously as you go about your day and see if you can put a smile on others faces just by showing your own.

Spontaneous Fun In The Office


Yesterday afternoon was a period of planning and preparation for me. Starting on Monday of next week I will be working out of a different office than I would normally, facilitating a two-week employment workshop. So it was an afternoon of assembling all the required resources I’ll need and putting these all together in kits for each participant.

So does this sound like a good time to you? It requires some serious calculations; determining all the items needed and not forgetting anything that might later on suddenly become essential if missed. These kits I assemble include pens, notepads, highlighters, pencils, a tent card, thank you cards and envelopes, USB flash sticks, toothbrushes and toothpaste, a large leather folder, a smaller folder including a calculator and my business card. Then there’s the general supplies like flip chart paper and markers, tape, stapler, and the list goes on.

Sorting all these items into a pile for each participant and ensuring no one pile is short any particular item takes time. If this administrative, behind-the-scenes kind of afternoon sounds mundane, isolating and boring to you, you’d be surprised then to find that I turned it into something both fun, productive and inclusive. I’m sharing this with you as a real-life example of what you might do – or something akin to what I’ve done – in your own workplace when faced with something similar.

The first thing I did was use a high-traffic location which is accessed by staff moving about the office from one area to another. To pass the time, I fired up the laptop there and was soon piping some music through the overhead speakers. Nothing too loud and annoying for those working at desks nearby, but just loud enough to hear while in the room.

The music I chose to play was catchy, lively and old enough to be well-known and hopefully spark some good memories. The playlist for example included, ‘Born to Be Alive’ by Patrick Hernandez, ‘The Twist’ by Chubby Checker, ‘Love Shack’ by The B-52’s, ‘Pretty Woman’ by Roy Orbison and ‘My Sharona’ by The Knack. Bouncy tunes with solid beats and music to move by.

Never afraid to be in the spotlight, I was shuffling my feet, dancing around the room and the fitbit on my wrist was counting every step and contributing to my overall daily goals. As it turns out, it was also qualifying as exercise minutes too, something I hadn’t thought of until I later checked; an added bonus. Who knew?

As the staff moved through the space, they laughed, rolled their eyes; hey I even got in a dance move or two with a few of my co-workers who couldn’t help but stop for 40 seconds or so and shake it on down with me. While this went on, another worker was taking photo’s and recording a video of these spontaneous moments which she later circulated to those caught on camera.

Now you might say to yourself that what I’m sharing just goes to show a good example of unproductive, wasted time when these few staff were entirely goofing around and getting paid to do it too. Ah my readers, if you feel this way you couldn’t be further from the truth. The packages I was assembling got done with no extra time involved. The staff passing through couldn’t help but smile and laugh. They experienced some levity and had you been there to see it, you would really have seen people bonding together; nurturing good working relationships with one another. These are the kinds of moments many employers hope to have in their workplaces but can’t script, plan and implement. It’s the spontaneity and staff themselves that make them work.

There’s huge benefits too. You know that post-lunch sag in energy that many people experience? There was none of that I assure you. People walked through and either moved to the beat, rolled their eyes in mock disbelief but chuckled, laughed out loud and shook their heads, or went about their business just after saying how much they loved whatever song was on at that moment. When was the last time you heard, ‘In The Summertime’ by Mungo Jerry? Ah, now you’re humming it or looking it up on YouTube perhaps.

Now does this sound like the kind of thing you could pull off in your office? What in your workplace are some of the spontaneous things you do or have experienced that others initiated which build on staff bonding and interaction? As I left for home yesterday one of the Administrative Clerks said goodnight and asked me if tomorrow it would be Broadway tunes!

Many organizations have social committees, as does the organization I work for. These groups of people are tasked with making the office a positive place to work, coming up throughout the year with fun activities, typically highlighting events of note like anniversaries, holidays, special themes etc. They may raise money for charities, need budgets to buy whatever supplies they need to run the events etc. The beauty of yesterdays spontaneous fun was it cost nothing to run, there was no planning to do, no permission to seek, no emails to compose, send and have read.

So in the end, some workers laughed, some danced, I got some exercise, the time flew by, the work got done, and a few of us got a little closer. Not a bad day at all.

How You And Your Work Part Ways


Sooner or later we’ll all be gone be it retired, fired, quit, laid off, contract ended, downsized, company relocated, or one of several other possibilities. It will either come about for reasons within or beyond our personal control but it will come about as I say inevitably; one day you’re working and the next you’re not.

When it does happen it will be a cause for any number of emotions. You could find yourself feeling jubilant, excited, let down, angry, shocked, satisfied, sad, desperate etc. Even the way you walk out the door for the last time will be handled in any of several ways. You could find yourself having a big party thrown in your honour surrounded by all the co-workers you’ve had over a number of years with your partner invited to work for the big occasion. Equally possible is you could walk out figuring it’s just another day and come to work the next only to find the building entrance locked and the company out of business with a, “Closed: Have a nice day” sign taped to a chained fence.

Ouch! That last scenario is a bit tough to imagine; surely that doesn’t really happen? Oh yes it can and it has. Well hopefully for both you and I it won’t come to that!

Let’s look not at what might happen beyond our control because as it suggests, we have no control over situations dictated by others. Let’s look at things from the viewpoint that we’re going to leave on our own terms. We may work into retirement, quit or have a contract end which we knew would happen when we agreed to the contract duration in the first place.

As far as contract work goes, there are people who take contracts out of necessity because they have been unsuccessful at landing permanent part-time or full-time jobs. Others take contract work as their personal preference; stringing together contract after contract. For these folks, they see a variety of employers and starting over again and again as desirable. For example in an Administrative Support role, they might enjoy parachuting in to cover a maternity leave for a year or less and then just as they get restless and want a change, their contract period is looming and they leave before they become bored and less productive. They move on and now it’s covering for someone off on sick leave and they are welcomed as they take some of the pressure off others doing double duty.

If you’re the kind of person who likes the variety contract work brings, you’re likely okay with the instability of the security contract work has; you trade that off willingly for the stimulation of change. When you walk out the door of a company you’re not as emotionally attached to the desk you worked at, the people you worked alongside; a job is a job and it’s on to the next one.

Turning to look at quitting is a different experience depending on the reasons behind the reason you’re walking away from the work. You might quit for health reasons, a distaste for the work, to avoid being fired if you think that’s coming, or of course for a better job, a move to another city, This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, just some of the reasons you might walk out.

When you do quit, the, “How will I do it?” question arises. Will you just walk out and not tell anyone you’re not returning the next day? Will you march into the Boss and let her know face-to-face that you’re quitting and give her a piece of your mind in the process? Or, will you take her out for lunch and pay for it with some of your lottery winnings? (One can dream can’t one?)

I suppose the question in quitting is whether you seek to keep the relationship with the employer as positive as you can or do you just not care because in your mind you’re never coming back and won’t be affected negatively in the future. By the way, Life has a charming way of bringing many things around full circle so my advice is to always leave on the best terms possible.

Retirement is attractive if you have something to look forward to; some satisfying way to spend your time; for time is what people cite as the reason for going. Time to spend with the grandkids, time to travel, time to relax, time for me, time for us, time…time…time…

Timing your retirement is what it’s all about from an efficiency point of view too. You want to leave before your employer and co-workers resent you just hanging on doing less and less while they pick up the slack more and more. You want that last day to be a good one; whether you want a party or a quiet exit with a simple hug or handshake at the end of the day, you want to walk out with your head high and feeling appreciated for all those years you invested.

Looking at how you and your work part ways now might give you some measure of control about both when and how it will happen. The advantage in thinking ahead gives you the power and comfort of controlling what you can. This of course makes it a positive experience to embrace.

 

 

 

What Do You Want For Yourself?


From the time we are old enough to communicate we get asked questions. In fact, as an experiment, see how many times you find yourself asked a question today or tomorrow. Most of those questions are pretty simplistic, such as what you want for breakfast, when you want to take your break at work, what you want to watch on television this evening etc.

Most of the questions you will be asked come innocently enough, and you’ve probably got the necessary information accumulated in order to answer intelligently. So you know what you want for breakfast, you know when you’re ready for a break at work, and you know what you’re in the mood for in the evening as you sit down to watch the television. How exciting!

What of the bigger questions you ask of yourself? I don’t mean what to wear on a certain day, whether or not to take the umbrella or who to sit with at lunch at work. I mean the BIG questions.

When was the last time you really thought about your life and what you want to do with yours? Let’s face it, most of us go about our day without really thinking about the BIG questions. We’re so focused on what we have on our daily agendas, what we’re having for dinner, what work has to get done, who will be off today at the office, remembering what bills to pay, we don’t often stop and consider what we want for ourselves.

I suspect that many people just get on the treadmill of life and live their lives in a predictable, socially acceptable manner. We go to school, graduate, get a job, have relationships, then settle on a strong relationship with someone, end up with several jobs or careers over a lifetime, retire and hope to enjoy it, then die. It’s predictable, we’re remembered by those we leave behind who knew us, and then depending on your belief system, you go to Heaven, get reincarnated, are reborn etc.

The after-life debate aside, how often do you really give yourself the benefit of time to reflect on what you want to do based on what’s important to you? How does the way you live your life reflect what you once wanted?

Some people do what’s expected on them by others; they go to school, join and then later run the family business, and pass it on. Some are told in school they’ve “only” got the potential to work in the trades (and the trades in the way it is voiced is somehow undervalued vs. a University degree), and therefore they take on an apprenticeship and work in the trades without challenging that view.

How often does someone in their late teens have the foresight to imagine themselves as retired looking back at their work life saying, “That was a life worth living! I’m glad I (fill in the blanks).

Every time we find ourselves out of work or wanting a change in work we get closer to thinking of the big picture. Questions like, “What now?” do come into our minds, but too often don’t we just scramble for a job that approximated our previous one; or choose one that while different in responsibility is really just maintaining our lifestyle. So a labourer finds another labour job, a Healthcare Worker finds another job in the Health sector?

What of you? Have you got dreams – or did you once have dreams you’ve let go of? Maybe you had some vision of what you would love to have done, but before you could launch that dream, you were too far down the predictable path of everyday life? You got into a relationship that made following your dream difficult if not impossible in your view. Now with rent or mortgage payments, kids, r-e-s-p-o-n-s-i-b-i-l-i-t-i-e-s… well, you know; you’ve kissed those dreams goodbye.

Now if you’re happy it doesn’t matter when it comes to dreams and hopes you once had. Truly happy people should carry on. I’d say it’s not only about being happy as you look back nearing your end, but it’s about being happy all through the stages of your life. Are you doing what you want with the time you’ve got?

What if the answer is you’re not happy? Well, what would make you happy? What do you want for yourself? It might well be some wild experience; a life filled with travel, adventure, chaos and physical challenges. It may also be a job in the city sharing your life with someone who loves you as much as you love them.

Whatever you wish for yourself, if it’s not your reality, or you’re not seeing it getting any closer, what would it take to make that dream happen? Does it require more effort, a change in locale, some self-confidence or hard work? Does it take some courage to chuck it all and start again?

If you’ve been waiting for something to get you doing more than just thinking, think of this; time is passing. Take a leap. Do one thing this week other than just thinking; in other words take some action. Have a conversation, download the brochure, book the trip, contact the company; whatever small step you can think of, do it.

Life is too precious and time too short to delay. What do YOU want for yourself?

Make it happen.

Is It Okay To Joke And Laugh With The Unemployed?


Absolutely. In fact, if you don’t do any other thing for them, getting them to laugh; I mean really laugh is good medicine.

If you’ve been unemployed, you know first-hand that one of the most troubling things is that people tend to ignore someone who is out of work, or they pity them and talk very seriously, careful not to upset them by being jovial and light. If you’ve never been unemployed when you really needed or wanted a job, you’re lucky, and you’ll have to trust me on this one.

Think about it…Whether you have a job or not, would you like to be around people who talk very seriously ALL the time? People who furrow their brows, grimace and look uncomfortable with us but then move on to chat with other people and are light, natural and happy? I think it is fairly safe to say that you’d hope that others would act the same with us that they do with others.

And what it boils down to is that unemployed people want others to treat them normally. Unemployment can definitely be upsetting, stressful and cause one to be anxious. A little levity would therefore be welcomed. Finding the right balance as with all things is the key, as well as knowing what to joke and laugh about. Joking about one’s unemployment status is obviously one topic that is taboo. That’s one area that’s probably very raw and to do so would be insensitive.

However, one of the nicest things you might do is offer to treat your friend to a comedy movie. Movies for starters allow people to escape for a couple of hours, and the laughs and humour will be a healthy exercise. And it is okay to laugh if you are the unemployed person. It’s good for you! And if you want to keep your friends and family close during a time when you need their support more than ever, being dead serious and brooding isn’t going to help.

You should I hope understand that I have sympathy and empathy for someone who is out of work. I’ve been out of a job in the past, and it’s not a pleasant experience when you really want to contribute and be gainfully employed. I remember one time when I was out of work that I caught myself laughing, smiling, and feeling blissfully happy, although what it was that had me feeling that way escapes me. It wasn’t that moment that I really recall as much as it was the moment shortly after though where I remembered I was out of work and reminded myself of that and felt I shouldn’t be happy and reverted back to the stress with a serious face. It’s as if I was saying, “I’m out of work, I shouldn’t be happy and laughing or people wont’ think I’m taking this job search seriously.”

I now look at things differently. Not being able to find a job when you want one is a bad thing. But bad things and bad times do generally pass; pass quickly or pass slowly, but time usually does mean they pass eventually. Your employment status and you as a person are not one and the same. While we do often define people by what they do for a living, employment is but one aspect of who we are.

So you may be a father, mother, sister, brother, uncle, aunt, daughter, son, sister, brother, friend, athlete, hobbyist, gardener, fisherman, outdoors person, and a myriad of other labels might be attached to you. Unemployed isn’t entirely who you are. So don’t let this status rule and define you entirely. Allowing one aspect of who you are to take over all other roles you have to play is decidedly unhealthy. And what does that look like? Well it’s like a father stops parenting for example, and sits off alone, being irked by his children having fun, as if somehow they are rubbing their dad’s unhappiness in his face. They are of course, just being children.

In fact, stressful times can be helpful. If you are able to dig deeper, work harder to find work, treat your job search with your full attention and still do your best to find time to parent well, stay connected to your friends, and do the things in your life that do bring you joy, other’s will remark on your resolve and your ability to work through your unemployment period with such a great attitude. Later when you are working again, they may tell you how impressed they have been with how you handled things overall.

And how you handle pressurized situations when you are under stress could very well be the basis for a wonderful answer in an interview for a job. “Tell me about a time when you’ve been under pressure and had to work through a problem. Tell me the steps you took to resolve that situation.” To answer this question, you COULD relate how you found yourself out of a job, had your ups and downs, but resolved to be successful. How you updated your resume, networked and built your support circle, did some upgrading by taking a course, read some job search help books, phoned your references, acted on leads, set up meetings, and practiced your interview skills, and that’s brought you to the interview right now where you are selling yourself to your very best.

And you know

A Job Search Of Frustrations Ends In Success


Approximately three months ago, I happened to be scheduled to be in our Employment Resource Centre for the day. Those who use the Centre are all unemployed or underemployed recipients of social services or those on disability assistance. When you work in the Centre, you essentially deal with whomever walks through the door, and deal with the issues they bring with them.

On this one day, I noticed a young woman who was strikingly different from many of the regular clients. She was dressed well, well-groomed, and working very diligently and privately on a computer, blocking out those around her, not even batting an eye when disruptions happened. On the desk she was using, she had three very organized piles of papers, and was obviously extremely focused. She was sitting upright, slightly leaning forward and her fingers proved she knew her way around a keyboard too. I was impressed.

So I started up a conversation with her and it turned out she was looking for work as I suspected; hunting down Environmental Technician positions. She showed me a resume that for once I found was almost perfect the way it was. What a change from the other 99% I see that are anywhere from complete disasters to those needing tweaking. I was impressed. She showed me a cover letter she had just finished which also looked pretty good, and the recommendations I suggested were minor – more improvements than corrections.

“I’m so frustrated”, she said. “Do you know I’ve been applying for jobs in my field and all I get is confirmation that they’ve been received in a polite computer-generated response email?” So I asked her to tell me how she went about job searching. She shared with me that she researches companies she would like to work for, learns about their values, principles and mission statements. She has set herself up for alerts in the gas and oil industry, trying to catch on to early postings. She matches her resume to job postings, always uses a cover letter, always follows up with calls to ensure they have been received, proactively asks for interviews, uses good manners thanking everyone she speaks with, and sends notes of thanks if she does get an interview. Still nothing.

So then I asked if she was using social media and she offered to show me her LinkedIn profile page. That too was pretty well done, and the picture was a keeper. It all seemed so unified and the kind of job search that typically I’d suggest everyone should be doing to increase odds of success. She was trying to meet people too, network with those who might be in a position to help her out. I was scratching my head and wondering what there was left to suggest that this go-getter could do; after all, I was the so-called expert and had voluntary inserted myself into this conversation.

What I did do was offer to include her in a future job search group I run, and promised that if she said yes, I’d do my very best to help her out, however that might be. She actually accepted with the stipulation that when notified of the actual dates, she’d either accept or decline based on what was going on at the time. And so it was that just over one month ago, she was contacted and declined at the time because she had a few interviews scheduled and wanted to fully prepare for those intently.

Yesterday she came in to the Resource Centre and asked to see me. When I walked in to the room she was glowing, excited and waved at me to come over excitedly. I could tell some kind of good news was about to wash over me. Sure enough, she showed me a contract offer from a major gas and oil employer. She says she got called in for an interview for a job which she applied to…5 months earlier. Yep; 5 months ago. They interviewed her and said they were looking to hire for September of 2014. No that’s not a typo. However after interviewing her, they were fast-tracking her to start in January 2014 because they didn’t want to lose her.

She told me there were 4 positions being filled, and they received 800 applications of which 20 were shortlisted, and 10 got second interviews. Those numbers are staggering, as is the time period involved. She applied 5 months ago for a job that wasn’t to really start until 10 months from now. Good information for other job seekers to note. The employer will pack her belongings, relocate her to another city, her benefits start on day 1, and the job is upwards of $73,000.00 per year to start.

Starting on social assistance had brought her to a new low, her savings exhausted and debt starting to rise. This job not only means a fresh start, it means financial independence, increased self-worth. And I loved the fact that she got so excited at seeing me walk in the room because she could share her news with me in person. How thoughtful to include me when thinking of whom to share her news with!

Take the good news in this story and carry forth the hope; visualize yourself getting the good news and then go out and be persistent and patient.

The Exhileration Of, “I’m Hired!”


Yesterday I got word that a client I’ve been working with during the past year has successfully interviewed for a position she really wanted. Now anyone whose business it is to assist others in moving towards financial independence will tell you that when one of our clients succeeds, it is so joyful to share that news with them. It re-affirms of course our work, but really it’s just about being so excited for them and we can almost see and hear the weight slide off their shoulders.

This one client I will admit is a person that I have had exceptionally high expectations of. Not only has she always presented herself well-groomed, but she has always been open to hearing and acting on advice and suggestions made to her. One of her most attractive qualities to me has been her determination and focus in conducting her job search. When arriving for example in the Employment Resource Centre to use a computer, she will enter the room, move to a cubicle, open up the necessary software and e-mails, and then seldom take her eyes off the work she needs to get done. When her work is completed, she’ll often pack up and leave without wasting anytime on Youtube, Facebook, personal e-mail etc. She’s here to work.

I made sure when I spoke with her that I congratulated her for her determination and told her how proud I was of her. I couldn’t help but smile myself as I heard the excitement in her voice. What really came out was her rise in self-worth and growing self-esteem. You see over time, her confidence was eroding, she was doubting herself and wondering if she shouldn’t expand her list of acceptable jobs to well outside her chosen goal.

Ironic in some ways that when a person is unemployed for longer than they expected, that their self-perception should be so damaged. Of course that’s because in our society we tie how we perceive ourselves and others by what occupation we have, and how we earn a living. The feeling for many without a job is that they don’t in fact, “earn a living” at all. So when an employer told her she was hired, her view of herself soared because someone else was validating her as a person and saw value in having her as an employee.

HOW the offer was made helped repair a lot of damage too. You see, she had originally been told that there would be two interviews potentially. She would only be hired by the person ultimately making the decision if she could pass the first interview with, as it now turns out, a co-worker. Well, after meeting with that individual, she was told to sit tight for a moment and the decision-maker appeared. A short time later, the rest of the interviews were cancelled, and she was hired on the spot and today is her first day – less than 24 hours after the interview.

Sometimes that’s how things work. Unemployment rears its ugly head and you crash after a long fall when that period of time gets drawn out seemingly forever. Then just when you really start to doubt yourself, a job offer comes and you feel vindicated, you feel optimistic again, you appreciate a pay cheque so much more, and you make a commitment to value your work and what it means because it becomes part of your identity.

If you are struggling in your own job search, take some small comfort in this tale. One day it WILL become true of you too. Resist the urge to give up and spend time in the dark places of depression and gloom. It may not be easy, but surround yourself with positive people who believe in you. Speak with a Career, Employment or Guidance Counsellor. Many of the people around you who to you appear to be entirely successful, have themselves experienced unemployment and frustration. You are not alone in your job hunt.

All the very best as you work to land that next job.