“I Need A Job Not A Conversation”


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Out Of Work? Opportunities Are Knocking


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coursera   https://www.coursera.org/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Delivering Honesty With Kindness


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A Job Search Daily Plan


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

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

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

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

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

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

A focused job search could look like this:

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

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

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

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

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

 

Connect With People I Don’t Know? Why?


Every time I speak about social media and LinkedIn in particular, the question of who to connect to comes up. There’s obvious benefit in connecting with those you already know, as they can testify to your good work attributes, support you with leads on job opportunities and they can introduce you to others. But connect with people you don’t know; why would you do that?

First of all, connecting with people you don’t know is the only way you’re going to expand your current network of contacts. It’s the only way humans have ever done so in the entire history of mankind. The difference here is we’re meeting digitally and electronically rather than in person… at least the first time. By expanding our network, we increase the possibilities that somewhere in those connections, there will arise opportunities. When those opportunities arise, some you know will say you’re lucky, but by connecting with people you don’t know, you increase the odds of being considered for these opportunities. You make your own luck.

One of those opportunities is networking itself. You might start with people who also work for the same organization as you do, but whom you’ve never met. They may work in different departments or different physical buildings. So for example, you might connect with someone who works in Digital Communications and later consult with them about what guidelines you’re supposed to follow when communicating outside the organization. Having a relationship with that person prior to needing them can accelerate your need for a quick response and their level of engagement in responding to your request.

You may also benefit from connecting with someone you don’t know who is in the same field, with the same job title as the one you hold, but who works elsewhere. When you do this, you have an instant commonality; you can openly discuss best practices, new innovations, problems that require solutions and of course, opportunities. Each time you reach out to comment or offer up an idea, your reputation improves and so does your value proposition.

What you definitely don’t do is connect at 10:00 a.m. one day and at 10:05 a.m. ask this new connection who was a stranger 5 minutes ago to give you a job. If you do, don’t be surprised to receive no reply at all, find yourself disconnected or be told in some way that your request is inappropriate. Why would they feel any compulsion to help you when they know nothing about you? They aren’t going to risk their own reputation within their organization endorsing the application of someone they don’t know.

Yes the best way to help yourself is to extend yourself to assisting others. You’ll feel good for starters and what you may or may not hope for is a future reciprocal act. But don’t fret and think connecting with others is going to mean you’ll just end up helping a lot of other people and taking up more of your precious time. You might read an article they’ve posted and like it or comment on it. You could ask a question of someone (other than, “will you hire me?”) that pertains more to what it’s like to work where they do, what challenges they are facing or even simply letting them know you’re open to helping them if they’d ever like a conversation with someone in the field who works outside of their organization. See where it goes.

Many of the connection requests you accept will be from people who understand connecting is a good idea, but they never do anything other than connect. No matter, don’t fret about it and use this as your reason for not connecting with folks you don’t know. Sometimes the people I accept a connection request from suddenly reach out after a year or more of having no dialogue. What I don’t know is they’ve been reading some of my posts, felt they’ve come to know me and then when they’ve felt comfortable, it’s then they reached out. I suppose you could say they were evaluating my trust and sincerity; which they derived from what I post and the consistency of my messaging.

Make a friend before you need a friend. Look, we all need people to help us along. The most helpful people are those who feel some true connection in the relationship that’s been established. I hold in high regard some people I’ve never met in person and whom I likely never will. They come and go in my digital life; some I’ve helped quite a bit as evidenced by their words of thanks. Others have helped me and some have helped people I know by way of referral.

You may not want to be on social media for privacy and safety reasons. Enough said. No need to convince me as you may not want to be found by people from your past.

If you count yourself among those I’m connected to yet never met in person, thank you. I appreciate my connections, even the ones with whom the conversations have yet to begin. But there are many with whom I have conversations with on a regular basis and to you I extend my biggest thanks. I hope you see our connection as worthwhile too. It’s cool to think how much we can say with just our 8 fingers and 2 thumbs!

 

An Unfair Playing Field


“You can be whoever you want to be.”

If you heard these words from your parents in your childhood, it’s probable you were born into an upper middle class family.

“Don’t try and be better than your own.”

If you heard these words from your parent in your childhood, it’s probable you were born into a lower class family; possibly even one in poverty.

Parents in both were doing what they believed was correct; preparing their child for life ahead. How they did this was either by laying the world before their child and encouraging them to dream and then follow that dream, or to keep their head out of the clouds and prepare for a predictable life of work ahead.

The reality for many of the poor is a different value system than those in both the middle and upper classes. While there will always be the odd exception; that child who aspires for more and finds an inner determination to climb the social classes, the majority face what often turns out to be insurmountable struggles. Education for example, highly valued by those who can afford it, is often a precursor to success. For children growing up in poverty, they may have families who frown on education as unnecessary; many of the parents themselves poorly educated and as a result, not in a position to assist with or encourage home study time.

It’s a sorrowful reality of course. Well, to be fair, it’s sad for many in the middle class who work with and support those in poverty. As an example, we might take our own values and beliefs – writing a cover letter and error-free resume as a given. We’d take steps to ensure our applications were proofread, our sentences grammatically correct and the content precise. Many living in poverty would be more inclined to try and get a job by meeting someone and asking for it directly; no resume, certainly not a cover letter. Where a resume is required, it would be of an inferior quality; spelling errors, blunt and repetitive, a single word or two for a bullet, scant in content and length.

This is no knock against the poor, more an observation of reality. It’s a tough life when you think about growing up to be an adult in a world of digital technology and social media when you haven’t got a high school education, you lack basic computer skills, your literacy level is low and more doors are closed than open.  How sad it is that young children start off in life with such roadblocks to success already set in place.

When working to support the impoverished, it’s vitally important to be aware of our own value system and check frequently to ensure we don’t transfer our hopes and expectations onto others. While we might believe we can be whomever we choose; that hard work and persistence will pay off with success, it’s not the case for all. Think about how daunting it must feel for someone living with literacy issues, a skewed view of higher education and to read over and over again that a high school diploma (not to mention a College Diploma or University Degree) is required for many of the jobs they find. Completing high school and graduating with a diploma is like someone in the middle class graduating with a degree or getting their Masters.

One of the best ways to fire the brain at an early age and open a child to language is reading to them as their parent. It’s great bonding time for parent and child as a bonus, and it sends the message that reading has value. Regular, daily reading time stimulates the imagination, each word sounded out and pronounced correctly creates confidence and builds self-esteem. However, a parent who finds reading difficult themselves isn’t likely to showcase their personal weakness to their child, and may either tell them to read to themselves or actually discourage reading altogether as something of little value. “I never needed it and you don’t neither.”

Each day I work with those in receipt of social assistance, I find many have literacy issues. This manifests itself in the words they use in conversation, their inability to spell common words, sometimes their comprehension and as a result their ability to learn and put into practice what they hear.

Here’s the thing though…these same people are some of the most generous, giving people. They are truly inspiring and while their hope is fragile, many show a determination to be better than they are and for their children to have better lives than they have. Hire some of these people and you get paid back with great employees. Not always of course; sometimes their going to make poor choices – but again, likely because they lack good decision-making skills and haven’t had encouragement and supportive coaching.

They have incredible barriers to success to push through however. Having had poor parenting themselves, often having grown up in single-parent families, they don’t have the knowledge or skills to build on many of us take for granted.

Looking for work is difficult because they aren’t on a level playing field. Many of the advantages we have in middle/upper classes we take for granted; not even recognizing or appreciating them.

Want to help? Be kind, understanding, empathetic, maybe forgiving and always courteous. Give someone a chance, perhaps a second chance.

Finding Career Direction Can Be Emotional


Today is the 7th and final day of a  career exploration class I’ve been facilitating. During this time, the participants have been learning about themselves; examining their skills, values, beliefs and then looking at possible jobs and careers that fit best.

For some, it’s been a confirmation that the direction they’re heading in is the right one for them at this time. For others, something new has emerged. There’s a several that have actually had multiple occupations come up and that’s left them with some decisions to make. Finally, there are 3 for whom the course has left their future unclear; they’ve yet to get the clarity and direction they’d hoped for on the first day. Failure? Absolutely not!

Now you might wonder about those last 3. After all, if they came with the expectation of gaining insight into a career they could pursue and that’s yet to emerge, why not consider their time a bust? Fair enough. Well, you see it’s not a question of these 3 finding no job that interests them, it’s more a question of still deciding upon an occupation that will best bring them overall happiness; a combination of what they do well, peaks their passion and returns financial reward for their labour.

Everyone in the class has in my estimation, entirely invested themselves in the process; giving thought to the questions asked of them and completing a number of assessments with a sincere trust in the process. Having conducted this class many times over the course of my career, I can spot a special kind of person; the one that takes this career exploration seriously and pins their hopes on an outcome that they’ll then find meaningful; and this class was full of this kind of person.

And so yesterday, as we came to one of the exercises that starts the process of narrowing down which direction to move in for each person, it hit one person particularly hard when they realized the clarity and direction they’d hoped for hasn’t yet materialized. Tears came, and they removed themselves for a few minutes twice in order to collect themselves. If you think people on social assistance are lazy, unmotivated and are happy to sit back and not work, you’d have a very different view had you sat in on the group yesterday at this moment.

When tears come out, it’s embarrassing for the person much of the time, but it’s actually a clear sign of how much things matter. If the person didn’t care; they’d just taken the class because they were made to or saw it as something to do for awhile, there’d be no tears because their was no emotional investment. Because the tears came out, that’s a clear indication to me that this career / self exploration stuff matters; that the person still believes THEY matter.

We all have barriers to success. That’s not a question but rather a statement. Whether we share them or keep them private, there are things that stand in our way; education we lack, skills that are rusty or not improved upon, experience that we lack, a criminal record we don’t have the funds to erase, an inability to decide between very different jobs and careers. We might lack transportation, have child care issues, anxiety, low self-esteem, fear of making another poor choice and ending up in an unsatisfying job, perhaps a disability; physical or mental.

And as long as were talking barriers, most of us have more than one. In fact, some of us have multiple barriers and they are the invisible kind. While others look at us and can’t see them immediately, they are so very real and huge to us that we feel everybody knows ours. Truth is, most other people are concerned with their own issues they don’t really see the ones we feel are on display for all to see.

For those still struggling to gain some direction, the feelings can be so intense, they see themselves as a failure – again. With the pressure they may be under in the other parts of their lives, this they’d believed, would turn out better. Well, it will. Really, I believe this. There is no prescribed 7 day fix that a course magically promises everyone. On day 1, I actually warned people I wouldn’t stand before them and tell them what they’d be. That is for everyone to find for themselves and while it may take 7 days for many, more time is needed for others.

What of you? Do you know where you’re headed job-wise, career-wise? Are you satisfied with that direction? Are you confused, anxious, afraid of moving in the wrong direction so you put off making a decision altogether?

There’s a cost to being indecisive and time passing will rob you of your current references, the benefits of your experience as your skills sit idle. Your confidence will ebb with a lengthening unemployed gap on your resume. And which is better for you, a job or a career? Both have value and both are the right choice depending on where you’re at.

Knowing yourself better is a great start. Look at your assets; skills, experience, education, contacts, likes, dislikes, problem-solving and learning style, just to name a few things. Knowing who you are is a key.

Looking at jobs and careers that match and working through your barriers will get you where you want to be.

YOU matter.

Maybe You’re The Roadblock


That isn’t what you want to hear, but it might be what you need to hear.

Unfortunately, some of those that need to hear they may be the problem are no longer reading after that first line and some others didn’t even open the article because quite frankly, they figure they don’t need anybody telling them anything. They know it all.

Ah but here’s you! You chose to read! Congratulations! I appreciate your willingness to read and let some of what you read sink in perhaps and consider. The good news for you is that you might be open to changing a few things after reading; getting on track to have a better future than both your past and present.

Roadblocks to our goals fall into two categories; they can come from within or come from our environment. The ones that come from within are entirely ours to impose on ourselves or change. That’s the good news. The bad news, (well at least for some) is that this means the responsibility is 100% ours and ours alone to do something about this internal roadblocks. If you remove them, you deserve all the praise for doing so! If you not only refuse to move these internal roadblocks, you go about your life building more roadblocks to success, you’ve got no one to blame but yourself. What I have always found to be sad and unfortunate is that there are a lot of people who set up roadblocks for themselves – barriers to their own success – and yet they say it’s Life being unfair to them; there’s other people out to get them, and society in general is holding them back.

Look, when you’re not having success finding the right jobs, getting interviews, getting hired or keeping jobs once you get them, it is a fool who refuses to consider that they themselves might be the problem. When your trying and trying and your success rate is 3%, you HAVE to at least consider that doing things your way isn’t working. If your way is the only way you know, then doesn’t it sound reasonable to do more listening than talking, heed some advice from someone who knows more than you do and benefit from their knowledge?

Acknowledging that others know more than you do in something doesn’t mean you’re inferior as a person and that you know less than they do in everything. In fact, seeking out people who are wiser than you are, especially in something you really want to become better at is a sign of intelligence! Smart people are always open to learning from others. And smart people do more listening than talking.

Listening is good but it isn’t enough however. To remove a roadblock, here’s what’s needed:

  1. Show a receptive attitude to learning which invites people to share with you
  2. Listen and give them 100% of your attention
  3. Think about or reflect on what you’ve heard (mouth closed)
  4. Be willing to consider and implement some or all suggested ideas
  5. Demonstrate your ability to actually implement the new ideas in the manner they were shared with you
  6. Check back and ask for feedback

Many who are their own biggest problem refuse to even do the first step. They fail to appreciate opportunities when they arise; they discourage those who have knowledge from sharing it with them.

Here’s a quick example. Yesterday I met a woman job searching on a popular job search website. She showed me how she’d cleverly set the distance field to only display jobs close to where she lived – and that’s good. I asked her what job she was after and she said, “anything but it has to pay well.” I asked her what skills she wanted to use in her next job and she said, “baking, customer service and stamina”. So I suggested a company I know where they are in need of Bakers but she shut that down by telling me they weren’t really Bakers there. She told me to tell her of any jobs that would get her money though, and in our conversation, her face never left the monitor as she scrolled quickly down a list of jobs which included Landscapers, Office Administrator’s, Medical Transcriptionists, Telemarketers etc. – all over the map.

Our conversation went on for about 10 minutes. Of the 6 steps above, she did zero. She didn’t show a receptive attitude despite the words she used, didn’t listen, never paused for thought on anything I said, shut down the ideas given to her, failed to implement anything and therefore couldn’t ask for feedback after having tried some. The impression she gave off was that although she said she was open to getting help finding a job, her actions, attitude and behaviour screamed, “I know what I’m doing, it’s not me. Had you been there, you’d have thought as I did, “Actually it’s you.”

There’s a saying that goes, “When the student is ready the Teacher will appear.” What this means is that sooner or later when someone finally is ready to listen and learn, they’ll find help is right in front of them. Yesterday wasn’t her day. Although the Teacher stood before her, she failed to recognize the opportunity for learning. You can’t learn and master any skill you believe you already have.

So my advice on this? Print and cut out those 6 steps above. Stick them in your wallet. Live by them.

 

Getting Over Hurdles In Life


It may sound like an odd way to begin, but visualize a roller coaster at a theme park. It starts off level with the ground, then goes through some ups and downs, there’s twists and turns and possibly one or two huge climbs followed by plummeting falls and eventually it all levels out and you get off. Some are excited to repeat the ride, others look a little worse for wear. Most have hearts pounding after the exhilaration of the ride, some have to fix their hair, and a few are ill; vowing never to go through that again!

I asked you to visualize a roller coaster, not Life, but the parallels are just about as real as the tracks on that coaster.

Most of us perhaps would be happy to sit beside our children or grandchildren on the coaster in kiddie land that goes around in an oval with smooth rises and smooth rolling downs. There’s happiness on the faces of the children, they love the ride and it’s so calm we can carry on a conversation with them and enjoy the experience.

That adult coaster though? It’s death-defying drops, blood-curdling screams as gravity is stripped away and white-knuckled terror; not for the faint of heart.

Where the roller coaster image fails to imitate Life however is that we all stand and size up the coaster. We get to watch it from the ground, then make a decision to ride it or not, we know what’s coming and we voluntarily participate having made a choice to undergo it. While exciting, terrible or utterly fantastic, it only lasts minutes and then we’re back to where we started. It’s over. It’s done. We move on.

Life on the other hand, that’s different. We do our best to map out where we’re going based on all the information we can gather. Whether it’s a road trip, choosing a career, getting into a relationship, or making a major purchase, we do our best to plan our moves and take positive steps forward. We build up momentum when we have some small successes and we have obstacles to overcome which, for the most part, we do so using our past experiences; taking advice from our peers and drawing on our skills.

But as is the case for many; perhaps everyone at some point, along comes some major hill to climb; a crisis. Unlike the coaster, we didn’t anticipate this; we can’t stand back and see how it’s going to end up, we can’t see all the twists and turns ahead of us and no, we don’t know it’s going to all end up with us safe. Most of all, we don’t know how long we’re going to be on this, ‘ride’ we didn’t sign up for.

There are many folks who, lacking the necessary life skills and failing to learn from their experiences, go from one crisis to the next. At any one time, they’ve got 2 or 3 major challenges happening and 4 or 6 smaller problems which if they fail to address will grow and become major hurdles. That roller coaster track on the other hand is solid steel; fixed and rigid. The tracks on the roller coaster of Life seem to have life of their own, undulating, hovering, fluidly moving uncontrollably up and down, responding to our ability or lack of ability to control.

Back to the kiddie land coaster. The child who is nervous about going on the ride is comforted and encouraged by the older sibling or trusted parent alongside. They stand and watch it together, mom points out all the happy kids; dad shows the child the exit door where the kids are bouncing out, excited and safe. The sibling takes the younger sister or brother by the hand and says, “C’mon, it’ll be fun and I’ll be there with you.”

But now as an adult facing your real-life challenges, where’s your support coming from? Does it feel like your standing alone, with no one to hold your hand, go through it with you, assure you it will all end up okay? Yep, it sure can feel that way and yes, you’re entitled to feel what you feel; it’s normal and it’s perfectly right to feel anxiety, anxiousness, rising fear, stress and perhaps panic.

That ride in kiddie land is fun on its own for a child, but it’s also getting that youngster ready for the bigger rides later in life. Get on the ride, have some fun, laugh and then get off. Do it again. Do it once more. Eventually, the child says they want to go on another ride, and they point at something a little bigger, then much bigger, and looking back at the kiddie land alligator ride, they say, “Ah, that’s for small kids.” Forgotten was the day they clung to the leg of a parent, heels dug in the grass and fear written all over their face.

Life is like that. We face new challenges and crises using the skills we’ve developed over time. Sometimes we fail and things don’t turn out great. We don’t always land safely. The learning that goes with the failure however? Hopefully that prepares us for a future hurdle to overcome. We can use that experience, as bad as it was, to avoid repeating it.

It’s called Life for a reason you know; we live it.

So c’mon, take my hand and let’s go!

Focus On The Good; Not The Bad


It may have started at home as a child:

“You brushed your hair nicely and I’m glad you brushed your teeth, but your room is a mess.”

Then in school it was:

“Gets along with others, does excellent in Math but could be better in History.”

As a teenager dating:

“You’re kind and thoughtful, but I wish you were taller.”

Finally as an adult the boss says:

“You’re hitting your targets and I’m pleased with your energy, but you could participate more in team meetings.”

Many people will identify with having heard comments such as the above. When you look back at each of them, there’s two positives and one to work on; two good and one bad, two strengths and a weakness. Depends how you hear it, interpret it and understand it.

These comments and their impact divides people into two groups: those that heard the positives and are uplifted and feel good about themselves, and those who zeroed in on the one thing that they aren’t doing well and need to improve upon. Which type are you generally?

For the last two weeks, I’ve been instructing a class of a dozen people who are just learning to use the computer. It’s computer basics, starting pretty much with how to turn it on. We’ve covered terminology, creating and using email, crafting a resume using MS Word, exploring the internet, using job search skills, working with a USB Flashstick, navigating employment websites, and applied for jobs. For absolute beginners, we’ve accomplished a great deal.

Yesterday I gave each person a 13 step assignment which would give them a chance to independently use their skills. Everyone found they could do more than half of the assignment entirely unaided. I’d guess it was around step 8 or 9 where the majority had to pause and ask for help from someone. No shame in that by the way; asking for help with the computer is something I see all the time in workplaces. Eventually the whole class did complete the assigned work, and I made sure to remind them to focus not on what they failed to remember and needed help with, but focus rather on all the things they did correctly and did remember on their own. What each accomplished far outweighed where they struggled.

You see, I believe that people don’t hear the good in themselves as much as they need to. Some in fact, have gone long stretches of time without hearing much at all from anyone when it comes to positive feedback. I think successful people hear and internalize the good when they get mixed feedback, whereas those who tend to only hear the suggestions for improvement tend to have a lower self-image of themselves. Sure we can all improve, but my goodness, there’s so much I see to praise in people.

But surely some of you are thinking, we can’t go around telling people how awesome they are and how great they are doing when in fact they aren’t! If we don’t point out their shortcomings and their faults how are they to improve? I had a boss like that once. He told me it was his job to point out all the little things I was doing wrong when doing one of my yearly performance appraisals. Yet on a daily basis he was happy with my performance. That comment he made during a 3 hour (yep, he thought a 3 hour appraisal was how best to motivate people) meeting where he did nothing but point out little things I could do better resonated with me then and still does 25 years later. His words were, “It’s not my job to point out what you’re doing right, but to point out all the things you’re doing wrong so you can improve.” I started job searching the next day and soon got a better job, more income, and worked at a higher level in the new organization. Oh he motivated me alright.

Perhaps it is the consistent memory of that bad experience that has given me great empathy for people I lead, partner with and instruct. If like me, you are in a position of some authority or influence in your job, it is a responsibility of ours to build up rather than beat down. It’s far too easy to point out what others are doing wrong, where they can improve, how to be better. It’s just as easy to point out successes, achievements, label and reinforce accomplishments. Why not choose to emphasize the good?

The thing is, you and I; we really don’t intimately know the past of many people we interact with daily. We can read notes in a file, but the person is so much more rich and layered than some file. We don’t know how many times they’ve had people they trusted and respected tell them they could do better, BE better. Could be they honestly feel they’ll never measure up; they’ll never be good enough.

Imagine then – and it’s not too hard really – how impactful you and I might be if we built people up with genuine positives. Genuine of course, not invented, but positive comments and praise. Then imagine if that same person heard some good from someone else, then a third person. Why we might actually see people believe more in themselves, like themselves better and build successfully on their successes.

And that my reader, is pretty cool.