Help Wanted

A lot of businesses in days gone by would put a sign in their front window indicating, “Help Wanted – Apply Within”. When you spied one such sign and were interested, you’d walk in, introduce yourself and say you were there about the job. The employer would look you up and down, ask a few questions and send you or your way or hire you; sometimes if you were lucky, on the spot. The sign was then removed from the window, and the people knew to stop dropping in because the job opening was filled.

Those signs did the trick for those companies. They simply said they needed help and help came knocking on their door – literally in this case!

Now, yes, I’ve been out and about and looked at windows where such signs are still displayed, but far less of them are out there than in days past. Most of the time this kind of advertising for help only works in high traffic areas anyhow. Malls, strip malls, heavy pedestrian traffic streets are places where they are most effective. As you well know, an employer is much more likely to post job openings on a job search website and instruct applicants to apply online.

What if people did the same thing when they were out of work and needed help to find and get their next job? I don’t mean holding a sign that says, “I need a job. Please hire me.” This kind of sign is pretty self-serving, the message clear; “I need a job so I’m asking you to hire me so that I get what I need – the money that comes from employment.” I see people with these signs approaching on ramps to major highways, standing on the street. Maybe you’ve seen them too?

First of all let’s not judge these folks harshly. We don’t know the first thing about what circumstances have led them to those on ramps and sidewalks. Judgement aside, what if those signs were written with a different message? Imagine they read, “Help Wanted: Job Search Assistance, End Goal: Employment.”

Now the average person walking down the street can come from one of a hundred different walks of life. While each person may not have the ability to offer job search ideas and support to a person, the one thing we’d all have in common and be in a place to give is some cash. This is why panhandling achieves its goal of rustling up some much-needed and immediate short-term cash. But job search support? That’s likely going to take the right person walking down the street and that person has to be counted on to both see the sign and then have the time and interest to stop and ask how they can be of help. Probably less likely to succeed but who knows.

But there is a fundamental difference in the two signs, “I need a job” and “Help Wanted: Job Search Assistance, End Goal: Employment.” The first is all about the person holding the sign; what they want and need. The second is not so much about a job being given them, but rather they are asking for help in learning how to get a job for themselves.

I’ll be honest with you though and tell you not everyone is interested or motivated in putting in the time, mental energy or work involved in learning how to do things for themselves. I mean that. There are people who’d rather have someone give them a job and be done with it; perhaps they’ve relied on people to give them jobs in the past and this is all they know. It’s too much work to learn how to go about job searching in 2018. They’ve no interest in cover letters, resume writing, interview skills, career exploration and skill identification; just give me a job thank you or move on.

Stephen Landry in Ottawa; a LinkedIn connection of mine just yesterday said something to me in a communication that got me thinking. He said, “Sometimes it’s hard for people to know how to ask for help when it’s all they know or have experienced.” He’s a wise one is Stephen. You see it’s not that people are obstinate or inflexible, they just may not know how to ask for the help they need. Good point Stephen.

I generally don’t recommend holding a sign asking for help out in public. Might be worth a go and get results but the odds are low I imagine. Rather, to increase your odds at getting the job search support you really want, a good place to start is with a social service organization in your community. Look them up online or walk in when you’re out and about. Even if you walk into the wrong place, all the social service organizations are well-connected. You’ll be listened to, (and isn’t that nice?) just enough to decide who best would serve your needs. You’ll likely get an address, a phone number and maybe some pamphlet on the services they offer.

I hesitate to give specific names of help organizations because this blog makes its way around the world. So this is where you my reader comes in. Please comment and suggest a few employment support organizations in your part of the world. If you add a place or two and others do likewise, any job seeker reading this blog will benefit.

Looking For Work?

Looking for a job or the next step in your career can be a stressful experience. While you may want a new position, you’re not at all looking forward to the résumé writing, online applications, rejections, flat-out being ignored altogether when you apply for a job you really want and then of course the interview process. The rejection and ups and downs of the job search thing is frustrating, nerve-wracking and for what? A low-paying job doing something you’ll dread, working for people who don’t care about you but only how much they can wring out of you before you quit or your fired?

It doesn’t have to be this way, nor should it. If this has been or is your experience, no wonder your desire to look for a new job is pretty weak. Let’s look at some ideas to keep motivated during this search.

First of all it’s a good idea – even if it seems completely obvious – to know why you want a new job. Are you burnt out in your current job, looking to put your recent education to use, looking for a part-time job to supplement your income or perhaps looking for a promotion? Knowing clearly why you want a new job is critical because in the moments when you feel frustrated and just want to chuck it in, you’ll want to remind yourself why you started looking in the first place.

A successful job search is planned out just like any meaningful project. Whether it’s building a house, running an ad campaign, raising funds for a charity or designing marketing materials, planning is critical. Too many people unfortunately start their job search randomly looking at employment websites. That shouldn’t be your first step.

After you’ve determined why you want a new job, assess what you’re starting with. Anyone starting a journey takes stock of their supplies and identifies both what they’ve got and what they’ll need to acquire. In the case of a job search, what are your assets? Examine your education, past and current experience including paid and volunteer work. Objectively take stock of your job-specific and transferable skills, your financial resources and the extent you’re willing to travel to work.

Now to decide what kind of work to actually pursue. Looking at that list of your assets, what jobs are you qualified for now? Do any of these jobs appeal to you? If so, great! If not, are you willing to invest time and money upgrading your education to acquire the academic qualifications you’ll need to compete for the kind of jobs you might really want? This could involve some research with local College or University Guidance Counsellors to help you out.

By the way, if you feel you’ve got time and youth on your side, don’t fret about finding the perfect job that checks off all your wants and desires. If you’re light on experience, there’s a lot of sense in doing a variety of jobs to help decide what brings you happiness; what you like and don’t like. A variety of jobs gives you perspective, might even appeal to an employer if you place yourself later as having broad first-hand experience. So if you can’t settle on THE job, relax and give yourself the green light to explore several jobs for say, the next 5 years.

Now what’s important to you? Are you after job satisfaction, money, a certain kind of environment to work in or a job that involves travel? What do you imagine is the kind of boss you’ll work best with? There are many factors that you should look at to find what’s important to you and if you need help doing this, get yourself connected with a local Employment Coach, Employment Counsellor or Career Specialist. These are the people who can best help you look at the factors that will ultimately bring you happiness in the work you do.

So with some job or career loosely or firmly in mind, turn to looking at the organizations that have these kind of positions. Taking the time to see how they differ from each other, what they rank and value, the atmosphere they create for those that work there is time well spent. You don’t want to find you love the job but loathe working in the atmosphere that surrounds it.

At this point you’ve got a career or job goal in mind that you’re skills and experience align with, and you’ve identified one or more companies that you’d like to be a part of. Now is the time to look at applying. Just because there are no current postings doesn’t mean there are no opportunities. Networking and initiating conversations with those who do what you want to do, work where you want to work and hire people like you is essential and often overlooked. Get known.

Once you’re connected, keep focused. Sure go ahead and ask about opportunities but do seek advice on what you could be doing in the here and now to strengthen your chances when a position is advertised. Positioning yourself to succeed shows them your keen and gives you momentum when otherwise you’d feel stalled.

Whether your 25, 45 or 60, take stock of what you’ve got, what you want and why you want it.

The steps above will take some time to transition through; varying for each person. Skip a step as unnecessary and you might be looking for some time.

How Not To Get Hire; 7 #1 Mistakes

Many people who are looking for work point their finger at things they can’t control as the reasons for their unemployment. Be it the economy, the interviewer with weak interviewing skills, a lack of jobs in their field; there always seems to be a reason to explain their lack of success.

I have found however, that the primary reason that a person is out of work is often – dare I say it – one of their own making, and furthermore, within their ability to fix. Now let me just say up front that there are also a number of people who are doing everything they can to find work, and they will not appreciate appearing to be kicked when they’re down. I assure you, this is not my intent; but if you happen to see yourself in one or more of the following behaviours, let this be your wake up call to change.

  1. Clothing Faux Pas
Just because you aren’t employed doesn’t mean you exchange your work clothes for sweat pants and oversized t-shirts. When you’re out of the house, you never know who you’ll meet, or who might see you from the other side of the road. Wearing your pyjama pants to drop off the kids at school, or even worse, just nipping into a department store sporting the latest look in grunge is not doing yourself any favours. You can lose a job without losing your personal dignity.
  1. Passing On Personal Grooming
Deciding not to shave, shower, use deodorant, do your hair or even trim your fingernails are the kind of decisions that say more about your self-image than you’d believe. Why would you want to put yourself in the position of having to apologize for your appearance if you should meet someone when this is one area you actually have complete control over? Even if you are job searching in relative isolation at home, you’ll be more productive and energized if you pay attention to your basic hygiene needs and are dressed smartly.
  1.  Choosing Isolation
C’mon, you’ve got to be visible in order to be found, and you’ve got to be connected with people in order to ward off anxiety, isolation and depression. It doesn’t take a fat wallet and a healthy credit card to stay engaged with your friends, employers and employment assistance groups. You’ll find yourself getting emotional and social support as well as possible job leads if you keep up your social networking. Lock yourself in your home and close the curtains to the world outside and you’re making it very hard on yourself to be visible to opportunities.
  1. Declining Positivity
Lose your negative outlook, turn your frown upside down, and be nicer to be around. Yes, I know it’s so much easier to be happier when you’re working, and I do know you’ve got a lot to worry about when you’re out of work; I get it. However, you’ve got to remind yourself that anyone remotely in a position to help you find work is likely sizing up not just your qualifications but your general outlook and disposition. Why make it hard for others to see past your scowl and furrowed brows? If it’s hard work to appear positive at this time in your life, then hard work it is; but you don’t want your sour face to stick and become how others see you.
  1. Holding Out For Perfection
While it’s healthy to both know what you want and stay true to your end goal, don’t make the mistake of narrowing your job search down so much so that you close your mind to anything but your ideal job. This is a critical error made by many who are out of work. It may require that you take a job with less income and less responsibility and work your way back into a job at your previous salary and status. Pause and strongly consider offers that get you working quickly.
  1. Refusing Self-Investment
The longer you are unemployed the less attractive you become to employers as your skills get rusty, your knowledge out-of-date; and depending on your industry, outdated might be as little as a few months. If you are asked in a future interview to explain what you’ve been doing since you last worked, what will you say? Make some investment in training, be it time, money or both. Upgrade your computer skills; stay relevant by reading articles and taking a single day or two week course. You’ll add to your resume, network, maintain good habits and answer that interview question with confidence.
  1. Misreading The Need For Help
It’s tough out there; you’ve got a lot of competition and up until this point in your life getting hired may have been easy. Times have changed and some believe your job search will be a month long for every $10,000 you’re looking to earn; a month of really putting forth the effort that is. Going it alone and not getting an objective opinion could mean how you are going about looking for work is also out-of-date and you’re not helping yourself. Open your ears to constructive criticism and suggestions; hear what you need to hear and be thankful for help given.