Job Search; You’re Doing It Wrong


Well, okay, I admit I don’t know how you personally go about finding work, but from what I see on a daily basis, the majority are going about it the wrong way.

Yes, I watch people come in to our resource centre and they either go right to the physical job board or call up a job search site online and look at an electronic job board. They visually scan the jobs there and then I see them pick one and fire off their resume. So, does that sound like you? If so, then consider yourself in the majority I referenced in the opening paragraph who may just be going about things in the wrong way.

There are 4 steps to the process of finding work; work that’s a great fit and that you’ll keep for some time at any rate. Most people who sit down and start scanning jobs to see what’s available and then immediately apply are actually only doing the 4th and final step – the application. I know this, because in addition to watching them, I go a step further and engage in conversation with them and when I do, I’m gathering information myself to determine if they’ve done any or all of the previous 3 steps and most haven’t.

So to be clear, yes I agree you can find a job by only doing the 4th step – applying. However, it’s likely that what you’ll get is a job that doesn’t last for long because the personal fit isn’t as good as you’d hope it will be. The result may indeed have you believing that a job is a job, work is work, and the idea of finding a job you’ll love is a luxury or pure luck rather than the norm. That’s rather unfortunate if this becomes your belief.

So, what the first three steps to a successful job search that ends with a satisfying conclusion? Interested in knowing? Great!

Step 1. Clarify

Know yourself well enough that you are able to quickly identify and label your strengths, values, accomplishments, preferences, skills and abilities. Don’t just assume that you can bypass this first critical step. Do you know what your work values are for example? Companies sure do; you see it on their websites all the time reflected through they mottos, mission statements and ‘about us’ pages, They clearly tell you what they believe, and believe me when I say they’ll expect you to tell them the same about yourself. They are determining the fit of the next person just as you should be determining the fit of an employer to you.

Step 2. Research

The extent to the research some job seekers do is limited to the information on the job posting they picked off a job board. Seriously? That’s it? You get what you deserve if this is all you do, and I don’t mean that in a mean way but as a statement of reality. You’ll get out of a job what you put in and if you don’t look into the people, the organization and what the environment is like that you’re considering walking into, well, don’t be surprised if it’s not what you expected.

By the way, you should only conduct research into an organization or a possible career or job after having assessed who you are and what makes you tick in step 1. If you neglect to assess yourself first, all that information you gather in your research still won’t tell you if the fit is going to be a good one or not for how you go about your day, and whether the role itself you research will bring you satisfaction.

Step 3. Decide

After clarifying your strengths, interests, accomplishments and what you want out of a future job, you did some research and looked at occupations and organizations that have a high probability of working in with great success. Good. Now the challenge is to make a decision between the choices before you. You may have 2 – 4 jobs before you; all of which will bring you a measure of happiness and in which you will contribute to the success of the organizations that may hire you. A decision is in order, so make one after some careful consideration but don’t get paralyzed putting off deciding.

Step 4. Act

Okay, now go ahead and actively apply for the jobs you want. Bolstered with knowing yourself well, knowing what you’re after and why what you’re after is the best fit, you’ll compete with greater confidence. That confidence is going to come across as an attractive quality.

Look, there’s a lot of people competing for jobs these days. Employers have the luxury of many people to choose from. Some job seekers put very little thought and effort into their applications; applying day after day and just hoping that something sticks and they get a job. Employer’s who interview and hire these people get what they deserve too.

The happiest people, the ones who have shorter unemployment, get hired quicker and stay longer, are the ones who step back, assess themselves, do their homework and apply to jobs they’ve landed on after careful consideration.

You might not agree with me though and that’s your choice. You might just accelerate to the job boards and fire off your resume to a job you just discovered 3 minutes ago and figure you can do. If this is your wish, all the best. Hope it works out.

Job Searching And Job Websites


Times have changed significantly when it comes to looking for a job with the introduction and permanence of technology. Yet, I would argue that technology alone isn’t responsible for making the job search more confused than ever. If you take the increasingly variety of jobs and the many job titles that exist out there for essentially the same work, it can be overwhelming for some.

Get a few people together who are looking for work and you’ll find no doubt among those assembled at least one person who knows exactly what they’re looking for. They’ve got that title down; a Waitress for example. Of the others, you may have some looking for 2 or more specific jobs; an AZ Truck Driver or a Courier. These two are related and have transferable skills but remain two distinctly different jobs. Then there are those who are looking for employment but who have yet to come to a specific job. These people might name as many as 4 or 5 possible jobs, or worse yet, say they are looking for…”anything.”

Now, for those who know exactly what they are after, search engines on the internet work well. Enter the job title you’re after and the city you wish to search in and you’ll get results for that title in your city and perhaps the surrounding 25 km or so area nearby. It’s quick and easy.

Now for the others; those without that single title to guide them, it becomes a little more challenging and frustrating. Sometimes you can opt to enter the name of the city you want to work in and leave the job title or keyword section blank of course. This will upon searching, produce results for all the jobs in that area. Now many of those you’ll not be qualified to do or even remotely interested in either. The one advantage however is that you’ll get advised of jobs that might interest you, but for which you might have missed had you put in a single job title or keyword.

Take the Waitress. In addition to searching for waitress, other titles that might crop up are Server, Food and Beverage Server, Hostess, Host, Attendant. Back in the 80’s the terms Waitperson and Waitron were floated but these never really caught on.  So maybe the clever job seeker starts searching for food service instead; attempting to capture all the possible job titles. This can have unintended consequences too; returning delivery drivers for fast food outlets, catering positions and even the job providing beverages on local golf courses scooting around in a modified golf cart. Yeah that might not be what you had in mind. Then again…

That’s where we’ve evolved to at the moment though with job searching. You not only need to have computer basics down to job search and then apply online, you have to have the patience and tenacity to job search using your mind to play detective and get into what the employer might have thought when they came up with the title of the job.

Some organizations these days actually have bizarre and attention-grabbing titles for their staff, even though the work itself is identical to that performed in other organizations. There is a real job out there now for, “Minister of Talent” which as it turns out is the head of Human Resources. Or how about, “Senior Magician of Intellect”. Would you guess this job is Vice-President of Innovation  and Design?

Not only are these creative and somewhat playful titles confusing for those not in the know, but when the time comes for those holding them to job search in the future, what will their resumes look like when they put these titles down themselves? Whimsical, fun perhaps, but perhaps not best suited if you apply to traditional organizations with, “work inside the box” thinking.

I can tell you that as an Employment Counsellor, I often track down jobs for the unemployed people I work with who while job searching themselves, miss such jobs. How is then that I can find what they cannot? Some job seekers believe that Employment Counsellors, Job Coaches, Career Advisors etc. all seem to have access to these hidden job sites where the jobs are found. In truth, we all have access to the same internet and the same job sites. The difference must therefore be in how we search which in turn lands what we find.

Sometimes I’ll intentionally leave a title field blank. The return is a buckshot of all the jobs in an area. Sometimes I’ll narrow the search not only by city but narrow down the geographic surrounding area to include the city only, not the neighbouring 10 km’s or more. Searching by type of job – contract, part-time, full-time etc. or by seniority level is good too. After all, why frustrate an entry-level job seeker with senior-level positions or vice versa?

Now you can approach a Head-Hunter or Recruiter these days and let them match you up with employment. This can be beneficial or not depending on the person’s connections. Many people are in this game with no more qualifications than the job-seekers themselves. Tough market conditions always bring out some people scrambling to do what they aren’t entirely qualified for.

Job searching is easier if you have a good idea what you’re after and you’ve got the technological skills to navigate job search websites. Good luck out there in your job search.

“I’m Willing To Do Anything.” NO YOU’RE NOT!


“I’m willing to do anything.” Whenever I hear someone say this, I immediately know that the person is going about their job search in a way that is likely to take much longer as they search for work that pays well, is meaningful and which they enjoy. So I have no reservation about replying, “No you’re not.”

When someone says, “I’m willing to do anything” there are numerous jobs and careers that I could suggest which the person would find boring, hate, beneath them, scare them and outright refuse to do. In addition to these jobs, there are those jobs that the person is entirely unqualified to even compete for. It’s only a sign of their ignorance and stubbornness if they still insist on saying they’re willing to take on some job with training that they aren’t currently qualified to do. For example I might say, “Are you qualified to be a Forensic Scientist working in the field of Archeology?” and if they reply, “If they train me, sure”, then I know the person isn’t in touch with their present reality. If they haven’t got any education beyond grade 12 at the moment, no one is going to even look at them to do this kind of work. In short, they aren’t qualified to do everything so they can’t do ‘anything’ even if they are willing.

So the question I always ask of people who claim they are willing to do anything is, “What kind of work do you want to do that you are qualified to do?” This question almost always results in the person sharing what they’ve done in the past and they then tell me they which jobs they no longer want to do or are able to do, and the jobs they’ve liked or want to pursue.

I’m guessing you’ve had the experience yourself where you ask someone a question to which you get some ambiguous reply; the result being you have to ask a second or third question to get them to reply with an answer that gets to the question you originally asked. It’s like when you speak with a child and ask them why they did or didn’t do something and they say, “Because.” That’s never a satisfactory answer and so you realize you’re sucked in to asking the obvious next question, “Because why?” As the adult, you have to probe to get at the motivation or lack of motivation behind the child’s actions or inaction. The same is true when you ask someone what kind of work they are looking for and they reply, “Anything”.

As an Employment Counsellor, I get this reply quite regularly from those I come into contact with. My instincts tell me as they utter the word, “Anything”, that a conversation is in order before I can realistically help them. Some typical questions include:

  • What jobs have you done in the past?
  • Have you got any physical or mental health issues that limit what you can do?
  • What have you enjoyed in your past work?
  • What education or qualifications do you have?

There are several other questions to ask, but if you’re someone who is looking for work and don’t really know what you’re after, you might consider answering those 4 questions yourself.

Of course there’s the issue of preparation in order to make the most of your job search. We both know that job searching can quickly become a frustrating experience and as humans, we don’t tend to voluntarily engage in things we find frustrating for very long and we don’t throw ourselves into such activities with much enthusiasm. Enthusiasm however, is exactly what you need to have if you want your job search to result in success.

Yes, you could just get lucky and land some job you find soul-sucking and mindless, but wouldn’t you rather find work that you actually enjoy doing; work that pays a decent if not good or great wage? Would you like your next job to be one you stay at for some time so you’re not back looking for work in the near future? Well maybe yes and maybe no depending on what you like or don’t.

My suggestion to you is to seriously look at what kind of work you want. You may have to upgrade your education with a course or two or possibly a few years to get a degree. If you really want that job bad enough in the future, get going on that education now. You might need to revise your entire resume, and if you lack the ability to target your resume to the jobs you want, get some help down at the local employment centre in the city or town you live in. These activities and others like them aren’t a waste of time but rather an investment in your own future.

When you know what you’re after and you communicate that clearly to anyone who asks, you stand a much better chance of the person being able to assist you solely because you obviously have some direction. Saying, “I’m willing to do anything” reveals your key weakness which is you haven’t figured out what you really want to do. The person you’re speaking with isn’t likely to point you in the right direction because you don’t know where you’re going so how would they?

I’ve yet to meet the person who is really willing to do anything.

Gambling At The Job Board


There are many people who go about job searching by standing in front of a job board and scanning the wall for employment. There are far more people pulling up job search websites on the computer and essentially doing the same thing; scrolling through screen after screen of various jobs. I find this perplexing and a huge waste of time, but surprisingly this is exactly the behaviour many people exhibit when they look for work. Stop doing this! It’s not a good way to find the right job!

When you stop and think about it, it’s like gambling or visiting a fortune teller isn’t it? In the few seconds immediately before you hit the job board, you had no idea what job you would find. After standing at a job board for 30 seconds or so, you really believe you’re suddenly going to have your eyes drawn to your dream job; that one job that is not only something you can do but will be with the perfect employer, paying a fair wage you’ll be comfortable with, and you’ll work in an atmosphere that matches your needs – all within a reasonable commute? Yeah, good luck with that one. It just doesn’t happen like this.

What really happens is people find jobs they could tolerate, and with no research into the company, the culture or the working conditions, they apply. Even if they get interviewed and get the job, it seldom lasts long; the reason being that once employed, the person says, “Okay I’ve gone from no job to a job that’s a poor fit for me personally, so now I start looking for a better job.” The other result I see time and time again is that the person is fired because they don’t perform well, or the person quits the second they feel they are being manipulated and asked to do things they didn’t expect. Then what do they do? They repeat the entire process and stand again in front of a job board having learned nothing. Sigh….

Don’t start your job search scanning a job board. That’s as blunt as I can make it.

One of your first steps in finding meaningful work that you’ll actually enjoy doing and which you’ll do well is to evaluate your skills, education and work preferences. It’s like taking an inventory of you. Don’t scoff and say, “I don’t need to waste time doing this – nobody knows me better than me.” Without even knowing you personally, I will suggest you actually don’t know yourself as much as you claim; you should of course, but I suspect you don’t. For example, what’s your problem-solving style? What are your key work values? What style of leadership do you best function under? Give me your three top transferable skills.

So, did the answers just roll off your tongue or did you just read the questions above without really stopping to think and answer them intelligently? Is this a defensive mechanism of yours you use when you get asked questions you don’t know the answers to but don’t want to admit you don’t?

Look, if you’re used to randomly picking a job off a website or job board and sending them your standard generic resume, let me ask you how successful this has been for you in the past in getting a job that you were good at, paid you well for your time, and which you stayed at for longer than a couple of years? If it’s working for you, then by all means you’re right to continue with this strategy. On the other hand, if this method isn’t working for you, if you’re frustrated just randomly hoping the clouds will part and a sunbeam will illuminate your dream job while the sound of angels reach your ears, do something different. If you keep doing the same thing, the results you get will likewise be the same.

Write down your skills. What are the things you enjoy doing? Write them down. On a map, draw a circle of the area you are willing to work in. Would you move to take a job? If so, how attractive would the job have to be to get you to pick up and relocate? What’s your education level? Would you consider going back to school to upgrade your education if it meant you’d be better qualified to compete for jobs you really want? What would your ideal supervisor be like; hands-on or hands-off? What’s the perfect environment for you; surrounded by creative types, techies, labourers or number crunchers?

These are just some of the many questions you could and should ask yourself long before you actually start looking at jobs on a board or website. If you don’t really know who you are; your strengths, weaknesses, interests and passions, you’re going to find yourself in the wrong jobs more often than not. You really are gambling; playing hit and miss and wasting much of your life in the process, making it all the harder to find the right job by taking the time to assess yourself first.

If you’re young, do a variety of things and find out what you like and don’t like; what you’re good at and what you need to work on. No experience is wasted if you learn from it. If you’re older, take stock of what you’ve done.

Need help? Ask for it.

How We Looked For Work Years Ago


It really hasn’t been all that long that we’ve had home computers. In the big picture, it’s been a rapid evolution for both applicants and employers, considering we’re at the stage where we now apply online. Computers too have gone from costing several thousands of dollars to a couple of hundred, and they are everywhere now instead of only being available in a few public locations.

Have we come so far however, and are they so prevalent that we have forgotten or don’t even recall whatsoever what it meant to look for a job without an electronic device? A time before you could create an alert, send an email, tweet your interest, follow a company, network with people around the world? That period of time is not so long ago as one might imagine, although I’ll grant that if you are in your twenties or younger, you’ve never known what it means to live a life without having access to the world-wide web etc.

It used to be that you’d first sit down at your desk and write a resume in pen or pencil. All your revisions were with a pink eraser, and then you sat down at a typewriter. It was fairly slow going, and you prayed you never hit a key in error, or you’d have to get out the liquid paper, and type over your error. If this didn’t work out, you’d start from scratch with a new sheet. And every so often, you’d have to replace the black and red ribbon in the typewriter if things were too faint. Remember that?

And copies? Well if you wanted a few copies of the resume, off you went to the library, where you’d pay a few cents for each copy, and the photocopiers were close to being the size of a small space shuttle. It was easy to use though, because it only photocopied. It didn’t scan, email, sort, print in colour, staple or collate; it just printed, and you had to get permission in some cases from an exasperated Librarian to use it as she watched you carefully so you didn’t jam things up apparently just to annoy her.

In some occupations, you got away with looking for work with no resume whatsoever. A construction worker would grab his personal gear and head on over to a work site and ask for the Foreman. He’d ask if the guy was hiring, and in no time at all might be working on the site proving his worth. It was handshakes and writing your name down for the Foreman on the flap of a cigarette box.

Many people looking for work years ago made use of employment agencies, where you’d go down, give them your Social Insurance Card, wait to speak with some official and they’d meet with you one-on-one to fill in a form, and then you’d stand and scan job boards. When you saw a post for a job you’d be interested in, you had to again stand in line and give the number attached to it to some employee there who would give you further details. It was a long process that most people can do themselves today in minutes.

And where today you can write, edit and email a cover letter and resume in an extremely short time, in the past you had to have envelopes, stamps, paper etc. and nothing got sent anywhere until you left the house, went to a mailbox on the corner, opened it up and popped in your application. It would be three to five days before it arrived at the employers.

At your end, there were no answering machines, no call display, no call waiting. You literally sat by the phone as much as you could, praying you wouldn’t miss the call either because you were out, in the washroom, or someone else in the house was on the phone. “Are you on the phone down there? Well get off! I’m expecting an important call!” Who does that anymore? Everybody in the house might have their own phone these days, or call waiting….

And after an interview, you could pretty much count on the company sending you a letter to inform you that the job was offered to someone else if that was the case. Sometimes they even phoned you to give you the news. That much is something I do lament because we’ve lost this courtesy. If you’re interested enough to offer your services to a company, I think it only polite that they let you know one way or the other. But I understand for some companies that would be paying someone only to notify applicants due to the high volume of applicants they get.

While older people today who remember all too well these times, and who are not at ease with computers and technology in general lament the old days, we’ve made great progress in some areas we can all appreciate I hope. There are more employers hiring people with diverse backgrounds and cultures, accommodations being made to hire those who require them, and buildings and work areas are more accessible.

Longing for a return to the old days is another matter though. These times they are a changin’ as the song goes. Best to accept that instead of fighting it. As hard as it may be to accurately do so, imagine how looking for a job in 10 – 15 years will be different yet again!