Tired Of Finishing Second?

While some of you are trying to figure out why you aren’t landing job interviews, there’s other folks who can’t figure out where they are going wrong who not only get interviews, but apparently perform really well. Not only are they getting short-listed and interviewed, they perform well enough to have second and third interviews. All these interviews boost their confidence, have them thinking they are so close to landing a position and then, again and again they get informed that the job has been offered to and accepted by another candidate.

The enthusiasm required for a sustained job search is indeed bolstered by initial success, but when the job offer is just beyond one’s fingertips and gets snatched away, it’s a tough experience to go through. Now repeat that several times over a period of six months to a year and you begin to sense how frustrating that must be for the people concerned. To add to this frustration, not only are they not getting hired, but when following up with employers to get feedback, it’s hard to hear that they think the candidate performed really well and there’s no tangible piece of advice they can pass back to improve on future interviews.

In other words, in attempting to figure out how to improve or where they are falling short, they get nothing to work on, nothing to adjust. So if they can’t figure out where they are going wrong, the feeling arises that they are likely doomed to repeat the experience. They’ll fall short again and again because they’ll go on acting as they’ve always acted, saying what they’ve always said, and hoping for a different outcome.

It’s not like they want to hear about some fatal flaw in their approach, but at the same time, they’d actually rather have someone find something to address rather than hear a sympathetic, “You did great. Don’t change a thing.” Sure it’s affirming and validates all the effort they put in to perform at their best, but the end result is the same, no job offer.

For a moment, let’s de-personalize the application process. Instead of talking about you specifically, let’s look at a reality. In any competition; for a job, a race, a trophy etc., there has to be a number of entrants for it to truly be a competition. The bigger the prize, the stronger the competition. Each individual or team competing trains and competes to the best of their ability and in the end, wants to feel they’ve given it their best shot. Some know they are longshots to win and others feel they’ve got a legitimate chance of winning it all, seeing themselves as a favourite to win. The one thing all of the competitors know without a doubt though is that there can only be one winner. The longshots who finish eighth often cite pride in doing their best and acknowledge that those who finished first and second are just that much better; they are at a different level of compete. The second place finisher? For them it stings. They were so close they could taste it. Next time around they vow to get hungrier, so they work harder, they make adjustments, but they also acknowledge they did their best, they just came up short to a competitor who on that day, performed better.

The competition for a job is much the same. You know when you apply that there will be others doing likewise. A reality is there’s one job to be had and therefore there’s going to be one successful candidate and everyone else who will fall short. This is a reality you have to accept when choosing to apply. Your job is to position yourself so you come across as the best candidate. What’s meant by, ‘best’, is responding to the needs of the employer. If you succeed in addressing all their needs, (this you can control), it’s going to come down to their preferences in the intangibles, (this you can’t control).

In other words, there isn’t a shortcoming in you. You are doing nothing wrong. There’s nothing to fix, there’s nothing to change in your performance. You did the best you could, you stayed authentic and genuine in your delivery and represented yourself to the very best of your abilities. In the end, they made their choice and this is their prerogative. It stings absolutely. If you still want it bad, let them know. Those hired don’t always work out, or new needs arise and you might be considered a month or two after this disappointment.

But all competitor’s for a race or a trophy have one thing you may not have; a Coach. Someone who they listen to, take advice from, someone who will give them honest feedback and push them to find that elusive next level of compete.

So who’s your Coach? Excellent advice is to find someone you can establish some chemistry with. It’s no guarantee, but perhaps they can indeed give you some single piece of advice to consider that in the end makes a difference. Whereas an employer might not feel comfortable sharing how to improve, a professional Coach, someone experienced and with a track record of partnering successfully with others will. I’m not talking about your girlfriend or sister’s friend here, I’m talking about a professional Employment Coach.

It’s not the answer for everyone, but it just might be the answer for you.


Want To Be A Great Employment Counsellor?

Now and again I hear people say to me, “I’m sure I could do your job; it doesn’t look that hard.”

That comment is one I take with a smile and usually respond with, “Thank you! I’m succeeding then in making it look effortless when in fact it takes a lot of preparation, planning, skills, experience and mental energy. If you’re ready to put in all the effort to continually get better every day, why not?”

Like any profession, you’ll find Employment Counsellors of varying abilities; some strong, others learning the ropes, many improving and some stagnating and using out-of-date techniques. Why should this field be any different from others?

Let me share what I believe are some of the key qualities, skills and traits which many of the very best of us hold. It’s a list that’s open to debate, but here’s at least this professionals take on the job from someone in the position. Please comment and indicate if you’re in the field now, in training to join us, receiving the help of an Employment Counsellor yourself or are considering the field. Dialogue and comments can be very productive!

  1. A good listener. While we hear similar stories from those we aid, no two people have exactly the same background and their path to the present is unique. The best of us remember that and listen attentively; picking up on the person’s interests, motivators, barriers real and perceived, hopes, goals and dreams. When we actively listen in the moment, we engage and establish credibility and hear what we’d otherwise miss.
  2. A positive influence. We often meet people in periods of desperation, frustration and hopelessness. It is imperative that we remind ourselves of the stress and pressure people are under. The faith they place in our ability to help; whether great or small is what we must take and work with. There’s great potential in those we help and we must through our actions bring out the best by encouraging and above all providing hope. We must influence action with positivity.
  3. Enthusiastic. Ah if you know me you just know this has to be in the list. Enthusiasm is contagious and infectious. I think it safe to say that most if not all learners hope to be in the presence of a teacher or mentor who goes about imparting their knowledge with energy and enthusiasm. Enthusiasm means we embody and display the most desirable trait employers themselves are looking for in the people they interview; enthusiasm!
  4. Knowledgeable. Broadly speaking, all learners hope that those they learn from are sharing best practices, state of the art techniques and what is proven to work. The best of us are never above doing self-checks, reaching out to our colleagues, continuing to grow and learn ourselves. This is self-investment that keeps us relevant, imparting not what we believe works but rather what we know works; and yes there is a difference.
  5. Creatively flexible. Now here’s a key piece! The great in this profession know that when we identify a person’s needs, responding to them in a way that the person will both comprehend and come to own mean we may have to use a number of strategies to get the message through. How we were successful with one person doesn’t mean the same delivery will work with others. Our approach may have to be as unique as the people we help. Rather than expecting the learner to conform to our own style, we often change our approach to reach others where we find them.
  6. An appreciation of service. Just as we expect to receive great customer service when we are the customer, exceptional Employment Counsellors know that we are essentially service providers ourselves. We therefore practice good customer service skills; deliver on what we promise, work to satisfy both the customers wants and needs, share tips, advice and assure our availability when needed after service.
  7. Honest feedback. Great Employment Counsellors give honest feedback on what they see. Be it a résumé needing an overhaul, hearing self-defeating language in a mock interview or observing poor hygiene and clothing issues, a trusting relationship with those we serve will best allow us to provide the critical feedback that people need to hear. The best deliver this feedback from a helping perspective, choosing words with sensitivity but saying what needs to be said. Honest feedback can get to the heart of a problem quicker than dancing around an issue and wasting their time.
  8. Praising. The best praise when needed, ensuring the praise is legitimate not fabricated. We find what is good in others, encouraging them to do more of what is working in a person’s favour. Positive reinforcement of good behaviours, praising effort even when success isn’t necessarily forthcoming sets people up to eventually realize their goals. Remember looking for work is fraught with ups and downs, highs and lows, raised expectations and dashed hopes. As an Employment Counsellor, you just might be THE one person they are hanging all their hopes on until they can once again be self-sufficient.

So there you have it; a short list of some the essentials needed to be not just a good Employment Counsellor but a great one. And why not aspire to be the best you can be? Whether a Coach or Counsellor, the best look to get better and see room for self-improvement always.


Take The Advice Of Professionals

There’s a black t-shirt that keeps showing up on my Facebook page with writing on it that says, “If at first you don’t succeed do what your Employment Counsellor told you to do in the first place.” Yes those brainy folks at FB have found a way to send me a feed that fits perfectly with my line work – lo and behold I am an Employment Counsellor and yes many a time my colleagues and I say to each other, “If they would just do what we suggest things would be so much better!”

Maybe you’ve got something similar showing up on your social media pages and the job title is specific to what it is you do too? I wonder. It does go to show how the information we provide online helps others target us directly with their marketing all the way from products we can buy to ads we view on our pages. Be careful what you search for online. Am I buying myself one of these t-shirts? No, but I do kind of want one even though I wouldn’t wear it to work!

Think about the message though and you can view it two ways; the first is of course to see ourselves as the expert; the all-knowing wise ones who hold all the secrets to happiness and success. It can come across as sanctimonious, smug, cocky, perhaps even arrogant. On the other hand there’s a lot of truth in that message. After all, anyone who is an expert in their field and has been in it for a period of time has to know more than the average dabbler into the field.

When the brakes need fixing on our cars we typically head out and seek the services of a brake professional; it’s just too important when you’re driving down the road at 90 km and have to stop suddenly to put your life and the lives of others in the hands of anyone else. I know I certainly wouldn’t go to my neighbour who happens to work at a cemetery and expect him to knowledgeably and expertly fix my breaks. I could of course, but I might find my family needing his professional services for my own funeral and the last thing they would do is leave my burial and final send off to a brake professional. That’s ludicrous.

Yes I am often perplexed and amazed when, in my line of work, I encounter numerous people who have trusted their job search tactics and specifically resume and interview help to friends, family and friends of family. “Who did your resume?” I sometimes ask at the outset to see if the person did it themselves or got assistance – and this before even looking at it. “Oh I got help from my sister”, is the kind of response I often hear. “And what does she do for a living?” I might ask only to be told any number of jobs – all of which I trust the sisters of this world are pretty good if not great at – but alas, resume construction and crafting is not numbered upon the areas in which they have expertise.

What gets more interesting is that as the critiquing starts when doing a resume consultation, the owner of the resume often gives up all ownership and responsibility for the content and design, blaming the person who made it for them. In fact many are quite happy and ready to tell me that some other, “professional” did it for them. Well, as I point out to them at this point, no matter who did or does a person’s resume, if your name is at the top of the page, you have to take full responsibility for content, design and how it markets you overall.

Just like in any profession, some people are better at it than others. You’ll find the professional who is on top of their game, using best practices, changing with the times who updates their skills and is the go-to person getting top results. You’ll find the professional who used to be engrossed with striving for the best but who is now coasting on their record and riding into retirement no matter how many years off. You can find the young professional who has all the right intentions and knows some of the latest and greatest but who lacks life experience and who’s gusto and energy outmatches their actual skills.

So getting help from a professional doesn’t guarantee the result you might hope for. Good advice is to ask professionals – no matter the field – about their credentials. How long have they been doing what they do? What’s their track record for success? Can they provide references you could contact? How do their fees stack up against others doing the same work? Not all professionals are the same nor are they…ahem…professional.

I have had two people in the last two weeks tell me they paid a professional $500 for their resumes. $500?! They looked slick and shiny and hadn’t in either case yielded the hoped for interviews for jobs applied to. Both resumes had mistakes; not things I personally prefer but outright errors. $500? In both cases I offered to revise what they had – no charge. I wish my brake specialist would do my brakes for free – even once!

Seek out and listen to professionals no matter the trade is good general advice; they, (we) know our stuff.

Lie On The Resume? At The Interview?

It’s critically important to know the difference between an employment opportunity that is going to challenge you to develop yourself in order to succeed, and a job that is way beyond what you are capable of delivering. The irony is that many people who think they are going to pull one over on an employer by learning what they claim they already know how to do, are rather going to learn that making such a fraudulent claim is a sure way to not only lose an opportunity, but to remove themselves from future opportunities they are presently qualified for.

Let’s start with the employer. Employers have needs which they identify and share in the form of a job posting. They lay out what skills and experience they are looking for and usually identify both the critical essentials and the, ‘nice to have’ assets. Those critical ‘must haves’ aren’t negotiable. They are the bare minimum essentials; if you don’t have them, save yourself the time and effort, and please save the time of the employer.

It’s no shame if you fail to meet the critical essentials. If the job is one you really want – and I mean really want not just kind of want – then acquire whatever the key item it is that you currently lack. Yes, if you really truly believe this is your dream job do whatever it takes; go back and get that degree, your driver’s licence, the criminal pardon or the 3 years of experience someplace else. If you aren’t willing to invest yourself in getting what the employer demands, pass on it and move on. It’s not complicated; look for another job.

The worst thing you can do is want a job so badly that you mislead or outright lie about your credentials in order to get an interview, and then lie at the interview with fabricated qualifications. If you are exposed when questioned, or volunteer the truth at the interview in the hopes of being offered a job without the qualifications they’ve identified saying you lied just to get the interview, you’re likely going to find the interview terminates. What you may or may not be informed of, is that your name will be flagged and your future applications rejected out-of-hand without a moment’s thought.

The company – just about every company, doesn’t want to start a relationship with a new employee based on lies, fraudulent claims and misrepresentation. You may otherwise be a straight-shooter, trustworthy and dependable. However your first exposure to the company was this claim your background can’t support, and so not knowing you at all, they are left with the obvious assumption that if you’ll lie at the outset, you’ll lie easily again and again if hired. Who wants that kind of employee?

Here’s another way this kind of behaviour could hurt you down the road even if you are hired. When you tell a lie or stretch your qualifications, you have to remember who you told the lie to, and you’ve got to keep up that pretense. I recall several years ago meeting a fellow I had helped get a job. When asked about his status, this was what he told me:

“I lost my job after 5 years man. I told them on my resume that I had my Grade 12 diploma when I didn’t. Every Friday I went to a pub after work for a drink with one of the guys on my team and this one time I let slip that I didn’t really have my diploma. We laughed about it but then we had a falling out. So this guy went to the boss and told him and the boss came to me and asked me if it was true. 5 years man, so I figured I was safe. So I told the boss I didn’t really have it because he could ask me to produce the diploma. Next thing I knew, he’s walking me out the door, even though I was a good worker. That was a great job.”

Sad story but true. Now you might counter with that long-held belief that everybody lies on their resume. Well that’s a myth. Not everyone lies on their resume; it’s the people who do lie on their resume that spread that myth as a way of justifying their lies.

Look, the truth of the matter is that ideally we want to apply for the job we’d like most right now, here; today. However, the right thing to do is often a longer road to eventually get what you really want. So if investing yourself in getting whatever is missing means holding off on applying for that dream job for a year or two, well, then that’s what it will take. You wouldn’t want to be totally qualified and lose out to someone falsely representing themselves would you? No of course not. You’d raise the issue with the employer if it meant they got the job and you didn’t; assuming you knew.

So don’t invent jobs on your resume you’ve never had, nor employer’s you’ve never worked for who have mysteriously vanished. Don’t give yourself diplomas and degrees from schools that don’t exist anymore, or put forward names of references that oddly enough have all moved and can’t be located and verified.

Starting a relationship based on lies is never a good idea.

The #1 Mistake Employment Coaches Make

You don’t have to be a rookie on the Employment Counselling team to make this error in judgement, but it does tend to happen to those new to the field more often. However, even the most seasoned worker will have the occasional encounter with a client go wrong and only after some reflection immediately zero in on the problem.

So what is the number 1 mistake Employment Coaches and Counsellors make? For my money, it’s listening to a client tell their story and suddenly – almost unconsciously – begin to solve their problem for them. We fail to remain actively engaged in the listening process; we remember all the other people with similar challenges we have encountered in our work and mentally start plotting out the steps required for this person to move forward based on what has worked in the past for others.

Sounds logical doesn’t it? We’ve encountered people just like this person before. So the solution will be the same solution we’ve shared with others. The problem however is that we may fail to accurately gauge both where this client in front of us is at the moment and also fail to discern the skills they have to effectively implement any plan created. We may assume that what we would do in their situation is what they will see as the appropriate course to take as well.

However, isn’t it true that what clients actually do after we give them the divine plan differs from what we agreed they would do? When we speak with them the next time and they haven’t moved on the plan we say something like, “I thought we agreed you would…” The truth of the situation is that the client never really bought into the plan in the first place. They may have signed some paperwork with OUR plan all neatly laid out, nodded their head at the right moments, even perhaps voiced their agreement. Really what occurred is that they didn’t buy in, and they didn’t have the assertiveness to challenge the plan we were so enthusiastic about. After all, if we are the experts it must be a good plan, but it was never, ‘owned’ by the client as their plan.

Now when we assess that same client in the future and gauge their commitment to put a plan into action, we may further compound our relationship by branding this person as problematic. After all, they say they want to work or move forward, but they are clearly not acting on the advice we have so cleverly shared with them. This can create mistrust in the relationship for both client and Employment Coach.

To avoid this pitfall, it’s absolutely critical to tune in to the clients words and hear them as if you were hearing this tale for the very first time. You may have heard others voice similar barriers and challenges to getting hired, but you’ve clearly never heard this client tell their story. Not only is the client entitled to tell their own story, but in the listening, we as Employment Counsellors and Coaches have to assess their capacity to put any plan into action. How do we make that assessment? We ask open-ended questions that help us gauge their comprehension, literacy, attitudes and their ability to articulate their needs and current situations.

The plan we want to eventually devise not only has to have an end-goal that both parties buy into completely, but the plan has to have steps which this client in front of us is capable of achieving based on their existing skills. Bottom line? We mean well and want the best possible outcome for our client, but they may not be able to move at the pace we’d like, they may need smaller goals, greater supports in place to reach those goals and ultimately more time to realize their end goal.

I believe it is significant to remind ourselves that a client who is unemployed but wants to work is experiencing a heightened degree of stress. When they are in front of us, we should never forget that the outcome of our meeting may either ease their burdens and give them hope of success, or may compound their anxiety. If they leave with a plan they don’t own, it’s only going to result in coming up short. This leads only to a lower self-image, because they have one more person who had higher expectations of them they’ve disappointed. Ironically, we’ve set them up to fail.

Sometimes – in fact most of the time – a client isn’t able to articulate what they really need. They may say, “I need a job”. However, really talk with them and really listen to them and what you get is, “I feel like a failure, I don’t value myself, I don’t have anything to offer.” Small achievable goals which they can tangibly realize build their self-confidence and they experience a positive change in their self-perception. This is a precursor to their ability to actually get and keep a job.

You may also find a client initially wants, ‘anything’ as a job. ‘Anything’ is one clue that may suggest you are listening to someone who not only lacks career direction, but the necessary self-confidence to get what they perceive as a meaningful job. Help them build their self-esteem, and soon they’ll name a position that would make them happy.


Your Job Application Says More Than You’d Think

Over the course of any given month, I’m scheduled to supervise a drop-in Resource Centre where people can come in and have use of a computer hooked up to the internet, photocopiers, fax machines, telephones and even get free paper and envelopes. While they take advantage of all the above, only seldom do they take advantage of the Employment Counsellor with years of experience there to help them.

Now if I went into a brake shop and there on the wall were a number of brake pads, grinders, rotors and a car hoist, I might be able to tinker away and eventually leave with something that may or may not stop my car on the road. However, if there was a licenced professional brake installer standing there just waiting to help me for the asking, wouldn’t I be much better off asking for his or her expertise? I’d like to improve my chances of stopping.

Unfortunately, many people think they can put together a job application. They usually see the cover letter as a lot of effort and don’t do one at all, or if they do, it broadcasts all kinds of things about the person who wrote it that the person is oblivious to and wouldn’t want known. And the resume? Sorry folks but resumes are usually poorly composed without some second opinion.

So take yesterday. I’m watching a guy photocopy a number of documents which, in my experience tends to be a resume. Just as he was finishing this, I engaged him in conversation. I asked him if he was doing a resume and he was. Then I asked him if his job search was going well or if he was pretty frustrated and got the answer I expected; frustrating. Next I took a chance and told him he was going about the job application process the way that worked way back in 1995.

You see anytime someone is making multiple copies of their resume, I know it’s not specifically targeted to a specific job and this same resume is going to be sent out to different employers. It will never match up the best for any job, because it’s going about things backwards. The first step isn’t to make a resume and then find a job, it’s to find a job and then make a resume. “A” resume, as in singular.

Now as it turns out, he was pretty cautious about me looking over his resume. Most people I speak with out of the blue who don’t know me in the Resource Centre open up immediately and accept my invitation to look over their resume or cover letter and give them some advice. Others like this fellow are more guarded and I change my approach with them.

Here’s something I find pretty basic yet I see more often than I’d like. At the top of the resume I almost always see the person’s name. There is nothing else on the first line, just the name. That makes sense to me. You wouldn’t for example put, “Name:” to the left of your name because it’s obvious right? So then why is it some people will put the word, “Email:” and the beside it put their email address? Isn’t that obvious too? If someone can’t figure out what your email address is just by looking at it, then putting the word, “Email” just before it probably won’t help either. And the same goes with the phone number. Just put the number without announcing it’s a phone number. The employer is smart enough to run a business and can probably identify a phone number without you pointing it out.

In the case of the person I was speaking with, he sheepishly grinned a bit when I pointed this out, and a connection was starting. I could see the first glimmer of his trust forming. What he was really doing was visibly showing me that he recognized he had something to learn from me. Now he asked me for more.

And let’s be honest here. Resume Experts and Job Coaches don’t know everything about everything. If the person leaning against the wall watching me install my brakes came over and pointed out something I didn’t catch at first, I’d certainly ask them for pointers too. But even in the job searching industry, no one person knows everything, least of all me. Things change and so does the job application process.

He asked me if I could guarantee I could get him a job with a resume and I said that I couldn’t. For a moment he almost reverted to his original protectiveness, but he didn’t retreat all the way. I pointed out that the objective here wasn’t to get a job at all, it was to get an interview. The resume was really just one tool needed to get an interview that would be the next step in landing a job. The better the resume the more the odds swing in his favour.

This column is way too short to tell you how to make an exceptional resume. And this post isn’t an advertisement to drum up business for myself. The point is this: Get your brakes installed by a professional, or do it yourself only after having been instructed by a professional. Likewise, get your job application (cover letter and resume, social media profile etc.) looked over by a professional in the Job Coaching/Employment business. Then you’ll be skilled enough to do it on your own with a good chance of success.

What Exactly Can A Job Coach Do?

All over the internet you’ll come across people – and I am one of them – who will prompt you to enlist the services of a professional Job Coach. Whether you pay this person, they provide their services for free, or they are paid through another source, you really should take advantage of their expertise.

So let’s talk about exactly what that Job Coach can do for you. Knowing the benefits of having one after all, will provide you with the information you’ll need to decide whether or not this is a person who can help you or not.

First and foremost, a good Job Coach will need to speak with you and find out your skills, interests, positive and negative past experiences, education, training needs and certifications. A good Job Coach will also probe into why you’ve left jobs in the past, why you are currently unemployed, what you’ve been doing to stay relevant, ask about employment and character references, and look into your job maintenance skills specifically. After all, getting a job is one thing, keeping it is another.

This person needs to discuss with you pretty early on the topic of receiving feedback and whether you are open to listening, reflecting on the feedback and considering making changes. Because if you only want to pay someone to tell you things you want to hear and refuse to hear anything that might suggest you’ve got some changes to make, this person isn’t for you; get a dog instead. Dogs think every owner is the perfect person just the way they are.

Everything related to employment is on the table with a good job coach. This includes: your attitude, clothing, non-verbal communication, technical and job-specific upgrading, interview skills, work ethic, professionalism, your commitment, communication and interpersonal skills, listening and speaking skills, writing and vocabulary skills.

A good Job Coach takes the time to show you what someone successful in your field acts like and looks like, and then holds a mirror up for you and says, “So, what do we need to change so you become that successful person?” Far from just trying to make every successful worker identical to every other person, the Job Coach has to work with whatever you present with. Building on whatever you present with, the Job Coach has to understand what it is you want, the kind of progressive acceleration you may wish to realize, and your definition of success. You may only want a relationship that gets you an entry-level position and then terminate your relationship. You may want to retain their help for the first six months of the job until you pass probation. Up to you.

And of course when I say it’s up to you, the Job Coach may or may not have restrictions on their involvement with you too. If they work for a company, they may only be able to work with you up to a certain point and then have to terminate the relationship. This could mean when you get hired, or for a year whether you get hired or not for example. If they are self-employed, they may stay helping you until you stop paying!

A Job Coach is someone you can contact when you’ve got an issue at work and need to get the external, non-partisan advice of someone on how to best handle the problem. Maybe it’s a problem with a Supervisor, a change from what you expected the job to be, a transportation problem getting to work because of a shift change, or you’re not getting paid consistently and are thinking of quitting. Before making a knee-jerk decision, the Job Coach might be worth contacting and laying things out for them so you get some advice. A huge problem for you might be something relatively easy to address and you could not only keep the job you want, but handle it professionally to following their suggestion.

If you’ve got anxiety issues over certain questions that you just know you’ll face in an interview, a good Job Coach can help you prepare solid answers for these, and then grill you in a mock interview so when it’s asked in a real interview, you’re composed and confident in your reply. And those crazy questions that are just plain stupid and an insult to your dignity? Well, the good Job Coach can explain why companies ask those questions, what they are getting at, and how best to frame a response that answers the question and sets you apart.

So how much does a Job Coach cost? Well, the smug answer is to ask you this: “How long have you been out of work and how much income have you lost during that time trying to get a job without a Job Coach?” Seriously though, it varies. It depends on whether the person is self-employed and this is their source of income, or perhaps they work for a government agency and their services are free for you to access. It also can vary depending upon the length of time you need them, what you are asking of them and what they can deliver.

A poor question to ask is, “How much do you charge and what do you do?” A good question to ask is, “I know I need help preparing for upcoming interviews, and I’d like to get along better with my co-workers. Can you help me in these areas and what do you charge for your services?”

The Value Of Seeking Job Search Help

As an Employment Counsellor, it’s my full-time job to provide job search assistance to people during the day. In my case, those people I work with through my employer all share a common characteristic in that they are currently on Social Assistance. Outside of these clients, I want to share some recent news about others I’ve been helping on my own time in the evenings and on weekends that may give hope to and ideas for other job seekers.

Just last evening I had a text from a professional in the childcare industry who happens to also be a friend of mine. This woman brought me her resume and cover letter which together we re-framed, and went through an intensive mock interview and then broke down afterward so she’d be better prepared. The message I received last evening was that she successfully obtained the job she was competing for as the Supervisor of a brand new Children’s Centre.

Two days ago, a Linkedin connection of mine had the good manners and professionalism to share with me the news that she has successfully landed a job competition she was up for, and I had a small part to play in the process she went through offering thoughts, suggestions and words of encouragement.

Three weeks ago, another woman I was working with also met with me privately one evening and we also re-structured her cover letter, resume, and I introduced a structure to her mock interview that was lacking resulting in her obtaining increased confidence in her interview skills, and therefore being able to come across as more assertive, professional and ultimately the right person for the job based on the quality of her answers.

Let me quickly point out that this isn’t meant to be a self-gratifying exercise where I share MY successes, but rather I want to point out that each one of these three people – and I’ve a list much longer – made one important decision; they opted to reach out and get help. Each presented with an open mind, willing to accept any constructive criticism, and because of THEIR attitudes, I was able to impart some words of wisdom from my area of expertise, namely employment counselling.

Now I’m not trying to drum up business and get clients; really I’m not. What I’m trying to do is illustrate that the value in getting help from professionals who do similar work can translate into a shorter period of unemployment in a tough market. Can you still get a job without such help? Of course you can. But if you could increase your odds of getting interviews and job offers, reducing the time you are unemployed, and through that process reduce your frustration, anger, resentment, stress and ward off full-blown depression, why wouldn’t you?

You see here’s the point I’ve made over and over. You are the expert in YOUR field. Nobody is denying that you aren’t well-trained in your field, and know much more about it than the average Employment Counsellor or Job Coach. No one after all can be the, ‘expert’ in all fields. However, Employment Counsellors and Job Coaches are the ‘experts’ in their little corner of the world when it comes to job search strategies, career decision-making processes, cover letter and resume designs, interviewing well, and personal presentation. Combining your existing skills and knowledge with that of one of these people may just be the advantage you need and give you and edge over your competition.

Having said this, there is no guarantee that you will automatically get the first job you apply to after getting aid from one of these people. What you do succeed in doing though is increase your odds of getting interviews and job offers and if that’s important to you, then the investment of your time is well spent. Depending on the job you are looking for, the Advisor, Job Coach or Employment Counsellor you work with will need some short period of time to get up to speed with the requirements of your field and you as a person to know how to best help you out.

Some general advice when connecting with one of these professionals is to be entirely honest right off the bat when talking about why you are currently unemployed, what you are looking for, and any weaknesses or shortcomings. It may be embarrassing to say you’ve been fired and why for example, but a good Employment Counsellor is more concerned about moving forward and just wants the complete picture to see how best to help you learn from the past and perhaps answer any awkward questions in an interview.

Remember at all times it is you who should ultimately be in charge of your employment planning and job search strategy. You can definitely go it alone or put together a team of people to support you and help provide feedback and perhaps guidance.

Whatever you decide, may I personally wish you the very best of success in this transition period between the present and your future employment, whether it’s just around the corner or further down the road.
All the very best!

Deciding On Career/Job Direction

I know one guy who 7 years ago told me he wanted to be a dentist. Go to school I said and start learning. “Ah but it’s so expensive and it takes about 7 years” he said. Today he’d be graduating. He isn’t of course and he hasn’t signed up for school and he’ll never be a Dentist but he keeps telling everyone that’s what he wants to be.

Some people don’t move forward with what they really want to do. So what is YOUR reason for not doing something up to now that you really want to do? Is it money? Perhaps time required to go to school? Age? Responsibilities to others? Indecision? The economy? To be helpful, I have to be blunt. You’ve really got a few choices to make:

  • Make a decision to get the education/training to do what you really want. This is like going back a step or two in order to take a leap forward – and in the direction you want later.
  • Modify or change your dream because it will never happen if you don’t do something right now and stop kidding yourself otherwise.
  •  Realize that maybe you have other goals and dreams and that by passing on one, it doesn’t mean you’re a failure; you have other dreams that can still be realized and bring you happiness.

Try this. Put your name in the middle of a sheet of paper. Put today’s date under your name. Equidistant from your name, put several rectangular boxes and in each box put some career or job you’d be happy doing. The number of boxes will vary from person to person. If you can, put a number above each box that represents your first choice, 2nd choice etc. Draw an arrow from your name to your first choice. Along that arrow, draw some lines that represent steps you would have to take in order to achieve that career or job. Some steps might be: Research, tuition, apply for school, attend school, get a criminal check, maybe get a pardon, etc. At each step note approximately the length of time the step takes. For example maybe applying for school is a 2 day step but attending school is a 3 year step. If there is a step (or barrier) that you are not willing to take, like going to school for 3 years, then I suggest you MUST move on to your 2nd career and do the same exercise and see if the steps you need to take are more agreeable to you. To continue wanting your 1st choice without being willing to overcome the barriers along the way isn’t much point is it? That would really just be a lot of wasted energy and time to start down a path you know only leads so far until you reach a brick wall and have to turn around.

The problem that people have with this exercise is the anxiety of moving in ANY one direction at the expense of some other. So if your first choice is a Carpenter, your second choice a Mechanic and your third choice is a Bartender, by making a decision to learn carpentry and become a Carpenter they have immediate regrets at not being a Mechanic. The result for some is not moving forward in any direction and then other barriers begin to emerge that they didn’t have before such as depression, anger, frustration, aging, gaps in employment etc.

This exercise is useful because it gets things on paper and visually shows someone the necessary steps to take to achieve their goals, and with others it can explain why they never feel they are getting ahead. If you do this exercise, you may need some help plotting out the steps to take along the path to your 1st choice job/career. It is up to YOU to do something here and now though to get out and contact some Career Advisor or Job Coach to help you figure it out. Admitting what you want but not knowing the steps to take is a sign of strength, actually asking for help is a sign of wisdom.

Contact a Community College or University, see a Career Counsellor, start with an Employment Agency, maybe a High School Guidance Counsellor etc. Even if you have to pay for their time, (and many are free), that money is a small investment in getting on track. The benefit is that when you are moving in the direction you really want and can see your progress in black and white as you check off those steps you need to take, your anxiety shrinks, your confidence grows, your future is brighter and you walk taller.

Hope this helps you out, and even more so I hope it gets you moving!