Why Do You Do What You Do?


Why? A simple question using only 3 letters and a question mark. In this case, the, ‘why?’ refers to whatever it is you do in your work or professional life. Of all the jobs and careers which exist in our world, why do you do what you do?

Some people don’t think about this a great deal. They work at the job they do because it’s a family business, it’s what they went to school for, or it pays the bills. In some cases, there are those that don’t want to think about why they do what they do because they aren’t proud of their job, they feel trapped in a job they hate, or telling others what they do just opens up discussions they’d rather not have.

You know what I find extremely interesting? Almost all the people I interact with who have no job at all think a great deal about why they’d want or not want a certain job over others. Whatever job they focus on has to be fulfilling, bring a sense of security, tap into their creativity, offer opportunities for advancement or bring about positive changes in the lives of others. So why are so many who are out of work focused on the why of what they’d like to do moving forward, and yet many with jobs don’t think a lot about the why of what they do once they’ve been in a job for a period?

I don’t know where you are on the age timeline, but it doesn’t matter as much as you think it might when it comes to figuring out what you want to do in one key respect. When you are considering various career or job options, if you don’t fully know what a job entails, what the pros and cons experienced by the people who hold them at the moment are, or why the people working in those jobs love the work they do, there’s one simple thing you can and should do; ask them. Simple really.

“So, Ahmed, why IT?”

“You obviously enjoy your job Dave, why is that?”

“Nancy, why did you first think this career would be right for you?”

You see it’s not that hard to pose the question and you can come at it from a view different angles. Bottom line, you’re still asking, “why?” You can go on of course to ask the other questions; How did you get started?/”How should I get started?” “Who helped you in the beginning?” “What are the qualities generally found in the people who succeed in this position?” “Where are the opportunities for tackling current issues?” “When would you suggest I apply?”

Now I suppose you might feel that you’re being invasive; you know, asking something of someone you don’t know at all or very well, why they do what they do. Is that the truth or is that actually a tactic of your own for avoiding asking because of your own comfort level? I tell you this, a lot of people would love to pause and remind themselves why they do what they do. Further, if they feel positively about the work they do and the impact they have, they would truly love to share that with someone (insert your name here!) who is genuinely interested.

As you’d be well aware, a great number of people change jobs and switch careers entirely over their lifetime. Want proof? Connect with a large number of people on LinkedIn and you’ll get daily notifications inviting you to congratulate your connections who have started new positions. I get 2 or 3 a day – no exaggeration. People move and the question I wonder every time starts with why. “Why the move?” Why now?”

Of course sometimes the why turns out to be getting away from something that’s turned sour, but the majority of the time it’s for something the person perceives as a better fit. Again the question is why though? Better pay, a change of scenery, a fresh start, the infusion of energy brought about by a greater mental challenge? Why?

There are so many, ‘why’s?’ in this piece, I’m reminded of young children who keep asking why this and why that, almost exasperating the adults around them with the never-ending  series of why’s that follow every answer. We can learn from them though because this is how young children make sense of things they are curious about and want to understand. Likewise, you and I might be just as curious to know why someone chose a career, why they’ve stayed for however long they have, why they might be thinking of a move, or why they made the change. It’s how we can gather necessary information needed to make better informed decisions about our own career paths.

You objection is likely that you don’t want to be viewed as the young child pestering people with questions to the point of exasperation. So don’t pester. You should still ask politely and learn what you can about career choices, why people do what they do and why they find fulfillment in the jobs they hold.

The next piece in these lines of inquiry is to take that information learned and look at yourself. Why would this job, this company, etc., be right or perhaps not for you?

If you haven’t thought about why you do what you do for a while, why is that?

“Fake It ‘Til You Make It” = Lying?


One of my colleagues at work is often heard advising those who attend her workshops to, ‘Fake it ’til you make it’. This advice when taken out of context can sound like she’s giving people the green light to outright lie – lie about their experience, education, skills etc. Wow, such advice could really land someone in hot water, not to mention put a company in jeopardy if what the person is faking is serious enough.

Now me personally, I don’t like this phrase at all, and for the very point I just made above. The message intended may be quite different from the message received by listeners and unless clarified, they could walk away telling others that Kelly says it’s okay to lie on the résumé, at the interview or on the job.

As an Employment Counsellor imparting knowledge, opinions and suggesting actions, it’s not always clear that the information we pass on is understood by those receiving the messages although we often assume exactly that.

Last evening I was talking with a friend and she suddenly said she’d had a tough day at work but, “I’ll fake it ’til I make it’. What she was referring to was that she hadn’t had the time she’d planned on to prepare for the evenings play practice. We are both involved in a production of, ‘The Little Mermaid’ and were scheduled for choreography of a musical number.

We had a chat – albeit brief – conversation about this phrase, and she used a great example. As an experienced Nurse, she often mentors some new to the profession, and every so often one will say they are afraid of injecting a needle and taking blood from a patient for the first time. “Fake it ’til you make it” is her advice. In other words, she’s advising that the Nurse act like she’s done this many times and that it’s not a big deal. By faking her own comfort level when in fact she might be squeamish or unsure of herself, she’ll make things easier by comforting the patient and eventually she will find the process routine. Were she to say that this was her first time taking blood and let her nervousness show, that lack of confidence might stress the patient and the combination of a nervous Nurse with a needle and a worried patient could go badly.

In this scenario, it is clear that the, ‘fake it ’til you make it’ advice is appropriate.

However, with some people, faking something is often synonymous with lying. Faking that you’re of legal drinking age by producing a modified birth certificate isn’t acceptable. Neither is telling a Police Officer that you left your driver’s licence at home by mistake when you don’t have one, but are going for the test in a month or two. Faking and lying aren’t the same in this context.

So here’s the essential flaw in the imparting of any advice quite frankly; we don’t always have a shared understanding with those we are speaking with. We may all speak the same language and understand how words are pronounced, but the context of how we use our words and our own past experiences will often dictate how we interpret the things we hear.

Now if we were to check each time we said something to those within earshot to make sure they understood things the way we intended, our conversations would be very long and drawn out and we’d communicate much less than we do now. It would be a huge outlay of energy to constantly ask people to paraphrase what we’ve just said each and every time to ensure complete understanding.

As for job searching, faking that we have a diploma, degree or specific certification required by an employer is never okay under any circumstance. If you don’t have a certificate but you’re planning on taking the course within a few days, your advised to state that clearly and upfront. Sure you expect to pass that First Aid or Health and Safety course, but what if your plans are derailed with a family emergency and you can’t even attend? Then what? You didn’t attend, you don’t have the certificate and the next opportunity to take it isn’t for some time but you told the employer you’d be happy to present your certificate to them the next day. You’re off to a bad start in this new relationship if  you’ve misled them on your credentials. Suddenly everything you’ve said comes under suspicion.

As for employer’s themselves, they’ve been burned too many times to just take the good word of applicants and extend them the full trust they’d like to. They ask for proof of credentials like hard copies of education and call up your references solely because they need to verify the claims you make. Past candidates have been, ‘faking’ credentials and exposed companies to risk and unfortunately this practice seems still in vogue by some job seekers.

Don’t fake that you know how to run some dangerous machinery and count on learning on the job to figure it out. You might injure someone, possibly kill someone (no exaggeration), shut down a plant and throw people out of work, all because you tried to ‘fake it ’til you made it’.

In the right context I get it; however, use clearer ways of expressing the idea behind the phrase for a mutual and therefore better understanding of your intended message.

 

Change Is Coming. Are you Ready?


When it comes to change, one could argue there’s three camps of people; those who embrace it and seek it out, those who can roll with it when it arises, and those who resist it. If you’re not creating change, you will nonetheless experience it; then it’s going to be how you react to change that will demonstrate whether it’s a positive experience for you or not.

In the workplace, change can come in many forms. Your company might have to bring in changes to keep up their place in the industry; to stay competitive, to realize their expected profit margins. Resisting change could close a business, resulting in layoffs for all the employees, some of which may have wanted changes themselves, but who could not in their positions, bring about the necessary changes required to stay viable.

Most changes are brought about with a positive result in mind by those who initiate change. The management of an organization might want their workforce to undergo retraining of their employees to keep them current with customer expectations, to get ahead of trends and be in on the cutting edge of technology. Sometimes change means tweaking current practices while other times change might mean a complete review of priorities,  values, direction and modernization of what’s been the norm.

The thing about change is that most people don’t mind change as long as they feel they’ll be able to manage the process between what they know and do in the present and what they’ll be expected to know and do in the future when the change has been implemented. While some see this period of flux as stimulating and invigorating – a real workout for the little grey brain cells, others resist change.

It would be a shame to make the mistake of labeling those who resist change as dead weight or negative. As each one of us is a sum of our past and present experiences, the same is true for those who are reluctant or dead set against change. So if, ‘organizational change’ is brought up at some team gathering, it could trigger panic and alarm for someone who was let go in a past job when a company shuffled their line up and promoted positive change leading up to what was essentially a dismissal. Until the change has come and gone, that single person has every right to feel threatened and suspicious. Their past negative experience might be playing out in their consciousness for month’s as change is mulled over, talked about openly, piloted and then fully implemented. How stressful it must feel to come into work each day wondering if this is the day you’re to lose your job for a second time and be powerless to do anything about it when the decision-making is out of your control!

Now I suppose one way to better handle change is to prepare yourself as best you can when things are stable and change isn’t whispered about on the work floor. The question really becomes then, how do you prepare for change when you don’t know what direction that change might take? Excellent question!

The answer of course is that you can’t guarantee that your actions will safeguard you for all possible changes to come, but you can improve your odds of surviving and even thriving when change inevitably comes – and it will. This is best done by increasing your current value to the employer. When you were hired, your skills, education and experience were obviously enough to land you a job. Great. However, would those same three things get you the same job today? What have you done to increase your knowledge? What courses have you invested in? (And by this I mean what have you invested YOURSELF in?) Have you sought out any cross-training to learn other jobs?

As upsetting as it is for some people to contemplate, imagine you knew you were going to have to look for a job in 3 months time. You’ll need to have an updated resume for starters. Have you kept your résumé updated with courses and on-the-job training over the years? Do you even know where that dreaded resume is at the moment? You might not feel motivated to hunt for it now, but if you do, ask yourself if you’d be able to compete with more recently trained competition for similar jobs. Sure you’ve got them with your year’s of hands-on experience, but will their education and experience with technology and emerging practices make them more attractive to an employer? If you haven’t kept up with training because you didn’t see the point, you might really regret so later.

Yet, here you are – you’re now employed, feeling secure and you like the routine of your job; you feel competent and safe. You my friend have the benefit of security for the time being, and you just might want to think about doing something now so that when the whispers of change reach your ear, you can exhale and know you’ve prepared as best you can for whatever is about to come.

Of course I’m only talking here of BIG changes. Little changes happen all the time and some will affect you more than others. Getting a new pair of work boots might take some breaking into; your office chair might be upgraded. You let the old ones go.

How do you feel about change?

Helping Others Find Work: Step 1


Whenever helping someone find employment, I know two things; they want a job and they are only going to share what they think is needed for me to help them. There are many things which, having possession of that knowledge,  would help me help them meet their employment goal faster.

It’s not enough to simply say to someone you’ve just met, “Tell me everything – even if you think it’s not connected to your job search..” After all, it’s only natural for them to withhold past bad decisions, things they find shameful or embarrassing such as addictions, criminal records, firings, failures etc.

Now they might say, “I came to you for help getting a job. My personal business has nothing to do with that so can you help me get a job or not?” This should be totally understandable. Anyone taking this position isn’t necessarily belligerent or provocative, they may be simply unaware of how all these factors are connected to ultimately being successful or running into the same roadblocks in the future they’d experienced in both the past and present.

Step one is establishing trust. Never promise more than you can deliver; a job isn’t guaranteed . One approach that I typically use is to tell them that the quicker they trust me and share openly and honestly, the more I’ll be able to help them. Anything they tell me is confidential, and if they choose to open up and share their worries and concerns with me, I can help them with if or how to put this on a résumé and how to deal with this in a job interview. They are free to share as much or as little as they feel comfortable.

Now of course not everybody jumps at that offer and bares their soul. I don’t need all the details anyhow; just enough perhaps to help them find the right job in the right setting that will give them the best chance of long-term success. Let me illustrate what the right job in the right setting means. You see they’ve likely got enough skill to scan a list of jobs and pick out one that is a match for their previous experience. In fact, many well-meaning staff at employment agencies can do this with their own expertise. However, making a résumé to match that job isn’t enough. Even if they get an interview and get hired, it’s not likely they’ll keep that job unless the fit is a good one for both them and the employer.

To truly help someone find and land a job they’ll thrive in and maintain over the long haul, you have to invest in the person enough to find out where things have broken down in the past. Someone who has experience in the Hospitality sector but had to quit because of an overly demanding boss  who made inappropriate advances shouldn’t be applying to a job perhaps where they’ll be working late hours alone with a boss in a similar environment. While they may have the qualifications, they are unintentionally being set up to repeat a negative experience. Once is bad enough; two times might seriously undermine their confidence and have them question what they are doing to bring this on themselves when they aren’t to blame whatsoever.

Without asking questions to get at outside circumstances, you might also misinterpret behaviours you see as a lack of commitment too. Finding the perfect job 35 kilometres away from where someone lives might be reasonable to you, especially if they drive. However without learning they have a child with behaviour or physical challenges whom they need to be near to if needed, you might think they don’t really want to work when they aren’t enthusiastic about applying for it.

So we need to learn what’s going on beyond the job search. This holistic approach considers all kinds of factors beyond skills, education and past work history. It’s only when trust is established that the person you’re helping will share beyond surface issues. What else impacts a job search? How much time do you have? There’s their faith, family and social supports, income, housing, addictions, education, areas they’ve succeeded in the past, bad experiences, mode of transportation, childcare or caring for parents issues, mental and physical health, and the BIG one … etc. the etc., being all the other stuff that in their own situation is more prominent than all the other things you’d guess.

Finding out what motivates someone is critically important to finding out which job is right. So even when you know a person is definitely looking for a job as an Accountant, not just any Accountant job will do. Big firm, small firm, supportive environment or working largely in isolation? On a public transit route or do they drive? If you discovered their licence was suspended, maybe getting income from a shorter-term job outside of Accounting would be better to get the licence back  faster and THEN apply for the Accounting jobs? Who knew!

It may initially move slower as you help this person with their job search. In the end though, you make greater progress, they feel valued, they come to understand trust you’ve got their best interests in mind throughout. They may tell you they didn’t like the lack of progress at first, but in the end, you’ll find more people keep the jobs they land.

3 Key Components To All Interview Answers


Many of the job seeking people I’ve met are totally confused and frustrated with the lack of success they’ve had in trying to land employment. While some aren’t getting interviews in the first place, there are a large number who get their share of interviews but always seem to finish 2nd or worse when it actually comes to getting a job offer. “What am I doing wrong?” they ask.

The short answer is they’ve failed to market themselves to the needs of the employer. In fact, if you’re an Employment Counsellor or Job Coach and you’re having a hard time figuring out why the people you’re working with aren’t getting job offers, I suggest you interview them as an employer would. Of course, you have to know both what you’re listening for and how it’s delivered to knowledgeably give the job seeker useful and relevant interview feedback.

Let me highlight what I’m speaking of with a concrete example. Suppose the job posting indicates that teamwork is one of the key requirements for the job. A lot of interviewees will pick up on this and be sure to mention in the interview that teamwork is one of their strengths. They might bring this up right at the beginning when asked to tell the interview a little about themselves or possibly later when asked about their strengths. While this sounds good, is it enough? No.

Granted it’s a start, but simply naming an attribute falls short. Perhaps you’re thinking that where I’m headed and what I’m about to say is you need to offer an example to prove your teamwork claim. Well, only in part. Yes of course you must have a real example that proves you’ve worked successfully in a team setting in the past to make your claim believable. So is this good enough? Again, No.

You’re only two-thirds of the way to the best answer. So, you’ve made a claim of teamwork and you’ve provided an example from your past that demonstrates your teamwork. Fine. Now, if you really want to stand apart from the competition, you simply have to answer the implied question, “So how does that help me?” In this case, the, ‘me’ being the company, employer or specifically the supervisor considering you for the job.

So in the teamwork example, you could close your answer by noting how working cooperatively with your colleagues creates a seamless experience for customers; supporting one another on the work or sales floor improves morale, picking up the slack when a co-worker isn’t at their best or is off ill results in clients still being served well, resulting in an improved client experience. As a result, their impression of your organization improves, they spread that reputation, and your business profitability grows as a result. Bingo! You’ve now made a clear connection between your past teamwork accomplished elsewhere and how what you’ve done there will translate into the employment opportunity being discussed here.

Unfortunately, too often when I first meet people and do a mock interview, they’ll say something like this:

“I’d be happy to tell you about myself. I’m organized, detail-oriented, work hard and enjoy working in a team.”

Even if all 4 things above are pulled right from a job posting, this alone isn’t good enough. Many people will be smart enough to name what they should tell the employer. Many of the same people will even be coached well enough to give examples from their past demonstrating one or more of the skills. Few however as I say – and this is THE key to successful interviewing – answer the implied but ever-present question, “So how does that help me?”

I’ve essentially repeated my point now twice. Why? Simple. IT”S IMPORTANT! I know the tendency of readers to read quickly and skim. When done, many might feel it was a good read and yet 3 minutes later revert right back to doing what they’ve always done; that’s human nature.

But you – yes you…

You might be one of the few who does more than just pass the time reading this with your favourite beverage in hand. You might actually re-read the above and do more than say, “Well that was interesting.” You could be one of the few who will actually approach your interview preparation differently. Whether you’re a job seeker or someone who assists and supports those looking for work, you might opt to assure all three steps are in the interview answers you provide in the future. The three steps again are:

  1. State the desired skill the employer has identified as a need.
  2. Provide an example demonstrating your use of that skill in the past.
  3. Relate how that skill benefits the potential employer here in the present.

When you do the 3rd and last step as part of your interview answers on a regular basis, you accomplish one major thing successful interviewees do; you show clearly that you get it. You understand WHY the skill is integral to the job. Employees who cognitively get it, don’t let that skill ebb and flow on the job, or just do teamwork because the boss says so. They do it because they’ve bought in to the critical importance of the skill on the job and they share a high premium on the value of the skill.

Please pass this on; it’s important! Your kindness in sharing is appreciated at my end but more importantly may greatly help another.

Why Aren’t You Working?


There are many reasons why people aren’t working; what’s yours? Some possibilities are:

  • Not looking for work
  • Physical or mental health restrictions
  • Poor interview skills
  • Weak resume
  • Unsure what to do
  • Attending school full-time
  • Raising pre-school age children and unable/unwilling to find childcare
  • Required as a primary caregiver for a family member
  • Not motivated

This isn’t an exhaustive list of course, just enough to stimulate some thought, give enough possibilities that some of my audience is captured and yes, perhaps enlighten those that think there’s only one reason anyone would be out of work – laziness.

The first and last reasons on my list – not looking and not motivated one could easily argue are so related they are really the same; ie. not motivated to look for work. For some people, this is absolutely true. Would you agree there are those who aren’t motivated enough to seek out a job? I mean, I know people who fit this category and I suspect you do as well. They have shelter and food provided by someone or some organization, their needs are modest, their motivation to work to earn enough money to support themselves just isn’t enough to get them going.

Perhaps it’s a phrase in that last sentence that is the real issue for many; the idea that money to support themselves is the motivation to work. Money does of course, provide the means to acquire housing and food, as well as the discretionary things in life which for many improves their quality of life. However, working to support oneself when you’re already being supported isn’t much motivation. In other words, if you’re not working but getting housed and fed, you might not be motivated to work 7 hours a day just to get housed and fed – something you already have.

Work therefore, or more importantly, the motivation to choose to work, has to come when there’s more to be gained than just money for basic support. For some it can be an issue of dignity vs. shame or embarrassment. Support yourself with your own source of income and you feel independence, a sense of being in control of what you do, where you live, what you do with your money, who knows your personal business and who doesn’t.

For some people, work provides social interaction. Be it with co-workers or customers, there’s some connection to other people, which stimulates our feelings of inclusiveness; we are part of something and not isolated. Feeling isolated, left behind, left out, missing out – these are common to people who don’t work in some cases. Of course, other unemployed people will tell you they get all the interaction with people they want; many of those they ‘hang with” themselves being unemployed.

Feeling a sense of purpose is one thing employed people often tout as the best part of their jobs. What they do is significant and important to some part of our population, and this feeling of purpose gives identity to the working person. The problem for some who struggle to find a job is in fact deciding on what job to do; in other words, they are focused so much on finding their purpose, they get paralyzed waiting for it to materialize.

The irony is that when you’re unsure what to do with your life, often the best way to discover it is to start working! It is through work that you learn where your skills are, which skills you wish to develop and improve on, what you like and don’t. You learn through success and failure what you’re good at, where you make a difference, where you’re appreciated for your service and what you do and don’t want to do in future jobs. The idea that at 20 years old you should have the next 43 years all laid out clearly before you is a myth. You’ll change jobs and careers in your lifetime – perhaps 7 or 8 times or more and this is normal.

For some – and you may not like this truth – it is a question of not trying hard enough. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not painting everyone with the same brush, and I’m not saying some people who are out of work don’t put in huge amounts of energy and time. However, if you’ve gone at your job search seriously with no success for a long time, its high time you partnered up with someone and get the guidance and support you obviously need to increase the odds of success. This is precisely the action many don’t want to take and that’s a puzzlement.

The crux of the thing is it’s essential that you’re honest with yourself when it comes to why you’re not working. What you tell others who ask may not be the real reason; what you know to be at the heart of why you aren’t working is the truth. So what is it?

Good questions might be:

  • Why aren’t I working?
  • Am I genuinely happy not working?
  • What’s stopping me? (Is it really me?)
  • Where could I get help and support to find work?
  • What would make me more employable?
  • Who might help me discover my strengths and interests?
  • How do I get help with childcare, transportation, the issue of my age?
  • Would volunteering somewhere be the best way to start?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this issue; whether it’s you or someone you know out of work.

“Apply For A Job I Don’t Truly Want?”


There are the jobs we’d love to do; the one’s that get us really excited at the prospect of being offered the opportunity as the preferred candidate. Then there are the jobs which we are qualified to do, but don’t really turn us on to the same degree; they might be a little to far away for our liking, not quite pay what we want, or perhaps aren’t in the size of the organization we’d like. So should we apply for both kinds of job with the same commitment?

From an employer’s point of view, the answer is probably a big, “No!” After all, it hardly seems fair to them if some of the job applicants applying for the job opening aren’t truly invested in the application. If they ended up being offered the job only to then turn it down, that would be a lot of time, energy and yes money invested in the hiring process only to have to go back to other applicants.

From your point of view as a job seeker, the answer is less obvious. On the one hand, we all only have so much time and energy. Your time is no less valuable than an employer’s, and so you could argue that your focus should be clearly and only on jobs you really want; jobs you’d happily take if offered.

However, there are compelling reasons to apply for jobs that you’re not on fire for. Suppose for example you’ve got a criminal record. It’s from 8 or 9 years ago – maybe even further back in your past – but it’s still sitting there should a criminal reference check be done. In such a situation, you probably dread the inevitable question in an interview that could scuttle your chances at getting hired. In fact, you’ve probably already lost out on jobs for this very reason, so you’ve got good cause to feel anxious; for no matter how qualified or well you present yourself, that conviction always seems to get you in the end.

To help yourself, you’ve sought out help from someone at a local employment centre and you’ve had a mock interview or two to practice your answer. Your dilemma is wondering if the first time you try out your new response to the question should be at your dream job. After all, if practice makes perfect, a mock interview palls in comparison to a real interview with a real employer where a real job is on the line.

In such a situation, yes, you might be wise to consider applying for a job which you’re qualified to do, but doesn’t hit all the required boxes to qualify as your dream job. If as you’d hoped, the response you give is well received and results in a favourable outcome, this will bolster your confidence in future interviews, because you have proof that you can get past this previously impossible barrier. The same would apply if you’ve been terminated, you have no employment history whatsoever, you’ve got a large gap in your résumé, you’re feeling old etc. There are all kinds of situations where you might feel vulnerable, easily exposed and as a result, don’t present well in an interview. For these situations and more, going through a live interview to practice and testing out new approaches could be excellent advice.

The interesting part is that sometimes you might get offered a job and as much as you don’t believe it’s possible now, you do actually accept the job. After all, hey, it’s a job! Taking this position will be something current on your résumé, you’ll get new references should you do well, your past criminal record might diminish in importance if you prove you can work as expected. Put in enough time to repay the employer for their confidence in hiring you and you then apply for your dream jobs, knowing you’ve got some income at present and your sights can rise on a better fit.

Of course you could turn down the job if offered to you just as well. Hey, it happens. I don’t suggest you apply and interview for 76 jobs you have zero interest in which is an extreme waste of your time; you only need perhaps one interview with an employer to try an answer to get past your dreaded question. There’s no substitute for the real thing.

Experience in all its many forms is a good thing. Be they good or bad, every experience is a learning opportunity. Some people will tell you that jobs they took out of necessity and came to dislike or even dread were in some ways good for them. They may have learned to avoid certain kinds of work or work environments, to steer clear of certain kinds of supervisors, or to restrict their job search to a certain distance. The experience of going to interviews is no different as you learn what answers work for you and which don’t.

Now lest you be alarmed I’m recommending job seekers everywhere to flood employers with applications for jobs they have no interest in at all, I’m not saying this. What I am saying is that in certain situations, and on an individual basis, there are  times when it’s sound advice to hone your interview skills in a real interview; not for your dream job where you’ll feel the extra pressure, but first perhaps in a job with less on the line, so you can prepare yourself for that job of jobs!

Job Search Problem: When You Don’t Pick Up


Okay, so you’re looking for a job and you’re growing increasingly frustrated with the lack of positive results. There’s a lot of things that could be negatively affecting your applications. Today I just want to focus on one, and that has to do with your phone. When you’re called and not reached live, what is the experience of the person attempting to reach you?

I strongly suggest you call yourself and don’t answer, to hear for yourself what anyone attempting to reach you experiences. When you’re done, ask someone else to do the same and give you their reaction. Preferably ask a Job Coach, Employment Counsellor, Recruiter, Employer, and not your best mate or family.

Recently I called a woman to invite her to an intensive job searching group I run. When I dialed her number, an automated voice came on immediately with the message, “I’m sorry, the person you are trying to reach is unavailable. At the sound of the tone, please leave a message for ________. Beep!” The blank space in the sentence above is where the owner of the phone is expected to identify themselves, but in this case, all I heard was dead air. Why is this a problem? Well, some employers are going to hang up immediately because they can’t be sure they’ve reached who they want and for reasons of confidentiality they won’t name the person they want to have in for an interview.

When job searching, you should be going out of your way to create a positive and professional impression on those you connect with. It’s not hard to do. In fact, identifying who you are on your phone is just about the easiest part of a job search.

Now I often hear people say that they are concerned with privacy issues; hence they don’t want to identify who they are until they can be 100% assured who is calling them. While I’m all for privacy to a degree, you have to consider again the impression you’re making on potential employers who are assessing your suitability.

Take the person I called just this week who I eventually got a hold of after 6 attempts. The organization I call from comes up as an unknown number and this person said they make it a rule never to answer numbers they don’t know. Many organizations don’t identify themselves by number; after all, we don’t know who might be at the other end and see who the caller is, which could put someone in a very awkward, embarrassing or even dangerous situation. You can imagine the problem is someone was keeping their social assistance status private and someone else said, “Hey it’s your phone. Why is Social Assistance calling? Oh my gosh, are you on Welfare or something?” Or you’re at work and your boss is at your desk wondering why you don’t answer the phone when it’s ringing from the competition where you applied for a job.

Not as often anymore, (thank heavens), some people play music; forcing every caller to listen to 25 seconds of some love, rap, rock n’ roll song etc. Time is money people, and businesses don’t have or want to sit waiting for your favourite indulgence to finish. They won’t be amused; they won’t be impressed, and they won’t typically wait either. NEXT!

Then there are the people who as well as being job seekers are parents. As parents they think it cute to have their little one(s) take a turn on the phone saying their names or singing a song. Again, not a good impression. If you must, get a job first and then put the kids back on the phone.

A sultry, “I’m not at home as you can tell, so leave a message or go to ____” is the very worst message I have ever heard. This was the voicemail message I heard after working with someone for a time. She always picked up the phone when I called so it wasn’t until a long time had passed that I heard her message. “I get a lot of crank calls where people just hang up without leaving a message”, she said. Turns out those weren’t crank calls. No, they were employers who just hung up and called other applicants for job interviews. She changed her message when I asked her to and got calls for interviews almost immediately.

“Yo, you got the RT. You know’d the drill.” Seriously? Sadly and not surprisingly anymore, yes. Go ahead and call me out of touch, conservative, conventional. How’s this working for you? This is what I’d ask. Depends on the job you’re after for sure. Remember though, people know you can street talk  or dress down. What employers don’t always know is whether you can speak and represent them professionally and dress appropriately for the job when it’s called for.

Look, the phone is just one of the tools in a job search. I suppose the only thing more frustrating than a poor message or not identifying who you are is when you’re called and no one even has the option of leaving a message. Make sure you have time on your phone, that messages can be left. Being told th e person I’m trying to reach hasn’t initialized their phone or to try again later won’t get you an interview. Without being able to be contacted, why are you even applying?

Staying When You’re No Longer In It


I can’t help but wonder how many readers of this piece are themselves stuck in a job they really don’t enjoy or worse, have come to truly hate; and hate my dear reader, is a very strong word. But that’s it isn’t it? I mean, knowing you don’t enjoy the work, the people who surround you, the company, the commute; and nonetheless hanging on and holding on, going in day after day, week after week, just living for the day when you retire. Oh what sweet release awaits you!

You might think this is an extreme comparison, but haven’t I rather described a prison sentence? Wow, that’s something to think on. Is it worse or only slightly better to realize that unlike my prison analogy, in this case you’re walking around with the means to your release in your possession. After all, you only need walk in and resign and you’re free.  At least in prison you get time off for good behaviour!

The reasons for staying may be well documented elsewhere, but for the record, it could be you’re feeling too old to be hired elsewhere, the vacation you’ve accumulated would be reset at two weeks if you moved; your benefits are just too good. Could be you’ve built up too much of a dependence on your current income to pay for a mortgage, cottage, vacations, kids education, your wardrobe etc.

Somewhat ironic that you might feel trapped in a job in part because of the benefits you’re receiving when you are no longer benefitting from the work you’re doing where you’re doing it day after day. What price are you paying with your mental health when you grudgingly drag yourself into your workplace 5 days a week and loathe both the trip there and clock gaze the entire day. This just has to be affecting your personality, your good-nature, your self-esteem and most importantly your self-worth.

Self-worth is ironic in and of itself. Look on the internet and you’ll find articles about how much some well-know figure is worth. That’s dollars and cents; a financial commodity. Were we to ask that same person, (presuming we could even get their attention to ask), how much value they put on the life they are leading, we might get a much lower evaluation.

Don’t you think it’s rather disappointing to know that you’ve only got this one life and you’re spending a great deal of your waking hours surrounded by a place and people you don’t really want to be with, doing work that you find no happiness in? Supposing it wasn’t you in this situation but rather your child or grandchild, wouldn’t you strongly suggest and hope that they’d chuck it in and find something that makes they truly happier? It would make you sad knowing the one you love and care for so much continues to do this.

It ultimately comes down to choice doesn’t it? Sure it does. It may not be what you want to hear, and you might stop reading right about here, but it is your conscious choice to stay where you are, just as it’s an option to walk away. Don’t say you’ve got no choice in this, that you have to stay, for that’s not true. What is true is that the reason you’ve stayed and not quit already is because it’s going to need some courage and a struggle of a different kind to actually walk away.

Quitting is going to mean job searching, curtailing your expenses until you find another source of income. It might mean you’ll get less time off each year for some time. Can you picture how the six weeks off a year vs. the two weeks off a year in a new job, might not be that big of a deal if you enjoy going to work 50 weeks a year instead of loathing the 46 weeks a year as you do now?

I mean if you’re popping painkillers or self-medicating just to get through your days, are you factoring these things into your decision-making when you look at how you’re doing? How much you make a year isn’t the only bottom line here; how much you’re paying each year to make that money is far more significant.

Come on, this isn’t the life you dreamed; this isn’t how they drew it up for you back in high school or the family home. And by chance if someone did envision this life for you, it is still within YOUR power and control to pack it in. The hardest part is just deciding you’re going. Then there is a release; freedom. You’ll likely get some package of sorts, and if you don’t, it’s still more valuable to know you’re rekindling your self-esteem than sacrificing it to stay.

If you do walk away from this kind of situation, give yourself time – perhaps a month – to decompress. This is a big change after all, and transitioning from that job to the rest of your life is a stage to refocus and indulge in some healing time.

Sorry if you decide to stay; really I am. I understand your decision though; even if I’d recommend leaving. I do hope you make it to retirement in relative good health – physically and mentally. For many though, the view of retirement and time to do what they want is actually dictated by the health with which they arrive at it.

Feel Like You’re Failing? Consider This


Failing and the fear of failing (two very different things) can keep you from eventually getting where you want to be, or having what you most want.

Now let’s be honest with each other here; failing at some things is much more significant and personal than with others. Failing to tie our shoes tight enough could mean for most of us that we simply look down and seeing they are yet again untied, we bend down and tie them again. Not a major issue, we just had to do it twice.

However, I acknowledge that failing at other things can be devastating and have severe consequences. In the very worst of scenarios, life or lives could be lost if a driver fails to stay on their side of the highway, we fail to wear a life jacket and our canoe overturns in open water or our parachute fails to open. These are just a few examples I say of the worst that could happen.

For job seekers, the issue of failing typically is described as putting in the time to apply and interview for a job and ultimately not being successful. The feeling is you’ve failed in the attempt to get hired. However, the feeling that you experience in such a situation is not shared in the same way by every person rejected as you might initially suspect.

No, some people will be devastated while others don’t seem negatively affected at all; and all the feelings in between the two extremes will be experienced by others. While the rejection itself is delivered the same to each applicant, the message received is experienced very differently. Why is this?

The answer in part is the importance each person assigns to the job opportunity in the first place. So the person who already has a job and is applying just to test the waters and see if they can advance might be only slightly affected. On the other hand, the unemployed person who’s pinned all their hopes on getting that job to stave off having their car or home repossessed by the Bank and their spouse give up on them could feel ruined.

Similarly, the stage at which you’re at in your job search has an impact. How many times have you applied and not been successfully offered the job? Are you just starting out and this is rejection number one or is this your 43rd in a row? Yikes!

Now there’s another reason that plays into how you feel and that’s what you’ve experienced beyond the job application process. Some people have the good fortune of having supportive people behind and around them. They see themselves as successful parents, worthy as an individual and their spouses, friends and family love them and encourage them in so many other ways, this failure is only one small blemish in one area of their life.

Most unfortunate however, is the person who has been told repeatedly that they will never amount to much, that their life is a series of failures in every regard. Victims of abusive relationships are often rebuked, put down, made to feel small and are often told they are nothing without the abuser. When they try and fail in their attempt to get a job, in their mind they really believe this is yet one more example of the truth they’ve been told; it is they who is a failure, not the job application.

I must tell you though that we all fail. Failing is a sign first that we’ve tried something; and trying is a good thing. Presumably it was trying to better ourselves, to get something we desired for whatever reason. Recognizing that we’ve tried is significant, so good for you.

Now, although unpleasant perhaps, it’s important to pause and think about why we were not ultimately successful. Yes this means thinking about an experience that didn’t turn out the way we’d hoped, but there’s a good reason for this; learning.

If we can learn some things about why we failed, we can then attempt to drop those same things in the future. So perhaps we need a stronger resume or add a cover letter. Maybe we need coaching or professional advice in terms of our interview skills. Why? Well, we might be saying something in an interview that seems okay to us but in fact is sending a different message entirely when heard by an interviewer.

I really don’t expect that you’ll smile and feel great when you’ve failed at getting a job in the future. No, you’re perfectly right to feel whatever you feel, be it sad, disappointment, short-term anger etc. Your feelings are valid because – well – they are YOUR feelings. Don’t apologize for how you feel.

After you’ve gone through what happened, look for some feedback and be genuine in your request, not defensive or argumentative as you listen to someone give you this feedback. You are after all attempting to learn so you increase your future chance of success.

Some of the most successful people you’ll meet have failed in the past and continue to fail as they learn new things. Remember you only need to succeed once – to get that job offer you want – and all those failures will diminish in comparison.

You my friend; yes you reading this, you are not defined by your failures.