If You Want Success In 2020…


When new year’s eve rolls around this year – and right now it’s so far off it’s likely not even remotely on your mind – you’ll be looking back at 2020 with either general regret or satisfaction. The difference between the two perspectives will come down to the decisions you made in this year; those decisions good and beneficial or poor and harmful to yourself.

So what’s going to guide you in your decision-making so that you make more good decisions than bad? Too many people base their decisions on what seems right at the time. What they want in the moment that would seem best. String together all these little decisions that felt right at the time and you end up having made all your decisions with very little thought to any long-term goal. As a result, the benefits to yourself are short-lived. For example, when you crave something that will satisfy your sweet tooth, you can eat a chocolate bar and enjoy it. However, when pull to eat it is gone, you may be left feeling guilty and disappointed in yourself because you were trying to avoid eating treats. What you decided on in the moment to feel good proved to be a poor decision and counter productive.

So how can you make better decisions this year; decisions which in the end you’ll feel really good about having made in 2020? The answer is to first establish what you’d like to achieve for yourself and second ensure that reaching that goal will bring you a measure of happiness and satisfaction. When you reach your goal, you will feel successful; that you’ve brought about this success by making good decisions which continuously moved you forward to the point you stand now – having reached that goal.

Now be careful and give yourself the best chance at success. If you say your goal is to have a job or lose weight, it likely won’t happen that you achieve your sense of fulfillment. Why? Well, those two goals – as positive as they sound – are too vague. What kind of job is going to make you feel you’ve achieved success? How many pounds would you like to lose to feel you’ve achieved success? A quantitative number is required to put some specific objective in your goal. When you say your goal is to lose 25 pounds or to have a full-time job and name the one you’re after, you increase you’re chances of success having something specific to work towards.

Now write it down and store it somewhere where you will notice it frequently as a constant reminder of your long-term objective. That’s great, but alone this isn’t enough. If this is all you do, you’ll feel guilt and poor self-esteem every time you see it as all it will be is a reminder of how you’re failing to move forward. This is why in January and February you might notice people stick up goals to lose weight on the fridge and pantries, but those signs / pictures come down in March because they’ve come to resent seeing these every time they reached for something they wanted to eat.

With a specific goal in mind though, you’re on the right path. Your next move is to make another good decision, and by good, I mean to make a decision that is in line with your long-term goal. It’s time to break down your long term goal into manageable things you can do – call them smaller goals if you will, or steps. For example, if losing 25 pounds is your year goal, maybe you decide to avoid buying treats when you’re out shopping. After all, if they aren’t in the house when you feel tempted, you can’t eat what you don’t have. So make a shopping list and stick to it, avoiding the candy or snack aisle intentionally to avoid temptation. Do it once and you feel good – a small victory. Do it a second and third time, you feel you’re making progress – and you are as you set a new pattern of behaviour.

And your goal to find full-time work? Get in a new routine. Dedicate a block of time – say a couple of hours a day – and do it in a dedicated space where you’ll be productive. Job searching from your lazy boy or the couch if you’d rather watch television is not setting yourself up for success. Maybe you head to the local library or an employment centre for two hours a day, three days a week. Maybe you just sit at the kitchen table. And perhaps you decide to actually do what you’ve only pondered for the last two years, actually reach out and speak to a professional; one in the job search business.

Plans are good at helping you stay on track so you move continuously towards your goal. Plans however require one other thing – actions. The best plans don’t mean a thing if they aren’t executed and put into action. And actions alone aren’t good if there’s no plan – that’s just a lot of energy and confusion.

So if you want to be successful and look back at 2020 with satisfaction, set yourself a realistic, attainable goal and make it specific. Develop a plan of action and set smaller goals which will all move you forward. You’ll feel good as you make small decisions and a series of small but good decisions sets you up for success.

Out Of Work? Get Your Team Together


I think it’s a behaviour common to many people; when we’re embarrassed, ashamed or we feel we don’t quite measure up in some way, we do our best to isolate ourselves and keep the source of our embarrassment to ourselves. After all, the fewer people who see us in these moments, the less likely we’ll feel exposed and we hope to reintegrate ourselves back into our circle of friends and family when we’ve recovered.

Being out of work can feel very much like this scenario. Lose your job and you might tell a few of your closest supporters, adding, “Please don’t tell anyone. I don’t want everyone to know.”

The irony of this behaviour is that we often miss opportunities because the very people who could tell us about job openings are kept unaware that we’re looking for a job. As you’re unaware that they know there’s a job opening, you don’t even know what you’re missing; but you’ve missed it all the same.

It’s our ego though that needs protecting; and I don’t mean this is in a self-centered kind of way. Protecting our ego, how we view and see ourselves, is a natural response. The fewer people who know about our unemployment the better; and if they want to assume we are still employed but on some vacation or leave, that’s fine. We’d rather they don’t even know we’re off in the first place. And this is the problem. We don’t want to have to explain why we’re not at work, so what we often do is stay inside our apartments, condo’s and houses; going out only to gather food and necessities.

Like I said, this behaviour is natural and instinctive. So having stated this, let me suggest you consider doing something which on the surface goes against your natural instincts; get your support team together.

Your support team isn’t just made up of Employment Coaches and Resume Writers. It isn’t made up exclusively by your spouse or your best friend either. No, your support team is composed of people you can trust to help you out while you look to regain employment. Just like many other teams you’ll be apart of in life in your personal and professional life, team members have specific roles.

Here’s some of the people you might want to enlist to be a part of your team:

  1. You

You’ll need to be the CEO or lead of your job search team. As you’re going to be recruiting people to help you out, you’ll need to prove that you’re seriously invested in this project. It will mean reaching out to people, getting them on board, checking in with them to make sure they stay committed – and they’ll work more for you if they see you working hardest for yourself. You need to be accountable therefore; show up for meetings, do your homework and work hard at finding work.

2. Emotional Supporters

Before we get to the technical helpers, you need people who will empathize with you, care for your well-being and understand the highs and lows of the job search. You’re going to have bad days precisely because you’re human. Emotional Supporters are those who get that and love you anyway. These folks pick you up and pick up the tab here and there when there is one. They keep you included in get-togethers and find the ‘free stuff’ to do is important to staying connected.

3. Technical Support

You’d be well-advised to have some expertise on your team when it comes to resume writing, employer and employment research. A good proofreader, a sounding board or Employment Coach to offer the critique you need but in a supportive and understanding approach. Whoever you have in this area might be your mock interviewer, helping you find and keep the confidence to do your best in those up and coming interviews.

4. Partners and Family

Obviously if you’re single and have no family you can pass on this one. However, when you have a partner, your spouse, boy/girl friend, etc. is critical to providing you with the stability you need when the assurance and identity a job brings is missing. Sure you might not want to, ‘burden’ them with your news and hold out telling them above all others, but your partner is a partner for a reason. It’s not your job that they value most – it’s you. If you want to deepen your relationship, trust them when you’re at a low point with being out of work. This is when partnerships often work best; you pick each other up and move forward together.

As for the family? Sure you might not want to tell mom or dad to protect them from worrying and protect yourself from all the dramatics of their concern; but that concern is genuine. You might end up with a few lasagna dinners being dropped off or depending on their status, a job lead to follow-up. Some moms and dads are really good at stepping up even when their kids are in their 40’s!

Now there are others too, but I leave it to you to decide who you need on your job search team. Essentially what I’m saying is go the counter-intuitive way and reach out to people instead of shutting out people. Take care of your physical and mental health while you find yourself out of work. This unemployment won’t last forever and will pass.

This, “I’m Too Old” Business Part 2


After penning and sharing my post yesterday on dealing with being an older person looking for work, I was grateful to receive commentary from among others, James and Jeffrey. By the way, feedback is always welcome on any blog I pen; this is how we help each other through commentary, questioning, supporting, challenging, adding new perspectives etc. So a big thank you to James, Jeffrey and all the rest of you who take the time to comment periodically.

As much as James agreed with the advice about improvements in personal appearance, he raised an excellent point that one’s resume detailing their work experience and education often dates a person and they may never get to that interview to showcase their vigor and energy. James also asked about the response I gave James in suggesting a résumé shouldn’t go back beyond 10 years; he has progressive experience that showcases 20 years.

So let’s look at the résumé from both the viewpoint of the employer and the applicant. As an applicant, it is essential to remember that this résumé is your personal marketing document; you are in full control of what you put on it and how you phrase it. Think about your image or brand. How do you want to come across and what exactly are you showcasing ?

The older worker generally feels they have a lot of experience to share; their sheer years in the workforce alone is something of which they are proud, as this makes up much of their value proposition. While young workers will highlight recent education and enthusiasm to launch their careers, older workers often feel their longevity and rich employment history is their decided advantage. By removing much of one’s history from a résumé, it’s as if that rich history is being dismissed, hence the reason many find it hard to let go and drop work history beyond the previous 10 years.

The 10 years by the way is an industry guideline and not a hard and fast rule. There are times when work beyond that 10 year period is relevant to the job you’re going for now, and adding it will give you an edge, so just be aware of this. However, adding that job from 1984 on your résumé has a big down side; you may come across as a fossil; the employer imagining you’ll show up for the interview on life support and within a few moments ask about the company health benefit plan.

One major flaw that many older workers make is drawing attention at the top of their résumé to their extensive work experience. One of the first things I sometimes read goes along the lines:

Dedicated professional with 25 years’ experience in …

Employer’s read these 7 words and think, “25 years of work, they started out when they were 25, so they must be around 50 right off the bat.” Hmm…. you might as well have put your age right beside your name at the top. What you’re proud of sharing as an asset is interpreted as a liability. How frustrating then to think the 2 hours you put into crafting that résumé for a single job blew up after 7 words and 3.5 seconds of time reading!

So if the job ad requests 3-5 years’ experience and you’ve got this plus another 10 or so, don’t think you’re an obvious choice for an interview by adding that. You can’t really lie either and say you have 5 years experience when you have more, so what to do? Consider this..

“Proven experience…, Demonstrated expertise… or Mastery of … ” There’s no indication of actual years, therefore nothing to feel you have to apologize for because you didn’t misrepresent yourself. Ah, but further down the résumé, what about the real years beside each job? Surely they’ll get what they are after, (and coincidentally what you want to hide) eventually, you just delayed the inevitable reveal until they scanned the middle of your résumé.

Some résumé writers will omit dates, others will put, ‘8 years’ rather than putting ‘2000 – 2008’ etc. Some recommend no dates at all. This might not be the answer that will satisfy you as a reader attempting to learn the industry standard, but in truth, there are a number of approaches you can take on a résumé in the Experience section, and I’d have to be sitting with you and know your personal circumstances to intelligently give you my idea on how best to approach your unique situation. That’s not a cop-out, that’s recognizing that you personally have to be happy with the layout and approach we settle on, and it has to fulfill the employer’s side; call it tailoring your approach.

As for employers, they do want to know what your education is and how much experience you have doing the work they need done. Remember that saying, “Old dogs can’t learn new tricks”? This is one knock against the older worker and it’s a stereotype. You want to combat this and prove you’re not in this mold? Good, so where’s the evidence on your résumé that you’ve taken some learning recently? Haven’t got any? Take an online, night or day school course. Get that on your résumé with, ‘2018’ prominently beside it.

Now the résumé is only designed to get you to the interview recall. Once there, expand on your rich experience – the stuff you didn’t add on paper. Here’s where the details of yesterday’s piece kick in.

You can do this, and I’m in your corner.

Collaborating For Success


Being the Lone Wolf is quite the romantic notion; standing aloof from the pack, going it on your own, forging your own path. Why you can almost hear the whispers from one pack member to pup as they look up at you standing there on the rugged horizon, only to turn for one last furtive glance and then slip off into the wilderness.

It does have its appeal doesn’t it? There are all kinds of famous quotes as well, encouraging you to make your own way, take the road less traveled, etc. While this can have huge rewards, there’s a lot of tough going choosing to do everything for yourself and not taking advantage of what others who have gone ahead of you have learned.

To be sure, there are many times in life when learning to do things for yourself in isolation from others is a good thing. The gains you can make from trial and error, even outright failure can be valuable lessons for life-long success to come. Equally true however, is that learning from others and taking advantage of their knowledge and expertise can save you a lot of time, effort, frustration and ultimately help you get what you want or where you want to be quicker.

The wisest of us I suppose can differentiate the times and issues in our lives where going it alone or seeking support and advice from others would be in our best interests. I don’t imagine there’s a single person who does absolutely everything entirely for themselves anymore in modern society. I mean you might do your own shopping, but you just buy the groceries; you don’t grow the vegetables and fruit or can the produce contained within. You might learn how to change your own tires and fix your own brakes, but you might turn to someone else to build your home, make your furniture or fly you to your vacation destination. We all rely on others in many respects.

When it comes to figuring out what to do employment/career-wise, I’d certainly agree that this is largely a personal thing. Sure others can give you insights into the jobs they’ve held in the past or present; the benefits and challenges of each. In the end however, each of us often decides for ourselves what we do; choosing to do things which make use of our skills and abilities while bringing us some level of satisfaction or happiness. When we don’t enjoy things anymore, we often move on and find something else that suits us better for a time.

As children, we often do what we’re told when we’re very young and the elders we listen to keep us safe, ease our way with their advice and guidance. We sometimes ignore that advice thinking we know better, and pay for it too with skinned knees, wet feet, hurt feelings etc. Still, as we grow we test our limits, we challenge what we’re told we shouldn’t do, we keep pushing boundaries to learn what we’re capable of doing on our own. If we do a really good job as parents, we give our children the skills and confidence to embark on their life journey with confidence; letting them lead their own lives and the cycle continues.

So where does the collaborating for success come into play?

As I said earlier, there are times when it’s wise to seek the advice and support of others; it’s in our own best interests. When we reach out to others with the intent of benefitting from their skills and experience, we either choose to have things done for us, or we can choose to be taught so we can do these things on our own down the road. Getting our brakes fixed is something some of us will pay someone else to do every few years, or we might learn to do these ourselves. It depends on what we perceive as the benefit in acquiring that knowledge.

This is no different from considering working with someone to help us decide on a career path, create a résumé and/or apply for work. We can make our own resume as best we can, and we might just be successful. If not, we might enlist the help of someone with that skill and ability, choosing to either have them do it for us, or collaborate with us in its creation, and in the process, learn so that we can in the future do this for ourselves.

Really this choice is ours to make alone. A lot of the time, we might try first on our own to get hired. If we are successful, we feel good about our ability to have done so, and we add another skill to our inventory. If however success doesn’t materialize and we grow frustrated, we have the option of seeking out others to aid us with their ability; just like the Brake Specialist.

The only situation that would seem to not make a lot of sense is when we try unsuccessfully and continue indefinitely; knowing help is available to get what we want. It’s like trying to create a lightbulb from scratch when we could buy one easily. Why would you do that?

Frustrated with your job search? Tired of being the lone wolf? Collaboration might be exactly what you need to get unstuck and move forward towards your goals.

Debriefing 3 Interviews With 3 Outcomes


At 54 she’s got a lot of experience to offer; both Life and employment. It’s become extremely frustrating however over the last year to keep up the positive self-esteem. Oh for a while the image projecting out can be convincing, but the exhausted life savings, the move from living on her own to moving back in with her daughter, the sting of having to apply for assistance to provide money to live on; it’s just all been too, too much.

She and I have worked together, along with 10 other job seekers, since April 23rd, right from 9:00a.m. sharp each day through to 2:30p.m. We’ve covered resumes, cover letters, thank you notes and rejection letters; we’ve had mock interviews, talked about using the STAR interview format, looked at specific hard to answer questions that might arise – why we’ve even talked about how to predict with great accuracy the questions that will be poised.

Throughout the time together, I’ve asked her and everyone else to be positive; sure go ahead and have your moments of disappointment and acknowledge your frustration, but come back to the positive person you are more often than not, and come back as soon as possible. Yesterday at the close of the day, this was a big challenge for her; it wasn’t as easy to do as it had been earlier.

Now it started well enough this week; I mean after only working together for 5 days, she’d landed 3 interviews spanning Monday and Tuesday of this week. The first one was admittedly for a volunteer administrative role and the last 2 for paid employment, both in dental offices.

When everyone was gone at day’s end, she lingered and told me the outcomes of each, feeling so let down and disappointed, angry and frustrated as she spoke. The volunteer role she’d applied for wanted her in fact; they could make use of her every Tuesday for 8 hours.

The first of the employment interviews lasted all of 10 minutes; interviewed by a very young, bubbly woman who seemed to have clones of herself working around her. While she asked questions related to the job that were relevant, it seemed no matter the answers provided, at 54 the applicant just wasn’t a good fit. That wasn’t said outright I learned, but it was strongly inferred as, what else might, ‘not a good fit’ refer to?

The 3rd interview? Well imagine this situation wasn’t hers but yours. You’ve just had a 10 minute interview and you’re surprised and disappointed. You pull yourself together as best you can and after driving to the next appointment with your best face on, this interview is over after just 3 minutes! The Dentist determined her expected wages started at $22 p/hr and he was only able to start at $18. Game over; job lost. She was in a word, overqualified. He told her that even if she took the $18, he’d expect she’d keep looking and leave him soon and he wanted a long-term employee. She was honest in return and said that yes, she’d take the job if offered but keep looking.

If you read my blogs on a regular basis, you’ll hear me often say that you should get yourself connected with a supportive professional, and this is a good example of why. 3 bad experiences actually have positives to be drawn, and these can often be seen by having 3rd person objectivity.

First of all, the volunteer job is 2018 experience, a possible reference, provides purpose and relevant, current training in the environment she’s seeking. By telling the organization she accepts, but will continue to job search and if/when full-time employment is offered she’ll leave, she’s got a lot to gain while giving of herself and benefitting the organization. Win-win.

The issue of age at the 2nd interview? Not easily overcome I grant, but she needs a strategy to deal with this in an interview, and ironically, Age is the topic for today’s class; be someone too young to be taken seriously or too old to be of value; (not how I see it but how people themselves interpret these issues).

The 3rd job? Turns out there was more. The Dentist was impressed with her background and ability to not just work out front at Reception but also her qualifications to take x-rays and work in the back assisting in procedures; something he finds hard to find on a fill-in basis. So he suggested she think about self-employment; contracting herself out to offices. He had 3 offices in 3 cities and could use her on that basis in all 3.

Word gets around within an industry. Do well, and this Dentist would surely pass on his find to other Dentists; why he even asked her if she’d be willing to have him teach her in one area she knows she needs some brief upgrading. To get to the farthest of the 3 offices he runs, he offered to pay her more too.

After our talk, she left feeling better – much better – yesterday afternoon and in a few hours, we’ll be discussing the issue of age and how to address it; which she’ll find helpful too.

You see there are positives to be drawn from every experience; things to learn, to frame differently and to derive benefits from. Not every interview has to end with the job offer you’d hoped for at the outset in order for it to be a positive outcome. Is she employable? ABSOLUTELY!

 

Don’t Let Your Past Taint Others First Impressions Of You


When you’ve had a run of bad experiences such as being let down by others, denied opportunities for advancement you felt you deserved, or flat-out been rejected for jobs you feel you were perfectly suited for, you can start to feel cheated, robbed and hard-done by. Unfortunately, not only can you feel these emotions, but try as you may, they can start to manifest themselves in your behaviour, facial expressions and comments. In short, you can become unattractive to others.

Now this is extremely unfortunate when you meet others for the first time; others who may just be in a place immediately or shortly afterwards to help you out. However, you can well imagine that if their first impression of you is a brooding, negative, all-too serious kind of person with a permanently furrowed brow and constant look of exasperation, you likely aren’t going to be at the top of their list when openings arise.

Sadly, this my dear reader, might just be something you are blissfully ignorant of. It’s true! Now I can’t say for certain of course not having met you, but do yourself a favour and without noticeably relaxing your facial muscles or attempting to consciously smile, grab a mirror and look at yourself. Imagine you were meeting someone for the first time now and what would they see? Of course you might argue that if you were in fact meeting someone for the first time, you’d definitely put on a smile. Ah but wait; that facial expression and overall impression staring back at you in the mirror is the face you’re projecting to people everyday when you’re at your normal self; just walking or sitting around. This is what others see all the time when you’re being your authentic self.

There are clues of course that something is amiss. Could be that people are asking you if everything is okay, or if anything is wrong. Puzzled, you might say things are fine and ask them why they ask, only to be told that you looked troubled or upset. If you are just being your, ‘normal self’, and you’ve not had these kind of comments in the past, something has changed in how you present yourself to others.

Now again, you might have cause to feel the way you do; let down, perhaps kept down, held back from promotions, denied interviews for jobs you wanted or interviewed and rejected far too often. These setbacks are certainly frustrating and it’s hard not to take them as personally as they are after all happening to you. However, taken on their own as individual not connected events, these disappointments may well be not so much indicative of your qualifications or experience but rather the outcomes of a very competitive job market. In other words, more people are applying and competing for single jobs these days and many of those are highly qualified. So if you are applying for jobs, you’ve got a lot of competition.

Of great importance is to make sure the jobs you apply to in the first place are jobs you are truly competitively fit for. Ensuring you meet the stated qualifications – from an objective point of view mind – is integral to your success. Applying for jobs well outside your area of ability on the hopes that someone will take a flyer on you just isn’t going to meet with a lot of success. So if you do, you set yourself up to fail with a high degree of regularity.

Look, have you heard it said that many Recruiters and interviewers decide in the first few minutes of a first meeting if they like you or not? Sure you have. That first few minutes is nowhere near the time it takes to accurately check your education, experience, qualifications and overall fit. So what are they using to make these appraisals? They – just like you and I and everyone else by the way – use our first impressions. How you look, the tone of your voice, your facial expression, mood, dress, posture, personal hygiene and yes your attitude – these come together to create that first impression. After those first 2 – 5 minutes, the rest of the interview is really all about confirming or changing that first impression.

This is why it is so highly important that you don’t allow your past to affect your present if your past is a growing number of poor experiences. Yes, you do have to be authentic and real, not some phony, all-positive and artificially smiling person. Being ‘real’ is important. However, it could well be that given a chance to prove yourself in a job, or getting that promotion would see your old positive self return; the self you truly are most of the time.

Like I said, you might not be fully aware of how your body language and facial expressions have changed; what you think you’re covering up well may be very transparent to others. If you wonder just how things are, and you’re up for some honest feedback, ask people who’ve known you for some time and give them permission to tell you the truth. Could be they’ve noticed a change – and not for the better – but they’ve been reluctant to say anything out of concern for not wanting to hurt your feelings and strain a relationship.

Your first impression is one thing you have complete control over.

Getting Job Search Feedback


If you’ve looked for employment recently, I imagine you’ve found how challenging it has become. What with the introduction of Applicant Tracking Software (ATS), online applications, the trend of more organizations hiring through Recruiters and Temporary agencies exclusively; it’s just much more involved than it ever used to be.

Gone are the days where a labourer could show up at a job site and offer to work for a day and show what he could do. Gone are the days where you could walk into a place with a Help Wanted sign in the window and after a short talk be hired on the spot.

I’m not saying these are necessarily good or bad changes in the way people got hired, but things have definitely changed. Construction companies can’t hire those that just walk onto a site for insurance reasons, and most stores with help wanted signs in the windows will refuse to take resumes in person; most often directing potential applicants to leave and apply online.

Now the other situation the average job seeker has to deal with is an issue of volume. There’s a lot of people at the moment out of work and there’s a sizeable number of people holding down a job at present who are hungry for a new one. Add the two together and you’ve got a highly competitive job market. Oh and to add to the numbers, people who would normally be made to retire at 65 are now able (in Canada at any rate) to work well beyond that threshold with no mandatory retirement age.

Now of course much depends on the factors affecting your personal job search. Some include: the sector you’re trying to find a job in, the region or area in which you live, your mobility, your education and how dated it is, experience, attitude, your networking skills, use of social media, physical health and of course your job search skills. These are some of the factors but definitely not all of them.

As I’ve said many times before, job searching takes stamina. It is likely you’ll be passed over in favour of other applicants several times in your quest for employment, until you are ultimately successful. Mentally preparing yourself to be ready for this experience is good advice; but yes, even then, anyone can feel the pain of rejection.

One of the biggest frustrations for many is the lack of feedback they receive. In applying for a job you may not even get contacted whatsoever, or you may get an interview and no further; no second interview, no job offer and worse I suppose, no further contact. What went wrong? How can you be expected to note a problem and improve without feedback? You invested in the application and the interview, haven’t you got a right to the courtesy of contact and yes, some feedback on how to improve your odds at getting a better result next time?

In other situations we find ourselves in where there’s a test or an evaluation process we count on that feedback. The Driving Test Instructor will tell us why we failed to get our licence, teachers will point out which questions on a test we got wrong. Professors will illustrate where our essays were lacking, a Real Estate Agent will point out what we might do to improve our odds of marketing our homes. In these and other situations, we get valuable information from those who rate our efforts so we can take that information and use it however we see fit.

The job interview though, well, not so much. There was a time when organizations did give feedback. However these days, there are far more applicants for every job advertised. There’s no way they will take the time and money to offer each person personalized feedback. Nor by the way, do they want to expose themselves to potential problems by having that well-intended feedback come back on them in some form of legal action – and yes, some rejected job applicants have taken this route and sued over the feedback they did get in the past.

So, expect that you’ll have many jobs to apply to before you achieve the desired results you want, and don’t expect to get the feedback you’d appreciate along the way. This job search therefore, will need discipline and stamina. It’s going to be tempting to pack it in, get beyond frustrated and annoyed to the point where you become bitter and disillusioned. Well, you can quit and make it easier for your competition or you can stick with it and work harder.

I would strongly suggest however that if you are in this situation, you do one key thing for yourself; pay a professional to check your current job search skills and most importantly give you advice and suggestions on how to best market yourself both in the application and interview phases.

I know, it’s tough advice to hear – paying someone to help you when you’re already out of work and lacking an income. However, if you get the valuable feedback you’re not getting from the organizations who hire, your new awareness will allow you to change your approach and this could shorten the length of time you’re out of work considerably. So do at least consider the option.

A sincere wish for success in your personal job search, whatever you choose to do.

 

 

Looking For Work?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reframe The Job Interview


Looking for a job, writing resumes, going to interviews, worrying about whether they will call you or ignore you; this isn’t most people’s idea of a good time. In fact, most of those I know see the process as a roller coaster of ups and downs, built up expectations and dashed hopes. In short, a stressful experience to be ended as soon as possible by getting a job.

When I ask job seekers to share with me what they find most annoying or unpleasant about looking for work they almost always tell me it’s the job interviews. They typically say they hate them, (and hate is a pretty strong word). Why does this word get used over and over to describe the experience? Typically it’s because of those feelings of nervousness, feeling judged, evaluated, setting themselves up to be accepted or rejected.

Imagine how the experience of the job interview, and more importantly the anticipation of the job interview became something to look forward to however; something you perceived as an enjoyable experience. If job interviews were fun wouldn’t you look forward to them even if, yes they still caused you some nervousness?

An analogy might help us out here….hmmm….what would work for us…? Ah ha! Think of going on a date with someone you’ve heard good things about. Better than a blind date set up by one of your friends, suppose you’ve got a date Friday night with someone you’re looking forward to meeting face-to-face. You’re looking forward to sitting down with them because what you’ve learned so far about them has your interest peaked. You hope that meeting them in-person they’ll live up to what you’ve found out so far. Are you nervous? Sure you are, but it’s a good nervous and the anticipation is a good thing.

Why can’t a job interview be along the same lines? You do your homework and find out about the company you are interviewing with. You hope when you sit down face-to-face that they’ll live up to your expectations. Are you nervous? Sure you are, but again it’s a good nervous. You just might make a long-term working relationship out of this first meeting. You’re hoping to hit it off with them and them with you. Just like a first date, you spruce yourself up and look your best and come ready for conversation.

Now perhaps you can’t see any parallel beyond what I’ve described. In your view, it’s not like a date because in a first date each person comes with their questions, each feeling out the other and the conversation goes back and forth. Perhaps it doesn’t work for you personally because you view the job interview not so much as a first date but more like an interrogation from some spy movie where you sit on a cold steel chair under some intense light being grilled by some thug extracting all your information in the most unpleasant of circumstances. The worst part is that by submitting your résumé, you actually walked into this interrogation voluntarily!

Job interviews are like so many other things in life; how we perceive them in our minds goes a long way to how we will actually experience them. Imagine it to be an interrogation and that’s what it will be. Imagine it to be a fun enjoyable experience and it will be as well. Now I know it takes more than just picturing it as a positive experience to make it so, but when you shift your thinking to seeing interviews as good experiences to look forward to, you’ll also find putting in the work to make the experience a positive one is something you’ll undertake with enthusiasm.

That date this Friday evening? Likely you’ll get your outfit ready ahead of time, you’ll wonder what you’ll talk about and prepare yourself with a few questions for them. You also think about what you’ll share on this first date, probably putting your best qualities on display and concealing some of your faults until you get to know them better. You’ll think about what you’ll do, wonder how you’ll get out of it if things don’t go well, or if they do, you hope they’ll like you as much as you like them. When it’s over, you’ll hope they’ll reach out and ask to see you again or be receptive to your own follow-up.

Sounds like an interview to me! In fact, what if the term, ‘job interview’ was replaced with, ‘opportunity conversation’? What if you told yourself you have an upcoming conversation about an opportunity? It’s just a small thing perhaps but it’s one step of reframing this experience from the negative event you dislike into one that you could view as positive; something to look forward to even.

Conversations are one way we find out information and confirm what we’ve learned previously. For both you and the interviewer(s), this interview is an opportunity to sit down face-to-face and get to know one another. They’ve got your résumé and you’ve got their website and whatever your research has revealed ahead of time. Now they and you have a chance to ask questions, listen and rate each other, ultimately deciding if you have a future together and if so, under what conditions.

Tell yourself ahead of time this date is going to be a disaster and it likely will be. Envision it positively and it has a chance to work out and be enjoyable; for both of you.

Job Searching: Jean And Sarah’s Journey


Today I’d like to share the stories of two women I’ve been working with of late, both of whom have been looking for employment. While it may appear to the casual observer that both are job searching in a similar fashion, in reality they are taking very different ways to obtain work which will bring them happiness and security. While I’m telling you their stories, I’ve taking the liberty of changing up their names to respect and safeguard their confidentiality.

Interestingly I met both women for the first time when they accepted an invitation to participate in an intensive job search program I run. They’d both been searching unsuccessfully prior to our meeting and both seemed eager to find work. During the two weeks we spent together on a daily basis, both revamped their resumes, strengthened their cover letters and interviewing skills and both were encouraged to target their applications to specific employers rather than send out generalized applications. In other words, both got the same message and advice on how to ultimately land the jobs they were after.

Jean is pretty clear about her ultimate employment goal as she’s after a position in a Human Resources role. She’s got recent education, a positive outlook and while she has experience, it’s rather limited to her placements through school. Of course she has other work history to draw on, just not in her field of choice. Hey, everybody has to start somewhere right?

Sarah by contrast isn’t committed to any one employment goal. She’s got a wealth of experience in Office Administration but finds the routine familiarity of the job wears on her and she needs more stimulation and variety. She’s got great interpersonal skills, a positive friendly attitude and is also open to retail sales and working in a call centre, but if she had her way she’d love to make a living as a Singer. She’s got talent I will say, but whether it’s enough to pay the bills and earn a livelihood? That’s debatable.

As the two went about their job search, I noticed that both women got on well together and shared enthusiasm for the work involved which is always a good sign. They were both applying for jobs they felt they had qualifications for, and both got several interviews and job offers. Only one of the two however actually accepted a job while the other turned down opportunities and is still looking. Why you ask? Let’s look at that.

Jean is the lady who accepted a job. Remember she was the one looking for an HR job and she had little experience in this role beyond what she learned in school coupled with a co-op placement. Jean realized that she was competing for jobs not only with others like her who have recently graduated with little experience but also with the many other people out there who have the experience she lacks and are working in other roles just waiting for HR job postings. That as it turns out is a lot of people.

While she kept applying to jobs which popped up for HR positions, she turned her attention away from just scouring the internet for these jobs alone. She realized that all companies have people performing HR roles, so she started looking for a large organization that is well-respected, stable and in her community. She shifted her thinking from finding an HR job to finding employment with a company of choice in any capacity to get inside. Once hired, she could then learn about internal postings and have an edge over those on the outside which would reduce the competition and at the same time provide her with an income.

Sarah on the other hand, for all her skills, remained torn between the Office Administration jobs she had the skills and experience for but didn’t love, the retail sales jobs she finds a lack of satisfaction in, and the call center jobs she can do but doesn’t get to use her creativity in. Of course there’s a music career that would bring the creativity and passion but is less stable and takes a lot to launch.

In a recent conversation Sarah said she had 7 interviews of late and 3 job offers but she turned them down. Why? Well one job was going to be 12 hour shifts which she felt too long. I pointed out that the 4 days she’d be working those shifts would give her 1 weekday to do whatever she was truly passionate about but it didn’t appeal.

While both Jean and Sarah applied for different kinds of jobs, to date it is Jean who is employed. She works for a large big box home improvement employer in their lighting department. She’s working to get past probation and ultimately has her eye on an HR job down the road working off the sales floor. She’s happy and still focused on her long-term goal which makes her sales job more than bearable.

Sarah’s main issue is not having yet decided what she ultimately wants. This  has left her conflicted, for when she moves towards something she likes, part of her realizes she’s moving away from something else she also likes and she gets nervous. So what happens? She retreats back to the middle for fear of making the wrong move and is paralyzed.

My advice? Settle on what you want and stay focused.