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.

You Need Acknowledgement, Progress And Success


Talk to anyone looking for a job and you’ll find what they expect at the minimum is to have their efforts acknowledged and feel progress is being made towards ultimately being successful.

If a person applies for work repeatedly without any acknowledgement from employer’s, or if they feel stuck without making any progress, their effort will likely ebb and flow at best, or they will give up altogether.

Now, depending on your personal circumstances, your motivation for seeking this new job and the results you are achieving, can have a significant impact on your self-worth, self-esteem and your confidence. Although very similar, they are different from one another, and all three are critical to your self-perception. You do want to feel good about yourself, feel valued; that you have something to give which others recognize and appreciate. When we feel appreciated, we feel better about who we are and that positivity  carries over into other aspects of our lives. Without feeling valued, we can start to feel doubtful, our ability to contribute suspect, and our worth as a person comes into question.

Acknowledgement and progress lead to success no matter what the situation. Were you to buy some carrot seeds and plant them in the garden, you’d feel optimistic when you laid them in that shallow trench. With the first sightings of some fragile green leaves popping up through the soil, you’d feel encouraged. As the plants take root and sprout, the higher the green leaves grow, the more you believe the orange carrots below are getting bigger and thicker. The promise of successfully harvesting some vegetables becomes stronger. When you do dig up those carrots, there’s satisfaction in washing them up and eating them.

However, without any seeds germinating, you wonder what went wrong. Not enough sun or water? Planted them too shallow or too deep? Bad soil? Bad seeds? Or maybe you just say you obviously don’t have a green thumb. That lack of progress in seeing something grow can put you off trying again. If that lack of success happens not only with the carrots but also the onions, potatoes and tomatoes, you might believe you’re not cut out to be a Gardener. In short, you’ll give up.

The thing about growing your own vegetables is that if you’ve never done it before, you might ask others with more experience or at the very least, read the instructions on the packets you buy and follow the directions. When you do this, you’re taking advice from professionals, and you do this because you trust their experience and want to give your seeds the best chance of ultimately being successful vegetables.

When it comes to applying for jobs, you’d be surprised how many people don’t follow this same pattern of behaviour. No, a lot of people – perhaps yourself – go about applying for work as best they can figure out on their own. It’s ironic don’t you think that someone will buy a package of carrots for $1.50, read the instructions and follow the advice to the letter, but then ignore the advice that’s available from professionals when it comes to finding work that could potentially bring in tens of thousands of dollars a year?

As I’ve said in many articles over the years, job searching without success is frustrating. That’s got to be a major understatement of the obvious. However, job searching with progress or even basic acknowledgement is even more disheartening. Resumes and cover letters take time to make, applying online takes time as does even finding the right jobs in the first place. You feel your time is valuable, and the last thing you want to do is put in a lot of time and get nothing in return. For some, even just being acknowledged by an employer that they’ve received your résumé would be nice.

Look, you have to decide what’s best for you personally. That has and will never change. If you are getting regularly acknowledged and are getting interviews, you might feel progress is being made and success is imminent. However, if you feel stuck and you’re losing momentum or have no progress whatsoever, what are you going to do about it? Your choice would seem to be keep doing what you’re doing and hope for a different result, or change what you’re doing and hope for a different result.

Changing what you’re doing is almost impossible if you don’t consider advice from others who have had success in what you’re trying to do – get a job. Without learning how others have gone about it, you’ll just be guessing about what you need to change or how to go about things differently. For all we know, how you’re going about looking for a job now might be like buying a packet of carrot seeds and planting the packet while still in the envelope or scattering the seeds on gravel. There’s always a chance one or two might grow, but the odds are slim.

By all means, do what’s best for you. Hammer away doing the same thing or enlist the help of a professional who can share some ideas on how to improve your odds of success. It starts with having your skills and experience as well as your applications acknowledged, moves forward with feeling you’re making progress as interviews start coming, and ultimately you’ll be successful when the job offer is made.

Help Wanted


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You Can’t Win The Race From The Sidelines


Bad news, unfortunate circumstances, poor luck, worries, stresses, pains and LIFE; all reasons for putting off looking for work. Might as well add in low self-esteem, anxiety, an unreal perception of one’s reality, lack of motivation, money in the bank, a dependency on others or possibly contentment. Yes there are many reasons why people – perhaps you? would put off looking for employment.

By the term, ‘looking for employment’, I mean really looking for work. Casually glancing at want ads for three or four minutes a day isn’t job searching so let’s not delude one another. Looking for work these days – as has always been the case by the way – means making a serious investment of time and going about it intelligently with an injection of enthusiasm.

In order to be successful and win your next job though, you’ve got to throw your name into the mix. There’s no way you’re going to win out in the end if you’re not even in the race. Whether you start strong and count on your stamina to hold off the competition or you go at a steady pace and gradually pick up steam near the finish line to surge ahead of the others competing for the job you want is up to you. Sit on the sidelines though and one things for sure, you’re not winning. And whether it’s a thoroughbred horse, an elite athlete or even a beer league hockey player, the longer you’re not practicing and training, the longer it’s going to take to get into game shape and do anywhere near your best.

Have you heard the phrase that looking for a job is a job in itself? It’s likely you’ve heard some version of it. Looking for work is work; which is why many people avoid looking for work. After all, it takes effort and it doesn’t pay anything until it pays off with a job in the end.

Now I understand if you’ve been out of work for a long time or under whatever your personal circumstances are that you might be deserving of both some empathy and some sympathy. Sympathy by the way isn’t a bad thing; even if you say you don’t want or need others sympathy, a lot of folks actually do appreciate it. Neither sympathy or empathy however will ultimately get you a job. Eventually, you win the job by putting in the effort to land interviews and market your skills, experience and attitude to meet an employer’s needs. It’s you in the end going to those job interviews and performing well.

Make no mistake; I agree there are personal circumstances that impact negatively on one’s ability to job search. At the extreme, there’s a death in the immediate family, everything’s been lost in a natural disaster, you’re reeling from being unexpectedly fired, you’ve got ailing parents and suddenly you’re the only caregiver. Of course there are some sound reasons for NOT giving your job search  your total focus.

However, as I acknowledge the above, you have to similarly acknowledge that the time you spend away from seriously looking for work is working against you. Your references become less significant or completely irrelevant. Your knowledge of best practices, leading technology or even your keyboarding speed drops faster than you’d think. Self-confidence starts to fade and erode.

I know. Everyday I work with people who have been out of work for various periods of time for an assortment of reasons. Those who have not been looking for work with much success often tell me at some point, “I had no idea that how you look for work had changed so much. No wonder I’m not having any luck.”

The thing about looking for work is that yes, you might get fortunate and have a short search and end up working soon. However, while most people HOPE this is the case, it rarely is. It depends largely on the kind of work you’re seeking and the level you’re applying to in an organization, but seeking work generally takes stamina, character and persistence. Those three just aren’t that often immediately present in people who have been out of job search mode for long stretches.

Look, you might be smarting a bit, even resentful because there’s no way I know your personal situation and to make these kind of blanket statements is unfair. You might indeed take offence to what’s coming across like a shot at not just your job search efforts but you personally. Where’s that coming from though? Is it bitterness that you’ve had a lack of success? Is it hearing what no one close to you has told you out of not wanting to hurt your feelings, but you know to be true?

Deal with whatever needs attention; absolutely. I’m not cold and unfeeling! However, not indefinitely. The longer you put off your job search, the longer too you’ll need – perhaps – to steel yourself for what could be a prolonged search. May I suggest you get help; both to deal with whatever you’re going through that stands between you and looking for work with 100% focus, and get help with the job search itself.

Being out of work can be isolating. Getting support during your job search from a professional who knows best practices can not only get you off the sidelines and into the game, but help you get out in front of the competition.

 

Hired: A Renewed Appreciation For Work


It’s not as easy for many people to get a job these days as it was in the past.

Headlines are full of company closures, layoffs,  line reductions, shifts being eliminated or company relocations. Despite all these stories however, there are always a number of people who quit anyway expecting to buck the trend and find their next job in short order.

It’s not hard to imagine why some people in job-hungry times still gamble with their financial independence and quit their jobs. Essentially, those who do think back to their personal history and make a decision to go job searching based on how they experienced the hunt for new employment in the past. They believe if they didn’t take too long to secure a new job in the past, it is unlikely they’ll have much of a problem getting one now in the present.

When the economic climate changes however, companies find it necessary to cut back on their workforce, take measures to reduce their expenditures and hold off on previously planned expansion initiatives. Were we talking of a single company or two in this situation, not much impact would be felt. Yet when you consider this is the story for many, the impact on job seekers as a whole makes finding work harder. The reality of the times has changed from what the job seeker previously experienced.

All of a sudden the individual who quit their job finds it  harder to find new job leads and get hired than in the past. Their unemployment stretches out longer, the pressure to find income rises and the prolonged unemployment is a new experience. Many don’t know how to respond effectively; be it budgeting or how technology has impacted the way job searching is done.

Often during an extended search for new employment, a job seeker will think back on the job they quit with some regret. In retrospect, they often feel that if they could do it again, they would have held on to that job while they looked for a new one instead of just quitting outright. At the time however, they never thought for a second that their inability to find their next job would take so long.

This change in attitude has one clear benefit; the appreciation for the next job if and when it does come around. This new-found appreciation in some makes them a better employee to work with, perhaps a little less confrontational, a bit more team-oriented and more inclined to act in  ways that will keep them employed – i.e.. their production levels rise.

Don’t think that I’m describing everyone in that previous paragraph. No there are many who don’t really change much once they are employed again. These folks will revert back as soon as they are hired, or just after their probation to the person they have always been; thinking and acting pretty much the same. The impact of their unemployment seems to make them bitter, jaded and hardened instead of appreciative. Now they  look out for number one – themselves; an employer drops to a distant number two.

I interact on a daily basis with a large population of the unemployed. Generally speaking, older job seekers are looking for that one break – that once last chance to demonstrate how appreciative they’ll be and how hard they’ll work. They see the window of opportunity closing quickly because they have a finite number of years to work left, and with a prolonged job search, that window is getting smaller.

Younger unemployed people on the other hand don’t feel the finite period of employment to the same degree. They may be in their 30’s and have another 30 years to go and believe they’ll have 4 or 5 more jobs so the pressure is felt less when talking of the sheer number of years remaining to work.

If you have ever been out of work for longer than you would have liked, you can probably mentally and emotionally re-visit that unemployed period relatively easily if you allow yourself to remember what it felt like. Many don’t want to recall those feelings for obvious reasons; it was a period of low self-esteem, struggle and increased frustration. Recalling the emotional and financial turmoil can however remind us of how appreciative we should be for the work we do now, and for the income and sense of purpose we have. This recall can also help us feel increased empathy for others who are experiencing now what we felt in the past.

Ask yourself however if you have slid somewhat back into a sense of entitlement; have you’ve abandoned that sense of appreciation for the job you have now in some respects because you’ve managed to hold on to this job for a period of time? Would  you go about your work with more enthusiasm, productively and appreciation than you currently do were you just recently hired? If the answer you give yourself is, ‘yes’, maybe you might consider working in such a way that you keep that previously held sense of appreciation front and center in your mind.

Appreciating our jobs comes when we realize it isn’t just the job we are appreciating but how we feel overall. Work provides income, stability, purpose, a daily routine, security and keeps us engaged with others among other benefits. Work combats isolation, desperation, low self-worth, dependency, stress and loss of purpose.

You may not love your job, but appreciate its benefits.

Know Where Your Skills Stop


It’s always been a very sound idea to know your skills. Knowing what you are good at – possibly even great at – is not only good for answering those interview questions that ask you to identify your skills and provide examples, but you’ll know instinctively when your skills can improve a situation.

Just as important is knowing where your skills stop. I thought of this yesterday evening when the car owned by one of the neighbours daughters came into the driveway with a smoking hot engine; literally hot and smoking mind, not a version on the coolness of the item.

I went over and stood there with her, her boyfriend, her father and eventually both our wives. None of us are mechanics or automobile technicians and yet there we were looking at the engine with the hood up. Now me, I kept my hands in my pockets and stated right up front I was only there for moral support. I know one thing about car problems and that is that unless it’s a fluid deficiency problem which I can remedy by filling up the reservoir, call on a professional. Well I suppose a hose that has come unclamped I could tackle, but that’s it.

It’s interesting for me to see from time-to-time, the amateur with no experience claim to know not only the problem, but the solution as well. Be it how to fix a car engine problem or how to find a job, there are a number of people who will offer up their sage advice without ever having really first-hand experience.

Now I’ll admit that when it comes to job searching, an unemployed person could still provide valuable advice on how to go about finding a job. So too could someone who doesn’t own a car still know how to fix automobile problems. The difference usually between the two however is that unemployed people dispensing advice on how to get a job usually want one, whereas many people who know their way around car problems don’t always want to own the best one they could get for themselves.

No, while  someone might settle for a cheap car with problems because they can fix it up, not too many go out looking for jobs that are fraught with problems, just so they can say they have one. People are more picky about the jobs they want, and as proof watch any out-of-work person standing in front of a job board. (If you can still find job boards for people to look at as they are being replaced with online job boards).

Now because how to get a job seems like something everybody has some opinion on – almost all of us having had some experience of looking for a job at least once in our lives, you the job seeker have to decide who is best to get your advice from. This is because there are genuinely knowledgeable people who can provide sound job search advice and suggestions, and there are just as many or more people who don’t have the qualifications to really provide helpful advice, but will do so anyway.

So what’s at risk? Well for starters, you’re ultimate success. You’re going to waste a lot of time going about looking for work if you take some people’s well-intended suggestions. That time without success is going to make you bitter, angry, frustrated and maybe even depressed. Not only this, but all the while, the strength of your references weakens, your skills which were once up-to-date lose their value, and you develop poor personal habits due to changes in your daily routines.

Just as the young woman next door is going to have her car looked at by a qualified professional, my recommendation is that you have your job search behaviours, strategies and methods looked over by a qualified professional. For just as the car is worth a few thousand dollars, I think it safe to say you and your happiness are worth much, much more!

Think of getting some input from a job search professional like getting your car back on the road. The great problem that persists is that everyone, even the job seeker themselves most often, THINKS they KNOW what it takes to become employed. Great obviously if they do of course. However, in almost ALL circumstances, a real job search professional can provide alternatives to how you are going about job searching, improve your chances of success in landing an interview or getting a job offer.

I see moms bring their adult children to the Resource Centre where I work. They’ll be harping on their son or daughter and telling them what to do when I come along. They’ll proudly tell me how they’ve been on the kids case to get a resume, and then show me the work in progress. Most often, it’s pretty bad  honestly. While I applaud the effort, the resulting quality of the document is poor, and this foreshadows a poor outcome to follow. Mom doesn’t know where her skills end.

Employment Coaches, Resume Writers, Employment Counsellors and Advisors are just some of the titles professionals in this field might have. Just like the mechanic, asking a few questions to determine their experience and qualifications is good advice on your part. Trusting them once you settle on one to do the job and taking their advice completely also is good advice. Their called a professional for a reason.

Signs Of A Successful Person


Back in late 2014, one of my co-workers shared with me that she had been applying for internal jobs in our organization, hoping to move from the ranks of permanent part-time to permanent full-time. This week she shared with me the news that she has successfully landed a full-time position, and how she went about it might provide you with an example if you are in a similar position.

When I first heard she was looking for employment, I asked her how things were going in order to get an idea of whether or not an offer of help would be appropriate or not from me personally. As it turns out, she mentioned that while she was getting some interviews, she would invariably not do well in the interviews themselves; sometimes wondering if she was saying too much, perhaps not really answering the question, and her anxiety coming through. Bazinga! A specific area I could help with.

So I made an offer to look over her resume and cover letter, help with a mock interview, whatever she wanted and felt she would benefit from. Now here’s the first sign of a successful person; she welcomed the offer of help. Within a 24 hour period, she provided me with her resume and cover letter, plus the job posting they corresponded to. Following through and delivering what she had been asked to provide me with was the second sign of a successful person. You see too many people nod their head and say, “Yeah I’ll get it to you”, but they don’t.

After I edited both resume and cover letter, we set up a time to get together. Working only part-time, she made the effort to meet after her own shift was done, and she followed through – another successful step. When I was going through her resume revisions, she leaned in, looked interested, listened, clarified what she initially didn’t understand, and was genuinely interested in understanding where it was weak and why, and how it was strengthened in replying directly to the employers stated needs. Again, the sign of a successful person.

The cover letter review was much the same. In overhauling what she initially gave me and comparing the before and after versions, she saw the difference. Was she ticked off, affronted, defensive? Absolutely not. In fact, she was appreciative, thankful and open to change. You guessed it; yet another sign of a successful person. The bottom line is get interviews and job offers, not protect her ego. And guess what? The more she was open to ideas for improvement, the more she received.

Now to the mock interview process. She mentioned that applying for these full-time jobs was very stressful. Each application meant undergoing a test of competency and face-to-face interviews. Working for a large Municipality, she was going to various departments for these jobs; Water Treatment, Works, Social Services etc. Similar office administration positions but in completely different sectors. She’d get excited and nervous, talk quickly and lose focus.

We first went over the non-verbal areas; posture, first visual impression, eye contact, smiling, hand gestures, etc. This woman is actually very good at being engaged in conversations, makes solid eye contact, has a beautiful smile naturally and her non-verbal body language is pretty good to start with – just a few small suggestions.

As I asked her my questions in our mock interview, I made notes as fast as I could jotting down exactly what she said without paraphrasing. After the last question and answer, we went over the questions I’d asked and her answers. Now, whether she gave me a good answer or a poor one, during all of my feedback, she sat there intent on learning, being open to the feedback, taking it all in. Yes another sign of a successful person.

Constructive feedback can mean what you hear isn’t all flattering. It should be honest, helpful, instructive and delivered as straight-forward as the person receiving it is capable of taking it in. It should never be delivered with an intent to ridicule, embarrass or demean. As we talked, she was so receptive to getting better, I had the green light to keep it coming and I got more invested in the process. A huge sign of a successful person.

All of this I am thrilled to say, changed the way she viewed the interview. Seeing it as a conversation; an exchange of information centered around both an employers and applicants needs, she improved. Her answers became stronger, the framework for delivering those answers tightened up her nervous babble, and using specific examples to prove her skills validated her as authentic and believable.

You know why I’m really excited for her? She’s a mid-twenties homeowner who now has a better income, benefits, vacation time, and a brighter future. She’s also done for the time being with the distraction and stress of job applications, tests and interviews. I’m going to miss her very much actually because she’s incredibly positive, helpful and genuinely helpful. A sign of a successful person. Our loss is someone else’s gain.

Take advantage of offers of help. Be receptive not defensive. Implement ideas for improvement with enthusiasm and be hungry to improve.

Finally, she did one last thing that marks her as a successful person. Though not required, she said thanks with a token of her appreciation. A beautiful compass with the inscription, “Life is about the journey not the destination”. For a guy who helps provide people with direction, it’s perfect and now treasured.

Never Miss The Chance To Reach Out


About a month ago, I was doing the grocery shopping with my wife when we bumped into a woman we knew from our days living in another town about 20 years previous. It was a really nice chance reunion. Our common bond back in those days was our two daughters playing softball on a team I coached and so naturally the conversation quickly turned to how each was doing.

My wife and I spoke with pride about our own daughter who is now married, employed full-time in a marketing position with Moosehead breweries and overall doing very well. Then we learned that her daughter had graduated from University with a Master’s degree but being unable to locate full-time employment had recently relocated back home from another city to get things stabilized and seek out a job because she wasn’t having much luck. Can you see where this is going?

“Kelly helps people find employment and he’s very good at it”, chirped in my wife before I had the chance to say anything. In the next few moments I had pulled out a business card from my wallet, wrote my home number on it for her and extended the invitation for her daughter to contact me and set up a meeting if she’d like. Parents are always looking for ways to help their children along no matter what their age, and she gratefully accepted the offer of help.

As it turns out, I’m pretty busy at the moment. At work, we are launching a brand new computer program in a week which means in addition to our normal jobs, we are immersed in intensive training. In my personal life, I’m acting in the musical Beauty and the Beast which hits the stage November 7th; also in a week. So the timing is pretty tight to have much time in my personal life when there are the regular household chores to do and find some time for relaxing which is more important in this line of work than you might think otherwise.

So I’ve made the offer to give this young woman three hours of my time on Saturday afternoon. It will take some time to catch up with her and then turn our attention to launching her career, identifying barriers, making thoughtful suggestions and helping her move forward. And I’ve already told her that subsequent meetings are possible and it will be up to her to decide if she’d benefit from those.

And here’s a second situation that I want to share with you. That musical I’m in? There is a woman in the cast who I was listening to just this week as she spoke about what she did outside the theatre. “I’m just a mom”, she said. “Just a mom? Never say the word, ‘just’ as if you have something to apologize for”, I responded. Turns out she had a career in another part of the country that she gave up when she relocated to this area with her husband and has been raising several children for a decade.

Now in this situation I made mention of what I do and said, “I’m an Employment Counsellor and who knows, maybe I can help you out when you’re ready.” Then I handed her a business card from my wallet. Will she call at some point? No idea. But maybe; just maybe.

I share both of these situations with you because the common thread running between them is extending an offer to provide help. The relationship I have with the mother of the woman looking for help this Saturday goes back 21 years. 21 years; think on that. Can you guess today who you will be, who you will know, what your priorities will be, or what life will deal you 21 years from now? I know I can’t and I suspect your best guess is nothing more than that…a guess.

Likewise with my fellow thespian in this musical, (thespian = actor) may not contact me for years if at all, but the opportunity is now there and the offer to help has been made.

Don’t misread this piece to be a, “gee what a wonderful guy am I, and I want you all to know it” article. You’d be missing the point entirely. Other people have helped me out in the past and life has put me in a place where I have the skills and abilities to help other people. I suspect you have opportunities that present themselves in your own life, and it’s whether or not we recognize them and take advantage of them that’s significant.

And it’s not just with things that our work involves. Why in the theatre I remember other more seasoned actors who would offer me suggestions and tips to get the most out of the experience. Now at 55, I’m one of those people who have been in numerous musicals and dramatic productions, and so now I’m pulling others aside and asking if they’d be receptive to a few suggestions. The benefit of doing this is really building relationships, and if you build positive relationships with others in many different parts of your life, you never know when or with whom those relationships will be helpful.

So do reach out to other people. Find the new person in the office and welcome them, and show them the ropes. Reach out to colleagues in social media too. Do more than just connect.

All It Takes Is One Person To Believe


I want to think that everyone has had at least one person in their life who really believed in them. You know, that person who told you that you were a wonderful person. Maybe they said you had great things in store for you ahead, or that you meant a lot to them. Like I say, I hope everybody out there has had the good fortune of having at least one person believe in them. And here’s a positive way of looking at things if you haven’t had this experience; it just means that you’ve still got this one person who believes in you in your future.

Now this isn’t a blog about finding Mr. or Mrs. Right, and I’m not talking about finding a soul mate or life-long partner. I’m talking here about one person who thought, (or thinks) you’ve got what it takes to become employed and do meaningful work.

One of the easiest things to do is put down or dismiss others. You’ve overheard no doubt in your lifetime people make comments like, “She’ll never amount to anything”, “He’ll never get a job” or “Who’d hire them?” These are the broad kind of statements that when on the receiving end, can demoralize even the most determined person. Think about it for a moment; imagine these kind of comments and others like them coming from your teachers early in life, your friends and their parents as a child, possibly even your own family and parents. Then this trend carries on to include employers who consistently reject or ignore your applications, and those who don’t hire you if you are lucky enough to finally land an interview. All that reinforcement of your low value and worth. That’s got to hurt.

One more extension of this could be that upon reaching out for help, you find yourself being told things similar to the above by various social agencies. While the words might come more gently, the message might be received as the same; you don’t have what it takes.

Fair enough, lets start rebuilding your self-esteem and hope for the future. What you are really in need of is that one single person who sees something in you that with some effort on your part, and some patience on theirs, can grow and flourish.

I do think it important to realize that you are going to need some coaching in order to be successful. No matter much an athlete believes in themselves, nor how much raw talent they have, it takes a coach; sometimes a team of coaches to take that raw talent and develop those skills to the level necessary to realize the athletes’ potential.

So the first thing you can do to help yourself is tell someone who’s offering to help you that you are open to listening to them and taking their ideas in. And this means being open to constructive criticism. To move forward and get a job might really mean not actually even applying for a job for a while. There may some foundation work needed first; work necessary so that when you do apply you not only have a good resume for example, but the proper interview skills to compete, and the job maintenance skills to keep a job once you land it.

In short, you might have it suggested to you that you work on things in stages; talk about what employers are really looking for in the people who hire them, what it takes to get along with co-workers and other people, how to deal with conflict professionally and effectively when it inevitably does come up, how to dress, talk, act, walk, speak and oh yes, get a better resume and interview skills.

Does this seem like an extensive amount of work just to get a job? Isn’t all you needed just a resume? If it seems like a lot of work to you, imagine the effort being put in by the person who thinks you’re worth investing all that time and work in. Somebody must think you’ve got what it takes to be successful if they are willing to work with you this much.

Can you walk away if you want at any time from this kind of pre-work training program? Sure you can. But thinking back to the athlete analogy, no professional athlete in any sport plays at an elite level without attending practices. In fact, the ones most successful and truly great are often the ones who show up before anyone else and stay after the rest leave. So how can you really expect long-term positive results if you aren’t willing to put in the work to work on things that you need to improve on?

You see having one person believe in you does not necessarily mean they say, “You’ve got what it takes to go get a job right now so go get ’em.” It may in fact mean they say, “Sure I can help you, but the plan will take some commitment on your part; perhaps some workshops, a haircut, some self-esteem and skill development seminars.

All it takes is that one person to believe in you, but do yourself the biggest favour and first give yourself some credit and believe in yourself. It can get better, you can be successful, you can reach your goals. It takes effort, it takes work and learning means replacing old ways with the new. Believe.

Technology, Job Searching And Effort


Technology has changed society in many ways, most of them beneficial. You can arrange to have your groceries delivered to your house, order clothing, have a pizza delivered, shop for a new car, even a home or research your next career and register for school, all without leaving your home. But there’s a downside to technology, and if you aren’t careful, you’ll find yourself withdrawn, having poor interpersonal skills, and feel anxious when you do think about getting out and meeting people and have to interact with them.

Job searching is obviously what I want to focus on here and technology has really fundamentally changed how we go about researching and applying for jobs. I suspect it might seem to the young like the dark ages, but think in a single generation how much has changed. In 2014 it’s normal to have the internet in your pocket on your phone, your watch, your tablet and at home on your PC or laptop. If you are out and about, you can pop into an internet cafe, a library, a resource centre, and your connected.

In 1980, no one carried the internet with them, there were no tablets, cell phones, laptops and personal computers. Computers themselves were huge and heavy, and price-wise they were out of reach of the vast majority. Even after 2000, people were still using floppy disks to store data, and if you went up to someone and said, “I-phone?” they might say, “No you’re not, you’re a person.”

Used to be conducting company research was more challenging too. You had to physically show up at a business, pick up literature, read their quarterly reports or annual meeting documents. If you knew someone at a company, you pretty much had a major advantage because getting real information you could use was difficult to get. It really did depend on who you knew.

So much for a history lesson. Fast-forward to 2014, (and we’re already half way through this now). We have the internet relatively inexpensively, and accessibility to it is easier than ever. If you don’t have a cell phone with the internet, you know you can pop into a library and use theirs or borrow some time from a friend or neighbour. Most of us however in the developed world have it and consider it pretty much a given. That’s how far we’ve come.

And with it, we can research companies in seconds, finding out things like how long the company has been around, what their values and beliefs are, the culture of the company, their mission statements. Even pictures of people on their websites give us strong clues about the kind of people they want to hire.

When it comes to applying, most websites have a, ‘Careers’ or ‘Join Us’ link that tells us what positions are open and often there is an application form to fill out electronically. Frustrating maybe to have to create some kind of profile complete with username and password for each company, but this does weed out those that don’t have the technological skills or the patience to even complete their application fully.

So there’s a lot of good in the application method that company’s now use. However, the drawback to all of this is there are a lot of people who seem to think that sitting behind a screen and in front of a keyboard is how you go about getting a job. It’s as if they really believe you just do everything on-line and you get a text or return email saying you start tomorrow. Why is this? Because the internet is all about speed. “I applied twenty minutes ago, why haven’t I heard something by now!!!!”

Some things DON’T change with the hiring process. A Hiring Manager is still in need of time to collect resumes from qualified candidates, still needs to review them, still needs to select those closest to what they are looking for, and still needs to arrange interviews, and still needs to then make a decision. Time to use an old-time skill….patience.

And so it is that I find myself listening to many young job seekers who after applying for six or seven jobs lament the fact that they haven’t had a response and are getting frustrated. Not to diminish their feelings, (because feelings are something everyone is entitled to), but a typical job search requires stamina and diligence.

A good job search requires two things when it comes to applications: 1) a quality application 2) a quantity of applications. In other words, you have to put some real effort into your application so it’s as strong as it can be and markets you as best you can, but you also typically have to repeat this process many times. If you are fortunate, a really good application results in an early return and you get interviewed and hired early in the job hunt. Bravo. If you are like most job seekers, it involves multiple applications to different employers, sometimes even in different lines of work.

The challenge then becomes to not get discouraged, even when you have your daily ups and downs (and that’s normal). Staying committed to a focused, determined job search in which you really put your best effort into applying is critical to gaining success. If you put only a slight bit of effort into applications and circulate hundreds of them, odds are you won’t be successful.

All the best in your job search!