The Argument For Strong Cover Letters And Resumes


Job applicants tend to fall into two distinct groups when it comes to looking for work. There’s those who put in minimal effort and those that do everything they can to submit strong applications.

A poor application might mean no cover letter at all or a short sentence or two with spelling or grammar errors, along with a pretty basic resume that is printed multiple times and fanned out to numerous employers. This is typically contrasted with the cover letter and resume tailor-made to address all the requirements and qualifications the employer who posted a position has indicated as their needs.

Now, as the reality job seekers know only too well is that you’ll likely get passed over a lot before getting hired on, some might argue that the person putting forth the least effort is the smarter of the two applicants. After all, if the end result is no interview and no job, why invest a lot of effort?

The answer of course comes down to two things; improving your odds of success and improving the experience of the job you get.

Improving your odds of success.

The job applicant submitting a weak, generalized resume is going to be job searching for a long time, simply because each and every time they are measured up against some other applicants who are taking the time to craft their resumes to the specific needs of each and every job posting. In that pool of applicants, the employer looks through the many they get and each and every time begins with the same thinking; the ones closest on paper to what I’m looking for are the ones to interview.

The job applicant with a strong, targeted resume will have a shorter period of unemployment simply because when measured up against some other applicants, they will have their application put in the pile of those who got through the first stage of being screened. The stronger the cover letter and resume, the more they survive each stage of being evaluated, be it by human or digital software.

Improving the experience of the job you get.

This is the second reason for investing effort in the jobs you apply to. When you put the barest level of effort into applying and put a basic resume before employers with scant detail and errors, you send a message along with your resume. The message a potential employer receives may be that here’s someone who doesn’t put in a lot of effort, doesn’t care and isn’t going to be in high demand. Therefore, I can likely hire them at a low wage, maybe do menial work and they may go as far as assume you won’t stay long either, so they don’t invest a lot of effort in your development and training. As a consequence, the experience is poor.

The person with the strong resume and well-researched cover letter on the other hand comes across as well-informed, professional; someone to be taken seriously. Poor employers tend to avoid these types because they feel they won’t be able to manipulate them as much. Good employers are drawn to people who show effort in their application because there’s the hope they also show the same effort in doing the actual work once hired. As a result, not only do these types get hired more often, employers train these people better because they want them to stay and add value to the organization. As a consequence, the experience is better.

Imagine  someone coming up to you as you were buying a lottery ticket. They ask why your only buying a single ticket for the big draw and you tell you it’s all you’re willing to spend because there’s a lot of other people playing. Why play at all then you’re asked? Well, there’s a slim chance you might win and you get to dream about how winning would change your life.

Now suppose this person claimed they could improve your odds of winning by eliminating a lot of the other tickets; a lot of other tickets. No, they aren’t expecting you to shell out additional money and buy more tickets. Would you be interested? Oh yes you would be! You’d only have one thing to say. “How?”

Landing the job is like winning the lottery and it will change things in your life beyond the job. More money to spend on the things you want, feeling better about yourself and having others view you in a better way. Saving some for retirement or a trip you’ve only thought about. On a small scale perhaps eating out every so often, paying down debts, feeling less stressed and having a purpose in how you spend your time.

When you always use a cover letter and improve the strength of both your cover letter and resume through research and get help and advice, you increase the odds of success. You move ahead of the people who apply with weaker resumes and fail to use cover letters. You eliminate the other lottery tickets.

Please share with others as you wish. You may just be doing someone a huge favour.

 

The Traditional Job Board


These days job seekers tend to fall into one of two categories; those who use technology with comfort and those who don’t.

Imagine if you will, the typical person who, without computer skills, stands in front of a bulletin board looking at printed off job postings. Can you visualize that person? Great. What do they look like? Old? Computer illiterate? General Labourer perhaps? Young and tech-savvy?

There are good arguments to be made for having or not having a physical job board in an Employment Centre with paper copies of job postings. In 2020, it sure isn’t the environmentally responsible thing to do when job seekers are largely self-directed and have the computer skills necessary to access job search websites. The wall space those job boards occupy might be otherwise used to promote training opportunities, workshops, government programs and local events too.

But in my opinion, the argument for the traditional job board with its paper job postings has enough merit that I align myself with those who advocate for its use. One of the first things I did when I began with my employer was to look upon their existing job board and read its contents. It contained a single 8 1/2″ x 11″ piece of paper with perhaps 20 job titles on it with a job ID number. Job seekers were to look at this single page, be attracted by the job title and then take the initiative to either look it up on a computer or walk over and ask for details from staff. Environmentalists would no doubt, have cheered on this minimalistic presentation as only one sheet of paper was generated.

That first week I sat from a distance and watched the flow of job seekers in the Resource area. Job seekers came in and some never even noticed that single sheet of paper on the wall. Those that recognized it for what it was, would move to it and stay an average of 6 seconds. A job title alone wasn’t grabbing or sustaining their attention. They then left immediately or sat down at a computer.

So at the end of the first week, I removed that single list of job titles and replaced it with 20 sheets of individual, full job postings with qualifications, responsibilities, rate of pay, hours involved and application instructions. Then I sat back a second time and observed. What I saw was what I predicted; the flow of traffic to the board increased, the people stayed browsing jobs longer, and most importantly, they often focused on one job for a few minutes and fully read the requirements.

So who were these people? Remember your vision of the person standing at the job board? See how well that image matches with who I saw. Ready? Good. I looked to see young people in their late teens and early 20’s all the way through to people in their 50’s. There hasn’t been any gender-specific issues either. In other words, people of all kinds are drawn to the board and looking.

I’ve also noticed Employment Counsellors and Job Developers who work out of their offices 1:1 with job seekers are escorting those they work with to the board and are looking at the jobs together. I’ve seen them remove a posting, photocopy it and replace it, then go back to their office. When they emerge some time later, they’ll often pause at my desk and introduce the job seeker and tell me what kind of work they are looking for and what they’ve just applied to.

For me personally, the real benefit has been seizing the opportunity to engage in a low-risk conversation with those browsing the job board. “Hi there. See anything of interest?” Or, “What kind of work are you looking for?” Whether it’s a closed or open-ended question, a conversation is initiated, and as we know, a conversation once started can lead to good things.

Now sure the postings will eventually end up in a recycling bin. Well, most of them. Some will be taken by the job seekers themselves or as they are about to expire, might get cut up and used for scrap notepaper and then eventually recycled. Some might even make their way into a Resume Workshop and used as examples of where to get the content for a resume.

Like many other things, the traditional job board will fall in and out of fashion. At some point, I or a colleague might look to better use that prime real estate for some other idea to engage visitors. I’m old enough to remember an unemployment office where there were rows of boards with rows of file cards, each hand-typed with a brief job posting and ID number. It must have been labour-intensive for those to be created and placed behind locked glass units.

I suppose the ultimate question of whether or not a job board is useful should be put to job seekers themselves. So what do you think? What would be helpful to you as you job search?

 

A Job Search Daily Plan


Have you ever gone for a walk and found yourself seeing things you’ve missed despite passing them everyday in your car? I know I do. I see peeling paint on wooden garages and patterns in the bark of long-lived trees. I smell freshly cut lawns more intensely and oddly enough the occasional but intense odour of a laundry exhaust. Yes, when I slow down and pay attention, things come into my consciousness that I realize are there all along, I’ve just been missing them.

Looking for work is similar. While your employed, you may look at what jobs are out there, but it’s only when you turn to job searching with more intensity that you see opportunities anew.

It’s understandable I suppose. I mean you don’t always inform your network that you’re open to moving on to something else because part of you dreads having to explain over and over again why you’re looking. The urgency isn’t the same either. No, when you’re working, especially full-time, your focus is split between the job you’ve got and the next one. When you reacquire those 7 or 8 hours a day that your job used to fill, it’s like the world slows down and more options suddenly appear.

An excellent decision when job searching is to commit to it. Well, if you’re goal is to find work rather than go through the charade of looking for work; and there’s a difference. The people who go through the illusion of job seeking can occasionally have success, but the statistics reveal the odds are low. Like a lottery, you often hear of the big winners, but we know there are an awful lot of losers whose stories are every bit as real but not told.

Now the people who commit to a job search see and ‘feel’ the job search differently, similar to my experiences of walking around a neighbourhood rather than taking the car. Just as you take in more when you walk, you’ll find more employment opportunities when you slow down and open up those jobs and read what they are all about. When you reach out to connections as a committed job seeker, you open yourself up to online calls, virtual meetings, maybe grabbing a bite and diving into the conversation about where you’re headed. You have the time to take a course that your previous working life kept you from doing. Your perspective changes on what your priorities are and you appreciate things you previously took for granted.

A healthy exercise to undertake when you’re out of work but committed to finding employment is to establish and maintain a focused routine. ‘Focused’ being the key. Waking up late, casually browsing jobs for 15 minutes and watching television might be a routine yes, but not a job search focused one.

A focused job search could look like this:

Wake up, have breakfast, shower and dress. Go for a walk around the neighbourhood for 30 minutes, clearing your head. Once home, sit down in your dedicated job search space – your ‘office’; and job search. This I’ll expand shortly. Mid-morning, grab some fruit and water the houseplants or read a chapter of a book you’re enjoying. Take 20 minutes. Back to the job search. Around noon or so, have lunch and for an hour, do whatever makes you happy. No more than an hour and a half at most though. Back to the job search. Mid afternoon, get up and get out and go around the block; maybe grab the mail down the street but get some air and a change of scenery. Late afternoon, document what you’ve done with your job search and perhaps get back to people you found were unavailable in the morning. Wrap up with some ‘me’ time before having to start making dinner. Enjoy your evening and feel good about what you did during the day.

As to the job search, what I don’t mean is endless scrolling on multiple websites, looking at the same jobs over and over again. That’s not job searching, that’s trolling.

Job searching needs to be stimulating if you’re to keep at it, so break it down into activities. Here’s some but not all the things you could do – all job seeking focused.

Contact your local first aid provider and sign up for First/Aid and CPR. It will add to your resume and fill two days in the next week or so. Define your existing skills and do it on paper, not in your head. Of these skills, determine which you want to use in the next job. Determine what companies you’d most like to work with and start researching their online content. When you know them intimately and know how you would fit in, send them an expression of interest letter even if you don’t see jobs posted. Create or update your online profile in the social platform of your choice; the one you’ll use. I’m a LinkedIn guy myself. Reach out to colleagues and get recommendations if they are willing posted on your profile. Articulate your brand and your value. Who are you? Why would they want you? Update the resume of course and get it looked at for areas to improve by booking a meeting with an Employment Counsellor or Coach.

This is but the tip of the iceberg. Good job hunting my friend!

 

Job Searching During Covid-19


Looking for work under normal circumstances is challenging. There’s resumes and cover letters to write, people to find and network with, interviews to prepare for and attend, traveling costs, phone calls to make and of course lots of time spent in front of a computer monitor trying to find the right jobs in the first place. That sounds like an exhausting process to undertake – especially when exactly how long you’ll be in job search mode isn’t known.

Now throw in the Covid-19 pandemic. Remember when it was just beginning? Nobody knew (or knows) exactly the length of time this pandemic would or will run. Will it be over by the end of this year or drag on well into 2021?

Living through 2020 hasn’t been easy for most people. Even if you’ve remained healthy, you’ve been forced to make changes to your every day routines. Shopping more online and using curbside pickups, having dental and optical appointments postponed, seeing your doctor over a computer monitor, more home cooking and far less eating out. And missing family. With every change, there’s a hit to your mental health; just another small stressor that forces you to adapt from your norm.

It’s scary for many to think of job searching at the best of times. If you’ve lost your job in 2020 however, you’ve likely felt it harder to reverse your fortunes and find employment. Why? Well, you either fear exposing yourself to people you don’t know who could transmit the virus to you, or you’ve had to learn how to meet and be interviewed over a computer screen.

Having had conversations with some unemployed people, I’ve found some put off the job search in the Spring because they thought the pandemic would be over quick. Why risk exposure? Then it dragged into the summer and these unemployed people ‘took the summer off’ to enjoy what they could. Don’t judge them too harshly; it may have preserved their mental health. With the rising numbers now in the fall, those same out-of-work folks are writing off 2020 entirely and looking to job search in 2021.

Some readers will feel that these unemployed people are likely the kind of people who are looking for excuses not to job search; and the pandemic is convenient. Like I mentioned earlier though, I can understand that protecting one’s mental health as well as one’s physical health is what they feel they are doing. To be blunt, people have died; a lot of people have died. Being out of work is pretty small compared with exposing oneself to a deadly virus and leaving loved ones behind for a new job at minimum wage.

Yet, despite the world-wide pandemic, people are looking for and finding work; employers are still advertising, interviewing and bringing new employees on board. The prudent thing is to be responsible and smart as you job search or hire. Take the time to look and you’ll see business owners being extremely mindful of increasing their safety measures. Hand sanitizer and facial masks are the new norms now, as is the 6 foot distancing rule. Handshakes are out, and while it’s taken some getting used to, we demonstrate that we are in fact a higher species when we adapt without exaggerating, “how simply impossibly inconvenient” these new norms are.  Those that complain about having to put on a mask to enter a store to shop for 10 minutes should try working as an employee and wearing a mask for a 7 hour shift.

Job seekers have had to learn how to use Zoom, Teams or Skype and mobile phones are no longer luxuries but mandatory items of business. Working remotely has happened in companies where it would not have been thought possible less than 6 month’s ago. Adapt or go under.

Those who do job search at this time are doing so in innovative ways, networking via LinkedIn and WhatsApp. Can you imagine the problems we’d all have had the pandemic hit when we had no cell phones? It sounds ironic and odd, but in some ways I believe we’re closer to people than we were before the pandemic. Truly, we care more, we reach out more and we collaborate more in remote team meetings etc.

Maybe we’re healthier too? With less cars on the road, maybe we get out to ride bikes or take walks more often. Maybe we take in the sun in our backyards while in team meetings rather than sitting congregated in office spaces without windows.

There are advantages to seize if you’re job searching if you look for them. When you are interviewed, you can have all kinds of resources on your desk that you couldn’t take to an interview. You’re in the sanctity of your own home and you never have to worry about wind-blown hair or excessively sweating in scorching sun before arriving for your interview.

You have to decide for yourself when it’s the right time for you to job search. Just saying, “Not now when there’s a pandemic” isn’t good enough though, because people – a lot of people – are having success doing so. Whether it’s right for you personally is another thing and it’s okay if now isn’t the right time. On the other hand, being safe as you job search has always been good advice whatever the year and whatever the circumstances.

Take care people.

 

About That Big Gap On Your Resume


One of the most common worries many come to me with is a lengthy gap on their resume. You might find my thoughts on this matter helpful whether you too are in this situation or like me, you’re in the business of providing help and support to those seeking employment. Let me just say here and now that I’d absolutely love to hear your own thoughts in the comments section; perhaps the advice you’d give yourself or what your personal experience has been – the good and the bad.

To begin then. When I first hear someone tell me they are worried about a lengthy gap on their resume I ask them why; not why there’s a gap but rather why they are worried about the gap. What I’m listening for are a couple of things. The first is hearing what they believe an employer’s possible objections are in order to hear if they accurately understand just what the gap implies. The second thing I’m listening for is actually the tone of their voice. It’s in the tone of the voice that I will detect anything and everything from utter despair and hopelessness through to defiance and bitterness. Most are somewhere in the middle actually;  does it SOUND like they really want to work and do they FEEL they need to overcome this barrier in order to get a job offer.  The tone is perhaps as important or in some case more so than what they say.

Now of course I want to also hear the truth when it comes to what they’ve been doing with their time during the gap, as it is often unexplained on their resumes. My direction to them is to tell me the blunt honest truth so that in that knowledge, I can determine the way to craft a few potential strategies in responding to the problem.

For a problem it is. Anything that undermines a person’s self-confidence and stands between themselves and their goal – in this case an employment offer at the conclusion of a successful interview – is a problem. One thing I’ve found over and over by the way is that when you hang on to your problems, you don’t often resolve them as quickly as when you share them with someone who has the knowledge and experience to provide you with options for reaching a resolution. Be selective with whom you share your problems of course, for telling anyone and everyone about your problems is seldom a good idea.

So, exactly how lengthy a period or gap are we talking about? For someone used to working their whole life, a 1 year gap can be their big worry. In the case of another, it could be 8 – 10 years. The length of time we’re talking about here is critical to know because there’s your perspective and the perspective of a potential employer, and they may not be the same shared view.

One positive thing about a gap in the present day is that it’s far less uncommon that in years past. Today more people transition from job to job, companies relocate, others downsize and reduce their workforce. More people find themselves as primary caregivers for aging parents because quite frankly medical advancements mean longer life spans than in years past. Sheer numbers alone play a factor too; with more people than ever working or looking for work, the odds of many of those people being out of work (after all there’s just so many jobs to go around) is up.Then there’s the people who were off due to physical or mental health issues.

One thing good to know is whether you’re unemployment was due to an issue which no longer exists. Caring for an aging parent that has passed away, or raising children who are now school age are two examples.

When I listen to a person tell me about the reason why they have this unemployment period, I always ask them what they DID do during that time, rather than what they didn’t do. Did they do any self-improvement activities such as volunteering, take a course of any kind, address some personal health issue such as losing weight, having a surgery, etc. All this information is what I’m after before I can offer up a few potential strategies on how to respond to the issue when it comes up in an interview.

My goal in responding to the person asking me for help is to provide them with three potential angles to choose from in addressing their gap. From these, they can best pick one that they feel most confident and comfortable with owning for themselves. It is remarkable to see first hand how having a good response can shift a person from dreading the question about their gap to hoping it actually comes up in the interview.

Once a strategy is selected, I’ll ask that person 3 questions which are:

  1.  Explain this gap on your resume.
  2.  What did you do between (date) and (date)?
  3.  I want to talk about this gap…

Yep, any version of the same issue asked 3 times. This gives you the chance to hear what the person actually says and gives them the chance to practice until they feel they own it and can confidently reply. With confidence, not only does the answer given satisfy the gap, the body language, facial expression and tone of voice come across as assertive.

Don’t Apply For Jobs In December


There are many job seekers who see a lot of logic in not bothering to apply for work in the month of December. They’ve determined that companies are soon shutting down for the holidays and the people responsible for receiving all those resumes and selecting candidates to hire are really looking at taking time off.

If you’re one of the job seekers who holds this belief; that it’s pointless to job search in December, you’re making a huge mistake. But please! By all means yes, continue to avoid applying for work this month! You’re making it so much easier for the people I’m partnering with in their job search. In fact, let me extend a sincere thank you for reducing the size of the competition.

As you know, applying for work is a very competitive endeavour. There are more people applying for various positions than ever. Apparently, from the information I’ve gathered from employers, for every job advertised, there are approximately 150 – 175 applications received. The fact that you’re doing your part to reduce that number and increase the odds of those I’m supporting to land interviews and get hired is most appreciated!

Next week I’m holding a two week job search group; that’s December 9th – 20th on the calendar. Yikes! What  tough time of year to job search right? There’s the Christmas traffic, the Christmas hustle and bustle, the kids Christmas concerts in school, people to buy or make Christmas presents for, the house or apartment to decorate for Christmas, the shopping for the Christmas ham or turkey. Why you’re likely exhausted just thinking about it. Best you put your feet up and recline in the lazy boy. Add a job search to all that? No, of course not; you best take it easy.

Still, my little group and I will be at work, researching opportunities, writing cover letters and resumes, practicing our interview skills, and above all else, applying for jobs. While there’s every possibility that we might land a hire or two in these two weeks, it’s probable that the interviewing and hiring won’t actually take place until the new year. That’s absolutely fine with us; we’ll be ready.

Look, any job seeker will tell you how difficult it is to land work and that any advantage they can see they’ll seize. So, when the competition starts to falter for lack of enthusiasm, that’s the very time to ramp up the effort. The same goes for rainy days, extreme cold or heat periods, and Mondays. You see the same folks who have stopped job searching in December are likely the kind who wake up, see the clouds pouring down on them and choose to roll over and go back to sleep. Again, thank you if that’s you!

Job searching IS work. It takes sustained energy and focus to successfully job search. You’ve got to have a willingness to carry on in the face of what appears to be indifference or rejection by some employer’s. All that work researching companies, targeting resumes, writing cover letters, completing online profiles and repeating this process again and again. It can certainly get discouraging. I think this is why the people who have accepted my invitation to join my group are so looking forward to the experience. You see, they’ll partner up with me; someone they believe will motivate them when they feel the urge to slow down. They’ll also be supported by their fellow job seekers, and enthusiasm my reader is contagious!

If it’s true that attitude determines your altitude, we’re aiming high. We aren’t hoping to get interviews and jobs; we’re EXPECTING to get interviews and jobs! You see, the belief I plan to share and instil is the same belief I’ve always held; if we create strong resumes, quality resumes and improve upon our interview skills, the chances of success rise – substantially. If we then work to improve on our quantity of quality applications, our chances of success rise substantially again. Quality first, followed by quantity.

But you can do your part to help us along. If you’re a job seeker yourself, take the month off; nobody is hiring anyway right? If you’re an Employment Coach or Counsellor, suggest your clients ease back on the job search and conserve their energy for the new year; nobody is hiring anyway right?

Of course this advice is entirely tongue in cheek. If nobody is hiring, why then are there jobs being advertised? Do you think companies advertise just to falsely get people’s hopes up? That they have too much time on their hands and want to conduct interviews for jobs that don’t exist just to meet people? No of course not! They are advertising jobs because they have a need for qualified and enthusiastic employees.

Remember this basic truth; if they advertise a job, THEY have a need. Sure you need a job, but they need an employee. It’s not all desperation on your part and no stress at their end. They have to find someone and it can’t be just anybody. They are looking at hiring the right someone, and this is where your research comes in. Present yourself as the right candidate.

Of course, if you were looking for a sign that you shouldn’t bother looking for work until 2020, take this blog as your sign. Pack it in, put on, “White Christmas” and cover yourself up with that warm throw.

For A Successful Job Search


What’s the first thing to do when you want to find work?

a) Look at jobs posted on a job search board

b) Update your resume

c) Tell your friends and connections you’re looking

The correct answer to the above? It’s not a, b or c. No, while all of them are good things to do when you’re looking for work, none of them should be the first thing you do if you want to be successful.

Yes, I’ll admit that dusting off a resume and updating your phone number, making a dozen copies and dropping them off in person to some employers just might get you a job. I’ll further admit that as long as it gets you the job you’re after, you’re not likely take advice from me or anyone else – until how you go about finding work doesn’t work – and neither do you. Then, and only then, might you be open to other ideas and suggestions.

No, the first step to successfully finding your next job or launching your career is to do a full self-assessment. Know yourself, and be able to articulate or clearly share all the many things that collectively make you who you are. It’s only when you really know who you are and what makes you tick that you have the best chance to find work that will really bring you job satisfaction and happiness.

So, do you know the following:

  1. Your work values
  2.  The style of supervision you work best under
  3.  Your learning style
  4.  The things which motivate you
  5.  Why you want / need to work
  6.  Your financial needs (how much you need to earn)
  7.  Your financial value in the marketplace
  8.  Your problem solving style
  9.  Your liabilities, weaknesses and challenges
  10.  Your strengths and competitive advantages
  11.  Your leadership style
  12.  Your work ethic
  13.  How long you plan to work in your next role
  14.  Your openness to shift work, overtime, part-time, full-time, permanent,    contract or seasonal work
  15.  The extent to which you’ll travel to get to your next job
  16.  Your own philosophy with respect to work
  17.  Your comfort and ease with, and integration to teamwork
  18.  The state of your listening skills
  19.  The validity of any certificates and licences you’ve held
  20.  Which skills you wish to use moving forward in your next job
  21.  Your own personal idea of happiness and success
  22.  Your preference for working with things, data, people or information
  23.  Your personality traits and how they fit with various environments
  24.  Your receptiveness and willingness to learn
  25.  Your personal employment barriers

So, come on, let’s be honest. When have you ever started your job search by first looking at all – not just some – of the things above BEFORE looking at a job board?

I tell you this – if you want to be successful; and I mean long-term successful, start your job search differently than you ever have before and look at the above. While you might point out that you’ve never done this in the past and have managed to find jobs before (than you very much), how happy have you been in those jobs and haven’t you felt there had to be something better?

Successful people are generally the ones who, in the course of their work, find great personal job satisfaction and happiness. They are grateful for the opportunity to do what they do, and they look forward to going in because they find fulfillment and purpose throughout their days. When they leave work, they know they’ve done their best, made a difference, contributed their skills and experience and made their time worthwhile to their employer. These people don’t find such jobs by chance and luck.

Knowing what you like and don’t like, your strengths and areas for improvement is only a start. In all likelihood, you may not be able to answer all 25 questions I’ve posed here without some guided support, help that you’ll later appreciate. When you know yourself fully, you not only end up in the right kind of work, you end up tracking down the right employer for you; the one that has the specific environment where you’ll thrive.

Don’t think that this process is reserved only for the rich and those going for high paying jobs. That would be a huge assumption and mistake on your part. Sometimes the ones who get the most out of doing these full self-assessments are your everyday Labourer, blue-collar or middle class worker.

Look, I don’t like all-encompassing statements because honestly they seldom actually apply to everybody, but perhaps it’s safe to say we all want a career or job that will bring us a measure of happiness and decent pay for the work we do. Happiness; have you really sat down and defined what happiness looks like for you personally though? So many factors go in to being happy at work; it’s not just the job itself.

I know many people – a large number of people, who now in their fifties, say they’ve never had a job that they can honestly say they were truly passionate about. Some paid well, others brought them some happy moments, but many were ones they’d rather have avoided looking back. The idea of doing a personal inventory or assessment is something they never considered but now wish they’d done a long time ago. The thing about a self-assessment is that you and me; we should all do one every few years because we change.

Job search step one? Self assessment.

My Advice: Hold Off Job Searching


Sounds like odd advice from an Employment Counsellor to give on the surface of it doesn’t it; putting your search for a job on hold. Yet quite often, that’s the advice I give some of the people I meet with.

Now if you’re employed and see yourself first and foremost as a taxpayer and believe that everyone in receipt of social assistance should be completely investing 100% of their time looking to work, my apologies. There are some situations in which I believe looking for a job is not only ill-advised, it can set someone back tremendously from finding employment in the long haul.

Take yesterday as an example. For two weeks, I instructed a dozen people in the basics of using the computer. I’m talking basics here; using it to make an email, learning how to access the internet, find employment opportunities, make a resume, apply for work with that resume. We did more as well, but I like to instruct with practicality in mind, so as most were unemployed, why not learn the basics of the digital world and at the same time, showing them how competing for employment these days requires computer skills? Anyhow, there I was yesterday, seated with one of the participants from that class, doing a follow up appointment.

Typically, I plan on giving someone feedback on what I observed over those two weeks, encourage them and point out moments of success and accomplishment. However, I threw all that out the window yesterday when this one woman came in and we sat down in my office. She was 15 minutes late, and said she had almost decided not to come in for the scheduled meeting. Two developments on the day before our meeting occurred; she was contacted by her Doctor who said she must meet immediately with her to share results of some medical tests and her 13 year old daughter was committed to a hospital for a few days after telling her own Doctor that she was thinking about killing herself.

Suddenly, giving feedback on computer skills and talking about using these new skills to job search seemed entirely inappropriate. Of greater importance in that moment was listening, supporting and responding to her disclosure, her fears of what her Doctor knows and must share in person immediately and her own daughter’s thoughts of ending her life. At a time like this, the focus on receiving, comprehending and processing these two major life events supersedes any encouragement to get out and get a job.

Besides, if you believe that she’d be able to effectively job search at the present moment, I’d venture you’re views are based in ideology and not practical reality. Do I think governments always get this? No. I suspect when they look at stats, they focus solely on how many people start a program, how many finish and how long it takes someone to find employment after taking a program to determine its effectiveness. Numbers don’t tell the whole story; not by a long shot.

“Will I get in trouble for not looking for a job though?” she asked. So I took an hourglass from my desk and flipped it over, letting the blue sand fall. “You only have so much energy. Right now, your focus and energy is on receiving your own diagnosis and whatever implications that holds. As a caring mom who has a daughter in crisis, the two of you have a lot to work through, you’re probably blaming yourself and you’re scared. You just got two extremely upsetting events on the same day. Forget the job search for now; you won’t be in trouble.” She looked at that blue sand accumulating in the bottom half and said seeing how the top was emptying was how she felt.

Near the end of our meeting, she told me how glad she was that she’d decided to come because she’d considered staying at home. There she was, expressing gratitude to me for making her feel better. It’s pretty humbling to hear someone in the midst of heightened anxiety and trauma be so genuinely kind and thoughtful. When she left she hugged me; we hugged each other. Somewhere in that simple act, some of her fear melted into me, and some compassion for her suffering flowed from me to her.

Do you really believe she should be focusing 100% on looking for work? Do you really think I – anyone for that matter – who counsels and supports people looking for work should pressure her into making a job search her first priority? And where I now wonder does any government making funding decisions and program cut decisions factor in this kind of experience?

I tell you this, were I that woman, receiving these two pieces of information, I’d sure be grateful to meet with a compassionate, understanding and patient person. Yesterday I was fortunate to be that guy, but this is not about me. I believe there are people with equally, even better responses everywhere, having similar experiences daily.

Something as simple as removing an expectation of finding work and assuring them they won’t have their benefits suspended, can do far more good in the long run by building a trusting, human connection. For who is equipped to deal with either of these situations let alone two on the same day?

So yes, put aside the job search; there are times when it’s not priority #1.

And your thoughts?

A Few Ways To Start Your Job/Career


Thinking back on the early part of your work history, how did you get one of your earliest jobs?

Some people get jobs by following in their parents footsteps. You know, it’s the family expectation that you’ll become an Accountant because, well, your dad is an Accountant, your older brothers and sisters are Accountants; even your grandparents were Accountants. So there’s not much if any discussion about what you might be when it’s your turn to enter the world of work. Nobody really talks about what might interest you because you’re slotted in as the next Accountant in the family, carrying on the tradition.

This might sound like a bad thing but for many people it is exactly the opposite. You see they don’t have worry or stress deciding on a career, they’ve got excellent resources to draw on in the family when they need help and advice, and these family connections are their way in to the companies they work for. All they have to do really is follow the plan laid out for them. Yes for some people, this is normal, and they never really experience the conflict of self-determination, nor do they fight it.

Of course not everyone takes this path. The problem with this model for those who don’t follow it is that they may be drawn in other ways to other jobs. They might be creative, artistic, innovative and there’s no room for these qualities in the world of Accounting where numbers are input accurately and precisely. Following the, ‘family way’ and living your life playing up to the expectations of parents and extended family could leave you feeling unsatisfied, unfulfilled and always wondering why you don’t discover what it is you feel you’re really meant to do.

Others follow their passion. With an interest in music, they may not be a celebrity, but they work in the music industry. Or, if the environment is what they feel drawn to, they work to save precious physical resources, encouraging others to live their lives thinking about sustainability and protecting our natural resources. They don’t necessarily have to work in a Ranger Tower in the middle of a Boreal forest; they might even work in a laboratory in a city but devote their time to finding better solutions to problems of creating and cleaning up our environmental waste.

If it’s not the environment that drives you, it could be a passion for sports. Perhaps you turn your love of physical activity and how the body exerts itself into sports medicine, physiotherapy, chiropractic work or you get a job working in a sports venue where you’re surrounded all day long by others similarly motivated. This can be very stimulating and adds a layer to the work you do everyday you wouldn’t get working in the same job but for a different employer. So back to my Accountant, you might be employed by your favourite sports team and the combination of the job and the organization might feed your need for satisfaction.

Many more people fall into jobs. They might take a summer job or a short-term contract job just starting out and without any planning they end up staying around for 25 years! Or they could get started when a friend asks them for a hand working on constructing a house and find they have a knack for building and end up in a classroom taking courses on home construction, codes and by-laws. “How’d I get into this?” is the kind of thing they wonder at some point, but they have no regrets.

Another way some go about finding work is simply to  get going. I mean, these people figure the best way to find out what they’d like to do is just start working at a job, try it out for awhile and pay attention to the things they like and don’t enjoy. Then they move on and try something different; again paying attention to the things they find satisfying and want more of and always taking jobs that have less of the things they want to avoid. Systematically, they end up doing a variety of jobs, having a diversified resume and are better able to adapt into many roles.

The strength for those who take this last route is that being able to adapt well, they are resilient when change occurs. Whether the change comes from an external source – like being laid off or a company relocating elsewhere – or the change comes from within – a personal desire to move on – they can adapt quicker to change than those who have spend 25 years in a single job.

You can see there are many ways to get going when it comes to finding work. There isn’t one accepted way and all of the above are valid. Each way comes with it’s advantages and some disadvantages. Determining which is right for you is important, but remember that what’s right for one person is not necessarily right for another.

So, how did you get started? How did you get into your present job? Your comments are welcome and will be of most benefit to readers who are either on the cusp of entering the world of work or in the early stages of their careers and jobs.

Tell your story of how you got started and how it worked out for you. Was it a great fit? Are you still in that role or how long did it last?

Out Of Work, Not Out Of Options!


Imagine yourself sitting down in an interview for a job you actually want. It’s been a while since you’ve had a job, and you’re a little sensitive about that growing gap on your resume. Things get off to a good start and you’re feeling fairly good; better if truth be told than you thought you might. After all, interviews haven’t been coming as frequently as they used to, so you wondered how you’d perform, but like I say, your confidence is rising.

Just as you finish off an answer and notice the raised eyebrow on the interviewers’ face that seems to communicate, “Impressive!”, it happens. They ask you what you’ve been doing since your last job finished; apparently 2-3 years ago. All good interviewers are skilled at both listening to your answer and observing your body language as you process the question and start off your answer. That short sigh you took just now; was it more than just gathering your thoughts? Was that a quick look of exasperation? Was it your facial reaction screaming, “Oh great! Honestly I’ve been sitting around feeling sorry for myself and done absolutely nothing you’d find impressive, but I can hardly say that now can I?”

This awkward moment can be avoided with some action on your part now. As long as we’re imagining, why not imagine you’ve got an interview in 4 month’s time. Between now and then you have this window of opportunity to get going on adding some things to your dormant employment record.

First up, you could volunteer. I know, I know, you don’t want to give away your talents for nothing. I don’t see volunteering that way though. No, volunteering gives you an opportunity to hone your fading skills, get a reference or two assuming you perform well and possibly try out a new kind of job or role without the stigma of getting fired or quitting a paid job if it doesn’t work out. Giving of your talents also benefits an organization and those who go there. And make no mistake, giving of yourself in a non-profit organization also looks good to a lot of employer’s. It can show a commitment to your community, a cause that’s near and dear to your heart or simply a way to pay back the help you’ve received in the past.

Another thing you can do is focus on your health, if in fact you have some issue that needs your attention. While you shouldn’t walk into an interview and say you took the time to address a recent heart attack, you can allude to making your health a priority through undergoing some changes in lifestyle; and that the commitment has paid off. You’ve been pronounced healthier, fitter, have the necessary stamina and perseverance requested in order to succeed. Depending on the job, you may or may not actually share the now rectified health concern. If you do, stress that it’s no longer a problem; precisely because you took the steps necessary to overcome the challenge.

Many organizations are big on training and development both on a personal and professional level. So during your unemployment, you could take a course. Hey something like First Aid and CPR training or Health and Safety training are beneficial in a number of professions. These are certainly in the realm or transferable training skills. Of course, something specific to your sector, field or industry is even more advantageous. Get your Food Handler’s or SMARTSERVE Certificate if you work in Hospitality. Update your Forklift training to include a Raymond Reach or Working At Heights certification.

Heading back to the classroom to invest in your future might be an option too. Get that Diploma, Degree or take a general interest course in the evening. Sharpening the mind keeps you in the know, using best practices and will pair nicely with your Life experience in an interview. You might come across as mature and up-to-date on new technologies, practices and procedures.

Invest yourself in getting active on social media; enough at least so you have a presence. It takes some time to build up a following and get some dialogue going that will result in a strong profile, but like I say, you’ve got the time and all that’s needed is the effort.

Doing a self-inventory is an extremely helpful phase to undergo. More than just your strengths and weaknesses, be able to articulate your preferred learning style and know the kind of environment you will excel best in. If you don’t know what you want to do next, talk to people and network to learn what they like, what the struggles are, how much a job pays and where you have to go to find it.

Other things you can do is seize this opportunity of time to get your eyes checked, have a physical, book a dental cleaning and check up. Visit the Nutritionist at your local shopping Centre, make an effort to get out more and go for a walk. Little changes can lead to bigger accomplishments.

The important thing about this time is to fill it consciously and deliberately. It’s going to go by and you’ll find yourself seated in a future interview either glad you took the time to make this productive, or wishing you had done so and kicking yourself for having wasted it.

Looking for work is one thing, not the only thing.