Awake The Giant!

Many people, maybe you perhaps, go through much of life living their days in a relatively state of complacency and routine. Each morning is a regular routine, the trip in to work is essentially the same route, taking approximately the same amount of time to travel. The work day might vary every so often with training or a unique encounter with a customer, but as you look back at the past month’s or years in a job, the days blend pretty much in a sea of normalcy.

At the close of the work day, the trek back home is made, another meal prepared and consumed, an evening spent and the cycle repeats itself. This life you’re living isn’t bad; it’s far from it perhaps. Your happy in fact, and generally content. Sure you have your moments with problems, challenges, frustrations and setbacks – we all do. However, you’ve also got your moments of challenges overcome, tasks completed, successes realized. Nothing is really wrong at all.

So if all this is true, if nothing is really wrong, why is it that from somewhere deep down inside, you occasionally feel this tremor; this stirring of something slumbering? Physically there may be nothing going on; it’s not indigestion, nor is it your last meal breaking down into nutrients and waste. No, something else is stirring restlessly from within; something far from physical – much more metaphysical. It might be hard to put into words beyond what I’ve done here but if you’ve felt it you know what I refer to.

It starts with a general awareness you get that something is stirring. That stirring is in response to what’s going on around you; your stimulated in some way with your environment or maybe someone you’re interacting with. If you fail to tune in to that deep inner feeling, it passes. There’s no harm done, you return to the life you’re leading and it subsides. It never really goes away completely, but it slumbers again for a period. Ah, but if you’re dialed in, attuned to the stirring; if you really live that moment in full self-awareness, you my friend, have the opportunity to awake the giant!

Some of you will never know what I’m referring to here. For you, this will be simply a romanticized post of whimsy and theatrics; a poetic rambling of nonsense to be dismissed. Might actually be the majority of you come to think of it. No matter. There are only so many Harry Potter’s, Frodo Baggins, Christopher Columbus’ and Sir Edmund Hilary’s in our world.

Or is that a falsehood? After all, don’t each of us star as the leading character in our own life stories? We are the ones that compose our lives, write our tales and no one else. So what kind of story are you writing? Is it a story filled with highs and lows, repeated defeats, struggles of mental health, loved one’s lost, and interjected moments of triumph and victory? Or is it a huge volume of mundane, commonplace, daily routines; where your decisions are which cereal to have at the start of your day?

What makes you come alive? What shakes the Giant within and gets you feeling invigorated? Have you found that yet? If you’ve had that feeling why aren’t you doing more to feed that feeling more often? And for each of us it’s different isn’t it? For we are on a quest of sorts. We’re on a journey from our present to our future self. In the stories that make good adventures such as Treasure Island or The Lord Of The Rings, hero’s don’t always recognize themselves as such. They start expecting life to be ordered and highly predictable and then some event comes along that changes all that.

If you’re waiting for pirates to abscond with you or some dwarves to come knocking at your door to take you on a quest, you might be waiting a rather long time – waiting your life away. Your stimulus; your calling, might just be internal and not external – the giant within. If you feed it, it grows. If you ignore it, it diminishes until it’s such a far cry from itself it’s barely recognizable.

For there are many adventures still to be found in 2018. While some are thousands of miles away, some are right where we live – where you live – all around you. There are tyrants and victims, the oppressed and the hungry, lives to be saved and people to be helped up. There are those to advocate for, some to be rescued, and the hero to do all these things and more isn’t charging in on some distant horizon. The hero my friend is – perhaps – the giant that slumbers within Y-O-U.

Sure, go on and nod your head in disbelief. Jim Hawkins didn’t believe it, nor did Frodo when talking to Gandalf. Most hero’s at some point say, “But I am only one! What can I do?” Ah, but there is a slumbering giant within us all my friend. Imagine how powerful we might be if we not only awoke the giant within us but stirred the giant in others to join us; to work with us, to journey with us! Then what could we not do collectively together?

Now the next time you feel this stirring from within, pay heed my friend. Ask not where it comes from but rather what is it in response to around you that stirs it?

This Is Not About Mark And Julie

When Mark was first approached with the offer of help finding a job over a couple of weeks, he accepted the invite, but openly expressed his doubts that I could teach him anything he wasn’t already doing on his own. You know what? I relish that honesty in people; I wasn’t insulted in the least.

Now Julie on the other hand? While her feelings were similar, her choice of words and her decision to decline the help offered was received quite differently. Not only was she sure I couldn’t do anything to help her, she said two weeks with me would be a complete waste of her valuable time.

What made Julie’s reaction and decision all the more puzzling at the time was that a highly respected colleague of mine had referred us to each other and Julie was touted as a ‘Superstar’; someone I’d absolutely be impressed with. Well she made an impression. I can’t convey in words the tone of voice she used on the phone, the emphatic disdain she communicated for the help offered.

So you should know, what both Mark and Julie were offered was to be one of twelve participants in a two-week intensive job search group. All twelve have to have: 1) A résumé 2) Basic computer skills 3) A clear employment goal 4) strong motivation to find work 5) Give me permission to give them honest feedback and 6) come dressed daily in business casual clothing ready for interviews – because they will get them. Beyond making the self-investment of time to realize their financial independence, the cost to attend? Free. In fact, I’d see they got money for clothing and grooming needs, full transportation costs to get around, funds they could use for lunch if they chose to and when they did get a job anywhere up to $500 to buy whatever they needed to get off to a good start.

Now to me, this is a pretty easy choice to make. After all, Mark, Julie and the other people I extend this offer to are all unemployed or severely underemployed; sometimes working part-time outside their field of training or volunteering. Now I know that most people are already doing a job search on their own, and that some of what people are doing already is quite good. However, if the results are not forthcoming, doesn’t it seem sensible to take advantage of free help from someone recognized as a professional helping others find work?

My accumulated years of experience has told me that when most people don’t seize such opportunities, something – or some things are going on beyond what is known. Yes, they could be secretly working and don’t want to be found out, but that’s not typically what’s going on. One of the key things I do actually is work with people and after establishing mutual respect and trust, make it a point to get at what barriers they are facing which prevent them from moving forward and realizing their goals.

Now you might not think this approach is necessary; if you help somebody write a cover letter and resume, prepare them for the interview and wish them the best, they’ll get work soon enough. That may be true of course, but if this is all you do, you’ll be puzzled and disappointed when they lose their employment in short order. Some will contact you and ask for more help, while others will feel embarrassed and not contact you as they don’t want to let you down.

You might wonder then how far I can get with twelve people in only two weeks to set up the trust required to have each person open up and share what they would otherwise keep buried. I tell you this, the faster a person opens up and the more they share, the better the counsel I can offer, and the more effective the help will be they receive. In the end, what most end up with is a job best suited to not only their education and experience, but in an environment where they’ll not only survive, but thrive. Now as an unemployed person, doesn’t this sound enticing?

The most significant factor in achieving success is wanting what you’re after with enthusiasm. If you want it – I mean REALLY want it, that inner motivation and enthusiasm will be exactly what it takes to get you through when the roadblocks pop up. Instead of throwing up your hands in exasperation, you’ll roll up your sleeves and dig deep. Make no mistake, the job seeker has to want work more than the person helping them find it.  If it’s the other way around, lasting success won’t come.

Here’s the thing about Mark; recall if you will he’s the guy who expressed doubts but accepted the offer. When we wrapped up our time together, Mark told me that he was really suspicious but it was at noon on day 1 that he realized how thankful he was that he got the offer and accepted. His is a success story in that he did find work. He ended up moving from Ontario to British Columbia, accepting a full-time job at $120,000 per year. Quite a significant change from receiving social assistance and feeling frustrated, low self-worth and getting less than $15,000 per year.

When opportunity comes your way, make a change; say yes if you typically answer with a, ‘no thank you’. There’s a lot of great help out there to seize!

Ask The Right Questions Or Don’t

I am privileged as an Employment Counsellor to engage in meaningful conversations with people looking for employment. If you listened in on these, you’d hear me pose a number of questions and with each answer a clearer picture of the person would be revealed.

The trap someone in my place can easily fall into is to size up the job seeker in a few moments based on all the previous job seekers one’s worked with and miss what makes this person unique. The questions I ask and especially the ones I might not, can and do make all the difference in helping that one person find the right match; what they’re really after.

For example ask the question, “So what job are you looking for?”, and I’m likely to get a simple job title. “Personal Support Worker”. This reply is correct, definitive and tells me nothing of the person themselves. If I worked in an environment where success was based solely on churning out resumes and getting people to apply for jobs measured my performance, this would be the fastest way to carry out that goal. However, that seems backwards measuring my success rather than the job seekers based on quantity and not quality.

There’s better questions to ask of someone looking for work; questions which are far more effective at assisting someone to find and keep employment. Better questions that get at the person themselves and their motivation for work.

When I ask, “So what do you want out of your next job?”, one will glibly state, “A pay cheque.” Another will say, “I want to find meaning in what I do”, or, “I want a job where I can make a difference; where I can really help others.” So of the two answers, which person would you rather have caring for you as a Personal Support Worker? I’ll opt for the person who is motivated by their wish to make a difference in the lives they’ll touch over the person working for a pay cheque.

Another good question I like to pose is, “Tell me about that job; what would you actually do?” I ask this question whether I have a really solid understanding of the daily functions of the role or not. This question is really designed to give me information on what the job entails from their perspective and how well that matches up with what employer’s set out as the responsibilities and job functions. Working in a Veterinary Clinic for example sounds appealing to those who like animals but many aren’t ready to keep their opinions and values to themselves when an owner comes to an agonizing decision to put down their beloved pet. It’s not all cuddling and grooming.

As I listen to someone describe the job they are after, I also focus my attention on not only the actual words they use but whether there is any passion or genuine love for the work described. This is most often revealed through a smile on the face, a softening of the eyes, a change in the pace of their words and some varying of the tone in their voice. Do they show and demonstrate some enthusiasm and excitement at the prospect of doing this job or not? Some speak very matter-of-factly about their work of course and for many that’s exactly what it is; work.

Perhaps you’ve heard that expression, “Find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”? Well, even the most ardent worker who loves their job with all they’ve got will tell you they still make a significant investment in their time working to improve their productivity, working to keep their high standard of performance or working to keep up with best practices. Stop working at being your best and you rot. So if we all ‘work’ at work, why isn’t the experience of work the same for everyone?

Simply put, it’s what we put in and what we get out of it; investment and return. The best athletes aren’t just naturally gifted, they invest countless hours training, improving, working on elevating their performance to be the best they can be. The brightest often experiment and when they don’t succeed they embrace that failure and learn from what didn’t work to discover what will. So when I ask, “What are willing to put into the job?”, if they answer with the question, “You mean overtime?” that tells me volumes.

Here’s what I think about, “overtime”. I find that a person I work with will often end up over time securing a job which differs from the one they originally identified to me because having got to know them better, together we’ve found a better fit. In other words, with some question and answers, they’ve discovered that finding satisfying and fulfilling work is more than just finding a job.

If you believe that in this economy this kind of thinking is a luxury and one can only hope for a job and a pay cheque, you are entitled to that opinion. There are professionals who will gladly take your money and your time while mass producing your resumes.

As an alternative, let’s ask some probing questions; get to the heart of what makes you unique and find where you’ll truly live that passion that seems so elusive.

I’d love to hear your own thoughts on this. Please comment and share.


Forgive Yourself And Keep Going

As I’ve said time and time again, being out of work and looking for employment is a roller coaster ride of emotions. You’re energetic and productive one day, lethargic  and unproductive the next. On the days you make progress you feel good and on the days little is accomplished it’s so easy to get down on yourself.

My advice to you however is to watch those big emotional swings so you can anticipate and deal better with the self-blame which may rear its head from time-to-time. Depending on your individual situation, you may have noticed yourself becoming short with others or repeatedly asking yourself, “What’s wrong with me?”

What’s wrong of course is that you’re not comfortable with your unemployment and your lack of success so far in getting that next job. Sometimes it’s a lack of jobs to apply to in your field or only entry-level positions when you’ve been gainfully employed for 15 or more years and you’re overqualified for entry jobs but not getting anywhere when looking for mid-level or senior positions. Your reality and your assumption of where you’d be at this point in life don’t match up; that lack of balance is playing havoc with your self-image and that’s bringing on these feelings of inadequacy. Where you want to be vs where you are; someone should be held responsible and in your solitude you turn the finger and blame yourself.

Taking responsibility for your situation is commendable; so good for you. However coming around to the point where you can forgive yourself for those unproductive days is healthy and will eventually lead to more of the productive ones which is far healthier.

At the end of a day in which you didn’t accomplish anything of significance, you can opt to be down on yourself or not. Now you might ask, “How on earth can I find a positive in a day when I’ve been so unmotivated I go to bed having accomplished nothing?”

Well think back on life when you were working. I’m willing to bet you enjoyed your downtime; time when you turned to a book, a hobby, enjoyed a television show, puttered around the garden or organized the garage for the umpteenth time. No matter how you spent that persona time, it was time spent of your own choosing; doing whatever you wanted. Sometimes you’d feel very productive and stand back at the end of the day and see what you’d accomplished. The garage was all tidy, the grass was cut and the garden beds weeded, 7 chapters of a book you’ve been meaning to read covered..

There were times too when you lazed around the house and read the paper, had a prolonged Sunday morning breakfast 2 hours later than normal, maybe just kicked back lounging on your patio and soaked up some sun. At the end of those days you didn’t beat yourself up over being non-productive; you told yourself you’d earned those days, you’d needed them to recharge and then you went back to work focused, not having really done much on the weekend but still feeling good about those two days off just the same.

Looking for work is much the same as working in that both require effort and stamina. There’s no boss to hold you to account and certainly no cheque at the end of the week when you’re unemployed, but you’re use to one thing and that’s being accountable for how you spend your time. It’s this accountability that’s got you feeling the way you do; accountability not to a boss but to yourself. You my friend, unlike the boss at work, know exactly how much you’ve given the job at hand at each and every moment throughout your day. So it’s only natural then that you know all the times you got distracted, weren’t motivated, sat and stared at a blank monitor, feared picking up the phone for fear of calling someone and being rejected yet again.

Forgive yourself. This is the key. You’re under stress my friend and giving yourself the grace of having off days is healthy at this time. In fact, while maintaining a regular routine of getting up and getting showered, shaved, dressed and bearing down on getting your next job is commendable and excellent advice, it’s not always going to happen. If at the end of a day you’ve done things you’ve found pleasure in; reading, repairing something you’ve meant to do for some time, watching a movie etc. that could be just the stimulation your brain needed. Your psyche might improve having fed your self-indulgence.

Of importance is to acknowledge your feelings and then return to engage back in your job search. Be it the next day, later this afternoon, or even after a 2 hour break to watch a movie you could have watched in the evening but watched mid-morning instead, get back at it free of the guilt.

Prolonged unemployment will have these ups and downs and it’s best to understand you can’t maintain 100% focus on employment 7 hours a day, 5 days a week, for months on end without some periods of low productivity. That little voice in your head that makes you feel guilty whenever you find your mind wandering? Knock it off your shoulder and stop playing the blame game.

You’ve got a lot to offer the right employer. Your self-confidence hasn’t gone for good. Forgive yourself and keep going.



Enthusiasm: An Employer’s View

Anyone who has ever met me in person will tell you that I’m a big believer in enthusiasm. I see this word frequently in job postings, and from my conversations with employers, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is the number one thing employers look for in their applicants. But what does enthusiasm translate into on the job?

One business Owner/Manager I spoke with recently put it this way: “No one is going to want this company to succeed as much as I do, but I want employees who come close.” It’s what they do or don’t do when I’m not watching that separates the great employees from the average ones.”

When I was speaking with him about enthusiasm and asking him how significant it was to his business, he suddenly said, “Let me show you what I mean.” He left one of his employees in charge while we exited his store. We walked up the center concourse of the mall and looked in from our vantage point on several stores. He pointed out two employees in one store who had no customers at the moment. These employees were at the check-out talking to each other, their bodies turned sideways to face one another, and one of the two was actually sitting on top of the counter. He said to me, “Neither is a great employee and as an observer, my initial impression is that their conversation is of more importance to them than the business. There’s always something to be done, and those two are bleeding the business. They aren’t invested in its success nor do they have a high level of enthusiasm.

In another store that we looked in on, there was one Salesperson who was speaking with shoppers at the entrance to the store. She was folding clothing and engaged those passing by with a friendly smile and a, “Good morning, how are you today?” He stopped us far enough away from the woman where we couldn’t be overheard and said, “See her? She’s taking the initiative to tidy up without being told to because she recognizes there are things to be done. However, she hasn’t lost sight of the fact that customers are her number one priority, and her smile and small talk acknowledge people, show she’s ready to serve and she looks like she genuinely likes her job. Her enthusiasm is an indication they’ll have a positive interaction and a great experience. Oh and look, she’s drawn someone in who it appears was passing by.”

When we returned to his store location, he sent me on ahead and stayed out of eyesight and asked me to observe his own employees. When I looked in on his staff, I certainly didn’t see staff standing idly and chatting. I saw four staff; two were helping customers, one was checking out a third, and the fourth was replenishing inventory. All four however had another thing in common besides being busy; they all had smiles on their faces and looked like they enjoyed what they were doing at the moment. Not lost on me was that he needed these 4 people as they were busy. Could it be because people were attracted by the expectation of a positive experience with attentive, enthusiastic employees?

Of course the retail sector isn’t the only place one’s enthusiasm can be seen. No matter what the work environment is, enthusiastic employees find ways to make their jobs more meaningful by themselves going about their work with investment. Some people throw themselves into a new job with enthusiasm – and it lasts right up until they pass probation! Then somehow the passion for the job wanes and the job becomes…well…a job. Each day is viewed like some kind of drudgery between the release of Friday at quitting time and Monday when the person is chained to their job for another 5 days. If this is your experience, is this really how you want to live your life? The best thing that could happen might be that you get fired and focus yourself in on getting a job with a better personal fit.

Employer’s value enthusiasm because of what enthusiasm entails. If you’re enthusiastic, you’ll arrive at work with a positive attitude. You’ll be a nicer person to work with as a co-worker and you’ll actually care about the quality of your work each day. Enthusiastic employees look for ways to do things differently, better, quicker and are open to innovation and creativity. In short, enthusiastic workers go about their work with personal pride in both the services and products they provide.

Genuine enthusiasm is hard to beat. You might counter with the argument that, “it’s hard to get all that enthusiastic about minimum wage; so pay me more and you’ll see some enthusiasm.” It doesn’t start with a higher wage; in fact money is a poor motivator if you are trying to sustain enthusiasm. Genuine enthusiasm starts with people first. Find people who are willing to engage and invest themselves in the work to be done with enthusiasm and the rewards will come.

So my advice to you who are looking for work is to communicate your enthusiasm to potential employers. Do some real research to find the right fit, be open and hungry to learn new skills, look happy and act interested. In short, go about your job with enthusiasm or find a new one.

What Do You REALLY Want To Do?

Okay so I’m referring to you occupation, your job, your career. What do you really want to do? That’s question 1. It kind of has to be don’t you think? I mean if you don’t know what you want, it’s difficult to obtain it unless it falls into your lap by chance. Even then you have to be clever enough to realize it when it comes to you that this is what you wanted all along if you couldn’t verbalize it.

Going after something without knowing what you’re going after is like packing up the whole family for the vacation of a lifetime and then getting annoyed with the kids for not being excited. How could they possibly feel your passion, excitement and anticipation when all they know for sure is the roll of the car to the end of the driveway. Unless you tell the family where you are headed beyond that, they can’t possibly feel the anticipation of the destination nor the excitement as you get closer to it.

Now deciding what you really want to do is what often stops people from moving forward at all. “I don’t know what I want”, is often a barrier to moving forward. Depending on where you are in your life, you might get different counsel from others if you seek it. If you are young, you might be told to try all kinds of things, take risks, learn and don’t fret about planning out the next 40 or 50 years. In your 50’s or 60’s you might only have one job left and feel the pressure to re-invent yourself and massive pressure to get it right for a change!

No matter where you are in life or whatever goal you settle on, my question for you next would be, “What’s holding you back?”

Most of the time, what holds people back from reaching their goals is….well…what do YOU think it is first? Go ahead and guess. Education? Experience? A criminal record? Skills? Communication or interpersonal skills? No! The single thing in every single person I speak with that keeps a person from realizing their goals is….the person themselves. Yep, a lack of confidence, a lack of courage to risk, fear of failure, bound to their family commitments, responsibilities etc. You can insert whatever words you find convenient, but it’s the person themselves.

And it’s so easy isn’t it to blame others or the situations that we find ourselves in? Sure it is. “The reason I can’t be a (fill in the blank) is because I had to take care of so-and-so; I have a mortgage or debts to pay, that ship has sailed, I’m too old, my family wouldn’t approve.” Those are all great conveniences that mask the truth which is that for some reason you aren’t taking control of your life and going for it – whatever ‘it’ represents for you personally.

You see if you want something bad enough, you find a way to make it happen. You push aside excuses and do whatever it takes to eliminate barriers. If the career requires education you don’t have, go to school and get it. Need a car? Find a job for now that brings in some cash and the whole time you are working at this job you don’t really love, you’re really just earning the cash you need for the car.

But here’s what most of us do; we procrastinate and fail to act. Sure we have a goal – eventually that is. We are usually smart enough to figure out the plan we would need to make it happen and if we aren’t, we know where we could get some guidance on planning the steps. But the present situation we find ourselves in is just comfortable enough that we fail to really get motivated enough to do something to get ourselves moving.

Now this doesn’t mean we love the present circumstances in which we find ourselves. No, we may feel the pull; the desire to do something different. So if we fail to act, we have every reason to be bitter about things – maybe about ourselves. And so yet again it comes down to us having a choice each and every day; will this be the day I finally do something to act? Will this be the day I take some action so that what I REALLY want to do will come about sooner rather than later?

You can fool anyone with your dreams, visions, plans, hopes etc. The one person you really can’t pull the wool over the eyes however is you. You’ll know when your deceiving yourself and not walking the walk.

If you are looking for some kind of sign that you need to get going and act on what you really want to do, consider this your sign. Your time on this planet is fixed. Take away the first 20 years and your last 20 and your left with the years between 20 years old and 65 let’s say. So you’ve got 45 years of useful, productive career or work time. Wouldn’t you rather spend those 45 years doing things you LOVE and feeling alive; making a difference, being happy with your work, feeling productive? Hey it’s your life.

Don’t feel pity for yourself. Get going now – today. Putting off action is another day of regret and stress. Decide, act, realize, achieve.

So, what do you want to do career or job-wise?

As Workshops End, What Next?

As a facilitator of Employment Workshops and Programs, I am consistently aware of the emotional state of my unemployed participants. Be it 1-3 weeks or more, they arrive with hope and expectation, maybe even some initial anxiety and suspicion. Quickly I watch them transition to inclusion, where their participation rises and they build relationships with other participants. They eventually start to resent the impending end, and on the last day express a desire that it went on for another week. Then what?

Workshops assisting the unemployed usually share best practices. Whether it’s a workshop on gaining life skills and getting oneself together, or a basic introduction to using the computer, the general idea is participants learn skills and then transition to using them independently moving forward. So you’d expect a person to take those new computer skills and start job searching using the computer more. You’d expect a person to manage their life better after learning some life skills such as goal setting and managing their frustration and anger.

Most seasoned facilitators are wise enough to know however, that despite all the good intentions people have while in their workshops, success won’t come for all. Some will of course take what they’ve learned and have the drive and determination to continue what they’ve learned. Through practice, they gain mastery over what was perhaps new to them, and they can independently incorporate that new learning into their daily lives.

Others however will not have gained the skills necessary to carry on with the momentum your workshop ignited. They will return to their previous behaviour once returned to their own environment. Sustaining the energy and the positivity you and the others in the class brought daily for themselves is impossible. In fact, some not only regress to the point they were before the class started, they go further back mentally, now beating themselves up for not doing what they know they should, which before they took your course they were truly ignorant of.

No it’s not practical to expect you can hold their hand each and every day. You can’t be expected to phone your participants all at 9:00 a.m. and ensure they are up, dressed and hard at the job search either. You can of course flip them a business card and say, “Call me” at the end of a workshop, but how much time can you really give all those participants if they called you wanting more. Your own time is limited, and you’ve already turned the page on the last group and might be starting to gather your next roster of participants.

Well maybe you can arrange a get-together of sorts; you know, some kind of support session for those who haven’t found employment and who want to meet in a month’s time. You can also encourage the group to share their contact information with those in the group willing to do the same. Connecting with each other may help them hold each other accountable and build some social supports. That’s good. Be it by email, the phone or meeting in person at the library or coffee shop, they can initiate their own activity after workshops end should they choose to do so.

I myself find the following: some participants have no desire to implement much of anything they’ve learned. Some have the desire to make changes but don’t have the skills to bring about change. Some too have the desire for change, have the skills too but lack the momentum to keep it going unless they see positive results early. We all need reinforcement. So a job searcher needs an employer to reply and give them an interview for example. No interviews at all for the effort invested, momentum sags, disappointment seeps in and the job search can stall again.

I get disappointment. The danger after a workshop is that one can feel right back where they started. I caution them in fact on this very demon. “You’re going to wake up next Monday and that’s when it’s going to hit you. Suddenly you have no place to go, no reason you have to get up, you might feel cut off, isolated again and right back where you were before you took this workshop. Know it’s coming, and prepare to mentally meet it head on.” And then we talk about strategies to ward off this despair.

While we as facilitator’s cannot live our clients lives, nor make decisions for them, realize that wouldn’t be best for them anyhow. Who is to say that we have any right to do that anyhow? People do have to make decisions for themselves and not all those decisions are ones we would make. We can guide, inform, assist, suggest, caution and we can advise. What we don’t have the right to do is actually decide for others. Yet we want to don’t we!

I generally find after a workshop I pick out 2 – 4 people who have really impressed me with their effort. In addition to what I’ve got to turn my own energy to, I continue to connect with and support these few, checking in with them and fitting in whatever follow-up time I can give them that they are open to. I can’t, “save them all”; the usual mantra of the new and young facilitator. I can only do what I can do and I suspect we are the same.

What Do You Want?

I’m sorry if like me just this second, the refrain, “Tell me what you want, what you really, really want”, is playing in your head. Sorrier still if it wasn’t but it is now. Ah such is life. Thank you Spice Girls I suppose.

But seriously, what do you want? What is it in life right now – today, that you really want? What if there were no limits on what you could ask for and no one would ridicule you for your choice or tell you to get serious. Here’s a sequence of questions to ask yourself:

What do I want?
How bad do I want it?
Am I prepared to make it a priority?
What do I have to do to make it happen?
What barriers to what I want are in front of me?
What steps do I need to take to eliminate those barriers?

So what is it you want? A car? Boat? Home? A life-long partner? Kids? A career? A trip somewhere? Usually what we want is dependent upon what we currently have in life. So if for example you have a good job, you usually don’t want a job because you already have one. If you want a better job, it’s because you currently don’t have one that brings you fulfillment and happiness or the income you want.

The same is true of the material possessions we have. If you want a car, it’s a safe bet it’s because you don’t have one at present and know that it would give you independence, or your current vehicle needs replacing. We want what we don’t have much of the time.

Now of course it is possible to want more of what we already have. We could really enjoy our vacations as well as value our home and job but want more of the times we get back to nature. We could want more time with our children. However, wanting more of something still breaks down to, we don’t currently have it, and so again, we usually want something that we don’t currently have.

Now thinking about what it is you want, is part of the reason you don’t currently have it a lack of money? Money is needed for the purchase of the car, the home, the extended vacation, certainly makes raising a large family easier etc. Is money therefore not necessarily a bad thing to want in and of itself? You might feel that wanted money is bad in some way, but maybe it’s no so much wanting money, but wanting what money can buy and be exchanged for.

So if we see money as a goal, the question becomes how to get more of it and then exchange it for the thing we really want. If we want that one thing bad enough, we will save for it, avoid spending money on other things that make acquiring our one goal further out of reach, and we become focused. One thing we can do to help in this focus is to identify the potential barriers to our goal.

Barriers are the things which we anticipate will delay us or stop us from achieving our goal. If we want to work but don’t have a good resume and don’t know how to go about applying for a job on-line, we can either get a resume and learn how to apply on-line, (thus removing the barrier), or we can throw up our hands, give up and stop. The interesting thing about barriers that we have to realize and accept that barriers are not universal except in extremely limited circumstances. You may not know how to apply on-line, but many other people who once didn’t know learned how. You can too.

So you’ve got this goal. Identify what is preventing you from reaching your goal. Now sit down either alone or with someone who you respect and trust and open up to them. Together, brainstorm all the possible options for overcoming your barriers one at a time. Each time you move forward, your self-esteem is going to get a boost, and as you mark your progress, you’ll be building momentum. Momentum gives you the drive to tackle the more significant barriers.

And now the question of it being a priority. Ever heard someone say, “I need a job.”? I bet you may then see that same person immediately engage in something that doesn’t fit with that statement, such as siting down and playing a video game, writing a daily journal about their feelings, or watching television. What they want and what they are doing are not in sync, and there is a disconnect.

The things we want in life rarely come easily or immediately. You might say, “I want some ice cream” and go to the fridge and get one just to prove me wrong, but I’d reply you just proved my point. You wanted something, made a decision to get it, then put your idea into action and now have it. This process is identical to the more meaningful things in life we want.

One of the saddest things is not so much not attaining our goals, but lacking meaningful goals in the first place that we want bad enough that prompt us to sustained action.

What do YOU want? Make it happen!

What Day On The Calendar Is THE Best Day To Jobsearch?

You want to increase the odds of eventually getting hired right? I mean if you’re going to invest some time in finding the right job, applying for it, going to an interview and then living the dream, why wouldn’t you want to know which day on the calendar will give you the greatest chance of reaching your goal?

I’ll give you a hint; it ends with the letters, ‘d-a-y. Is it Friday? Wednesday? Thursday, Tuesday or Monday? Perhaps. The answer depends on what day it is right now of course, because the answer is T-O-D-A-Y. Today. Close in pronunciation to ‘Tuesday’, but without the ‘s’ sound. And the word, ‘today’ doesn’t sound at all like ‘tomorrow’ does it? No. And that’s why today is the best day to get going and tomorrow is a poor choice. The only day worse than ‘tomorrow’ to get going on your job search is ‘some day’ or even possibly, ‘one day’.

Come on, you know yourself better than anyone else. ‘Tomorrow’ is likely to depend largely on how motivated you are when you wake up in the morning, and if your recent past is any indication, tomorrow you’ll have about as much enthusiasm to get going and get serious as you had this morning.

HOW you get started isn’t as important really as just starting. Depending on your individual circumstances, you’ll start this job search perhaps at a different spot than other people you know. Could be that you’ve already got your resume and know the kind of work you are after. Or it could be that you’ve got no resume or a very outdated version of one, and you’ve little idea of exactly what it is you want to do. And not to be forgotten, you could be receiving a nice income like severance pay and just lack the financial motivation at this point to get going. Everybody starts job searching at a different place.

So how do I possibly begin to advise you personally on where to start? I can’t. I’d have to hear you tell me where you are at. Like anything worth having though, it’s highly unlikely you’ll ultimately succeed without putting forth some effort on your part. When was the last time employers went door-to-door looking for potential employees? Well they don’t. So if they aren’t going to come knocking on your door with job offers, it stands to reason you’ll need to go to them.

Okay but again where to start? Well you could randomly knock on every employers door in your city or town and hope they just happen to have a job you’d be qualified for that you’d actually enjoy doing that would actually pay you a decent wage. What are the odds on that happening? Low I agree. This is the strategy used most by those who have identified, “anything” as their career of choice. Saying, “I’ll do anything”, is one of the biggest problems you’ll have if you want to be successful; no one knows exactly what you’d really be happy or qualified doing, so they can’t really keep an eye out for the right job for you, so they don’t bother at all.

One place you could start if you haven’t done so already, is identify what your strengths are. If you like analogies, you don’t go into battle without knowing the strength of your forces, and if you are into sports, you don’t win a lot unless you know the capabilities of your players and what their strengths are. So what are you good at? What education do you have? Special certificates? How mobile are you? Are you willing to move? What past work experience have you got? What did you enjoy and loathe in past jobs? Take an inventory.

Next, let’s look at your weaknesses or liabilities. Your list might include: criminal record, anxiety, depression, physical or mental health problems, low self-esteem, less than grade 12 education, out-of-date references, no experience, age issues and maybe even poor clothing choices and hygiene. Be honest. Don’t gloss over your problems when it’s only you who is taking the inventory.

So far by the way, you could do the above from the comfort of your couch while clothed in your jammies and your bunny slippers. Hey, it’s a start isn’t it?

Okay. The resume. Dust off an old one or if you haven’t even got one, start by writing down where you’ve worked and the dates. What did you do in those jobs? What did you accomplish, get praised for doing, and what skills did you have to use in that job? Where did you go to school or volunteer?

That information would be very valuable to have if I was sitting down with you and constructing a resume with you. Would you like to have someone who is good at job searching helping you out along the way so you didn’t feel so isolated? You know, someone to help you figure out the kind of jobs out there that might be good fits for someone just like you? And would it be at all helpful to have this help prepare you for interviews and fix up that resume?

Nothing will happen however. None of it. Oh unless of course you do something yourself to initiate that process. When? Why TODAY of course!

Call or drop into an Employment Resource Centre. See an Employment Counsellor or Career Advisor. It’s what we do and it might cost you absolutely nothing.

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!