Want A Better Life?


Last night while talking with my wife, she shared a comment that someone she knows often makes. The fellow said, “I’ve had a lot happen in my life.” This, apparently is what he says as a way of both explaining why his life isn’t that good and why it won’t get better either. Like people all over the world, this fellow has had his share of challenges, but it’s like he wears his as a badge of honour not choosing to actually make some changes and do things in the here and now that will alter his future for the better.

It struck me then as it does now, that it might be useful to talk about how to go about improving the future; your future. After all, it’s a safe bet you’d like yours to get better whether your past and present have been a series of disasters or quite good. There are some, many I suppose who actually like chaos and disappointment but let’s look to focus on making life a better one in the future for you.

So here’s some ideas to get you started. Share these with anyone you feel might benefit from reading them with my thanks.

  1. Change has to happen. If you want a different future than your past or present change must occur so see making changes as a good thing. This will take some getting use to and it may be uncomfortable at times when you do things differently. However, expecting a better future when you keep doing what you’ve always done hasn’t worked before and it won’t work now. Welcome changes.
  2. Make better decisions. Those changes I spoke of in point 1 can only happen if you make different decisions than you’ve typically made. The key is not only to make different decisions but better decisions. Again, these better decisions won’t always be easy or comfortable but you want a better life right?
  3. Take responsibility. This is your life, and it’s made up of your decisions in the past, the present and the future. Stop blaming your parents, family and friends, former bosses and co-workers for what life has ‘done’ to you. Stop giving them power over you and admit this is your life to live and yours to make. That’s empowering and with that power comes responsibility and accountability.
  4. Get help. If you had the necessary skills to make better decisions, it’s highly likely that you would have done so right? Yet, here you are wanting things better than they are which indicates you need some guidance and advice when it comes to both making those choices and support on the follow through.
  5. Move on. The thing about the past is that it is…well…the past. You can’t go back there, you can’t live there. Move on. Try walking forward down a sidewalk with your head facing backwards and you’ll run into a lot of obstacles. Turn your eyes forward and you can avoid those collisions. Look forward in life and move on.
  6. Learn and not re-live. Making the same mistakes over and over and re-living the errors of your ways isn’t productive. When things go wrong – and they will – learn what you can from the experience with the goal of making better decisions in the future when you find yourself in similar situations.
  7. Eliminate temptations. You might have good intentions but fall to temptations if you don’t remove yourself from what’s caused you problems up to now. So it could mean dropping friends who are bad influences, moving from a bad neighbourhood, clearing the house of the alcohol or the chocolate and fatty foods. You have to want your end goal more than your temporary fix.
  8. Set Goals. Know what you want in this better future you imagine. Picture that job, the ideal partner, a better apartment or condo, a clear complexion, a new set of teeth, no criminal record. Whatever it is, set a goal; maybe several that are meaningful to you personally.
  9. Develop plans. Goals don’t turn into reality without some planning. Again, get some help from someone you trust. Start with one of your long-term goals and come up with a plan that will eventually cut the things getting in your way of having this better future. Big problems will take time and a lot of effort. Small problems are easier addressed. Both big and small need attention.
  10. Commit to yourself. You’re going to have setbacks, make some spur of the moment decisions you regret but don’t pack in the, “I want a better future”, plan. When you have a setback, re-commit to yourself what you’re working towards and focus on what you’ve accomplished so far.
  11. Forgive. A big one. Don’t carry hate, anger and bitterness around with you because it’s not attractive, certainly doesn’t help you and always hinders you. Let it go and forgive those who harmed you, set you back, let you down and disappointed you. This is your life not theirs; you’re forgiving them because YOU’VE moved on.

Look it’s not going to be easy and few things in life that are worth having are. In fact, ‘easy’ hasn’t been your past life has it? Nor your current life? So, ‘easy’ has nothing to do with it. Yep, you’re going to have to work for what you want and all that’s going to do is make you proud of yourself when you get it. It’s your call.

Save Yourself From Being Embarrassed


A critical mistake you can easily make is relying solely on your quick-thinking and natural charm to get you through a job interview. More often than not you’ll be asked increasingly tough questions that will expose your lack of research and clear understanding of the company or job you are applying to.

At some point in the interview, you’d likely get this feeling of having your bravado take a hit, then another; your armour of good looks and charisma whittled away by thought-provoking questions or perhaps puzzled looks from interviews to your answers. Your antiperspirants kicking into overdrive in an effort to combat the increasing wetness of your armpits, and your frequency of looking interviewers in the eyes diminishing as your confidence unravels and embarrassment takes its place.

The danger is not so much blowing this interview – which you would think is the worst that could happen. No, the worst thing that can happen is that your self-confidence erodes so much that it carries over into future interviews. As you prepare for the interviews to come following such a poor one, you could become anxious about repeating the experience and essentially paralyze your ability to perform well.

No you don’t want to embarrass yourself, wasting both your time and the time of the people who granted you the interview. What you do want to do – presumably – is account for yourself with a positive interview where you planned for success.

So now the question is how to prepare for the interview. So let’s look at some of the key things you can do to increase your chances of success.

First of all know why you want the job, and more importantly why you want the job with this specific employer. There are likely similar job titles with other organizations, so what is it about the combination of this job with this employer that has you excited about the prospect of working in this position?

Related to the first very closely is the question of what you have to offer the employer. What makes you the ideal candidate? You know your background more intimately than anyone else, so how will you market yourself to address the needs of the employer? Are you an experienced problem-solver? Maybe you’re a seasoned or skilled negotiator with a proven track record of bringing people together in a non-adversarial atmosphere? If you don’t know what you have to offer an employer, you can hardly count on them to identify it for you.

Here’s something you’ll probably find reassuring – maybe you never even realized; you can predict the questions you’ll be asked with a fair degree of certainty. It’s true! Pull out a job posting – any job posting that lists qualifications or areas of responsibility. In all likelihood, you’ll find yourself being asked questions that seek to draw out your previous experience and qualifications that are listed in this job ad. So if it says you must have experience working in a team, prepare yourself with some examples from your past that demonstrate when you were a productive member of a team. If it calls for customer service skills, have several examples ready that prove or demonstrate your excellent customer service.

Now let’s look at social media. Do you love it, hate it or are you indifferent to it more out of ignorance of what it could do for you? One tangible thing that might ease your own anxiety or give you an edge over your competition (and don’t we all want this?) is to look up the people who will be interviewing you on LinkedIn for example. You can search by the company, probably find the profiles of some people in HR, the CEO or CFO. You can look up a Manager or search by their name if you are savvy enough to ask the person calling you for an interview who you will be interviewed by.

When you do use social media to look up your interviewers ahead of time, you can read their career path, maybe sock away some tidbit of information to drop in the interview such as, “Good morning Gerry, I see we share a passion for ________”. (insert the name of some charity that you and Gerry both contribute to). Sometimes just seeing the picture of the interviewers ahead of time can give you reason to relax, or give you clues on how to dress.

Before you walk into the room, have a few intelligent questions to ask. What information would you like to know that would best prepare you for this job?  Are you keen to know the supervision style of your potential new boss? Are you wondering how much latitude you’ll be given to experiment, introduce cost-saving measures, or the expectation to contribute to projects outside your specific job description?

I never recommend going into an interview unprepared but I hear and see people do this all the time. “What do you know about the company?” I ask of people who are on their way to an interview. “Not much. I’ll find out more when I’m there I guess” is NOT a good answer. What you’re likely to find out is that you should have already known this.

When you prepare and do your homework, you may not even get asked many of the things you came prepared with true; however, better to be over prepared and ready for anything than counting on a wing and a prayer.

 

“Why Don’t People Just Follow The Plan?”


One of the great assumptions most of us make who provide employment counselling and support is that the people we work with want to gain employment. That’s a logical assumption; we are Employment Counsellors and Coaches after all, so it stands to reason that anyone approaching us for help in finding work does so because they’d rather be working than unemployed.

So why is it then if we take this basic assumption that so many people don’t follow through with the expert advice they receive? I remember many years ago I used to come up with plans for the people I’d be working with – and they were great plans. I’d map out where the person is and where they wanted to end up. I’d look at their possible barriers to reaching their goals and I’d devise great pre-emptive strategies for moving past those barriers. The person I was working with would marvel at my skills and knowledge and I’d send them on their way with a big smile on their face and some optimism in their steps. “They’ll be working in no time if they just stick to the plan”, I’d think.

The problem more often than not is that for some reason the person didn’t get very far with that grand plan. I’d puzzle over that and end up with the same conclusion again and again; they just weren’t trying hard enough. The plan was excellent and seemed to end in success if they’d just follow the plan. The plan itself was never the problem; the problem as I’ve come to understand it was that it was never the person’s plan at all, but rather MY plan for them.

Well that was only part of the problem. In order to have any lasting impact, a plan not only requires ownership of the individual working the plan, it requires that the person have the necessary motivation, skills and resources to implement the plan.

Now this might seem hard to wrap one’s head around if like me you are employed and thankfully so, but not everyone is motivated to work. Even when someone says they want a job and comes across as self-motivated and earnest, it may well be that in reality, they have come to accept a comfort level with things just the way they are yet they don’t grasp this fact. Ironically, i’s not that this is necessarily their preferred lifestyle either, but the push to work hard at getting a job; the effort and the stress of putting in the work and getting rejected isn’t something their psyche can take. It may well be that from the outside; the person is sabotaging themselves with self-destructive behaviour, or just appears lazy.

What it comes down to much of the time is that the more we come to know someone, the more insight we gain into what they are capable of, which differs from what we think they are capable of. They may in fact not have the skillset required to ultimately be successful and the result of this means that the time they require to move from where they are to where they want to end up is longer than they’d like. In other words, they have to be introduced to and internalize some skills they don’t have at present; skills that are pre-requisites to taking all the steps to their goals. They then have to have the skills to actually implement the newly learned skills. That’s a lot of skills!

Complicating the process of providing help is that people don’t always know themselves and what they are capable of but they think they do! We, as the people working with them, may also make the mistake of simply asking someone if they have a certain skill or capability and then taking them at their word. Something as simple as asking, “Do you have basic computer skills, like using the internet to job search?” could have the person answering, “Yes”, but if we were to sit them down in front of a computer, they might ask, “Okay, how do I get to the internet?” Suddenly the gulf between what they said, (what we assumed) and what they are capable of (the reality) is painfully clear. So instead of talking about employer research, we have to go back and learn basic computer skills.

People are not intentionally difficult. They may not have the stamina required for a lengthy job search. They’ve been so emotionally beaten down they just don’t have the constitution required for a sustained job search – especially what is required in 2016 to find employment. Whether it’s online applications and employer research, social media profiles and networking, applying for work challenges some in ways they aren’t capable of.

Look, being out of work for many is shameful enough. Add to this drop in self-perception the innocent questions they get asked like, “What do you do for a living?” and suddenly something not intended to offend causes a furrowed brow, a dropped head, an apologetic response and a desire to withdraw.

Helping someone reach their financial independence requires a mutually invested effort; a plan that the person themselves devises with some guidance. In other words, it’s got to be their plan and the role of an Employment Counsellor or Coach is literally to help but not take ownership for the plan.

Plan the plan, then work the plan.

 

What’s Your Working Philosophy?


How you approach the relationship you have with the people you serve reveals your broader philosophy.  So how does the philosophy you’ve adopted fit with: the organization you work for, other team members and most importantly your target audience? Some employees never reflect on their own working philosophy, which is problematic when it comes to finding the right organizational fit.

When you can articulate a working philosophy, you’ll find it extremely beneficial. It governs how you view the people you serve in terms of whether you call them clients, customers, end-users, people or recipients and guides your decisions. You’ll also interact with these people from a consistent perspective when it comes to planning and delivering service. Do you for example include people you are designing services for in the planning process or do you plan without them in a silo?

Imagine yourself seated at a table designing some program which you’d like to roll out to your target population. You and those assembled want to design this program to respond to the needs of your target audience; it’s got to be attractive, the benefits real, affordable, easy to access, and be perceived as being of value. It also has to be cost-effective and make use of available resources. Now looking around, who else do you see seated around the table?

Most of us will visualize our teammates, perhaps someone in a Management role (which if you included as part of your team good for you!). Did you stop at this point or did you see one or more chairs occupied by the people who are representative of your target audience? If you didn’t see any of these people seated at the table, then your working philosophy is that you and your collective group know your audience well enough that you can plan for them in their absence. If you included them seated at the table in your visualization, then your working philosophy uses a partnership approach, where their voices are heard first-hand, and in addition to their input, they act as checks and balances right from the start.

So if not at this initial starting point, at what stage if any do you include the target population in the planning before the service or program is rolled out in its final form? Some people who work in organizations don’t actually include the client, customer, end-user – the people – in the process whatsoever. There is no partnership; there are no test groups, no sample audience. The program is rolled out seemingly with a, “we know what’s best for you” attitude. Guess right and the people flock to the service or program. Guess wrong, and the people stay away in droves, or the numbers don’t justify the service or program and you’re left wondering why these people seemingly don’t appreciate the value of what you are offering them.

Now imagine some chairs around the table are indeed occupied by the audience your service or program is going to target. So whether they are job seekers and you’re a team of Employment Counsellors and Workshop Facilitators, or they’re bank customers and you’re a team of Investment professionals, how would your conversations change with your target audience sitting right beside you?

One thing you might notice is that some of the assumptions you use as starting places would be challenged. You might take it as a given that your meeting to discuss this new service or program would start at 9:00 a.m. sharp. After all, that’s half an hour or a full hour after you and your fellow employees start your work day. Your target audience however, say a youth population of 17 – 24 year olds, would better attend the meeting if it were at 10:00 a.m.; their bodies work on different time clocks then older adults. So right off the bat, you just learned something and you haven’t even got to the table yet. Your initial assumption about an agreeable meeting time is flawed, so what other assumptions will you make that don’t respond to your target audience? Maybe your target population could also benefit from a working breakfast of bagels and jam?

The importance of having a personal working philosophy can also make your place on the team a harmonious or trying experience. Have different working philosophies from your peers and you might ponder, “Why don’t my team members invest themselves as much as I do?” vs. “I don’t do anything outside my job description” or “I’m the professional with 5 years’ experience so I know what’s best for them” vs. “I’ve never lived your unique experience so teach me.”

Getting into a team discussion about personal and team philosophy isn’t very sexy. Some will roll their eyes and you can observe them mentally disengage from conversations. They aren’t interested in what they may perceive as frivolous, obvious, or maybe they feel the objective is to force everyone on the team to conform to a single perspective. When you work with people on a daily basis, there can be great value in knowing and sharing your personal philosophies, based on what each person has experienced and learned and holds as valued. These insights can help each member understand others points of views, and how these align or are at odds with the organizations philosophy and delivery of service.

Working philosophies are not static either; they evolve over time as we interact with others.

So what’s your working philosophy?

 

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?

How To Build Job Search Momentum


Looking for employment is often a frustrating experience. Now I’m pretty sure that comes as no revelation to most readers. While there are still a fortunate minority who find work with a single job application and interview, for the vast majority, it is a time-consuming process of raised expectations and frustrating disappointments.

I recently heard it expressed that for every $10,000.00 you expect to earn, plan on a month of job searching. That equation may or may not be your personal reality, but you’ll be making a mistake to think that without a plan you’ll have no problem finding a job. There’s another saying, “Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.” Unfortunately for many, the only planning they do is to say they plan to get a job!

Momentum is vital in a job search because it can sustain you through periods of disappointment and frustration. Without a plan, any job seeker might just succumb to the recurring lows, not being able to really see viable progress being made. Build momentum however, and you can see movement from where you were to where you want to be at times when you otherwise might doubt you are making any progress.

First it’s necessary to know what your specific goal is. “Get a job – any job”, is not a goal I would typically recommend. On the other hand if you know you want a job such as an Investment Commodities Broker, Industrial Welder or Cemetery Groundskeeper, you can develop a plan of action for whichever of the above is your job of choice. The plan to go from where you are to each of the above three jobs however, would be very distinct from the other two. Hence just saying you are looking for a job is too vague and impossible to plan for.

For the job you do settle on, know the qualification requirements, objectively determine how you currently stack up against the skill, education and experience needs the position demands. Wherever you find yourself lacking, instead of counting on your charm to worm your way into the job, look at those key areas you’ve identified where you are weak and then investigate or research what your options are to gain what you lack.

Missing a degree or diploma? Look up the potential schools that offer the education required, and then get registered, take out a student loan to pay for the course and you’ll be taking the necessary steps to build the momentum you need. If it’s a licence you need and not years of school, research the cost, the providers, what books are available to train with and book the licencing test after preparing yourself.

A workable plan will make you feel good about yourself. You may be sitting down for three days on the couch reading up on your licencing needs, taking pre-tests in preparation for the exam to get that licence. While observers would say, “Why aren’t you out getting a job?”, you’ll know the truth of the matter, and you’ll confidently know the movement you are creating toward your goal of licence first, fully qualified to apply second.

There are resumes to make, cover letters to write, research into companies and people to undertake, mock interviews to arrange, conversations to plan and engage in, questions to plan answers for. And these are just the obvious things you need to do. You might have to also arrange childcare, ensure you’ve got minutes on your phone, update your interview clothing and do some shopping, maybe invest in some repairs on the car you own, set aside money for transportation etc.

Without proper planning, there are too many things that can go wrong and you then run the risk of raising your stress level by having to scramble and divert your focus. So the day before an interview, instead of reassuring yourself, you might find the car won’t turn over, you realize you never did get around to replacing your pants with the stain on them that won’t come out, and so you scramble.

Another good idea is to create a, ‘to-do’ list built around what you need to do in order to eliminate the barriers you have at present keeping you from your end goal. Put this list in writing and put it where you’ll see it every day – out in the open not in a folder. That list will both remind you what needs doing, and as you check off the actions you’ve taken, you can reassure yourself in the low moments that you’re further ahead then you once were and the gap is narrowing to your desired goal.

Self-doubt and beating yourself up for making no progress is harder to do if you are looking right at a piece of paper that has some boxes with a check mark in each for the things you have completed. Working a plan also helps you make a logical order of the things to do. No point really writing the cover letter if you are in a 9 month training program and have no specific job to apply to just yet for example. And if you’re planning on dropping 20 pounds, don’t go interview clothes shopping today only to find when the time comes those new clothes slide right off your waist!

Developing a plan is a skill you can get help with. Employment Counsellors, Job Coaches, Mentors and Career Advisors are well-trained to assist with. All the best out there!

 

 

 

 

Plan Backwards; Move Forward


So there I was in front of 16 unemployed people yesterday. I was wrapping up a 7 day Career Exploration workshop I was co-facilitating with a colleague, and we were down to coming up with a plan to move from their unemployed status to reaching their individual career or job goals.

Having identified barriers to success, I was at the point where we were collectively discussing the steps necessary to eliminate the barriers. After all, eliminate your barriers and then you’re closing the gap between wherever you are at present and where you ultimately want to be.

One of the barriers someone self-identified was the lack of grade 12 education; which in 2015 is pretty much the bottom of the barrel from most employer’s points of view. Without it, your relegated to entry-level minimum wage jobs much of the time and the prospects for advancement reduced.

So I asked the group if we took the lack of grade 12 as a barrier we wanted to overcome, what would be the first step to eliminate that barrier. Their answer was a unanimous, “Go to school and get your grade 12.” Not entirely unexpected but the wrong answer. You see this answer is just like telling an unemployed person that the steps to resolve their dilemma is, “Just get a job.”

The problem you see is that if you write down, “go to school and get my diploma” as the step to resolve your lack of grade 12 and then turn your attention to your other barriers, when you DO want to put that plan into action, you’re no closer to knowing HOW to go about getting your grade 12! After all, you don’t really just go over to the school and ask for your diploma and then get it. We know all that.

And this is where so many get stuck by traditionally planning forward. It seems to make sense to plan forward, and that’s why so many plan this way and so many fail miserably. The logic says, “Here I am, I want to get my diploma, what’s the first step? But no matter whether you are wanting to address the lack of grade 12, a poor resume, literacy, criminal record, a lack of proper interview clothing or even figuring out what your career goal is, forward planning will often get you stuck, not knowing the steps you need to take.

Look at things using backward planning however. So the first thing I asked the group was to imagine themselves being handed their grade 12 certificate, and I wrote that on the board. I wrote all their replies on the board from under the goal achievement. Here’s what the question and answer exchange looked like:

“What happened just before you got the certificate?”

“I passed all the necessary courses.”

“And before that?”

“I was in the classes.”

“And before that?”

“I signed up for the classes by registering.”

“And before that?”

“You have to attend an orientation over at the school.”

“And before that?”

“You have to find out when the orientation sessions are by calling them or going to the school.”

“And before that?”

“You have to decide you want your grade 12 bad enough to go back and get it.”

And that last statement brought us back to where we were sitting together in the room – to that moment; their present.  With all those 7 steps laid out on the board as they said them out loud, they could quickly see that from where they were the first step was to decide they wanted their grade 12 and wanted to do something about it. They could see all 7 steps required, with the 7th step being handed the diploma.

The next thing we did was put some timeframes beside each step. “How much time is required to decide you want your grade 12?”, I asked. “Already done” someone said. And the group assigned a timeframe of a day to call the school and find out when the orientation sessions were all the way up to six months to actually attend the classes. It turns out they figured 7 months from step 1 to step 7 was required for one person to achieve their goal.

By utilizing the backward planning concept, the group became aware that what they had in the end was a workable plan that was realistic, had definite timeframes and they could see that by following the steps they’d eliminate their barrier. Now I have to tell you that I presented them with a list of potentially 20 barriers. Most people in the room had several barriers and each one requires its own backward planning process to identify the steps needed to eliminate it.

Here’s the beautiful thing that’s going to sound attractive to YOU. While eliminating a barrier sounds great, taking 7 months to do it might seem a long time. But if you break the barrier into smaller steps like I suggest, your self-esteem will rise with each small step you take. So even when you just call the school to determine the next orientation date, you can check off step 1 and say, “I am one small step closer to my goal.” The longer steps work the same as you remind yourself, each step is part of your bigger plan.

When you work out your plan, get someone to look it over and confirm you’ve got all the steps covered. Like anything new, it takes a little time to get the hang of it!

Change, Career Planning and Action


Do long-term goals that represent major changes intimidate you and leave you overwhelmed at where to begin? For some people, it’s like making a decision to get off the couch one day and being expected to run a 10km race the next. Better to stay on the couch where you can avoid the high probability of failure and more feelings of not measuring up.

The keys to achieving real change when broken down are much more manageable and most people are able to progress through change if guided and provided with tangible results that show movement in the right direction.

One of the first things required for change is ownership. If you yourself want changes in your life, that personal motivation to change originating from your own point of view will help sustain you when the time get tough. You’ll be able to look back at those times and remind yourself why you wanted change in the first place. On the other hand, if you are trying to initiate changes in your own life because other people think you should change, you are less likely to stay committed to change when you face challenges.

So if you want to change your unemployment status, or you want a better job; more security, higher income etc. drive the change from within and you’ve a much higher chance of sticking to change later on when you’ll be tempted to revert to your old routines and habits.

The second thing to realize is that the very nature of change is that things can’t remain the same. This is the very essence of change. In order for change to occur, previous actions need to be altered. If losing weight is a goal, your food intake needs a reduction, your activity level needs an increase. If employment is a goal, your daily rituals need adjusting, more priority time devoted to job search activities will have to replace your relaxation time, television or internet social time as examples.

Planning before you act has to occur; unless of course you deem planning as an action itself – and I’m okay with that! In other words, you just can’t say, “I want a job” and then poof it happens. Wanting a job is good, but planning on how to achieve it makes achieving it in the future much more likely. This stage is essential in order to assure yourself that the time and energy, the activities in which you engage; they are all focused and work toward the common goal of gaining employment.

Now planning is best done backwards. In other words, see yourself in the job you want. What does that look like to you? Got an image of yourself at the desk in the company you want to work with or on the assembly line, or at the summer camp you are employed with? Great. Now ask yourself what was happening just before that picture? Was it a phone call welcoming you to the team or a letter you got, possibly an email? Before the job offer, was it an interview or the 3rd interview you passed? Before that was it the research you were doing on the company, the position, the people who worked there you wanted to join? And before the research was it the resume and cover letter you penned that started the formal application process? Maybe even before the resume and cover letter your 3 years of school were required, the initial research into the field in general and an application for financial assistance with your school registration?

You see planning backwards keeps happening until you end up at today. Then when you look at the steps you’ve written down, you look at it from today moving forward and voila, you’ve got a workable plan that if followed will put you in the position you want. Of course I’m simplifying it, and you’d be wise to have others look at your plan who have the skills and knowledge to tell if you are missing anything significant.

Now your plan might have 9 or 10 steps; some of those steps (like school) taking 3 year’s to complete. Other steps (like registering for school) might take an hour. Don’t be discouraged at the length of your plan. Some people find out in their 50’s about planning for the first time and wish they’d had the foresight to plan when they were back in their 20’s.

Having a plan is great of course but the most important step is putting the plan into action. The beautiful thing about plans is that they provide a blueprint of getting to where you want to be from your starting place of where you are today, but be open to modifying your plan and re-evaluating it along the way. This doesn’t mean the plan loses its value or purpose, just that the plan is not set in stone and you can adjust it to suit your emerging and changing interests as you gather more information.

Without any plan, you may question your direction, your purpose in life, and what you ‘should’ be doing instead wherever you find yourself. You may feel aimless, lacking direction and focus, and planning can eliminate that. Always remind yourself that planning is just that – making a plan. Those who have one are not always happier, but they do know where they are going!

Change? Plan your plan then act on it!

 

I Planned A Workshop…Nobody Came!


It happens from time to time and for me it was yesterday.

I was scheduled to facilitate a workshop on preparing for and practicing interview skills. Now many people don’t particularly look forward to job interviews, and as its human nature to avoid things we don’t like if we can, this workshop isn’t famous for having high numbers. However, there are typically a group of 5 – 10 people who recognize the importance of learning how to interview well, especially as the stakes are so high.

But like I said, nobody showed up. Registration for this workshop is on a drop-in basis, and it makes the planning interesting. If you’re a seasoned workshop facilitator, you already understand the planning that goes into workshops and presentations, and I imagine you’ve had your expectations exceeded or not met. But if you are new to facilitating and presenting, or possibly thinking about taking on this kind of employment, you’ll appreciate my experience perhaps as a learning opportunity.

Now right off the bat, I want to state that many of the workshops I run require pre-registration. When you have pre-registration you certainly know how many you need to prepare for, and you can get all your handouts ready etc. But some of the workshops I am asked to run are drop-in by nature, and the planning for these is very different.

The workshop yesterday was one I was really looking forward to as well, because I was including a student in it that’s with us over the summer, and giving her a chance to do some facilitating under a supportive eye is something she’s asked for. So we met two days ago and went over the agenda, what she might want to take on and lead, and what she would rather not do in case she became overwhelmed due to lack of experience.

So I showed her the flip charts I’d prepared, walked her through the process from the moment people start to arrive, how the set up of the room enhances or not the participation level of those in attendance. I explained how we’d start off just getting names and desired occupations, then list any questions they dread or fear in an interview, and how after getting their opinions, I’d share with them what I believe an interview actually is in fact.

Ah, it was magical. There I was, this seasoned Employment Counsellor all in my element. After all, I was talking to her about something I love doing, so I was confident, enthusiastic and glad to be sharing this. “It’s critical to be prepared”, I said, and pulled out one of the 10 folders I had constructed to give to participants. The contents of the folder were a pen, notepad, blank sheet for notes, one thank you card and envelope, and 15 pages of tips, suggestions, definitions, strategies, an interview format to follow and sample questions that might come up.

“Wow, they’ll get a lot of stuff!”, she said. I’ll admit when I heard and saw her reaction I was pleased. After all, I’m highly aware that this person is going to be potentially entering a career where she may be doing what I’m doing and reaching others. If I can get her to plan things out in detail ahead of time so the workshop flows smoothly, and take it this seriously ahead of people arriving, she’ll be in a position to be more comfortable, and that will translate into a better experience for clients who are nervous themselves.

So the morning came and the handouts were ready in the blue glossy folders. The flip charts sequentially ready to whip out as we progressed, and the attendance sheet ready for signing in. I opened the doors 30 minutes before we were due to start and waited. Even at the appointed start time with no one in the room I waited. Sometimes clients arrive 10 minutes late. But the dawning realization got more and more certain. Nobody was coming.

And this is a great lesson to learn. So I laughed with our student and told her that despite no one showing up, the advanced preparation should always be exactly the same. All those folders and flip charts can be used next time around and so they don’t go to waste. While disappointing, it’s also not doing any good to take things personally. After all, it’s not like we advertised, “Interview Workshop starring Kelly and Allana – come one come all!” Had we done this, it may have been a personal slight. Like I said earlier however, not many see a voluntary workshop on interviews as a must see event. For many, it’s like not thinking you need any dental work, but making an appointment just to see if they can find anything new.

Oh and lest you think the lesson ended there, it didn’t. What we did after cleaning up is talk with our colleagues and find out where we could help out. Unexpected help is always welcomed around here, and even if no one took up us on our offer of assistance, there would be other work to do. Sometimes just going up to a client in a drop-in resource centre and saying, “Hey I’ve got some time, anything I can help you out with?” gets you busy.

Failing anyone needing or wanting help, there’s always planning and revising existing presentations to be done. Good workers take initiate and keep busy. I learned that years ago.

The End


Everything that gets started eventually comes to an end doesn’t it? Do you remember way back through the mists of time to that very first job you had when it was all you could do to contain yourself when you pulled on that uniform and started your initial shift? The idea of retiring and no longer working was about as remote as anything possibly could be, and yet, years and years later, here you are all done with work and have whatever time is left to you to move on to other things.

The staff where you work have undoubtedly got somebody in charge of some kind of send off for you – at least you are secretly hoping they do even if its low key. Or maybe you’re the kind of person whose hoping for banners, parties, cake, presents, accolades – the works! (Yeah that’d be me too). Anyhow you’ve earned the right you feel to get away from it all, and there’s hopefully enough money in the old bank account to get you through however many years you’ve got left.

So what’s it going to be? Traveling, a new sports car, gardening, rocking on the front veranda, volunteering, spending time with the grandkids if your kids will let you, or do you have plans to get some part-time job down at the hardware store just to keep your hands in doing something. Maybe there’s a fishing rod calling you, the gang whose promised to meet every morning at the coffee and donut shop or maybe writing that great novel that has been at the back of your mind for decades. Hope somebody buys a few copies eh?

The end is what you make of it, and rather than really seeing your employment as THE END, have you thought about seeing it as AN END; meaning there are new beginnings to get excited about? In other words instead of seeing things as a time to wind down, perhaps it’s just time to shift into another gear, take on a new activity with vigor and energy. Why you might have so much enthusiasm for what lies ahead that you realize you haven’t felt this kind of excitement for what is to come since the day you landed that very first job.

Reflecting on what was accomplished, what legacy you’ve left behind and how you may have improved the lives of others or bettered yourself is a good exercise in validation. However, spending too much time in that self ego-massage can detract from what lies ahead. Best to revel in your past history just enough to remind yourself of good things done, but save enough time and energy to really apply yourself to new adventures.

There appears to be a risk both mentally and physically for people within the first year of retirement brought about by a sudden change in their behaviour, their lack of purpose and it can and has resulted in death in some cases. You may even hear stories at your workplace about people you never knew that start off, “Poor old Elsie. I can’t believe it can you? And she was so looking forward to going on that cruise. I wonder how Ron will cope now?” Is it coincidence that Elsie passed away within a short time of retiring and no longer having that daily routine and responsibilities? Perhaps.

Have you started thinking about YOUR plan for post employment? I suppose that question really has more relevance for some than others based on age, plans, circumstances and dreams. Wouldn’t it be a shame if your dreams were only about what you’d do in the 67th year of your life but you only made it to 68? I don’t know that I’d want to know the expiry date of this machine I call me, but I’d imagine that if I did know ahead of time, I might choose to do a few things differently – especially as the expiry date got near. And that’s the issue really; your expiry date could be in 20 years, 7 years, or 7 minutes.

And suppose as some do, you did know your expiry date but your health, finances or commitments did not allow you do really do anything significant with your remaining time other than what you are currently doing? In other words, you couldn’t afford to quit your job, sell your home to live off the money for that precious remaining time because you had a spouse who would outlive you etc. Well what of that?

My goodness it all just seems so depressing…not a good topic for a Friday at all; the END of the week! However, what if – just think about it – you started right now to improve your chances of living healthier, happier and more productively with a goal of not finding yourself with financial or health problems? Maybe it would serve you well to financially plan things ahead of you, to work hard in that job to get ahead, and develop some hobby or activity that you could carry forward in your life as you age?
That might position you to have the resources to make the most of the time – be it what it may – to really live a life that you can take great comfort and happiness in.

So work smart, with enthusiasm, get your priorities straight whatever they are, see the big picture, put aside some money for the future, and enjoy your time right now!
Cheers