Seeking To Be More Positive

I’m willing to gamble that like me, you’re someone who likes to have positive things happen in your life. I think that’s a safe bet. That’s not to say we’re immune to troubles; that we don’t have problems and challenges to deal with of course, but we do like it when good things happen to us.

The question then is whether or not these positive things happen to us randomly and by chance or can we somehow go about our days drawing these positive events to us? Well, just as I believe you can create good fortune through the things you do, I hold that yes, we can put ourselves in situations which we’ll find positive. If we do this on a regular basis, then we generally have a series of more positive events, and these then become linked together, thus creating a pattern.

Now of course, negative things must happen to us all; physical ills, accidents and problems not just for us but for members of our family and friends, yes they’ll continue to happen. We cannot eradicate death, disease and …. well, you get the point. However, those things aside, we can if we choose, go about our day with positive thinking and having our eyes open to situations which we can benefit from being involved in and to which we can add benefit for others.

Think for a moment of the people you come into contact with every day. As you do so, are you able to discern the ones you find generally more upbeat and positive? Again, like me, I’m fairly certain you can. These folks generally appear happier, they may automatically wear a smile when they see others, and they have an overall positive outlook. These are the kind of people you genuinely want to say hello to and have a conversation with because you just know you’ll enjoy it. My guess is you enjoy being connected to them. Wouldn’t it be great if what you see in these people was embedded in all the people you worked with daily?

The naysayers and negative types are likely thinking to themselves that the kind of work setting I’m describing doesn’t and can’t exist. They would say to think that any work site would have just positive people going around all day is a fantasy. Well, isn’t that just the kind of thing you’d expect them to say? There’s irony for you!

A generally positive outlook is what you’re after here. Yes, you’ll still find aspects of your job frustrating and you’ll still undergo stressful situations which challenge the positive energy you’re seeking to bring out. Like every other thing worth having, being positive can be learned. It make take years to get where you want depending where you are now, but it’s worth striving for I believe.

One thing you can do on a practical level to get started is look for positive upsides when difficulties arise. It’s so easy after all to gravitate to the negative and see problems when problems present themselves. But in those challenges, there is likely an opportunity to find a positive. Losing a job is a great example of this. It’s stressful for sure, there’s a loss of income and identity, a fear of what will happen and it can be something we want to keep private rather than share out of shame or guilt. However, losing the job we’ve had can be flipped into positives. We now have the opportunity to look at other options we would have said earlier that we’d love to look at but just don’t have the time for. Well, now we do.

The stress that accompanied that former role is gone now too; replaced I get it by the stress of looking for work, but there are varying kinds of stress and some are actually beneficial. It can be very invigorating to be explore new employers, new careers, school options etc. It’s not all doom and gloom.

The loss of a job can also give you more time with your family, allow you to get the odd thing done around the house you’ve put off too long. Cleaning out the garage or painting the living room might just clear your mind of tasks hanging over your head and that’s a positive thing isn’t it?

Look for good when bad things happen. This is a gift you can give others too. If your job brings you into contact with people who have frustrations and problems, you should certainly acknowledge their feelings – absolutely. However, if you then get them talking about the positive opportunities they may have now that they didn’t have before, you may lighten a heavy load and get them thinking more positively, which in turn can make your interaction better overall.

And the really nice thing about being positive? You draw people to you who are similar in their outlook. That combined outlook is energizing and creates a positive relationship be it in your personal or professional life.

Should We Spread Our Joy?

Let me just get my answer out there. OF COURSE!

Sometimes I meet people who are traditionally happy and joyous throughout the year, but who, for reasons of not wanting to upset other people, suddenly downplay their natural positivity in the month of December. As I say, these are the kind of people who are naturally upbeat, positive and happy. Having empathy for others who may not be going through the best of times around December, and Christmas in particular, they go against their nature and act subdued.

I believe there’s another line of thinking which justifies sharing our own happiness and joy with whomever we interact. This is the act of being true to ourselves, and if that means our actions, words, tone of voice, smiling faces and overall positivity is in stark contrast to some others, it can have a startling affect.

For starters, being positive can uplift people. After all, do you want to be around people who are gloomy, sullen and suck energy or would you rather choose to be around people who energize you, make you smile,  bring you happiness just by being in their midst? These are the very people Scrooge once said, “…should be boiled in his own Christmas pudding”; the ones who go around wishing everyone a merry Christmas.

Now I’ve also heard the argument that because unemployed and impoverished people are affected so greatly by the season, which often accentuates their feelings of want and need, we should scale back on spreading our personal joy. Well, again, I disagree. I’m not insensitive, it’s just that being impoverished or out of work doesn’t automatically mean a person must go around looking down. In fact, some of the happiest and most positive people I’ve met live in poverty. They aren’t happy about their financial status of course, but they’ve realized that their financial status is only one part of their lives. There are many other facets of their lives which bring them joy. Why allow this one area to dominate who they are and how they view themselves? They choose happiness and positivity.

Yes, I’d rather be known as a fellow who wears a smile, stays positive and is good to be around than the opposite. Of course yes, one has to exercise some good judgement here too. When someone is talking about their bleak situation and out of politeness asks how I’m doing, I wouldn’t go over the top telling them about plans to have some big extravagant party to celebrate the season or how my investments were tripling my income. (They aren’t by the way; oh to be so lucky!)

No, I’d exercise some decorum; show some restraint in what to share, but I’d still have a smile on my face and tell them in answer to their question that I was just fine and thank them for asking.

The second argument I make for being positive, happy and merry is that it reminds people of what is possible when they may have forgotten. Don’t assume this is a given. Sometimes when we lose what we once had, we all need reminding of it’s value and in the case of happiness, merriment and positivity, they can all come again; for everyone.

When I’ve worked Christmas eve at work, those making the choice to drop in to our employment resource centre are typically either in for solace and sanctuary or to wish us the greetings of the season; a very merry Christmas. If they can do so, I certainly will wish them nothing but the same; that they too find merriment and happiness both then and the year ’round. Sometimes we’ve sat down not as clients and staff, but as people – (a rather significant distinction) and shared a drink, a bite or two and some laughs.

Being poor doesn’t mean one must by association be of any one mood. You’ll find sadness, regret, joy and happiness, neutrality and the entire gambit of emotions. Why? Why precisely because the opposite is true. Among the wealthy you won’t universally find decadence, happiness, positivity and an entire void of stress. It isn’t money that brings happiness; it’s within us to be what we choose to be – that which makes us feel as we choose.

I will continue to positive, be happy and be joyous. Don’t think me insensitive, don’t attempt to shame me into being anything I’m genuinely not. My smile is there for anyone that chooses to see it as an outward expression of my state of mind. I also find that a smile on one face tends to bring one out on another. The opposite is also true by the way..

So do I wish you a merry Christmas on this fourth of December? Do I hope you have the best day possible? Do I trust you find happiness this day and each other day? YES!

By the way, ever been served by someone in the course of conducting some business who is robotic? You know, they do their job but there’s no human emotion, no smile, no genuine appreciation for your business. Have you not thought to yourself, “It wouldn’t hurt you to smile a little?” Ah, you have? Then you understand entirely and you get it. Good for you.

Be that beacon of happiness, that one person who goes about their work with a smile and is genuinely appreciative of others. It will work wonders for your mental health.

“How Do You Always Stay Positive?”

8 people sat before me yesterday, only 1 of whom I’d met before. It was our first of a 7 day journey, embarking together on bettering knowing ourselves and then looking at the possible occupations that we might pursue. I include myself in that phrase, for although I am employed, I too will confirm what I know already and discover new things about myself as I facilitate this workshop.

It’s my practice to ask each person their name, why they are present and what they hope to get out of the experience. This is an excellent check for me to ensure we’re on the same page. It’s great confirmation for each participant, knowing they won’t be disappointed on our final day because if there is something they are expecting beyond my own objectives, I have time to build it in.

After hearing from them, I typically tell them about myself. Why not? I mean I’m a part of the group too. I know I always wonder about the backgrounds of  facilitators when I attend their presentations. However, yesterday I went about it differently. Rather than give them my career path, I opted to give each person an opportunity to ask me one question, which I promised to answer as best I could. This way I reckoned, each person would get at something they wanted to know, and I’d get an early glimpse of their thought process.

I was pleasantly surprised with one gentleman’s question. We’d only been together for about 20 minutes when he asked, “How do you always stay so positive? You have a lot of energy and I believe you are always positive.” I was surprised because as I say, he’d only met me 20 minutes earlier and had already picked up on my positivity. Here is the power of the first impression and I was understandably happy he’d picked up on both my energy and positivity.

I gave him a spontaneous answer; “I choose to be.” I went on to tell him and the group listening in, that we make choices not just each day, but hundreds of times a day. When things don’t go as we’d expect, we have a choice on how we react. Now the location I am in this time around is not my usual work destination but rather what is for me, a satellite office. I had technical issues with my computer login and as it turns out, had to download a new operating system which would take about 2 hours. My choice was to go around and express this frustration with 6 or 7 nearby co-workers, or – and this is what I did – contact IT and had them walk me through the process. This choice got me the result I wanted sooner, (connectivity) and conserved a finite amount of energy I’d otherwise have poured into complaining. My choice.

Now I know this sounds trite doesn’t it? I mean just choose to be positive. However, it’s the simplest explanation why any of us are typically positive; we choose to be. One thing I did share was an admission that I’m not always completely positive and yes there are some times I choose wrongly; later regretting I didn’t make a more positive choice. Thankfully those times are few.

Last week we had a snowfall which made the commute in messy and a coworker told me how much she hated the snow. I told her how pretty it looked to me and how it covers up so much dirt and grime of the city. “You’re always so positive”, she too said. Well, it’s a choice again isn’t it? I mean the snow has arrived and is now a factor for us all to interact with. It’s our response to the snow that makes it welcomed or something to complain about. We interact with the event in either a positive or negative way. I chose positivity and that choice makes traveling through it a more pleasurable experience.

Now as for you. Would you describe yourself – and would others generally describe you – as a person who comes across as typically positive? I tell you this, being perceived as positive in general is so much more attractive than the alternative. Given that premise, why wouldn’t we all choose positivity over negativity? And if not negativity (for that’s the other extreme), I’d rather be positive than fluctuating back and forth all the time to the point where others are never quite sure what mood I’m in from one day to the next, from one moment to the next. I like consistent positivity.

And here is a poorly kept secret of mine. I have found that surrounding myself with people who are generally positive and upbeat feeds my own energy and positivity. I get what I give, and I hope being positive attracts others who make the similar choice to me.

When you first make the choice to be positive it’s a change. When you repeat that choice a few times it becomes a pattern. When you come to act positively on a regular basis it becomes your reputation. This is perhaps why after only 20 minutes, this gentleman picked up that positivity was in my nature. How observant of him and what a kindness he gave me in both recognizing that quality in me and asking how I do it. Hopefully, he thinks about my answer and tries it out for himself. Positivity can be learned and it’s contagious.

Thoughts, Attitudes, Choices, Action

In life, there are the things we can’t control and the things we can. Without much real thought, I’m betting you’ve heard the advice urging you to worry about the things you can control and letting go of the worry and stress over the things you can’t.

Take Monday mornings; take this early November morning at 5:01 a.m. as I write. Outside, the temperature is 2 degrees and with the wind it feels like minus 2. At this moment it’s pitch black and the weather has rain in the forecast. If you reread this paragraph, I haven’t given any indication of how I feel about this day, but just from the words I’ve used, what are you feeling? Positive or negative?

My consciousness of the day began at 4:22 a.m. when I opened my eyes, looked across the room at the digital display on the clock and acknowledged the time. I closed my eyes again, rolled back the comforter and let the cooler morning air touch my body for a few minutes while my mind started to engage. Ten minutes later, a cup of tea is steeping, I’ve had my head outside the door to breathe in the air and yes, the laptop is fired up and humming.

This is my morning routine. It’s quiet time; Kelly time. I’m not fighting an urge to hit a snooze button, I’m not rushing around having left myself no room for the slightest change in my morning preparations. Outside it’s still and silent, dark and Monday all over.

I cannot change the calendar and make is Sunday; so Monday it is. I don’t wish it were Sunday, or Friday for that matter. It’s Monday and I accept that. It’s early in the morning and I’m in control of what I do at this hour. For me it’s blogging with a warm cup of comfort – tea with milk only please – the chair reclined and the fingers tapping away on the keyboard. I’m in control. At 6:00 a.m., I’ll have 30 minutes to shower, shave, dress, make lunch and roll out of the garage on the way for a 60 minute drive into work. Like I said, I’m in control over that which I can control.

Monday you see isn’t inherently good or bad, it’s just – well, Monday. 4:22 a.m. isn’t a bad time to wake up it’s just 4:22 a.m. How I see this day, this time, what I choose to do between now and when I need to get going, this is my choice; my time. It may differ from how you choose to spend your time and that’s perfectly okay. You may be blissfully sleeping away in lullaby land, slumbering in semi-consciousness and only becoming aware of the morning as it breaks on you. You could be staring at the clock in your room unbelievably amazed it’s 4:22 a.m. and you still haven’t slept a wink for all I know.

What we cannot control is out of our hands – this is what a lack of control boils down to. It stands to reason that putting any effort into attempting to change the things we can’t is wasted energy. No amount of effort on my part is going to change the day on the calendar even if I dreaded Monday and only slightly liked Tuesday better. If I had an intense loathing of Monday, all I’d be doing is setting myself to feel embittered and in a foul mood every seven days. I don’t want that!

No, I think it better to throw my energy into the things I have control over; my attitude, my reaction to the things around me, the day ahead and what my schedule calls for, the thoughts I have and the actions I take based on those thoughts.

Now you just know there’s going to be that person you meet today – you know, the one who will just be so down on Monday – as if the calendar has conspired to make their personal life a misery. I don’t mean down as in sad but down in the sense of wanting to battle Monday and put it down every chance they get. They’ll look for fellow conspirators too, other people who want to groan and complain together, (for misery does indeed like company) about Monday. Monday, Monday by the Mama’s and the Papa’s is on their playlists today… “can’t trust that day, Monday morning somehow it just turns out that way.”

I can’t afford to waste time and more importantly energy worrying about Monday. You and me, we’ve only got so much energy and because our actions are the manifestations of our thoughts, I choose to think the positive, hoping my actions will align with my thoughts.

It’s still dark outside, it’s still 2 degrees but feeling like minus 2. It’s still Monday on the calendar and the only difference between the people like me and those who are fighting Monday morning is the thoughts we choose to have; perspective. This is choice.

Choices we make are ours to make. We can choose not only at the start of our day but every minute of every hour of every day, how we interpret and interact with things that happen in our day. Positive or negative, good or bad; it’s within our control how we choose to see things. When others first interact with us and see us positive or negative they get an impression. When they interact with us and see us on an ongoing basis it’s a pattern. Then it’s a routine, then finally a way of being. Choose wisely!

Experiencing Mental Health Issues?

Be positive. Look on the bright side. Turn that frown upside down. You’re never fully dressed without a smile. See the glass as half full. Don’t be a sour puss.  Things can only get better. You’ve got nowhere to go but up. Nobody wants to be around a grumpy Gus.

Sayings from the past and present that all send the same message; look at things with a positive point of view and present yourself to others with a cheerful disposition. Easier said than done for some folks; at least for some folks some of the time.

It’s likely true that most people do enjoy being around other people who are upbeat and positive. When you surround yourself with optimistic people who are positive, you feel some of that positivity rub off on you. When you walk away you feel better, encouraged, hopeful and in a better mood. Whether that feeling lasts but a moment or you carry it forward for a while depends entirely on you.

On the other hand it’s also the case that if you spend some time with someone who is moody, brooding, negative and talks about doom and gloom, you’re likely to walk away feeling down yourself. Given the choice of the two, most would certainly choose to surround themselves with positive people.

The challenge for some people however is that they are not accustomed to smiling or looking positive. When they are at ease, their faces take on what the rest of us might consider a serious countenance. They look intense, maybe even uninviting; radiating a, “I’d rather be left alone thank you” impression. Unfortunately this may not be how they are really feeling at all, but they come across this way and they know it. They know it because people have told them over and over for ages to smile and look happy.

This issue becomes compounded of course when they experience stress and pressure, especially if it lingers as in the case of a prolonged period of unemployment or financial hardship. As job searching can be fraught with highs and lows, built-up expectations and dashed hopes, it becomes even harder to stay upbeat and hopeful. That advice to put on a smile and fake it until you make it just sounds near impossible.

Empathizing with people who are anxious, depressed, edgy, stressed and immobilized means in part to accept them where they are; appreciating the circumstances in which they find themselves and having a measure of respect. Unless you’ve experienced what they have experienced – (and if you recognize that each person experiences things in their own unique way) it’s difficult to understand sometimes why they can’t change.

Telling someone to just snap out of it and expecting they’ll immediately slap a lasting smile on their face is unreasonable. If it were that easy, they’d have figured that out on their own. They’re likely to think or say, “Don’t you think I would if I could?” What if perhaps this condition you later discovered wasn’t so much a conscious choice the person is making to come across as sad and morose but rather an ongoing mental health issue?

What continues to be difficult for many to truly appreciate is that sometimes this mental health condition isn’t one of choice. No more than say, telling someone with a broken wrist to, “just write or type with it anyhow”, or “suck it up buttercup and deal with it.” That would be insensitive, and at the first sight of the cast on their wrist and forearm we’d be much more likely to acknowledge their injury and perhaps offer our help, extending some empathy or at the very least some sympathy.

But a mental health issue is so much less obvious isn’t it? We don’t know if a person is behaving the way they are by choice or not. Unlike seeing someone with a cast on their wrist and making small talk about how it happened, it’s highly unlikely we’d go up to someone who looks depressed and say, “Are you just sad or are you coping with a mental health disorder?” The other person might be so shocked at this that they wouldn’t know how to respond. They might respond with a, “Mind your own business”, “Is it that obvious?”, or possibly a, “Thanks for asking, actually I am…”

Imagine how much energy it would take to mask and attempt to cover up a condition like social anxiety or full-blown depression. Picture yourself having to force an insincere smile and generate some artificial laughter with those you meet, feeling that to fit in you have to be someone you’re not at your authentic core. That would be exhausting. How long could you keep that up? Could you pull it off? Don’t we all want others to accept us for who we are; aren’t we being told again and again to just be ourselves?

Many people who experience mental health issues are getting some form of help. They are doing the best they can to fit in but their not always successful. They experience the world around them from their unique perspective which may be different from others. Treatments vary as does the outcomes of these interventions.

If you don’t understand it or get it, can’t really empathize with them but wish you could, don’t compound things. Tolerance; acknowledging and accepting them as they are is a start.

The Right Attitude For The Interview

Congratulations! You’ve been offered and accepted a job interview with a company you’re really interested in working with doing a job that you’d sincerely love to do. While it’s taken longer to land this interview than you ever thought it would, you’re grateful for it nonetheless. This is the job interview!

There’s a lot riding on this one isn’t there? It’s your one big chance to show them how great you are and how great you’d be in the position. What to wear? When to leave for the interview so you get there early but not too early? What to research – is there time for more research? And what about – hold on there partner! Slow down. Breathe. Focus.

Sometimes we get over excited about the interview don’t we? I mean it’s one thing to be happy and excited about an upcoming job interview that we really want but it’s quite another to go overboard and see it for what it isn’t too. It isn’t your only shot at a job you’d be great at and love doing that’s going to pay you well. I’m glad it is by the way, but on a broader scale it isn’t the only job of its kind nor is it probably your only shot at this job with this company.

I do understand that in the present moment; at this time, this is your shot however and that’s what you’re understandably focused on. I’m happy for you and I’m here in your corner for you.

Let’s start with some basic information; what we know to be true. First of all, it’s clear that up to this point, you are in the running for the job. You’ve impressed them enough, presumably with your resume at the very least, and you’ve already made it to the short list of applicants beating out those whom applied and didn’t get an interview. If you submitted a cover letter with the resume, it too is a fairly safe bet that (assuming they read it) whatever it contained motivated them enough to want to hear more from you. The two documents together have resulted in the interview. It’s important to recognize this because if you don’t land the job, you’ll want to stick with what’s working when applying for other jobs, and clearly these two did what you hope they’d do for you.

You’re understandably nervous to some degree at the prospect of the interview but more importantly what the interview represents. It represents your chance to be offered the position itself; and attaining the job fulfills a pretty significant goal of yours. You may also be seeing this opportunity as more than doing something you’d love with an employer you’d love to work with. This perhaps could be your chance to start paying down debts with the income it will provide, move in different social circles, prove to other people you’ve rebounded and have made something of yourself, and of course it will take a huge weight off your shoulders and you can shift from job searching to employment.

With all that riding on this job interview,  no wonder you’re feeling the heat! Could I suggest a few things? First, acknowledge to yourself that you’re now down to say 3-6 people from perhaps 75 – 100 who have applied for the job. Your odds of getting hired are actually very good. Sure you’re now competing with just a few others who are feeling the same way, but we’re focused on what’s within your control and that’s you not them. Think positively and let’s own this interview.

Let’s answer some basic questions here well ahead of the interview. Why do you want this job with this employer? The sum of your previous experiences (life and work experiences) has made you the person you are so, why are you right for this job based on your past? This will be a combination of your education, skills, experience, values, personal suitability and the intangibles you bring that are unique to you from the other applicants.

Look at the job posting you initially applied to again. The things you’ll be responsible for and the qualifications they said they are looking for are going to make up the bulk of the interview questions. You need answers that contain specific examples from your past that p r o v e you have the skills and experience you claim to have. Get these together now.

Your attitude? Desperation isn’t attractive; its – well – desperate. I’m pretty much guessing they want someone positive, upbeat, good to be around and have around. Being assertive but not cocky or aggressive is usually on the mark more than it’s not, but your homework into the role might tell you otherwise. Maybe it’s aggressive they want because your income is based 100% on sales? If so, shift your approach to fit. Maybe they want someone low on socializing and more on the, ‘there’s work to be done so let’s get to it’ mentality, so again emphasize your work ethic.

Go  on get excited! You should be! We can celebrate together after the interview when – successful or not – you’ve done your best to shine and given it your best. The ultimate decision is out of your hands but you hope to influence that decision-making process with everything you’ve got. Like an athlete, leave nothing unsaid that you want to communicate.

The right attitude? Communicate “I want this job with your organization; I’m the right person for the position.”


Recreating Great Days

Yesterday was a really good day on the job. I’m fortunate in that I recognized it as such several times throughout the day as often we only realize how good something was after its past. So now I’m thinking about what I did and how I can re-create that great feeling in the present and the future so that more of those great days are yet to come.

Do you have days like that yourself? I sure hope you do, both at work and life outside of work. Even when you like your job as I do and you feel you have a lot of good days, there are some days that are just better than others.

Here’s the odd thing about yesterday. I was on the schedule to facilitate a workshop on Interview Preparation and Practice. I wouldn’t have guessed that this day was going to bring me the extremely high degree of satisfaction it did. Why?Job interviews are pretty low on many people’s list of things they like to take part in, especially if you’re on the applicant side of the table. While the workshop is offered free and is completely optional, it typically has a low turn out. Let’s face it, as humans we tend to avoid things we feel we will find unpleasant, especially if we have a choice and going to a workshop on interviewing isn’t a popular one.

Turns out that 7 people came out and all 7 had their apprehensions about the day. When I asked them what their thoughts were at the outset, they said the usual things; interviews are a necessary evil, they wished they could get jobs without the interview at all, they get all stressed and full of anxiety when they land one and yet made the decision to come and learn anyhow. 7 people making an excellent personal decision! By the way, does their opinions of interviews sound like your own?

So we started and like I always do, I told them my goal at the outset was to give them the benefit of my perspective on interviews and perhaps have them shift from how they see the interview to how I see it, because quite honestly I look forward to interviews and relish in the opportunities they present. I’m very comfortable going to job interviews and there has to be something I can pass on to them that may help them to – if not really love them – at least feel less anxious when preparing for one.

I noticed that one key thing happened almost immediately after starting and that was that when introducing themselves to each other, they spoke openly and honestly about their fears and their employment barriers. Just listening to them talk, I was struck by their trust in the others in the room as one disclosed a criminal record, another voluntarily spoke about her age, another person said how overqualified she felt and wondered if she should “dumb down” her resume as others have suggested she should. (Note to readers, I don’t think you should ever ‘dumb down’ your resume and hide what you otherwise are proud of having done.)

These people invested themselves individually and collectively in both the workshop and in my ability to impart whatever I could to them; taking on the responsibility to listen, engage, then process what they heard from me and others. Now they take what they believe will work for them and apply new ways of thinking and tools into their own interview experiences in the future.

The day concluded and no one ran out the door as typically happens with some groups. In fact, not one of those in attendance even wanted a break in the morning or the afternoon and they wanted a shortened lunch break at midday! It was truly a magical experience for me as a facilitator. If you’re a facilitator you understand how unique and exciting having a group like this is.

Like all great days we have, I wish I could have the same experience day after day. This was the kind of experience for me where I could feel my own energy sustained and fueled constantly and that led me to give more in return to match their enthusiasm. The same experience can be seen at a concert where the audience is so demonstrative in their admiration for the act that the performers put out more energy and play longer, invest more and everyone goes home thinking, “Wow, that was something!”

Here’s another thought though. Just as a band sometimes plays a gig for less than a sold out audience, theatre groups put on a show for half the house or less, facilitators likewise should in my opinion give it their all no matter what size of group is before us. Who knows; those 7 people who came to this workshop may spread the experience they had, telling others who in the future give it a shot and find it works for them too. Maybe, who knows?

I honestly think that I personally didn’t do much different yesterday than I do every time I run that workshop. It was I believe the chemistry in the room and all of us contributed to that. The one thing we collectively brought was a positive attitude and a willingness to be open to the ideas of others.

May you too have many of these moments to experience!

Message Received: Bring Enthusiasm!

After having spent two weeks supporting a group of 10 job seekers, one of them presented me with a token of her appreciation. Her gift was a folding panel of 9 framed windows, in each of which she had hand-written a quote or made a comment about enthusiasm. It now sits on my window sill in my office.

Now the significant thing here is that for those two weeks, I kept driving home the point to everyone there that employers want to see enthusiasm from their employees and applicants. I myself was driving home that message by being enthusiastic myself. So when I found this on my desk in the room we were using on the final morning, I was sincerely touched by her generosity.

Now earlier in the week – in fact even the day before, I’d mentioned to all the people in the group that I in fact was not allowed to accept gifts from them. No, the only thing permissible would be perhaps a card of thanks. It’s an odd thing to tell a group of people that you can’t accept gifts, because it suggests to some that they should be getting you something when possibly they weren’t thinking of it at all. The reason is that those in the group are unemployed whereas I am not. So when the gift was given nonetheless, I had to get it cleared by a Supervisor in order to keep it.

I am thrilled to tell you her story because not only did she land a job, but something unexpected in addition to the job happened. Read on then, see what she did to put herself in a position to be successful, be happy for her but most of all, take the lessons yourself.

I’m going to gloss over some details just enough to give some context. The woman came to the class with emotional baggage, lots of outside stress and while she had education within the last year, practical experience in her field was a key barrier to employment. In her 40’s, she dressed like she’d been in the profession for years, looking the part she wanted so desperately to play.

Job searching daily from 9 to 2:30p.m. is mentally fatiguing, but that’s the nature of the program I was running. On two consecutive days, I was pleasantly surprised then to see her remain behind and put in an additional 30 minutes with me getting 1:1 help. She was tired to be sure, but she persevered and then the next days would show me what she worked on at home in the evenings. Now that’s a focused commitment to success.

In addition to revamping her resume and cover letter, we worked on her research, LinkedIn profile and interview skills. By working on these, there was a noticeable improvement in her self-confidence, self-esteem and self-image. As much as we were job searching together, we were also working on the reflection of the woman in the mirror.

Now she put out solid applications, each targeted to specific jobs with similar yet different requirements. No mass-produced one-size fits all resumes without cover letters here! She saw others in the group get interviews and jobs. She herself eventually got an interview, then a second and then a job offer. Oh she accepted it all right. She even negotiate a slightly higher salary than that originally presented by the employer.

When she and I last met in person, there was a change in her. She had a new stress she didn’t have before in starting a new job and wanting to succeed yes. But gone was the frustration of a fruitless job search. The, “somebody out there wants me!” feeling of being hired has taken hold. With that objective 3rd party validation, she is able to now shift from looking for a job to keeping a job; anxiety and hopelessness are replaced with positivity and growing confidence.

Now just yesterday she sent me two emails. One was a note of appreciation and to related how nice people are in the workplace and how she’s happy. The second email was a further request for guidance.

You see the LinkedIn profile we had improved both with a change in content and photo, had attracted a Talent Acquisition Specialist for a large well-respected organization. Here she had gone from someone who was unemployed and begging for a chance to show what she could do, to a woman with a job who was now attracting a second employer.

In short, going about her job search with enthusiasm herself, acting on the suggestions made to her and putting in a sincere full-time effort was yielding real measurable results. My enthusiasm had rubbed off on her for sure, but she herself had made the conscious choice to embrace going about her job search with renewed enthusiasm when she could have gone about her job search and my suggestions with skepticism.

If you are unemployed, control the things you can. Choose enthusiasm, add details to your LinkedIn profile, research employers and employees where you want to work. Get out of your sweatpants and hoodies and take pride in your appearance. Look at that photo you’re presenting to the world – would you be motivated to interview the person you see?

When you are enthusiastic you can still be a realist; just go about your day throwing yourself into what you do with your best effort. Make sure you don’t become the biggest barrier to your own job search.





Can You Spot a Good Employee From A Bad One?

I know you’ve had interactions with people during the course of your daily life, some of which have been wonderful experiences, some rather unremarkable in any way, and some which have been downright terrible. It’s only common sense that this is the case, based on the wide diversity of people in any part of the world.

Have you for example, ever been approaching the checkout counters in your local grocery store and quickly observed not only the length of the lines, but the identity of the people operating each checkout? I bet you have. Further, I’m willing to bet that you might even opt for a line which is slightly longer if you perceive that the Cashier is friendly, smiling, efficient and will make checking out a more pleasurable experience.

Using the same image and situation, you might see a slightly shorter line open up, but you remain in your line because the Cashier in that line appears grumpy, disinterested, almost robotic and the people being served almost appear to be an unpleasant necessity of the job. You get the picture and the image, and I suspect you have the skills to determine which of the two Cashier’s is the more engaged, happier and communicates that working in that grocery store is a positive experience – AS IS CHECKING OUT WITH THEM.

And that’s the point people. Employers are looking for the right people to pay to work for them. There will almost always be a pool of people who have the technical skills to perform a job. Being able to scan items, bag groceries, receive and process payments is not really the most important part of the job at all. The biggest challenge for those who make employment decisions is locating and selecting people who bring enthusiasm for the work and a positive attitude to the workplace, which translates into a great experience for the customers the store serves. Lose the customers to your competition and profits drop, employees hours are reduced, layoffs occur, stores reduce operating hours and close up.

It stands to reason then that in every single interaction with a potential employer, be it in your cover letter, a phone conversation, walking onto their property, in an interview or after you’ve been hired, you should be aware of the overall message you communicate with those you come in contact with.

Smiling; not a forced painful looking smile, but a genuine smile and good manners, (please and thank-you) are never out of style and too overused. You see, if you and I can spot a good employee from a bad one, it only makes sense that others are also observing us and evaluating their experience when interacting with both you and I. This is essential information whether you are a City Sewer Worker, an animal Vet, a Police Officer or the person who picks up the recycling at the end of people’s driveways.

The real measure of a successful person is when they are putting forth their best effort, working with enthusiasm, and generally appear to be enjoying what they are doing. But I can hear you questioning aloud how an unemployed Information Technology Worker can genuinely look pleased to be working temporarily making submarine sandwiches to pay the bills until they can get a job in their field. Surely the frustration they must feel, the annoyance with the underutilization of their skills entitles them to look disgusted while asking, “Want to make that a combo?”

My answer is that their frustration might be entirely justified, but if they allow themselves to only see the underutilization of their skills and that results in poor service, they are hurting themselves more than they know. Take for example the possibility that the owner of the sandwich shop owns not just the one operation but 3 or 4. That person probably has some technology needs. Might they need some IT assistance from time to time? Might they as a small business owner have many other contacts in the hospitality sector and know people he or she could speak to on their behalf if they filled their own tech issues? You bet.

Good employees invest themselves in the work they are paid to do and do it with focus. They leave their problems outside the workplace as best they can an immerse themselves in the work at hand. If it’s a customer service job, they take a real interest in understanding their customers needs, practice their listening skills, problem-resolution skills, customer retention skills. Those same skills if you re-read them are all transferable skills. YOU CAN TAKE THEM TO YOUR NEXT JOB!

Not to be paranoid, but people are watching us. It might be our boss who notes how fast we learn, our co-workers who know how willing we are to lend a hand, our customer’s who put in a good word with Management on how friendly we are. These people may all be a future job reference for the smart employee working outside their field; and at the least they represent good examples of your skills in future interviews.

Every day you have a choice, as do I. We alone choose to be positive influence or a cancer in our places of work. Stop justifying your bad attitude if you do that; stop blaming your upbringing if it was poor. Start making the time you have now productive, positive and work with enthusiasm.

Choose to have a great day!


Get Your Attitude Under Control

When you are looking for work, one of the best things you can do is manage the things within your control and your attitude has got to be at the top of this list. I get that job searching is frustrating, rejection happens a lot, and you can feel isolated. I think we all get that.

Bitterness however, is one of the most least desirable personality traits a person can exhibit, and at the very time in your life when you could use the helpfulness of those around you, why alienate yourself? Here’s a newsflash for you; you’re not the only person who has, is or will go through what you are going through right now. You’re not entitled therefore to feel that everybody around you doesn’t understand what you’re going through. Most of us know exactly what you’re going through.

This week I’ve had the opportunity to spend both Monday and Tuesday supervising our drop-in resource area. In this space, people who are out of work and on social assistance can come in, sit down and use a computer, phones, fax and photocopy machines, post letters and all of it free of charge. They can work independently or they can ask whomever is supervising that day for help.

There were three people exhibiting very different attitudes that were in this space just yesterday, and all at the exact time. In my position, I ended up interacting with all three of them, and I hope by sharing my observations you might profit personally or share this with someone you know in the hope that they might benefit.

The first fellow is a regular. He struggles with alcohol and drug addiction. Sometimes like yesterday he’s floating in that zone between full self-consciousness and responsibility and the effects of recent use. In other words, you feel like you are getting into a lucid conversation at one point and then it’s clear his mind is muddled. He was frustrated and his social filters weren’t functioning as evidenced by his inappropriate comment to a man from another culture with a long beard that he’d be happy to give him some razor blades to shave his face. Fortunately, the man didn’t hear him and I re-directed my regular back to his computer. This guy’s bitterness is open, easily recognized and he can be engaged with help offered and he can be leveled with. He knows when he’s out of line in other words.

The 2nd person to contrast the above is someone I only met yesterday. He asked for help initially and I responded as best I could to help him. Unfortunately, the restrictions on our computers set up by our IT department in accordance with our policies wouldn’t allow him to access what he wanted. Now he started muttering about my incompetence and how he himself knows more. He then quickly moved to making further personal attacks, judgements, assumptions, and dismissed me. All of this I might add was done with a calm voice, almost a respectful politeness; if it weren’t for the words themselves.

The chip on this 2nd fellows shoulders is huge. If you can meet his needs, good. If you can’t meet his needs, you’re useless and don’t have the intelligence to match his own. That was the gist of his message. This bitterness he is carrying makes him a person to avoid, to watch certainly but provide the most minimal of direct help with lest a full confrontation be provoked. Best to back away, observe in case there is some escalation or developing problem with someone else.

Finally, a 3rd person who is also unemployed. She is a 20 year-old regular who is on Methadone, doesn’t have her grade 12, doesn’t know what she wants to do work-wise, but is always friendly, open to talking, listening and taking advice. Yesterday she was in working for almost three hours on both her own resume and that of her boyfriends. She’s frustrated with her current situation and doesn’t want to get stuck with a minimum wage job. By asking for a bit of help and being open to a conversation, we’ve agreed to set aside some time and do some short and long-term goal planning over the issues she raised.

Three unemployed people on social assistance. Three very different ways of coping with frustration and interacting with the people around them. One openly venting but harmless, the 2nd less obvious at first glance but far more dangerous, the 3rd staying friendly, open to conversation and trying to be positive.

When out of work or facing any personal challenge for that matter, you can sometimes feel you’ve lost control; you’re a victim of your circumstances. The one thing no one can take away from you unless you let them is your attitude. How do you measure up when times are tough, and your resiliency is being tested. A true measure of a person isn’t always how they behave when times are good but how they behave and act when times are tough.

If you are feeling isolated and abandoned, have the courage to first ask yourself if your actions, gestures and words are in any way contributing to turning off other people from approaching you and giving you any meaningful help. Yes it starts with you so take responsibility for your attitude. Getting fired, laid off or downsized might not be something you can control; but your attitude is your responsibility alone.