Fresh Starts Happen When You Want Them

Okay so the calendar today reads December 10 and New Year’s Day is still a few weeks away. Typically the days leading up to a flip in the calendar are when most people think of making some major changes and starting fresh. Be it losing weight, changing a bad habit, getting a job, or any number of other goals, January 1st seems to be a day when the majority set out to put their new behaviours into action.

However, when you think about making some changes, think about that line, “there’s no better time than the present.” I suppose the reason that right now is the best time is simply because it’s now that you’re thinking of whatever you want to change so take the opportunity to get on that change while you see the value in going after your goal. If you put off making that decision until some point in the future, you might not feel the same compulsion later. So what are to do? Wait another year until another January 1 comes along?

As for needing some external stimulus for change – like flipping the calendar to a new year, there’s plenty of those moments. For starters, we all flip the calendar 12 times a year; that’s 12 times we could opt to start some new behaviour. There’s your birthday too, although that comes around once a year, you might just be motivated to change things up on this anniversary of your birth.

The thing about your birthday is that it’s very much like New Year’s Day in that it only comes around once a year. If you’d like more opportunities, consider that there are 365 days in a year, and every day you wake up could be the sign to hit the reset button on something you want to give up or something you want to start.

Now suppose it’s a new job you’re after. Whether with the same employer you work with now or a new one, a new job might be just what you want. If you plan on getting hired January 1st, 2019, you can’t put off applying for jobs until December 31 can you? No, of course not. You’d actually need to be doing an active job search now; researching, job applications, resume and cover lettering writing, interviews and networking meetings. Even so, how many employer’s are even open on New Year’s day and of those who are, how many are training the new person on January 1? Not many.

Of course, you might be telling yourself that January 1st is when you’re planning on starting the job search. Nothing wrong with that goal. Of course, between now and January 1st you may be missing some good job postings, and it would be a shame if the job you’d really love has a deadline that you miss when you’re kicking back waiting for the calendar to roll over. The people you’re competing with will thank you for that one!

Let me give you a small piece of warning and advice if I may. When you make the decision to change your present behaviour and start to seriously job search, it’s going to be a challenge to first make the change in behaviour and then sustain that momentum you start. Your body and mind are going to rebel and in both cases because the status quo is easier.

So if you have a job already, the extra work you have to put in outside of work hours with a job search might come across at times as too much extra pressure and extra work. If you’re unemployed you won’t have that problem, but when you’re out of work, the habits you’ve developed – possibly sleeping in late, having a nap mid-afternoon, watching too much television or playing video games etc., might get in the way of sticking with the job of finding a job.

So be ready for the kick-back; that want to fight change and just go on with things the way they are. It might take some real perseverance and stamina to sustain change. What will help is keeping your mind focused on why you started the change in the first place. In other words, if your goal has enough meaning to you, it’s easier to stay focused on it because you want it bad enough to fight past the barriers that stand in your way.

It’s when you don’t want something enough to fully commit to it that you’re likely to fail. So in other words, if other people keep telling you to get a job and you grudgingly agree to start looking for one, the chances of success are lower as you’re more likely to revert to your old habits when no one is looking. When YOU want to work more than you don’t, that’s when your odds on succeeding will rise. It’s not just about getting a job by the way, the same is true of any goal we talk about; changing eating habits, learning to drive, being more polite, expressing more gratitude, taking up a new hobby. Whatever you’re contemplating, it will come about sooner if you commit to it.

Finally, if you’ve been after your goal in the past and not had success; so you haven’t got interviews or job offers, think about going about your job search in a different way. Trying a new strategy may get you different – and better results.

Did You Realize 2017 Is 50% Done?

For some of us, time crawls by at a snail’s pace while for others it goes so fast people will say, “Where did the time go?”

For all of us however, no matter where you live on this globe, 2017 is pretty much 50% over already; it now being mid-July. Okay technically July 10 is not the mid-point of the calendar year, but it is close enough to dead middle that a small bit of reflection on how things are progressing is a good idea.

If you’re the type who makes resolutions with the flip of the calendar on January 1st each year, I suppose it’s only logical to ask yourself how you’re faring. Yes, you might be right on track with your goals, monitoring them daily or weekly, and if you’re doing so and succeeding then congratulations are in order! On the other hand, if you’d made a few resolutions; private or public, and you’ve let them drop by the wayside, you’re likely not enjoying thinking about the change you envisioned and planned with good intentions to undertake didn’t actually materialize. Was the goal too lofty? The intentions good but no real plan put in place?

There are of course the typical resolutions one makes; lose weight, eat healthier, save more money, get out and meet people, find a good job, return to school etc. Each of these are commendable to be sure and for those who set these goals and reach them a pat on the back isn’t out-of-order. However, it can be discouraging to realize that those goals are still not being reached and you’re floundering. That you set those goals in the first place was good of course; presumably you set the goal(s) because you wanted whatever it or they were.

So setting the goal wasn’t a bad idea. I suppose then that rather than beating yourself up over having, “failed again”, the thing to really do is come to a realization. If the goal is important enough, it’s never a bad time to start anew. In other words, don’t throw out the goal in July because you’ve not made any progress in the first half of the year.

Some of the things you may have wanted to do are still obtainable. Take the person who vowed they would start their Christmas shopping earlier in 2017 so they weren’t scrambling in mid-December. If that someone is you, this is your gentle reminder to be on the lookout for Christmas gifts now. It will be easier on your finances perhaps to start now, spreading out purchases, and you can perhaps get deals now on things harder to think of later. Perhaps visiting a pottery studio you pass on a driving trip to pick up a unique handcrafted item?

If your goals included finding a decent job in 2017, how is that coming along? While March is typically the number one hiring time of the year, August/September is right up there at number two and is fast approaching. So yes maybe you can still prepare for this second wave by getting yourself ready now. Dust off that old resume and update it. Go through your closet and drawers and give what you’ll never wear again to charity so you know where your work clothing is sparse and needs replacing.

Take advantage of the good weather to get yourself out in the community in which you live and interact with people. Set up a face-to-face with some people you’ve connected to, line up your references, sign up for that first aid training because your certification has expired. Look up some interview questions and answers for your chosen profession on the internet. Get a hold of a job posting or job description if you can for a position you’d be interested in and see how your skills, experience and education align with the employers’ needs.

With the year half over, the good news is the year has 50% left before we don the New Years Eve hats and blow on the noisemakers again. That’s good news because half a year is plenty time to make some progress if you’ve got yourself stuck in neutral. In other words, taking stock of what you didn’t get done on December 31st is a poor practice because there’s not time to do anything at that point. Here in July however, well, you can take a few steps forward.

If by the way you’re employed already, was there something you thought would be a good idea back in 2016 that had to do with your current job? Be a better team player? Take less sick days? Work with a little more organization and have a tidier desk? Maybe it was staying on top of your emails? Goals need not be lofty and in fact, sometimes a series of small goals which you reach can help build momentum for the really big challenges.

Maybe pulling out your performance evaluation will remind you of what you set out as your goals at work for 2017. If you’re accountable for hitting your targets, don’t ignore what you’ll eventually have to face.

Here’s a last thought as well on goals you may have set for yourself. If the goals are too extreme or no longer relevant, modify or drop them altogether. Setting a goal or two that’s relevant to you will have more meaning and increase the chances for success.


You Say You’re A Problem Solver?

People that say they can solve problems are worth talking to because employers often want problem-solvers in their organizations. People who can actually prove they’ve solved problems both in the past and the present however will always get selected first. Yep, there’s a big difference between saying you can do something and actually demonstrating your ability.

Not long ago I had the occasion to talk with an employer and he was sharing with me an experience he had with an applicant during a job interview. One of the key qualities he was looking for in the next person he hired was a person’s ability to take on problems and find solutions. What he was listening for a person to share was specific examples of when they’ve faced problems, what their options were, the thought process they undertook at the time and after weighing pros and cons, what they actually settled on as a solution and then the action they took. Sometimes he went on, the result itself didn’t even have to always work out favourably as long as the thought process and the effort was there. Results he said would come most of the time.

In this one interview, he heard this applicant describe a situation at work where they were faced with a problem while working alone. They related in their example what they did when consultation wasn’t possible and things actually worked out very favourably for all involved. It was as he said, an impressive example of their ability to problem solve. So much so in fact, that he was impressed enough to offer the candidate a place. It was at this point however, that the applicant made an error that cost her the job.

She mentioned to the interviewer that she wouldn’t be able to work on the weekends (a written requirement in the job posting) as she didn’t have anyone lined up to look after her child on those two days. This as he related it, was a current and ongoing problem that she hadn’t been able to solve. How, he reasoned, was she going to be able to solve his problems associated with the business if she was unable to solve this critical problem of her own? Presumably being more important to her to solve her own problems, he could only imagine she’d put less effort into solving the organizations as they arose were she to be hired. She didn’t get the job.

Now lest you think she was immediately asked to leave, he told me that he had first asked how long the problem had existed. After all he reasoned, if she had only just learned that her childcare provider was suddenly unavailable, she could have made a case that it was a short-term problem and she’d have a solution quickly. Her answer however surprised him; she’d had this childcare problem for over a year.

This was to him more an example of her inability to solve a critical problem than any example she could present to him from her past work experience. Here was a very real problem that in over a year she had not successfully resolved. What she was hoping for was that he’d hire her to work just Monday to Friday and that some of his existing staff with greater seniority would be scheduled to work the weekend shifts. How likely would you think an employer and the fellow employees would see that as a reasonable accommodation? That’s thinking from a very egocentric place; the world resolves around me and others should meet my needs.

Problems exist; they come and they go only to be replaced by new ones. There’s a lot of good in being faced with problems actually. Be careful if you wish you had no problems to deal with in your life. Problems present opportunities to use your existing skills, coupled with your life and work experiences to devise solutions. Being challenged with situations that require you to think, research, brainstorm, consult and eventually make educated and sound decisions based on what you’ve accumulated is a desirable skill.

Now some people can solve problems that benefit themselves only; or benefit an organization but at the price of the customers they serve. Other organizations are bending over backwards so much to keep their customers happy that they actually destroy themselves in the process, so that’s not a long-term problem-solving strategy for success.

The best solutions to problems typically start with one’s ability to correctly comprehend and diagnose the problem. This is followed by coming up with the possible options available that will resolve the matter to the satisfaction of all. Ideally all parties want to feel that they have a resolution that maintains the relationship moving forward, meets their own needs and everyone can move forward.

If you are heading into an interview fully advised in a job posting that problem-solving is one of the requirements of the position, you should expect to be asked to prove through examples from your past that you’re a problem-solver. Don’t wait until that moment, look dumbfounded and sputter out some poor example or worse yet, tell them you’ve never had a problem you couldn’t solve. That could just show you’ve never been properly challenged and your skills in this area are underdeveloped.

You might typically be asked to relate past problems with customers, co-workers, management etc. Be ready. Be a problem-solver.




Regaining Routine…But With Some Changes!

Yesterday my wife and I put away all the Christmas decorations; no small chore in the Mitchell household. As much as we both love to decorate for the holidays we both throw ourselves into getting our house back to what we refer to as ‘normal’ with great enthusiasm. When we are done, we both appreciate how much more space we have to move around in; no large tree in the living room, no more hanging ornaments from the light fixtures, and the flow of movement is improved with the furniture back where it belongs.

It occurs to me that what we are really doing with our house is similar to what most of us want with for ourselves; a return to routine. December is such an unusual month doing things we typically only do in that one month of the 12. We shop and buy more, eat more, visit more. We write and mail Christmas cards and for many people it’s the only time we post anything anymore with the convenience of texting and the internet. Make no mistake, we want the relative familiarity of routine because it brings us a sense of calm; things are as they should be.

Okay but we might have made the decision to change a few things in 2017 too. We’d love to incorporate some of these changes into our routines without disrupting too much of what we’ve come to know and value. Maybe it was getting more active, losing weight, getting our money under control, finding a better job, getting out and about socially more often or even learning to say yes or no more often depending on the circumstances.

The key seems to be not just initiating change but sustaining it. On the way into work I heard a fitness expert state that only 20% of those who make fitness a goal at the start of the year will be successful come March. For some of us we might be thrilled to make it that far as I’m sure some of us have already cheated here and there and it’s only January 3rd!

So let’s look at employment and your goals for 2017. Are you looking for a job, perhaps a better job or are you looking for a secondary job; something you could do in addition to your current role in order to bring in more income? Do you have a plan to bring this goal of yours to light or are you rather hoping it will happen kind of on its own? That’s probably not going to work and you and I both know it; if it was, it would have worked by now. No, to bring about real change, you’re going to need some new routines, new everyday practices that you can commit to and achieve and all of them part of a strategic plan.

Get out a sheet of paper and write a few things down. First and foremost, write down your long-term goal be it getting a new job, a better job or a secondary job. Next write down why you want this. Don’t be flippant about the reason why. Take a little while and really think about why you want this job-related goal. Is it money, prestige, a new challenge, to stay active, re-connect with the world, save up for something you want to purchase? Consider this; when you find that finding work is stressful and fraught with disappointment and rejection, you’re going to ask yourself, “Why am I putting myself through this?” Notice the question started with the word, “Why”.

Now instead of quickly running to some job board and seeing what’s there, take an inventory of your strengths. What are you good at? Write down your experience, education, courses you’ve taken, preferences and values. Are you up for part-time, full-time, contract, seasonal, commission, shift work, nights, weekends etc.? What’s your preference? What kind of environment do you thrive in best? Outdoors, indoors, steady or fast-paced? Do you work best alone or in groups? Are you a thinker or a doer? A designer or a worker? Do you work best with people, things, managing information or ideas? Are you creative and an innovator or do you perform best when the job is the same each day?

Now you need to devote some time in your new routine to actually job search. Many people believe that job searching is a full-time job itself. If you have the time at present due to a lack of employment then it should be. If however you already work full-time and are seeking a change, it’s unreasonable to expect yourself to find another 35 hours a week to look for another job. On the other hand, you won’t meet with success if you only dabble an hour here or there.

A plan is what you need. Something that will work for you personally. Look at your schedule and determine where you’re going to schedule the time to job search. Unless you live alone, you’ll generally be more successful too if you set aside a location as your personal space to job search from too.

Good ideas? Read up on job search strategies or book some time with a Job Coach – even a single meeting or two to get you going and possibly arrange for a check in later on. Libraries and book stores have great resources.

2017; your year for success!

A New Hope (And No It’s Not Star Wars)

Hope; it’s what looking forward to flipping over the calendar at the end of December every year is all about really isn’t it? I mean, it’s a new slate, a fresh start, new beginnings with raised expectations that you won’t screw this one up; that things will be better than they were the previous year.

Throughout the year we all have those moments when things start fresh. We may start reading a new book, start work on a new painting, a renovation, maybe a new job; why I can recall in public school just being excited when I wrote for the first time in a new workbook and vowed that my printing and writing would be neater and with fewer mistakes to rub out with an eraser.

However a new year is when everybody we know gets a do-over all at the same time. I think to be honest this what we really celebrate; the chance we all have to put things right and get our act together and we’re supported by all of those we come into contact with because just like us, that’s what others are trying to do too.

Now for things to be better, we have to acknowledge first what didn’t, or isn’t going so well at the present time. For many of us that’s ridiculously easy to do of course because so many of us are continually facing problems and challenges. If you’re going to look at 2017 as the year you get hired by a good company doing a job you enjoy and making a decent wage doing it, no doubt you are pretty much well aware of the fact you are currently unemployed or unhappy in your current job. This is an easy one; not to fix of course but to understand.

On the other hand, there are some things in our lives that we want to set straight, deal with or put behind us; and if it was as easy as flipping the calendar to January 2017 we’d all be doing it. I’m talking about the things we want the new year to bring us that require us to first acknowledge and articulate what we currently have but want to change which we don’t want to think about or talk about. If we keep saying to ourselves and others, “I don’t want to think or talk about ______”, it’s not likely that a new year will bring the results we want – certainly not in any lasting measure.

So let’s say it’s a goal to be a better person. As good as that is, it’s rather vague isn’t it? I mean, better in what way(s)? Before we can decide how to be better it would be appropriate and necessary to examine closely and honestly the kind of person we are right now and have been throughout the year; knowing how we are at present and how we’d like to be can lead us to identify the distance between the two. How we go about enacting the change we want to bring about the desired end results is the next step but too many people make it the first step.

I suppose it’s also essential to ask yourself, “What’s my motivation for wanting a change in 2017?” Are you looking for more money, security, travel, a lasting relationship, perhaps ending a relationship? Goals for the new year can include endings as well as beginnings and not just in personal relationships. You could decide to finish 2017 no longer employed in your present job; break your addiction to social media and your cell phone, or your relationship with a creditor by getting out of debt.

A new year is like everybody received a brand spanking shiny new lottery card. There’s hope with every one issued and produced; a few will be major winners, some reveal happiness and give us reason to smile and for others there will be disappointment and a dream unfulfilled. However, unlike a lottery card, the result isn’t predetermined. When you scratch the lottery card, there are a fixed number of winners and losers. In life, I think we could all find 2017 brings us improvement, fulfillment and happiness – it’s within our control whether we have a good one or not.

I’ve a suggestion to put before you and that is in addition to the big one; the really significant thing you are hoping 2017 brings your way. Set yourself up for success with some relatively small or minor hopes too. If you hope to lose 50 pounds; a fairly big hope for many, maybe start with an obtainable yet small goal like replacing your white bread with some 100% whole grain bread, or forgoing the bread entirely for the first two weeks when you’re out shopping. Not a big deal; chances of success are pretty good and you can certainly mark whether you hit the goal or not.

If it’s a better you, maybe something tangible like, “being better means being friendlier and friendliness starts with a smile” becomes your motto and you set out to smile consciously at everyone you meet for the first few seconds. Unnatural as it might be now, you’re hoping to build new patterns of behaviour that you can carry on with over the long-term.

So what’s important enough to you that you’d like to work on to bring yourself the gift of hope realized in 2017? Share it if you will here with us.

January 20: Recommitting To That Resolution

Well 2016 is well under way and by now all the New Year’s party hats and noisemakers have been thrown out or neatly tucked away somewhere to be pulled out in 11 ½ months’ time. And with those celebratory items gone, the question I’ve got is, “So how are you making out with that resolution you made for the New Year?”

Okay for you who are still reading (because some who have broken their resolutions already after 20 days don’t like to be reminded and have clicked close on this piece), let’s revisit both your goal and what’s caused you to go astray.

Now your goal is a personal one, and while I don’t know what it was (or still is), there is one thing I’m fairly certain of, and that is that it was (and likely still is) important enough that you want to realize something you don’t currently have. Now this could be a healthier lifestyle, a loss of weight, a new job or personal relationship, learning how to use technology better, being a more generous or forgiving person, or any number of other possibilities.

By their nature, resolutions are generally statements of what we intend to do with a clean slate. When they were made on the very edge of 2015, 2016 was shiny and new, unsoiled; a pristine 365 days of new sunrises and endless possibilities. The prospect of kissing 2015 goodbye and with it all your problems, bad habits, gluttonous or sedentary lifestyle or stressors is something we can all embrace; our once-a-year shared opportunity to re-invent ourselves for the better.

So why if we want to bring about such change do we generally fail so quickly and then feel so bad about it? Is our willpower and commitment so tenuous that after only a scant 20 days into the year we’ve given up? Do we put so much pressure on ourselves that as soon as we slide back even once, we chuck the whole resolution thing into the waste bin?  Sometimes when we fail or feel ourselves failing, it’s a good idea to remind ourselves why we wanted to make that resolution in the first place. And make no mistake; even if you didn’t make a formal declaration or resolution as the clock wound down in 2015, it’s likely you thought about changing something or gaining something in 2016 even if you kept those thoughts private.

Remind yourself first of all that habits – good or bad – are called habits for a reason. Habits are the things we usually do in certain situations. Habits by nature are hard things to change, and just because we revert to our old habits from time to time, if we want to change them it make take time and a renewed commitment. Small things are habitually easy to change than big ones too. So if the habit you want to change is getting away from eating potato chips every night while watching television, you may more likely to succeed if you resolve to eat celery sticks and cherry tomatoes twice a week instead of trying to commit to a complete ban on chips altogether if that’s been your habit. The first night you find yourself depressed for a lack of willpower as you put the chips in your mouth shouldn’t lead to chucking the whole, ‘eat healthier’ plan in other words. Only then have you truly lost.

One danger you can have is a very broad goal with no defined plan to bring about the result you want. So a resolution that went, “I want a job in 2016” might not pan out because your psyche can always justify inaction by whispering, “you’ve got 345 more days to make it happen. Why rush things?” You can almost hear the hiss of temptation to revert to doing nothing to bring about change in the words.

Yes, you’re far more likely to get a job if you do a few things to build momentum by breaking down that broad goal of finding employment into smaller pieces. Maybe it goes, “By the end of January I’m going to determine exactly what job I’m after by doing some research. Based on this, by mid-February I plan on having a resume completed that is targeted to a specific opening for a job I want and by the end of February I plan on having attended two community workshops on interview skills. Knowing that March is the prime hiring period for the entire year, that’s when I kick the job search into full gear and apply, apply, apply!

I could launch into SMART goals here (Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound) but I’ll just mention them without the details. Lots of articles exist on the subject so look them up if you want more details.

If you’ve stumbled already or given up even, give yourself a break; you’re human and you’re allowed to. However, if you really would like to be successful; if that resolution you made isn’t flippant but had and still carries importance to you, there’s still time to make it happen. You may have several false starts, and with each one you inch closer to bringing about the necessary change to realize your goal. Pick yourself up, dust your ego off, smile, and get going. No better day to get going than today; unless of course you don’t get going today. Then tomorrow will do nicely.


This Is The Final Day

As today is December 31st, 2014 I thought I’d remind you that today is the final day. “The final day?”, I can imagine you are asking yourself; what is he talking about? Well I’m just reminding you that as it’s the final day of the year, tomorrow is the day you promised yourself you’d get on with it. You know, that change you’ve put putting off because you might as well make a fresh start of something and 2015 seemed like a logical time to begin.

That’s the thing you see about putting things off to some point in the future; the future eventually becomes your present. Often it’s the things we really should have been doing once we realized we weren’t that we put off, and we somehow rationalize the decision to put things off if there’s some external event that somehow justifies putting things off for the time being.

Take looking seriously for a job. Are you one of the people who put off looking for work in late November and all of December and somehow justified that decision by saying, “Nobody hires in December so I’ll get going when 2015 begins.” Yep, that’d be tomorrow. So are you ready to launch into that job search on a full-time basis tomorrow morning? Or are you going to now say, “Well, nobody is even working on New Year’s Day so I’ll start looking on January 2nd.” Uh huh.

So who am I? Your consciousness? Have I become the little voice that is now trying to hold you accountable to the words or perhaps just the thoughts you had awhile ago? Maybe and maybe not. And if not a full-time job search, was it a promise to lose a few pounds, get more active, be a better person, read a bit more, do a bit more around the house? What was it you promised yourself or put off until the new year because it seemed so convenient at the time as a way of putting off what you should have actually been doing back then?

Making a change from a pattern you have established over a period of time usually doesn’t come easily. We can walk into a dark room and with a flick of a switch the room instantly becomes light and stays bright until somebody flicks that switch again. Making a change in our routines and practices however requires more stamina and more effort to achieve the results we desire. And at the slightest setback, those with limited commitment to change may use their minor setback as justification to pack the whole ‘change’ thing in and revert to their previous ways.

So I suppose it now comes down to, “How bad do you want it?” How much do you want a job and the income that comes with it that would give you financial independence and raise your sense of self-worth and self-image? Are you still content to accept your unemployment? It sure takes a lot more effort to motivate yourself and get going on looking seriously for work. It is so much easier and requires so much less effort to just blame the economy, slam employers, blame immigrants who are stealing all the jobs, point to your age as the problem and the prejudicial attitudes of Human Resources personnel who won’t hire someone as well qualified as you despite your growing gap in work history.

And we do tend to point the finger at external factors and blame others for our situation don’t we? “It’s because of him or her that I ended up this way.” “If only the government would do something to get me a job”, or “It’s not just me, everybody is looking for work!” Really? Seriously? At what point, (if any) do you take the bulk of the responsibility for your own situation and with this new-found personal accountability say, “I am responsible for myself and my future will be what I make of it.”?

Here’s some things to realize: If your resume isn’t generating many interviews, it isn’t good enough in its current state no matter who put it together. If you aren’t making a unique resume for each job you apply to – even in the same line of work – you need to. If you aren’t writing a cover letter for the jobs you are applying to, start. If you aren’t researching employers before you apply for jobs, you need to. If you think no one is hiring, you’re wrong because they are. If you can’t figure out what your unemployment barriers are, get a professional to help you determine this and yes take what they say personally – very personally.

As for computer literacy, if you can’t make, revise, save and send your own resume to an employer without help, take a basic computer class and learn. Whatever you find hard as part of a job search is probably exactly what you should be doing and stop putting off. Hate talking on the phone to people? Pick up the phone and make some cold calls and try to set up some meetings. Ask for interviews.

Have a good time tonight because it’s New Year’s Eve. Tomorrow is January 1st, 2015. If you want change to occur in 2015 it MUST START WITH YOU. Light a fire inside and get serious about rebuilding your future. Not for the last time, I ask you, …………………………………

“How bad do you want it?”

Stockings And Taking Stock

Well it’s December 24, 2013. Tomorrow is Christmas Day and for those who celebrate, it’s filled with hopes, expectations, anticipation and if we’re to believe all those Hallmark cards, we’ll be surrounded by friends and loved ones.

Tonight many people will hang their stockings by the fireplace, or perhaps just lay them on the couch or chair, and go to bed trusting dear old Santa, Father Christmas or St. Nicholas to fill them to the brim with treats and goodies. And as those stockings hang there overnight, many will go to bed with dreams of sugar plums dancing in their heads; or what time the turkey needs to go in the oven and whether there’s going to be enough carrots and mashed potatoes for everyone depending on one’s age!

And while these thoughts are swirling around, others will come and go, in and out of consciousness throughout the night, the next day and maybe up until the new year is upon us. Those other thoughts may include some kind of assessment of how the year has gone, what has been accomplished and what is left undone for yet another year. It’s like John Lennon sang in his classic song, Imagine when he said, “And so this is Christmas, and what have you done? Another year over, and a new one just begun”.

Funny how many of us can’t recall what we had for lunch six days ago, the name of someone we may have been introduced to at a party just a day or two ago, but somehow as the year draws to an end, many will recall resolutions they made almost a year ago. Was it to lose weight, be nicer, spend more time with family, get a job or promotion? Maybe you were going to be more charitable. So how have you done?

While taking stock is a great exercise when you have accomplished your goals, it can be depressing to look back and realize nothing has changed. You haven’t lost weight, you’re still single, maybe unemployed, still not talking to your mother, never did take that trip you promised, still haven’t started exercising… Now if you did accomplish your goals, I applaud you! Good for you! And if you didn’t, maybe more commitment and resolve is what is needed but don’t beat yourself up over things now.

It’s a good idea to look back if looking back will help you isolate and determine what errors you’ve made or situations you’ve found yourself in that kept you from reaching your goals. But once this is done, come back to the present instead of living in the past. The past is, well…past isn’t it? Nothing will change what’s been done, but you do have the power to change things in the here and now and the future and you can’t do that if you’re stuck in the past.

One of the greatest gifts we have as humans with brains and intelligence is that every single day we have 24 hours to do whatever we choose to do. And it is a life of choices. So instead of lamenting choices we’ve made, think about the 365 days of choices ahead of us that we have to set things right, start something anew, repair a relationship, extend a hand in aid, find a satisfying career.

But some of us detest choices. It seems preferable if someone else would make our decisions for us; find us a job, approach us to start dating, buy us a gym membership, etc. Usually the people who wish others would make decisions for them are the people who can look back easily and find lots of poor decisions they’ve made. And so the prospect of another year with many choices yet to be made doesn’t offer any comfort.

It doesn’t have to be that way. We all make decisions every day. Some of those are small decisions that don’t really matter too much in the end; such as choosing between two breakfast cereals. However, the big decisions (and they differ from person to person), these are the ones that cause us anxiety fearing the trouble that could come from choosing wrong. And doesn’t it seem that sometimes the fear of choosing is the greatest anxiety?

One good exercise to help out is this. Take stock of things now and decide in what area you want to see a difference a year from now. Write down on paper your two or three big things, two or three medium changes, and perhaps even five or six small things. Okay, now under each item, write down what has to occur to make the goal a reality. If you need to do some research – as in deciding on a career, then list where to go to do that research, who to talk to, and how to get the information you need. Then write down a deadline to do these things by so you allow enough time to check these things off which by doing moves you closer to your goal. Post this in a space you’ll see daily, like your fridge, and read them out loud once a day. Reinforce your goals, and the steps, and feel good about checking off your list.

Smaller goals will build momentum, and you need momentum and positive inner feelings to tackle bigger goals that take more time and effort. “And what have you done?” will be one line in the song, ‘Imagine’ that will hold special meaning to you next year when you hear it on the radio.

Setting Yourself Up To Fail

So you were standing there counting down the seconds on the arrival of the new year and quickly blurted out, “Okay I resolve to be one hundred percent committed to finding a job in 2013!”. And your dad muttered, “it’s about time that boy did something”. Aunt Jane experienced whiplash from jerking her head too swiftly in your direction with a gasp. Even your brother Dan spun around in amazement and as a result his girlfriend Denise planted a huge kiss on his sideburns instead of his lips where they were originally intended. Everyone is so shocked at your announcement that it’s 12:02a.m. before they snap back into consciousness and toast to the new year. Ah but now it’s out there isn’t it? You’ve said it and they heard it. Cousin Bart thinks he might even have recorded it on his Smartphone. It would be a person named Bart who would do such a thing, and soon it will be etched not in stone for all time, but on Facebook for the entire extended family and network of friends to witness.So having set this lofty goal for yourself, (and I do applaud the positive thought) I’m here to tell you on the very early hours of day one that you’re going to fail miserably on this resolution.

Now you might be saying, “What? What kind of Employment Counsellor are you anyway? I thought you were supposed to be all supportive and positive?” Oh I am of course supportive of your intention and want to encourage you to in fact really commit to your job search. But one hundred percent? No way. The best athletes in baseball generally bat with averages around .400. That’s four safe hits for every ten appearances at the plate. The rest of the time, those great batters strike out, foul out, fly out, ground out, line out, or make it to first base just because the other team decided to get another runner out first. These are guys who make millions of dollars in their job for performing at a .400 level. Hit safely only three times out of ten and you’re still considered to be quite the star. Can you imagine only doing your current job or next job successfully 30% or 40% of the time? You’d be sacked for sure.

The danger in making such grandiose declarations is that when inevitably you are found out by others that you’ve fallen short the motivation and effort are in real danger of being totally shut down. Now even if you are the only one of the planet who really knows how much of an effort you’re putting in to this job search, you can still be tempted by your inner-conscience to just pack it in, give up, and brand yourself a failure…again.

Don’t go there. Lot’s of people will let their new resolutions fail. That’s no reason not to want to do better, to be more committed to your job search, or possibly to angle for that promotion you want so badly. Sorry to say but you are human. You and every other person on the planet are going to fall short of your collective expectations. How could you possibly be one hundred percent committed to your job search? You couldn’t in short and neither could any other person.

So knowing this, don’t beat yourself up when you get lazy one day, or just don’t have the stamina for it, or just make a decision to do something else with your time. I’d suggest what you do decide, if resolutions are your thing, is to make a more committed effort to your job search. Make a SMART goal of your job search. In other words, make it Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. Something like your goal is to apply to ten jobs a week in the field of Administration, the field you were trained in. You’ll be able to measure your success by counting up your applications weekly. That’s two applications a day which is achievable, Administration is what you went to school for so it’s relevant, a week is a measure of time, and it’s a very specific goal.

Broad, general resolutions like, “I want to lose weight”, usually don’t pan out. How much weight? By what date do you want to lose that weight etc.?

The slate is clean, the page turned, the new book opened, whatever picture you want to draw for yourself that you can relate to. You’ve got a chance to do something here that’s positive and maybe even get people on your side if you demonstrate some initial enthusiasm for keeping your resolution.

Good luck in 2013; you’re in control!