You’ve Been Fired. Now What?

So you’ve been fired. Two questions if I may. Did you see it coming or was a complete shock? Secondly, does it come as a relief now that you’re no longer employed or would you go back there if you could? These two questions are important because both get at where your mind is my friend, and your thinking is probably not at it’s clearest right now.

Sometimes you see it coming as a distinct possibility or probability. It still stings when it happens of course, but it was looming. Maybe it was a poor performance review or a warning. Could be you hadn’t got past probation or weren’t hitting sales targets. In any event, the writing was on the wall and you even started taking personal possessions home with you in anticipation of this very thing. If this is your situation, you could even feel a sense of relief because the strain of going to work and wondering if this would be the day they let you go has been mentally exhausting.

On the other hand, when things are going well, you’re well-liked and you feel blindsided by your firing, it can stop you cold. In fact, you’ll feel pretty numb with the news, in severe shock and disbelief. When caught off guard, you’re at risk of soon doubting anything and everything around you because you don’t want to be similarly surprised again. This isn’t a healthy attitude but it’s an understandable reaction to the news.

We’re built different you know; some of us would just get back out there the next day, while for others, a lengthy period needs to elapse before starting to look for work again. The length of this period will depend on 4 things: 1) whether you see this parting as an opportunity, 2) if it was anticipated as a possibility, probability or complete blindside 3) the length of employment, 4) your personal resources and supports.

When the news first hits you’ll undoubtedly have felt shock. A few seconds earlier, you were an employee and now you’re not. There’s that, “What to do?” feeling as the news is received. Sometimes you get the news outside of work; a phone call, email, text etc. This might sound unbelievable to some of you, but yes, a text. More often, it’s in person. There’s the dreaded walk out and you’re not only dealing with this terrible news, you live this walk of shame by your now former colleagues without the chance to slip out quietly.

Maybe though, this job was actually getting in the way of you moving forward. It was holding you back because it was comfortable. This parting is somewhat liberating and needed but resigning is something you likely wouldn’t have done on your own. In such a case, your mind can turn to what’s ahead more readily than others perhaps. Now you can get back to the field you were trained in or turn to something you’ve always wanted to do but couldn’t because you had this job you had to go to every day. And if you really disliked the work you did, it was a long commute, the co-workers weren’t anything you’ll miss etc., yes, it can be liberating.

Generally speaking, most people need a mental break. While being unemployed isn’t what you’d choose, rushing out to get a job the same day somewhere else may not be the best action. It’s important to balance your need for income and purpose with your need to clear your mind. Any feelings of bitterness, anger, revenge, failure, sorrow and regret need to come out and be addressed. You my friend, need a period of grieving for your loss. Depending on your financial health and resources, you might need to immediately tighten your belt and think twice about all your purchases. Then again, some people have been known to take a vacation and realign their frame of mind.

So many factors now to consider. Where are you on the age spectrum? Is not working at all as you’re so close to retirement attractive? How’s your health? Is this something you can now concentrate on improving? Are you the only income earner or do you have a secondary source of income that can soften this blow?

Yes you’ll want to update the resume but before you do this, it’s rather important to know whether you’re competing in the same field for a similar role elsewhere or are you heading in a new direction and therefore need to overhaul the focus of your resume?

Something to consider is who to tell. Many don’t want friends, former colleagues and family to know. Keeping silent until you land a job might either protect your dignity or result in missed opportunities. The sooner people know you’re looking and what you’re looking for, the greater the likelihood that your network might come up with opportunities to explore.

Some general advice then? Eat healthy, get some regular exercise – even a morning and afternoon walk to clear your mind. Avoid turning to drugs and alcohol as an escape. Do little things that will make you feel good; even doing the dishes can ease your mind when you look at the kitchen.  Make sure you apply immediately for any employment benefits you may be entitled to as they start when you apply, NOT when you stopped working.

Lose bitterness; it’s not attractive. This too shall pass.

Think You May Lose Your Job?

There are several reasons you might find yourself thinking more often about losing your job. Has your company been downsizing and your seniority eroding so quickly your long-held belief that it couldn’t happen to you is eroding right along with it?

Maybe it’s restructuring, poor performance on your part, a change in Supervisor and it’s pretty clear they want to clear house and hire their own people or for some reason, the boss you knew and liked has changed and their new behaviours and actions have given you reason for concern. There are many reasons you see, for being worried about your employment. So what’s a person supposed to do?

For starters, and this is nothing really new, find your resume and start updating it with all the training, additional education and employment you’ve had since you last looked at it. Open up that drawer of certificates you’ve earned at work, or that computer file with the courses you’ve taken. Now is the time to get those things on your resume; and take these certificates home!

Why now? Okay let’s get to the worst case scenario. Suppose some people come to your work area today about 15 minutes before your lunch and tell you that you’re being let go. Suppose too they tell you they are here to walk you out, that your things will be boxed up and ready for you to pick up in a couple of days. You’re to take nothing but your coat, your lunch and they’ve brought backup just in case by the looks of it.

Not very nice I admit, but my point is to make it clear that you may not have the time to get things before the axe falls. Oh and by the way, employer’s walk you out not because they feed off the power of humiliating you, but rather they want to protect their assets, and emotional employees (and you will be) sometimes don’t act fully rationally, nor do employers and employees always agree on who owns what. While your personal photos and knick-knacks are clearly yours, other things that aren’t so clear might be materials you created on behalf of the employer, USB sticks, cell phones, personal computers, keys, access cards, etc. Yes, the escorted walk out off the property might be embarrassing but it could have you later wishing you’d taken the time to gather your things personally.

So it comes down to two things; is your looming departure beyond or within your control? If you feel your performance is the cause for your worry, then you must ask yourself if you’re interested and motivated enough to change your ways and up your performance. If you don’t care whether they fire you or not and you plan on behaving exactly the way you have been, that’s your call.

Now, another thing to consider is whether you’re up for a personal, closed door chat with the boss. Knowing where you stand is important for many people; even when the news is bad, a lot of people actually feel better knowing the situation they are truly in rather than stressing over the situation they think they might be in. You might not be called on to use your imagination much at work, but it will be working overtime creating all kinds of possible scenario’s in your mind until you know the truth of where things are.

Why does imminent loss of employment worry people so? Well it’s more than just the loss of a job. It’s the loss of a reputation, the loss of an identity as an employee and whatever your job title is at the moment. It’s financial worry too, and depending on your age and job prospects, it could have you fearing your days of having an ongoing income are done if you lose this job. When you fear this, you fear the future and however you imagined it is now in jeopardy.  There’s also the stigmatism of telling family and friends or doing what some do; leaving for work as usual but having no job to go to while they job search so they can avoid upsetting others in the hopes they’ll get another job immediately.

When you really feel the axe could fall any day now, best to start taking home whatever personal possessions you’ve got in the workplace. The last thing you want is to suddenly recall 4 weeks after being let go, some item you believe you left at work and having to contact the employer in the hopes of getting it. If they tell you it’s not there, you may be convinced they threw it out or possibly even kept it and this will just result in more anxiety, more bitterness and this isn’t healthy.

Start getting your references together too. You know, the phone numbers, job titles and emails of the people you trust at work will speak well of you if/when you’re gone. It’s so much easier now rather than later.

Whatever you do, don’t start stealing company property. This is one way to get fired for sure. Do check into your financial situation. Cut back on your spending now to buffer the possibility of a loss of income. If you have benefits, think about a dental or optical visit now too.

Start looking for other employment; put out feelers and network. Wouldn’t you rather leave on your own terms?



It’s Time For A New Job When…

These days the likelihood that you’re going to get a job at 19 and retire in that same job at 67 are almost nil. So it stands to reason that in your lifetime you’ll be transitioning from one job to another, or from one career to another. When’s the best time to go? How do you know when it’s time to go? Here’s a list of some indicators that your expiry date is almost up.

The first thing you do at work when you fire up the computer is to search internal job postings. If you’ve got into the routine of looking at what else you could be doing, it’s fair to assume you like the organization you’re in but have an interest in seeing what other opportunities there are. Sure you could just be checking out what’s opening up out of casual interest, but EVERY DAY? Don’t kid yourself; recognize the lustre has worn off what you’re currently doing.

Your boss suggests moves rather than promotions. Oh oh… If you had the skills your organization needs for those at the next level you’d be sitting down with the boss and they’d be encouraging you to put your name forward for upcoming openings at their level. However, if the boss is suggesting you look elsewhere so you can grow in other ways, that could be a sign you’ve reached a plateau. Are you a bad worker? No, not necessarily. In fact, they might just have your own best interests at heart when they suggest you look elsewhere for opportunities. Maybe they see potential in you in fact but know there aren’t going to be those kind of openings where you work now for years. The boss isn’t always bad y’know.

You wake up, realize it’s a, ‘go to work day’ and start thinking of reasons you could call in and skip out on showing up. Oh sure I suppose everybody does this once in a blue moon; especially on a sunny warm day when you’d rather be out in the sunshine. But if you’re finding these kind of thoughts are among the first to enter your consciousness on a regular basis,  you’d be smart to pay heed and address why you’re automatically looking to get out of going in to work instead of looking forward to the day.

You look around at work and see conspirators, not co-workers. While it’s true your co-workers need not be your friends, you do spend a lot of time with the folks you work with and so it’s reasonable to expect you’d at least communicate and support one another in your common organizational targets and goals. That being said, if you feel your co-workers are plotting against you, setting you up as the fall guy for projects that fail and you’re left holding the bag for things you feel you aren’t solely responsible for, ask yourself why no one has your back. Is it worth it to stay in what is being a toxic environment?

You’re counting down the days to retirement. First off let me acknowledge that if you’ve got less than a year to go, I can see the reasoning and the behaviour, so I’m not talking about you. However, I once worked with a person who had 7 years to go and kept checking off the days on their calendar on a daily basis. There focus was pinned on getting out as if they were serving a life sentence and had weekend visitations with their family. Is that any way to live? It certainly isn’t living in the present but rather pinning all ones thoughts and hopes on what will be in 7 years. Think of what you’re missing.

Anxiety, Stress and Uncertainty are your new best friends. If you find yourself anxious on a regular basis, you’re not sure why and can’t put your finger on it but you seem to have lost your focus that could be more than concerning it could be downright lethal. Exaggeration? Not if you work around heavy equipment, power tools or at heights etc. When you’re not thinking straight you put yourself and those around you in danger.

Anonymous hands put job postings on your desk; external job postings. When someone or worse yet, some people put external job postings on your desk it might signal you’re no longer tight with the in-crowd. While it might not matter to you at all, being excluded from simple things like joining others for a walk at break time or drinks at the pub after work could work against you and grow feelings of social isolation. If this is something you value, being excluded and essentially having it suggested to you that you should resign and move on could really sting.

The thrill is gone. What a great line from that oldies classic. But there is a reason that line endures over time; everybody who has ever lost the fire and passion gets it. If your job has become a chore and nothing more; if you find yourself watching the minutes drag by until quitting time….

Stay or go of course, it’s your choice. If you opt to stay at least make some kind of an adjustment in your thinking, looking at what you could do to make it better. If you opt to go, you could be giving yourself a tremendous gift. And who deserves it more than you?

Let Go The Bitterness And Resentment

Are you or is someone you know carrying around resentment and bitterness; directed perhaps at a former employer or someone who you feel betrayed you? If  you are, I imagine they’ve changed you in ways you are both aware of and yes in some ways you are oblivious to.

The significant thing about carrying around these negative feelings towards others is that it’s unhealthy for you; you the person who feels wronged. Ironically, doesn’t it always seem that the person who our bitterness and anger is directed towards seems entirely to have moved on themselves, which as a result only fuels more resentment on our part? Yeah, that can sting and cause the bitterness to linger and fester.

I was talking recently to someone who was fired from their job about 7 months ago now. When we began talking, I was unaware of the fact she’d been fired and therefore eventually asked her what happened in her last job. Just as the words left my lips, I noticed a physical change in her appearance and my ears picked up a change in both the words she was using and the volume in her voice. The fact that she was fired in her last job is to this day still so fresh and the experience so personal that it was clear in seconds she hasn’t found a way to deal with the experience and resolve it in her own mind. The rawness of what happened 7 months ago obviously lies just below the surface of her otherwise calm and professional exterior and just asking triggered the emotional response I experienced first hand sitting across from her.

Like I said earlier, are you yourself or is someone you know similarly affected? If so, it’s essential to eventually come to accept what’s happened, deal with it and move on. Sounds easy to do right? Well, if it’s never happened to you personally it might be hard to understand why someone can’t just pick themselves up, put it down to a bad experience and forget about it. The thing is however, it’s like you’ve been wronged and as a victim you want some measure of retribution, maybe a little karma to come to the person who fired you. There’s the devilish but perhaps immature side of us that might not be all that upset if the person’s car got a mysterious scratch all down one side of it, or if the person themselves was fired. Yes, that would be lovely but don’t go scratching any cars, setting fire to businesses or anything else that will make things worse for you than they already are.

When you first get fired you probably feel some measure of shock. “What just happened?” There’s a kind of paralysis where you just got some news that confuses your sense of order and you stop to process what you just heard. Feeling anger is normal; after all you’re probably fearful of how to cover financial commitments, you’re worried about how to get the next job; wondering how long it will take to work again, and you’ve never been fired before so it’s normal to feel out of your league, confused and disoriented. This is often why it’s best not to say much because you might say things you later regret and wouldn’t otherwise say.

No doubt you might also feel some measure of embarrassment and shame. You may have always thought to yourself that when other people got fired they were either somewhat or totally responsible; they stole, lied, showed up late too often, missed too many days of work, mouthed off etc. and you yourself did none of it. What will your family and friends think of you? What will potential employers think of you? How will you convince them this firing was beyond your control or if you did do something you now regret, how can you convince the employer you learned from the experience and it won’t be repeated?

It’s not uncommon to eventually feel some measure of despair if you’re not hired as quickly as you first thought. Eventually though, you want to arrive at a point where you can acknowledge the termination happened without overtly showing or revealing bitterness and anger. After all, while you are entirely allowed to feel hurt by the process, you don’t want this potential employer you are sitting in front of to experience your negativity first hand. This could be an unpleasant side of you they don’t ever want to have in their workplace and they’ll wonder if this isn’t you on a regular basis; which of course it typically isn’t right?

If the job you were fired from was a short-term position, you may wish to leave it off your resume entirely. It isn’t mandatory to have it on your resume so the question of why did you leave doesn’t even come up. It will create a gap which you will need to address if asked, but with some coaching you can come up with a much more positive response.

Let go of the bitterness and anger because it just isn’t healthy or worth it to carry it around. You may find that others (especially those closest to you) will notice and appreciate your change in attitude, behaviour and you’ll be nice to be around.

In other words, you’ve grown and risen above the experience. Well done. You’ll get there.



“There’s A Dead Guy In The Cubicle Next To Me!”

“Well okay, he looks dead anyhow; I haven’t seen him move for days.”

You and I had best hope that dead body look-alike someone is frantic about isn’t you. If so, your days might be numbered. Sooner or later, if you’re hiding out behind that baffle board doing precious little, someone is going to figure they can do without you on the payroll.

Now okay you might not be mistaken for a corpse, but if you think you’re fooling those around you when you’re not being productive, it’s only a matter of time until you’re found out and your productivity is called into question. The cobwebs in your cubicle are also a dead giveaway that not much is going on.

Some employees are pretty good at smoke and mirrors aren’t they? I mean they tend to move with purpose when they are observed walking around the office; even if upon further inspection it’s only to the bathroom or the company kitchen to grab yet another coffee. Once back in the relative sanctity of their cubicle however, they drop the façade and move at a glacial snails pace as they go about their day. Such employees do just enough to get by, contribute very little and try to stay beneath the radar of Management scrutiny until they are released into the world after work.

Now let’s stop and think about this behaviour for a moment. When you were setting out in your early years of adulthood; when you had ambition and dreams, wanted to make your mark in the world, surely you didn’t methodically plan to spend your days idly daydreaming and doing the bare minimum. Hopefully you set out to do something you personally found meaningful and rewarding. So the question is, “Where did that person go?”

Something over time has occurred that has you mechanically going through the motions of going to and from work each day and you’ve lost your motivation. You may be more than aware of this change but for some reason you can’t seem to ignite that passion anymore for the work you do and the people you do it for. As much as you’d like to kick start the fire, you’re oblivious as to how to go about it.

Heed the signs sons and daughters. Continuing down the path you’re on isn’t going to be healthy or end on a positive. Either  you find something to stimulate yourself at work in a positive way that ups your productivity and usefulness on the job or someone will do you and the company a favour and start the proceedings to end your employment. Put plain as day, you either start working and producing at your former level or better, or you’re going to get fired.

I know some people who dogged it; coming and going without any passion. They once showed enthusiasm for the job and now they only show enthusiasm for the last 20 minutes of the day and are sitting with their coat on with 5 minutes left each day, ready to squeal away in the parking lot putting as much distance behind them as fast as they can each night. On their own they’d never have quit or worked productively again and eventually they did get fired. Oddly enough, getting fired was the best thing for some of them and they’d readily tell you that – even though at the time they didn’t believe it.

There are among us those who are proactive and those who are reactive. The proactive people think ahead, update their resumes even when they aren’t looking for work and they’ve got plans for advancement or change. The reactive types only update resumes when they are out of work, and only think about career planning when they are forced to by the changes and pressures they experience in their lives.

“Why”, they would say, “should I bother to update my resume when I’ve got a job and I’m not looking for another one?” They figure they can always update that resume when they decide to go for another job inside or outside the organization, but because they have no date in mind, they figure they’ve got all the time they need. When it comes to taking courses, updating expired certificates or skills, once again they smirk and say, “Why bother?”

Another thing to consider is that if you aspire in any way to advance in the organization you work with now, you should be visible and for the right reasons long before you dust off your resume and apply for a new job. You don’t want to be invisible and have your boss say, “Do you still work here?” when you finally get motivated and want to be interviewed for a promotion.

One last thing and it has to do with your co-workers. Co-workers often pick up cues from their peers quickly. If you’re not picking up your share of the load and you should be, you’ll only have yourself to blame if you feel isolated from the rest. Worse case scenario is that they resent your presence because their workloads increase; and ultimately word will get passed to Management. Don’t blame them if they’re doing their job and picking up your slack too. That’s not fair and certainly it’s going to become more difficult for you to regain their trust and respect.


The Stigma Of Being Fired

You’ve been fired. Why is it that the word, “fired” hits like nothing else. It’s like being on the receiving end of a baseball right between the eyes. It can knock you back or knock you out. The word itself is only 5 letters long but if you’re the one who has been fired, it cuts us to the core; the more we valued or loved our job from which we got fired, the more intense the pain.

Getting fired is so much worse than getting laid off or quitting isn’t it? I mean if we quit, we were in full control of the situation and it was us that made the decision to walk away. We had time to think about whether we’d quit or not, we chose the timing and we had alternatives ready to put into place so the leaving wasn’t so bad; things were on our terms.

Being laid off isn’t as positive as quitting, because we are out of work when we’d rather be working and joining the ranks of job searchers wasn’t in our plans. However, a layoff is beyond our control, the employer made a decision to downsize; there was a shortage of work, the company relocated etc. In any event, we wanted to work and by all accounts were doing a good job but the situation was in the hands of those in higher authority than us, and they decided to reduce the workforce. Whether we were the only one let go or there were others let go, our performance isn’t necessarily an issue, it could be the economy, a change in the owner’s finances or lifestyle, a political move or the company just shut down.

Getting fired however; that’s a whole different thing. There’s the stigma that comes attached to it which we feel compelled to explain to anyone – and everyone – that we tell we were fired. We want to scream, “It wasn’t my fault! Listen! Just listen to me and hear me out and you’ll see I’m not such a bad employee (translation I’m not a bad person). It’s exhausting isn’t it? We tell our spouse, our kids, then our parents, then the closest of friends and we hope everyone will understand and not think the worse of us. We can only tell our side of the story but we want everyone we tell to believe us entirely when we say we had a mean boss that was out to get us, or we really were doing a good job and don’t know why they fired us.

Deep down inside though, we wonder if we are really being believed. Would we automatically believe our closest friends and still think the very best of them if they told us they were fired? Might we wonder about how much of the situation was indeed their fault? Maybe that strong attitude they have got them into trouble or now you wonder about their actual skills and abilities…just a little anyhow. So now you wonder; what are they thinking about me?

We get angry too. We’re out of work, have lost an income, feel shamed with this label of being fired, and the people we worked for weren’t the best. Maybe they cut corners, did shady deals, favoured some staff over others (and we obviously weren’t in favour!), didn’t even know the business as well as we did, or they used us for our knowledge then cut us loose when they had got everything they could from us; we were just used and abused. Maybe too we were fired because we couldn’t or wouldn’t bend the rules or take advantage of our customers.

When you’re fired, it’s frustrating too because we have to move on and get a job, but we can’t vent in a job interview and tell the interviewer how we are really feeling. No, we have to take the high road and speak well of the employer who sacked us for fear of coming across as someone to stay away from and not hire.

It makes getting any kind of employment insurance harder to get if we can get any at all after being fired too. It all just seems so unfair and things are stacked against us! Hey, what YOUR feeling is normal; sad as that is to say, you’re feeling what most people feel when fired. Although small consolation, know that more and more people these days get terminated so the stigma attached to it isn’t as bad as it used to be.

Before you go job searching, make sure you are prepared to answer the interview question, “So why did you leave your last job?” or the, “What would your previous employer say about you?” question. You will have to master the ability to address both these questions without anger and bitterness surfacing which will hurt your chances.

Maybe one strategy is to get an entry-level job beneath or outside your career goal, just so THAT job becomes your LAST job in terms of answering these questions in an interview. You could also bite the bullet and contact the employer who fired you and ask that if contacted they provide only your start and end date and give no reference beyond that positive or negative. If you had good performance appraisals you could use these as proof you did well in the last job – so take yours home now if you’re still working and don’t keep them in the office.

Trapped In A Dead-End Job

Are you trapped in a job that’s draining your life away? Stuck in a job with no future, no chance for advancement or worse yet, not even some variety in the work you do?

To people on the outside it might seem a simple solution; find something else to do and quit. Ah, if only it were that easy! It’s not like you haven’t thought of this very solution yourself of course, because you have. The real sticking point in the plan is finding what that, ‘something else’ could be.

That’s the difficulty isn’t it? You put in a full day grinding it out, and by the time you check out at the end of your day, you’re beat. Your skills may be confined to doing a certain kind of work; a specific job. You haven’t got a clue how to go about finding something else you’d enjoy doing, you can’t quit outright and start looking because you need the income. You look ahead at the time between the present and the day you can retire, and see a lot of monotonous hours doing the same thing you’ve come to hate. You don’t even want to think about it because it’s so depressing.

Some hard choices are going to have to be made, and you’re the one who has to make them. Before doing anything rash, do two things; determine your financial health and your obligations. Knowing how much money you have saved in bank accounts and any investments is critical to knowing how long you can support yourself if you had no pay coming in. Knowing your mandatory obligations will tell you the length of time you’ll have before exhausting those funds. You should also look for areas you could conserve or cut back on expenses before you quit and when you find them, start now.

So let’s look at your choices. The first choice is both the easiest and at the same time the worst.; do nothing and keep dragging yourself in daily hating both the job and yourself for not doing something about it. Depending on the length of time we’re talking about, can you mentally and physically tough it out? Does the money you receive compensate you enough that you can keep going without breaking or just withering away on the job?

A second choice is to speak with someone in your organization and see if you can be laid off. This could not only answer your prayers but make them happier too. The company might appreciate your years of service but at this point rather have a younger, hungrier person on the job, and one that costs them less. So it could be a win-win, and you’d be able to apply for financial help while you job search; maybe the employer even has some severance package that would get you out quicker and in better financial shape.

You could just quit of course as option number 3. This is usually a move made by people who are desperate, or by those who haven’t thought things through very much. If you quit, you potentially lose all references you worked hard to earn, and you may not qualify for employment insurance because of how you left. Quitting also makes you ineligible for many re-training programs and severance packages. On the other hand, if you are seriously finding the job is killing you, quitting might be the option you choose if just to save yourself.

One of the best things you can take advantage of when you walk away – no matter how you choose to do it – is to get involved in  re-training programs or employment workshops. These help you deal with the stress of unemployment, help you answer those tough questions you’ll face from future employers regarding the circumstances around why you left your last job. You’ll also find help figuring out what potential jobs or careers you could turn to next.

Be advised though, things may have changed significantly since you last looked for work. How are your computer skills? Many jobs now require online applications, emailed resumes, some require you to complete long assessments. Look around for free computer classes either online or in your neighbourhood.

Saving your sanity and being a nicer person to be around for the family might mean a drastic alteration to what you do for a living and for whom you do it. Such changes sometimes require courage and a complete makeover. Are you willing to invest the time and put in the energy to change your life for the better? It’s going to be hard work make no mistake; but the potential benefits might save your life.

There may be another option which is to look at the organization you currently work in and look at advancement, transfers, job sharing or cross-training into another role and split your responsibilities between several jobs. This requires a discussion, succession planning on the part of your employer and some flexibility on your part. If you go this route, don’t just present your problem to the boss, present the benefits the company would realize and make it an attractive alternative.

Look for ways out of the trap you find yourself in, and get yourself prepared now for the big leap you may choose to make. Breaking free may just be the answer and lining up support systems the way to make it happen.

Superstars In Your Workplace

In almost every organization you can categorize employees as being weak, average, good, very good and then you’ll have your superstars. Do you admire those people who are the best of the best or do you find you resent their excellence. What does that say about you?

It’s reasonable to expect that employers strive to hire the best, train their existing employees to be the best and reward the best. After all, not many entrepreneurs set out to set up a company with a goal of hiring sub-par employees and encourage them to strive for mediocrity.

Superstar employees work with a philosophy that goes, “What more can I do?” while poor employees work with a philosophy that goes, “What more can the company do for me?” If you are the kind of employee that goes about your work striving to be better – whatever better translates to in the course of your work, you like where this blog is going. On the other hand, if you’re the weak link in the chain, just doing the barest required of you to keep your job, you’re likely no longer reading, or shrugging your shoulders while muttering, “Whatever…”.

In order for organizations to thrive, the people working in those same organizations have to thrive. Why shouldn’t an employer want their employees to be the very best they can be? The best of these organizations put people in positions of leadership where they can positively influence others. These leaders assess talent and when they identify people’s needs, they design training for those people as a way of giving them every opportunity to improve.

Let’s face it, we all have strengths and weaknesses. Your job-related weaknesses present you with a choice; improve or be moved. I think the best fit is when a company’s needs and an employees skills, interests and experience fit those same needs. If you find yourself terminated from your employment due to performance issues, it may be in the most positive sense, that the fit just wasn’t there. You’re skills might be adequate, but your enthusiasm for the work wasn’t there. You may have had the right attitude, but the expertise required to perform requires someone with a higher education, more experience etc. There’s nothing to be ashamed with in that kind of departure.

Say we look in on two people working in an automotive department performing oil changes, checking brakes etc. When the cars are rolling in both are quite good at performing their jobs. It’s when there are lulls during the day, 20 minutes here and there that we see a difference. While one employee makes himself busy cleaning his tools and replacing his diminished inventory of parts, the other employee is making himself busy brewing a cup of coffee and reading the newspaper. Sure there’s no cars, but which one is the employer getting better value from? One’s an all-star, the other an average performer.

Go to any mall and you can stand in the centre court and observe staff in stores performing very differently. Some staff may be idly standing at their registers chatting away about their lives, their problems, their plans for the evening. Another employee will be seen to be folding clothing, straightening up what customers have mixed up, dusting, getting replacement stock on the floor, maybe calling customers whose special orders have arrived. Again, you see the average and the superstar.

Would it be fair to dock the pay of the employees who are standing around doing nothing to improve the business? Would they feel hard done by and complain, “What do you expect me to do? There’s no customers in the store!” (I’m not advocating docking pay of such employees by the way, just citing that possibility). Such employees not only don’t add to the value or reputation of the store, they actually detract from it. Potential customers are put off by self-absorbed employees who feel their continued conversations are of more importance than acknowledging customers.

Imagine your company announces it’s all-star roster if you will; the best of the best. You come to work and hear the announcement over the PA system: “From Accounting, a perennial superstar and winner of the employee-of-the-month award 2 month’s running, Mary Anne. Give it up for Omar in sales who as a rookie improved on last weeks sales by 7%! Way to go Omar!” No one is going to make an announcement that goes, “Congratulations to Juanita  whose sales have flat-lined for the sixth consecutive week!”

Now of course we don’t all want the limelight, we don’t want the fanfare. No issue there. However, employers do want the employees who perform the work they pay them for to be fully engaged, interested in improving, striving to excel both as employees and as individuals.

Let me wrap up with a suggestion. If you aren’t striving to be the best you can be and have flat-lined, take action now to save yourself. Re-ignite some passion for the work you do and invest yourself in training and improvement. Alternatively, look for other work that will stimulate you in a new and different way so you can excel one way or the other. This other work might be with a new company or in a new role.

Every decision you make carries consequences. If you fail to better yourself, you may find you’re not only left off the all-star roster, you’re dropped from the team.



Employment References

Recently someone asked me why employers ask for references. I couldn’t help but guess that the person didn’t have any which, as it turned out was true.

“Do they really matter? I mean are they going to talk to them anyhow? What if I just make some up and tell the interviewer that the companies moved and I don’t know where they are? Would that work? What if I just got some friends to pretend I worked for them?”

The short answer to this question is, “No! Don’t do it!”. Employment references are as equally important to an employer as they would be to you if you were looking for a Child Care Centre for your own children, or were hiring a Contractor to remodel your kitchen. The more you know about people, the more confident you are going to be in your decision. You want to increase the odds of ending up with a good experience for your child once in care; be happy with the renovation work done by your Contractor. Fail to ask or check for references and you run a higher risk of making a poor decision and regretting it. Well the same is true when employers are hiring.

Now a very good idea is to think about references long before you actually need them. You might be content at the moment in your present job, not seriously contemplating any change in your employer or looking for a promotion. Now is the very time to get all the contact information on the people you might need in the future. It should be easy enough to get the proper spelling, title, phone extension and email address of your boss and a couple of co-workers without raising suspicions. If something suddenly happens such as a plant closure or they take a leave of absence, you’ve got the information tucked away.

Traditionally, 3 professional (work-related) references are the norm, and possibly 1 personal reference. It raises concerns if you don’t use your most recent employer as a reference, so if things are strained in any way, try to smooth things over now before you actually need them in the future.

References are usually contacted – but not always. There are some employers that like applicants so much, they just don’t bother to contact everyone and trust their own instincts. That’s usually not the norm, but I have to acknowledge it does happen. Don’t bet on it in your own case however. Employers are protecting themselves more than ever these days, and one way they protect themselves is checking into the backgrounds of the people they hire. After all the interviewer only has  your word for all the wonderful things you say you’ve done and are capable of doing. References back up your claims of performance.

No references? Look at things from the other side of the table. You’re in your 30’s or 40’s and you can’t name a single person over the course of your lifetime that can vouch for your work history or your performance in any of your jobs? That’s pretty poor if you look at it objectively.

Say you got fired from your last job and are worried the ex-boss will not be willing to say anything good about you. Just to complicate things further, let’s say you have no contact information on any of your co-workers either; co-workers who just might attest to your work. This becomes a testament of your problem-solving skills. For starters, you should contact the company, leave your name and number and ask them to pass along a request for a return phone call from the people you worked with. When they do call, ask them to be a reference for you. As for the ex-boss; swallow your pride and speak directly with him or her. Tell them you are moving on, looking for other employment and need a reference; not a glowing endorsement, just confirmation of your start and end date. You’ve got nothing to lose and a whole lot to gain.

Some organizations actually don’t give performance references at all to protect the company itself. They have polices that just confirm start and end dates. If this is the policy where you worked, stop sweating and put the contact information for Human Resources down on your references sheet. On the other hand, if the boss is going to roast you alive if someone calls looking for a reference, you can warn an interviewer, briefly explaining the circumstances and what you’ve learned from the experience. The potential employer will appreciate your honesty.

Of course create an online profile through a social media platform such as LinkedIn. It has a section on your profile where you can publicly share recommendations others have made about you and your work performance. By sharing the hyperlink with employers right on your resume, they can look up these recommendations in advance of your first interview, see what others are saying about you, and this can motivate them to have you in over other applicants.

Invest in some volunteer work as another option. Whoever supervises you where you volunteer might be an excellent future reference.

The key is to think about your references now, especially if you are working. Stressing about having no references isn’t something you should be doing as the interview is winding down for a job you really want and need.

Giving Your Best Vs. Being The Best

Only one person can truly be called the best. The term, “the best”, is actually losing it’s meaning in everyday conversation when you overhear someone saying things like, “Oh you’re the best friend ever”, or “This is the best ice cream ever”. Those people don’t really mean they’ve compared friends and ice creams and are making it official. They simply mean the friend is a really good friend; the ice cream tastes really good.

However, in the world of business and employment, there are ways to measure who is the top Salesperson, the team with the most consecutive days worked without an accident or the employee who produces the greatest number of defect-free products. These are examples where one person can truly be said to be the best and there is evidence to back up those statements.

However, giving your best may mean that while you don’t sell the most, or you still have an accident or produce products with defects, you improved on your performance and have had better results than previously. So yes your best resulted in an increase of 7% over last months totals; still short of the actual sales numbers of the top Salesperson, but your numbers when compared to your past numbers are higher.

It is the norm in some organizations to ensure that each person has an individual target for performance that is measurable and achievable for that one person. If the top Salesperson in a company is regularly selling 20 cars a month, surely 20 cars a month is unrealistic for someone who is just starting out. They might be given an initially target of 3 cars the entire month, and that number would be adjusted as their experience and skills improve.

Other companies do give the same targets to every employee no matter how long you’ve been there. When it comes to safety on an assembly line, all employees might be collectively working towards days with zero accidents. Telling one team to work accident-free and telling another team of relatively newer employees that 4 accidents a month is okay for them isn’t likely. They all work accident-free or they all start at day one again the day following an accident. It’s a collective target.

Now giving your best is something that everyone can achieve and be recognized for. The targets vary for performance, and each person is compared not to others in the workplace, but to their past performance. You sold 3 cars last month, your new target is 5. What other people are achieving isn’t factored in to your performance. You’re expected to give it your best, and if your best fails to result in targets the company sets, you can still be released, it’s just a case of your best falls short of their needs.

Take a Call Centre. They may have expectations that the length of your calls be a certain length, that you answer a certain volume of calls, sell a number of products or services on those calls. Your performance may be better than any other employee for the month – making you the best. Your performance numbers may actually be quite a bit lower than those at the top, but your best might show an improvement over the previous week, and you’re improving; your best is getting better.

Giving it your best may mean improving on your attendance, working with more focus and fewer distractions, investing in the training opportunities you are provided with, and generally putting more energy into your job.

You find in some organizations where all staff in a job classification receive identical pay each week that there is a noted difference nonetheless in the actual performance of employees. Some are truly invested in their work, strive to do better than they have in the past, etc. Others in that same role might not be as committed to working beyond what they have to do to keep their jobs. They all get the same pay, but some are giving it their best and some are not. One of the most frustrating things for Management might be getting the best out of each employee when pay is identical regardless of experience and skills.

If you want to find value in what you do, go home happier at the end of the day, and enjoy your work more when you are at your workplace, giving it your best is recommended There are many who sleep better and longer, nodding off with a smile on their face content with knowing their best was achieved that day. When we don’t give our best the obvious question to ask is, “Why aren’t we giving our best?”

My point here has not to do with that question, but more with encouraging us – yes I include myself here) to give our collective best each day. While some of us are motivated to win the title of, “The Best _______ ever”, I think a far greater number of people are better off being recognized for giving it their best.

If giving it your best is less than what an employer needs, being terminated and released means your fit with that kind of work or that specific employer was wrong. If you find yourself released or terminated and you know you didn’t give it your best, you should own up to that too and learn from the experience.

Strive to be your best – perhaps starting today and see where it takes you.