Work No Longer What It Once Was?


Call it running on autopilot or coasting on cruise control, the stimulation you used to feel when the job was challenging has disappeared. When you’re talking with friends and family, you’re heard telling them you could do this job with your eyes closed and one arm tied behind your back. When you first felt this way, it was a statement of bravado and self-assurance, but more and more, well, it’s become mundane and easy.

It seems like you’re never completely satisfied. I mean in the past there seemed so much to know and you struggled to master all the information required to be really good at your job. You wondered how those co-workers around you knew so much and performed so well. Suddenly though, you became one; now you’re the go-to person who effortlessly sails through the day, never really having any drastic lows or highs. You’re dependable, productive and instead of using your head to increase your intelligence of the job, you’re using all your mental energy just to get through the days. It’s not that it’s hard to do the job, but it’s exhausting when you keep hoping and looking for additional challenges and find there’s none to be had.

Now you’re in this dilemma aren’t you? You know, the old problem of choosing to either stay in this comfortable role you’ve got with a decent income and some security, or to step out into the stimulating world of job searching once again for something better. Hmm… security vs. stimulation. Autopilot vs. sanity.

I bet by now you’ve already had the little voices in your head whispering conflicting thoughts. “We can’t leaves; obligations we has.” “Stay we must; easy it is, nasty job searches – hates them we does!” You’re inner Gollum has taken route and when there’s nothing around you but the silence, the conflicting differences of opinion and positions keeps whispering. How’d you get here you wonder?

It really does come down to a matter of choice. It may eventually come down to whether or not you stay in this current job or whether you leave for another employer. However, before those become your only options, are there other possibilities at work? If you could transfer to another department, take on another role in your own area such as cross training or maybe even develop a new job position to present to Management, would that be possible? If you could do any of these things, you’d maintain your security, pension, seniority, vacation entitlements and of course income, but you’d feel rejuvenated and stimulated anew.

It’s not possible for me sitting where I am to know if any or some of the above are options for you in your workplace with your specific circumstances. Creating your own job when it doesn’t exist in the organization you currently work in might be an option you’d not thought of. Not only is the idea of doing something new a spark, but the energy required to conceptualize what this new role might be, prepare yourself to present and defend it to Human Resources or Senior Management and then extol the virtues of how it will positively impact on the bottom line could be exhilarating. If you only go to your boss and ask them what they’d say to you inventing a new job for yourself, it’s likely to go nowhere.

Like I said above, it may or may not be possible in your work to transfer to some other area. If you’re a welder and the whole company is 3 of you, there might not be any movement possible.

You might also be a person who has been doing the same job for twenty years or more, and feel that this job you’ve come to master is all you know. Reinventing yourself at this point might be too much of a challenge; returning to school, re-training, having to come up with money for all that and then facing a job search without the security of knowing you’d be hired. Are you worrying about that infamous dilemma, “Who’d hire me when I finished school at my age?”

It’s scary isn’t it? This problem of whether to stay in a job that’s easy but consuming yourself or venture out with great uncertainty; being afraid that whatever you choose will be the wrong choice. Consider that it’s going to be a struggle either way though. You’re either going to struggle coming into work knowing you lack the courage to do something about your fading self, or you’re going to berate yourself because one day you’re going to look back at this point in time and regret you lacked the courage to take a leap of faith.

Perhaps it’s the very lack of a guarantee that you should be thankful for. I mean, that’s part of the stimulation, the invigorating feeling you get from self-determination and creating your next chapter. Yes, you’ll have setbacks, barriers, challenges, raised expectations and disappointments. You may just feel alive again too, find a new identity and come to admire yourself for having the required courage to take a chance and risk your life on something better.

I’m certainly not going to tell which is best because I don’t know what your existing skills and education are, what you’re considering, what you’re gambling on and how stuck you are at the moment. But I do know somebody who knows all these…you.

Getting Over Hurdles In Life


It may sound like an odd way to begin, but visualize a roller coaster at a theme park. It starts off level with the ground, then goes through some ups and downs, there’s twists and turns and possibly one or two huge climbs followed by plummeting falls and eventually it all levels out and you get off. Some are excited to repeat the ride, others look a little worse for wear. Most have hearts pounding after the exhilaration of the ride, some have to fix their hair, and a few are ill; vowing never to go through that again!

I asked you to visualize a roller coaster, not Life, but the parallels are just about as real as the tracks on that coaster.

Most of us perhaps would be happy to sit beside our children or grandchildren on the coaster in kiddie land that goes around in an oval with smooth rises and smooth rolling downs. There’s happiness on the faces of the children, they love the ride and it’s so calm we can carry on a conversation with them and enjoy the experience.

That adult coaster though? It’s death-defying drops, blood-curdling screams as gravity is stripped away and white-knuckled terror; not for the faint of heart.

Where the roller coaster image fails to imitate Life however is that we all stand and size up the coaster. We get to watch it from the ground, then make a decision to ride it or not, we know what’s coming and we voluntarily participate having made a choice to undergo it. While exciting, terrible or utterly fantastic, it only lasts minutes and then we’re back to where we started. It’s over. It’s done. We move on.

Life on the other hand, that’s different. We do our best to map out where we’re going based on all the information we can gather. Whether it’s a road trip, choosing a career, getting into a relationship, or making a major purchase, we do our best to plan our moves and take positive steps forward. We build up momentum when we have some small successes and we have obstacles to overcome which, for the most part, we do so using our past experiences; taking advice from our peers and drawing on our skills.

But as is the case for many; perhaps everyone at some point, along comes some major hill to climb; a crisis. Unlike the coaster, we didn’t anticipate this; we can’t stand back and see how it’s going to end up, we can’t see all the twists and turns ahead of us and no, we don’t know it’s going to all end up with us safe. Most of all, we don’t know how long we’re going to be on this, ‘ride’ we didn’t sign up for.

There are many folks who, lacking the necessary life skills and failing to learn from their experiences, go from one crisis to the next. At any one time, they’ve got 2 or 3 major challenges happening and 4 or 6 smaller problems which if they fail to address will grow and become major hurdles. That roller coaster track on the other hand is solid steel; fixed and rigid. The tracks on the roller coaster of Life seem to have life of their own, undulating, hovering, fluidly moving uncontrollably up and down, responding to our ability or lack of ability to control.

Back to the kiddie land coaster. The child who is nervous about going on the ride is comforted and encouraged by the older sibling or trusted parent alongside. They stand and watch it together, mom points out all the happy kids; dad shows the child the exit door where the kids are bouncing out, excited and safe. The sibling takes the younger sister or brother by the hand and says, “C’mon, it’ll be fun and I’ll be there with you.”

But now as an adult facing your real-life challenges, where’s your support coming from? Does it feel like your standing alone, with no one to hold your hand, go through it with you, assure you it will all end up okay? Yep, it sure can feel that way and yes, you’re entitled to feel what you feel; it’s normal and it’s perfectly right to feel anxiety, anxiousness, rising fear, stress and perhaps panic.

That ride in kiddie land is fun on its own for a child, but it’s also getting that youngster ready for the bigger rides later in life. Get on the ride, have some fun, laugh and then get off. Do it again. Do it once more. Eventually, the child says they want to go on another ride, and they point at something a little bigger, then much bigger, and looking back at the kiddie land alligator ride, they say, “Ah, that’s for small kids.” Forgotten was the day they clung to the leg of a parent, heels dug in the grass and fear written all over their face.

Life is like that. We face new challenges and crises using the skills we’ve developed over time. Sometimes we fail and things don’t turn out great. We don’t always land safely. The learning that goes with the failure however? Hopefully that prepares us for a future hurdle to overcome. We can use that experience, as bad as it was, to avoid repeating it.

It’s called Life for a reason you know; we live it.

So c’mon, take my hand and let’s go!

Nervous About An Upcoming Interview?


First things first; congratulations on the interview! Give yourself credit because you’re up against a lot of other people all competing for employment. So well done!

That credit your giving yourself is important because its external validation that  you’ve done a good job responding to the employer’s needs. Employer’s need people who can be productive and add to the success of the organization, so just getting to the interview is a good sign that they like what they read.

Okay, so you’re nervous. There are two kinds of situations where nerves can have you feeling anxious . The first is where you haven’t prepared at all for the interview. Not only did you not prepare, your plan is to wake up and wing it, counting on your natural ability to charm and think on your feet. If this has worked in the past, it will likely work again. Wrong. Employer’s are better qualified than before, better trained and can size up these candidates quickly. Your nerves will go through the roof as you slowly become more and more exposed as having not invested any time at all in doing some basic homework. You’ll be nervous, and for good reason as you’ve brought this on yourself.

The second kind of nervous is the good kind; yes you read right…there is a good kind! This is nervous excitement! You’ve prepared yourself as best you could, read up on the job posting, their website, you may have talked to some employees and you really want this job. The possibility that you’re soon going to be hired for a job you can do well, doing work you’ll enjoy and in a situation you’ll be successful at is so motivating! So this nervous excitement as the interview draws closer is fantastic.

As someone who loves interviewing, I’d be more worried for you if you felt no nervousness at all – that would be a huge warning sign that you’re running on autopilot and aren’t as invested in the job or company to the extent you should be.

Now, what to do to help you get those nerves under control. First off, breathe… Stress is a physical thing, and a few deep breaths; in through the nose and out through the mouth will help you give your body oxygen when it needs it to relax. Now stand up for a moment. Seriously. Place your hands on your hips and spread your legs, with equal weight on both feet. You’re in the, ‘Superman’ pose. Head up and looking straight ahead, chest slightly out and hold this for two or three minutes. Do this before the interview – say in the washroom or reception area and you’ll feel confidence growing. Odd thing is, it works.

Now, first impressions are important so choose clothing you feel comfortable in that fit the job you’re applying to. Check them a few days before so they are clean, ironed and you’re ready. On the morning of the interview, shower, brush the teeth, do your hair (off the face as a general guideline for women) and give yourself enough time to get where you’re going anticipating delays.

It’s always good to bring multiple copies of your résumé (for you and for them), pre-determined questions you want answered, paper and pen for notes, the job posting and your references to offer at the end. Depending on the job, you might want any certificates or proof of licences and education requirements too.

Smile at the first meeting, offer a firm handshake and look the interviewer(s) in the eye as you do so. When you walk, don’t amble or shuffle along, walk with purpose and be aware of slouching shoulders.

As for answering questions, use the STAR format. Well, I endorse it at any rate. Essentially you answer by sketching out SITUATIONS you found yourself in so the get a framework for your answer, present the TASK or problem to overcome, move to the ACTION you took in rising to the challenge and finish with a positive RESULT that came about because of what you did.

This format is neat, tidy and concise. It will help you PROVE you’ve done what you claim you can do. I can’t stress enough how specific examples you give are essential to a successful interview. Without specific examples in your answers, you’re hoping they’ll believe you’ve got the experience and skills you state you do, and you’ll come up short.

The tone of your voice is important too. Nervous people often talk quicker and their voices are slightly higher. Slow your words down, pause every so often to emphasize certain things you believe are critical, and your voice suddenly gets more interesting, more meaning is attached to your words and the overall impact is a more attentive audience.

As the interview wraps up, ask for their business card. All the information you need to follow-up with a thank you note or phone call is on that card. Do send a card of thanks! Many don’t bother these days and that’s even more reason to do it. You stand out and that’s what you’re hoping to do.

The most important thing you can do is leave a lasting positive impression. Why hire you? What makes you the right fit? Answer this now, before you get to the interview. It’s not about what you want, but how hiring you is in the company’s best interests.

Me, Diabetes And The Workplace


Just a few weeks ago I learned I’m a diabetic. That came as a surprise I can tell you and it’s largely for this reason that I haven’t written a blog in a week. Let me if you will share how it’s affecting me in the workplace and what I’ve done in the early days of diagnosis as maybe you can find something in my experience to help you should you or someone in your own place of work go through something akin to this.

I wouldn’t even know to this day I had diabetes had I not taken it upon myself to visit my doctor. I had started 2016 at 220 pounds you see and had made a conscious effort to lose weight and had come down to 177; a drop of 43 pounds over 7 months. I felt great and was proud of my commitment to my goal and the results.

The problem? People at work that once congratulated me and told me I looked great started to say things like, “Oh but you don’t have cancer do you?” or, “I’m concerned about you.” So my motivation in seeing the doctor wasn’t about feeling terrible or having symptoms I could recognize but more to get the good word that all was well so I could assure both co-workers and the people I serve that I’m fine.

The doctor congratulated me on the weight loss but did some blood work as a routine check. That’s when I discovered that instead of a blood reading between 4 and 7, I’d hit 14. It even went as high as 20 over the next few days.

Now diabetes is manageable and perhaps not the big scare for you that it is for me. You see at 57 years of age, I’ve had little more than the odd cold every couple of years and I’ve certainly never been on any medications. I’ve never smoked, done drugs and the only alcohol I’ve ever had pass my lips is in mouthwash. I’ve never even had a sip of coffee either. There’s no history of diabetes in my family either; so it has hit me rather hard.  I can’t help but ask, why me?

I’ve set out immediately with the mindset that I can beat this thing. I’m going to repair this damaged machine called my body and I’m certainly going to have a healthy retirement in the years to come not hampered by illness. Maybe I’m naïve in thinking I can eliminate diabetes from my life but that’s the thinking.

In addition to changing my eating habits, I made the decision last week to tell everybody I work with rather than hide it. Now my diabetes is type 2; no needles, just some pills in the morning and with dinner, cut out the sugar intake and test the blood sugar throughout the day.

My co-workers now know I don’t have cancer; see things could have been worse. I’m glad I told them because I’ve eliminated you see their urgings to have the sweets they bring in from time-to-time. So hopefully they won’t push me to try a bite of cake, share a doughnut etc. We don’t have these sweets all the time, but we do have cakes in the workplace to celebrate the end of our classes and other staff have dangled such treats within my earshot.

I also know that whenever I’m at a conference or meeting where food is provided, I have to alert those ahead of time that I’m diabetic and have them make whatever provisions for a substitute meal that they can. Oh and if I’m off in the staff washroom I might be testing my blood levels once or twice a day.

As for the people I serve, I haven’t told them yet but I will as I see doing so might help them in some way. As I work with people on social assistance; many of whom have mental and physical health issues, it might be good for some of them to hear of my diabetes and how I manage it. Some of them might find my situation and my own ability to empathize with their own circumstances a positive thing.

I’ve yet to meet with a Dietician or Nutritionist, so working on my own with just some changes in diet have brought my scores from the 14’s and 20’s down to a few 9’s and even a 7 and a 6. That’s extremely encouraging and it’s only been three weeks.

Now that I’ve disclosed my diabetes (and I did it at a conference with 150 employees in attendance from the podium while presenting on a topic), I’ve had good support. One fellow came up and shared his own diagnosis which he got two months ago. It was good for him to hear me and I certainly appreciated his words of being surprised with his diagnosis and so it wasn’t only me.

If you have a health issue, I certainly encourage you to share it with your boss, co-workers and of course your family and friends. It’s a load off the mind to do so. These are the people I hope you can trust to hear your story and support you as you deal with it moving forward.

I hadn’t written my blog in a week as I was a jumble of feelings and knew the words I wrote wouldn’t convey what I wanted. So here I am, sharing the real stuff; hope it helps you in some way to know.

When The Mind Is Willing But The Body Is Done


Are you one of those people who has got to the point in life where your body is no longer able to keep up with what your job requirements demand, yet that job is all you really know how to do? If so, this can be a stressful, even scary time for you as you ponder what job or career you will pursue now.

This kind of situation is actually very common, especially in positions requiring manual labour skills such as the construction field. I’ve listened to many a person tell me their stories and they share a similar theme; the person started working early in life out of necessity, often not completing high school. The money early on was good and they were young, strong, enjoyed the physical demands of the job and how it kept them in good shape. Then as time passed, they felt the aches and pains lingered on longer when the job was done and eventually they were in constant pain reaching the point where they had to quit because of back and joint pain.

The situation above is very real; the mind is still willing but the body can’t take the physical demands of the job anymore and there are younger and stronger people coming onto the job sites who will work for less money and these combine to push the person out of work. Now in their late 40’s and early 50’s, here is the person left wondering what else they could possibly be qualified to do. The resume doesn’t look all that impressive with less than high school education and a ton of experience doing construction or general labour work which they can no longer do hence the dilemma.

So is this you and your situation? Someone you know perhaps? This is a tough one isn’t it and no one knows better than you the struggle to figure out what you’re going to do with the years you still want to be productively working doing something. At your point in life going back to school to get your grade 12 diploma is scary too; after all you’ve only got your long ago memories of high school to go on and if it was difficult to finish school when you were in your teens, you imagine it can’t be easier now that your 50ish!

Well let’s look at some options shall we?  First of all, getting your grade 12 completed is an option. It doesn’t mean you have to do this, but it is an option isn’t it? What you might not know is that if you’ve only completed grade 9 or 10 and figure you haven’t got 2 or 3 years to spend in a classroom at this point in life, relax; you don’t. You’ll find that adult education schools in your area likely have programs in place that will recognize your life experience and give you credit for this. Could be you only need to take 3 or 4 courses to get that grade 12 diploma and your classmates will be adults just like you, not 17 year olds. As employers often see grade 12 as a basic requirement, getting yours could be the right move to start with.

The next thing to figure out is what exactly you’re going to do now career-wise. For some people, this is a crippling problem; all you’re qualified to do is what you’ve done and you haven’t got the ability to do that anymore. First of all, do you want to work in the same field of work anymore? If you could take your knowledge and move into a leadership role or teach younger workers what you know, would you take that kind of job? Or do you want or need to get right out of that line of work altogether?

Here’s some good advice; take one or two computer classes for people who know very little or nothing about computers. In 2016, you have to have basic computer skills to even apply for jobs. Don’t plan on just walking in and introducing yourself and asking for a chance to work. Yeah this kind of disappeared in the 90’s and except for the odd place, it’s never coming back. Today, you have to apply online or use email. You should head on down to an employment centre in your community as well as adult education schools and look into adult computer classes for beginners. You likely won’t be a computer expert, but you need more skills than you have at the moment for sure.

My final piece of advice – just to keep things short and cut to the key things – get some help from an Employment Centre where will find Job Coaches, Employment Counsellors or Career Advisors. I’m one of them but this isn’t about self-promotion. (If it was I’d name my own Centre or give you my contact details). Look, you’re an expert at what you’ve done all your life, and these career professionals are experts at what they do which is helping people like you figure out what to do next in life. You may just find their services are free anyhow.

You and I both know you want to be productive and useful. Getting the above help will keep you relevant, help you realize what you’ve got to offer and craft your resume to positions you’d genuinely be interested in.

Don’t put off getting the help you need from people who deal with people just like you every day!

Building Job Search Momentum


Okay, so it’s now approaching mid January already, and perhaps you’re one of the many who prior to the end of 2013 made a mental commitment to get a job in 2014. Even if you didn’t make it an official New Year’s Resolution, I suspect that in your private thoughts you still resolved to do more to get a job this year. So how are you doing so far?

If you have made a start for the better, congratulations! If you have yet to really do much of anything, stop beating yourself up mentally and get going now – today. The key is to do SOMETHING initially that you can point to and acknowledge as one single step you’ve taken that is designed to ultimately lead to employment. Then after having taken this initial step, take action and do something else; take a second step. When you do something for the first time, that’s an initiative. Do something a second and you’ve got a small pattern developing. Do something else again related to the first two and you’re building momentum. That momentum can soon be a routine. All of a sudden you can look at these string of actions and see a pattern of behaviour that has moved you mentally in the direction you want to go; closer to your ultimate goal.

“But where do I start?” is often the very question people have, and it’s a good question. Without knowing your specific situation, it’s impossible to give an appropriate response however. While one person might be lacking experience in the field they want to work in, another might have the experience but lack the certification or education that employers demand. You may have a good idea of your values and strengths while another doesn’t, but they have connections you don’t in the area they wish to work.

So here’s some broad suggestions that might help you take some of those initial steps:

1) If it’s been some time since you’ve been working, consider volunteer work first. While the need for paid employment may be great, volunteering will make you feel valued and appreciated, you’ll get back into a routine of sorts where you’re depended upon but with fewer demands for high performance. You may get a solid reference, and it can go on your resume and show you are doing something with your time, as well as give back to the community.

2) Take an assessment of your skills and experience. Do you need academic upgrading? Do you have the skills, education and experience to compete for the job you want or would returning to school be money and time well invested?

3) What do you WANT to do? If you are unemployed, you actually have the luxury to think about what will make you happiest and position yourself to move in that direction and go for it. Employed people often can’t do this because their schedules don’t allow it. If everyone was hiring, what door would you walk into and apply for a job?

4) Target your resume each and every time – please! Many people don’t and get frustrated they are qualified for jobs but can’t understand why they never get replies for interviews. Employers post qualifications and requirements so you should modify your resume each and every time you send it out so it matches up. Save all the various versions of your resume so you don’t start from scratch each time.

5) Talking about your specific situation with a professional who helps people with employment needs will save you hours of frustration and stress. Blow off a little steam and be as honest and open as you can with an Employment Counsellor and be open to the feedback you’ll get. Find someone you trust and who listens as much as they talk.

Getting a job is stressful primarily because you’re not only looking for income to pay your bills, but you’re looking for a way to spend a sizeable chunk of your life that you will find satisfying and rewarding. If you’re like most people, it actually does matter that you enjoy your work, and look forward to each day. If the job pays well but you hate it or don’t find it stimulating in the least, it won’t matter soon how much you get paid, you’ll be unhappy.

There are many people looking for work at present, and that means there are many to compete with. This can be nerve-wracking and frustrating but please don’t get so disappointed that you give up. It may actually take you seven or eight months or more to really get close to the job of your dreams even when you are qualified. Yes things have changed perhaps from when you last looked for employment. An elite few are out of work for just a few weeks.

Building momentum is crucial, but if and when you have setbacks, understand this is normal behaviour. Give yourself permission to have good days and bad, setbacks and achievements. You deserve to work. Keep a positive attitude and get support so you’re not feeling like it’s you and you only against the world.

All the very best.