How Are You Coming Across?

One thing I’ve come to believe is that the person you believe yourself to be is key to being the person others perceive you as. How you see yourself is largely how others will see you. To a point that is…

It’s always worth checking out every so often; how you are viewed by others around you, in order that the way you see yourself is in line with how people you interact with size you up. If you find that how you come across differs from how you view yourself, you should be asking yourself what it is your doing and saying that’s projecting this image that differs from how you believe your interacting with those you meet.

Take a moment and think about how you want others to see you. Do you want others to see you as helpful? Are you going for ruthless? Aggressive? Assertive? Innovative? Self-assured? We are multi-dimensional; meaning there are many sides to us and how we wish to be perceived will vary with the people in our lives we wish to interact with. So for example, we may want to come across as knowledgeable when we meet with our Supervisor at work, but when we talk to someone to buy our snow tires, we might wish to come across as wanting to be informed on what’s best for us and defer to their wisdom.

Whether we do it consciously or not, whenever we interact with others, we send signals about who we are, what’s important to us, how we see ourselves and all of these signals give others an impression of how we see ourselves. This is a key to interacting with the world around us and coming across to others in the way we wish to be viewed.

Take two people you see on a subway platform. Without having a conversation, you see them both from 20 feet away; one is a person in a formal suit, polished leather shoes, pressed pants, crisp shirt and tie, carrying a leather folder. The second is a person with green and blue hair, denim pants and sneakers, long-sleeved shirt, wearing a backpack and a tattoo on each forearm peaking out of the shirt sleeve. You know nothing about their character, their intelligence, their occupation, income level, hobbies, attitude, etc. but if you’re honest, you start to form an opinion about them just the same.

Did you choose a gender for both of the people above? None was given in the description, although to view them on the platform you’d have this information. That first impression you began to form in your brain is based largely on how you’ve perceived and interacted with other people of similar looks in your past. So whether you saw the person in the business suit as successful, determined and confident or conceited, hard-nosed and full of themselves is largely an individual thing. Were you to watch them longer, observe them closer, have a conversation perhaps, your view of them would either be reinforced or change based on further information you gather.

Just like the two people I’ve described, you present yourself to others (the world around you) both in how you look, how you act and what you say. Both the people above may be on the way to work, be very successful by their own definition and be friendly.

The choices we make right from the start of our day go a long way to determining how we are perceived. So what are some of these choices? Showering vs. not showering, brushing our teeth or not, how we wear our hair, the clothes we pick out, (cleanliness, colour, style, fit). There’s also the way we move. Do we saunter along, looking at the streetscape around us and the people we pass or do we walk with a purposeful stride, focused straight on the path ahead, not looking anywhere but at the destination we are moving toward?

Whether older or younger, some thought going in to how we dress, move and act will change how the people we interact with start to size us up. If you’re older and feel your age is a problem, I have to tell you that it’s possible this self-perception is coming across to others in your choice of clothing, grooming, how you behave and your movement. Look at yourself as objectively as you can and note the people around you that you perceive favourably. How are they dressed? How do they move? What’s their posture like? How are they groomed?

One thing you can do to check on how you’re coming across is to ask people you interact with and trust for their views on how they perceive you. As there is little value in only hearing what you want to hear, ask for honesty. Without leading them by saying, “Do I come across as confident?”, just ask how they see you.

Do this with one person and that’s interesting. Do this with two or three and it’s somewhat helpful. Do this with many people and you get a clearer idea of how the world perceives you. Now the question is do you like what you hear? Is it consistent with how you want to come across? If so, great! If not exactly what you hoped for, what is it you’re doing to create that image in their minds? If change is wanted, you act on it.

It’s What’s Inside That Counts

Let me ask you a simple question if I may. What’s holding you back?

Whether you’re not getting interviews, not getting job offers, getting passed over for promotions or not even looking seriously for work when you’ve no job at all, what’s holding you back?

Some of you know exactly what the answer is. You haven’t even paused as continue to read because you know yourself so well, the answer is constantly in your self-consciousness. For others, to really answer this question intelligently, you’d have to pause after reading the opening line and really think about it because honestly, you’re just not sure. Of course another possibility is the list is longer than you’d like.

So what are you thinking? Age? Outdated education? Expired certifications? A lack of experience? A growing gap on your resume? Uncertainty over what to pursue? Lack of drive and personal motivation? Weaker skills in some areas than those of your competitors? Having such a small circle of friends and contacts you don’t have anyone to provide you with leads, support, tips and advice? Low self-worth and/or self-perception? What’s holding you back?

Without sitting down together and having a personal conversation, let me nonetheless offer up a broad generalization; I’ll bet the true answer is more about what’s going on inside you than the world around you. How we see ourselves determines in large part how we interact with the world around us. How we are perceived by others is how we project ourselves when we interact with one another. When we see ourselves as qualified, assertive, prepared and competent, we move and talk with inner confidence that projects outward. Conversely, when doubt about our abilities and qualifications is on our minds, when we wonder if we could ever be prepared enough, worrying ourselves to the point of being nervous and full of anxiety, these inner feelings manifest themselves in our behaviour, come out in the language we use and the overall impression we leave on others is less appealing. In short, when we doubt ourselves, we give others reason to doubt us too.

So how is it that over years, some people developed inner self-confidence and others didn’t? Much more important is what can we do NOW to grow some confidence and belief in our core that we are competent; that we are qualified and more than just deserving of a shot at something? For if we could transform our self-perception deep down in our core, we’d move forward; we would no longer be held back, we’d reach our goals with increasingly regularity and feel entirely more confident. How does that sound to you?

No matter how long that process might seem before us, all progress – whether towards a short-term or long-term goal starts exactly the same way; taking a single step, then another, followed by more and before you know it, the distance grows from where you were to where you are now. So too does the distance shorten between where you were and where you’d like to be. A single step. Remember that…a single step. The journey might seem daunting or overwhelming if you look at the entire journey before you, but a single step is achievable.

Lest you wonder at where to start, what direction to take that single step in for fear of walking in the wrong direction etc., realize that even as you read this, you are mentally engaged in reading about the possibility of change. A seed is being planted that change is possible; that your future isn’t sealed based on your life choices up to now. Your past decisions and choices have led you to the present; but you must realize that your current choices and decisions can change, and changing these affects a change in where your headed in the future. Make the same choices as the past and yes, your future is similar. Make changes in your decisions and new choices and you shift your journey. You are therefore in more control of your destination than you might have realized.

I believe that acquiring skills and varying experiences is far more essential to a healthy future than fixating on a final destination and going all in to get that one job. You might envy the person who at 17 knows exactly what they want to be and by 24 has landed the job, but what’s the likelihood of that same job bringing the same degree of satisfaction when they are 50? Or even 29 for some? We evolve.

When you first begin to work on your inner view of yourself, you may not feel all that happy about how you see yourself. Expect this! When change is what you realize you want, assessing yourself now doesn’t mean this is you moving forward. This is just the starting inventory on the journey you are embarking on. Like any adventurer, you’ll acquire things moving forward, drop some excess baggage you no longer want or need. Your journey isn’t a quest taking you to far off lands necessarily; this quest is more for transforming your inner-self so that how you present yourself to others and therefore interact with others changes for the better.

If you’re hungry for this change; wanting to grow in confidence, to truly believe in yourself and feel better about who you are, you have already taken the first small step forward; expressing a private desire for change.

What’s holding you back?



Problem Solving

In order to claim you’re good at solving problems, you must have not only had problems arise in the past, you must have successfully resolved them. If you claim you’re an expert at resolving major problems, it logically follows that you’ve not only had major problems in your life, but again, you’ve eliminated them.

What however, defines ‘major problems’? When an interviewer asks you to share examples of having resolved some major problems in your past, you have to hope that your definition of a major problem and theirs is a shared understanding. If you share something they perceive as a relatively easy problem to have faced, and you view it as a major challenge, you might not be up to the demands of the job being discussed.

You have to also be mindful of what you perceive as an acceptable compromise in resolving challenges and problems compared to the person you’re speaking with. When they don’t tip their hand or react in any way to how you describe the steps you took to resolve the problem you’re relating, it can be difficult to know if you’re on the right track with your answer. There may be no way to amend your answer, provide additional commentary or even move to a better example altogether.

One of the poorest things you can do is claim to have none whatsoever in your past that come to mind. This response either comes across as a flat-out lie or if you somehow come across as believable, it only serves to prove you’re inexperienced when it comes to resolving problems. Neither of the two responses to your claim will help you if they want a problem-solver.

Having had problems is a given in your personal or professional life. I’ve yet to meet the person who has sailed along without having had any problem come up. Owning up to having problems in your past is not a weakness. What is of significant interest is your reaction to the problem(s) you’ve elected to share. So faced with a problem, did you a) ignore it, b) face it, c) tell someone else to fix it, d) make it worse, e) make sure the circumstances that led up to the problem were changed so it didn’t recur or f) give up or give in and let it overwhelm you.

One key to dealing with big problems is learning how to tackle small ones; and I mean small ones. Finding yourself ready to go to work but being unable to find where you left the car keys for example. Hardly a life or death problem, but nonetheless at that moment, a problem that must be resolved. Retracing your steps, asking for help from other family members, checking the usual places, the pockets of whatever you wore the night before, all good. Finding them still in the outside door where you mistakenly left them overnight, maybe the lesson learned is hanging up the keys in the same spot from then on as your usual practice so the problem does not arise again.

Building on the idea of adjusting your behaviour and hanging up keys each time in the same place, you can apply this lesson to other situations. You learned to act in a way that anticipates a potential problem and head it off before it occurs. If nothing changes in your behaviour, you’ll repeat misplacing your keys. While that might be frustrating, the leap in reasoning is that you’ll repeat behaviours that bring on self-inflicted problems in other areas too, and that could be costly for an organization when your problems become theirs.

All problems have two things in common; a goal and one or more barriers. There’s something to be achieved and there’s one or more things which need to be addressed and resolved to remove the problem and reach the desired goal.

Successful people are often viewed as people who face their problems head-on, tackling problems before them and reaching their goals. When they do so, they not only reach the goals they desired, they reinforce their belief that they can solve problems. Their confidence rises, other people come to regard them as capable and recognize their problem-solving skills.

People who struggle often hope problems will go away if they ignore them, or they fail to resolve the problem even when they try because they lack the resources or skills to do so. Their past experiences with problems did not prepare them sufficiently to handle the current problem, so they make what others see as poor decisions which either allow the problem to continue or even become bigger.

If your confidence is low when it comes to solving problems, asking for help is a smart thing to do. There’s no shame in knowing your limitations and seeking help but do make an effort to learn from the person helping you. When someone does something for you, that may resolve the problem this time, but it may not prepare you for when the same problem or one of a similar nature comes up again. Having someone guide and support you while you solve the problem will improve your confidence in not only resolving the immediate problem, but similar ones as they arise.

You’ll likely experience failures and setbacks when facing problems; this is normal and okay. Problems will always come along in life. They really present opportunities to grow.

Unemployed? You’re Still Entitled To Your Dignity

You may be unemployed at the moment. Or, if you are fortunate enough to be employed, perhaps you can recall a time in your life when you were out of work, between jobs, or the threat of unemployment hung over your life, like a dark cloud on an otherwise sunny day. You know then the feeling you’ve got just now? The anxiety, frustration, anger and possibly persecution?

Maybe just for a second you felt a stir of some memory of your unemployment you’d told yourself you never want to experience again. Just for a moment, thinking back to that period in your life you felt it there deep down; maybe the shame and embarrassment, the low self-esteem, the loss of dignity. And if as I started this off, you are currently unemployed, you may be experiencing this daily and wondering if it ever will get better.

For a large number of people, (I think it’s safe to say the majority of us) our employment status is closely associated with our personal dignity. If we have a good job and we do well in our job, we perceive ourselves as successful and that then is how we interact with others and thus become perceived by others; ie. he or she is successful. We hold our head high, feel good about ourselves.

The reverse is that if we have no job, we may perceive ourselves as failures, different from the norm, not measuring up or pulling our weight financially, and this too can affect how others see us. Hence, we are seen and perceived as unsuccessful, our heads drop, we shun gatherings, isolate ourselves and feel poorly about ourselves and lose our dignity.

Now while this may or may not be the case for everyone, it tends to be the case for a majority of people. But is it possible to distinguish the two things; unemployment and dignity, and see them as two different things that don’t impact on the other? In simple terms, can you be unemployed and out of work but still hang on to your personal dignity and truly convince yourself you are a person of worth? I believe you can.

For starters, a good exercise in rediscovering your dignity is to identify your strengths. What is it that you are good at? I’ve been fortunate to have a look at some of the past performance evaluations some of my clients have retained over the years when I’ve been working with them to find their next job. In those evaluations, while there have been areas in which to improve, there is always some reference to tasks the person performs well. It may be the case that in addition to tasks, other traits are evaluated; overall attitude, working with others, communication skills, attendance and punctuality etc.

These strengths are good to get down on paper. Even in a case where the same person whose name at the bottom of your evaluation is the one who released you from your job, this person was able to identify things you were good at and that they recognized in you.

One of the key things to understand is that your worth as an employee in one company doesn’t necessarily carry over to who you are to others. So even if you got fired as an Outbound Telemarketer with a large telecommunications company, it doesn’t necessarily follow that you are a bad parent, a poor spouse, a disappointment as a son, or a poor influence on friends. It’s too often the case that this does in fact get into the head of the unemployed person; and it’s not a healthy thought process because it can unfairly lead a person to make poor decisions in those other roles, and what you think can be in turn what you become.

So in other words if you fail in a specific job with a company, you might succeed in the same job but with a different company, or you may determine that the job is not for you no matter what company you are with, but it doesn’t follow that you should see yourself as a failure in all jobs. Nor does it follow that you should be a failure in other parts of your life just because you failed in one job with one company.

I’ve known people who are actually very much relieved when they lose their job; jobs they couldn’t bring themselves to quit on their own, but the release they feel on being fired makes it a positive experience. One such person worked in a store selling Adult video’s and kinky sex items. She hated the job as it went against her personal morals but at the time needed the money. She was grateful after being fired as her heart wasn’t in the job and she underperformed. Her dignity rose as she walked out the door.

May I suggest that you acknowledge your work is only one part of who you are. Taking stock in all parts of your life, from the personal hobbies, your role in your family, with friends, in your community etc. are all small parts of who you are as a whole. It is unhealthy to allow your employment or rather lack of employment and the dignity you feel in this one area, to dominate the other parts of the person you are.

There are a lot of good people out there who just lack employment. Maybe your one of them?

You Are What You Think

Have you ever found it frustrating and downright unbelievable when someone says something to you like, “Well if you want it bad enough it will happen?” And all the time all you can think about is how dumb that sounds to you because so much of what you want depends on other people to make it possible.

Take a job for instance. You find a posting for some job you think you’d really do well in and the pay is pretty good too. Not only would you do well in the job, but it’s something you’d really enjoy doing. But once you fire off the resume, you feel it’s totally out of your hands, and your fate now rests in the hands of someone at that company who will or won’t call you for an interview. And furthermore, even if you get an interview and feel you aced it, it’s out of your control again as to whether or not they actually hire you because you can’t control how other people think and the decisions they make.

So when someone tells you, “You are what you think”, and you’re thinking how unfair the job market is, and how your starting to think you’re a failure, it can seem like a slap in the face and the dumb advice. After all, if you start thinking you are going to get a certain job, that doesn’t automatically guarantee success does it? So why do people say that and what do they really mean when you figure they are really thinking they are being helpful?

Simply put, those that say things like, “You are what you think”, believe that thoughts lead to actions, and actions determine outcomes. So if you want a positive outcome, you have to perform the actions necessary to bring about the outcome, and the actions can’t be put in place unless the right thoughts are there that have to happen first. Think negatively and you’ll likely take short-cuts or put little effort into applying for a job. The result will be that because your thoughts were negative, your actions weak, the result will be no interview, or if granted an interview, you’ll be ruled out quickly.

On the other hand, if you find a job you want bad enough and really think this is what you’ve been waiting for, you may just start to do more because you believe in your mind, “THIS IS IT!” That initial thought has to be supported by a further thought that prompts you to take action; research the job and the company, write a cover letter introducing yourself and your value to the company, targeting a resume that specifically matches the requirements of the job to your own skills and experience. Then the job once applied to gets followed up with some enthusiasm. Phone calls to ensure they got it, a request for an interview, and at the interview, your anticipation and enthusiasm for the job shines through because you’re thinking all along how close you are to claiming this job as your own. And when the interview has concluded, you follow up the interview with a note of appreciation and provide more convincing documentation that you are the right person for the job.

Now contrast this with someone who is given a job posting which is something they are trained to do, and upon looking it over, they furrow their eyebrows, screw up their face, sigh and say, “What’s the point? I probably won’t get it anyhow, but I’ll apply.” That negative thought process will translate into an application sure; but the application will become a chore with little real enthusiasm for the work it will take to submit a dynamic and targeted application.

Now I’ve run into people who have terrible resume’s with spelling and grammar errors but they think they will get a job interview with all their hearts. You can’t only have a positive thought process but lack real skills necessary to compete with the best. You need that great winning attitude matched up with solid work skills and a polished, professional application.

I had a guy I was trying to explain this to once tell me that I was wrong. His example was that he doesn’t think he’ll win the lottery but he buys a ticket every week because he might, and no amount of thinking he’ll win improves his odds. In this example he’s absolutely right. Every ticket has an equal chance, and if interviewers just randomly picked a resume from a pile like they do lottery numbers, I’d be out of a job as an Employment Counsellor! But employers take time to review applications, sorting through each to see which matches best with their needs. They read not only matching skills and qualifications but also have people in to match up personality, enthusiasm for the work to be done, check out your potential influence – negative, neutral or positive on their existing workforce. Numbers in a lottery have no such luck.

If you want, look at 2014 as a chance to start with a fresh, winning attitude. Do your best to think positively and then take actions that support this thought process. Get help with your new mindset but sitting down with those who can help you stay positive and avoid folks who are negative and pull you down.