Hello Dolly! (My Rolling Files)

Luke Skywalker had R2, Will Robinson had Robot and I guess I now have Dolly. Or Rolly. Geez I’ve never really thought about giving the rolling file contraption a name. Maybe if I could motorized it and control it by voice command that would be different.

Back in 2019, (now there’s the first time I’ve used that phrase and it already seems so last century), I frequently facilitated from one of our 5 workshop rooms. I found myself constantly carrying in and out many handouts I’d be using when they’d run; varying from one day to 3 weeks in length. By the time I was ready to start on day 1, I’d have my front table all laid out with the handouts I’d plan on using. That’s just the way I like to organize things. My colleagues have varying styles; some bringing things in day by day, some using a book where everything is given out together on day 1.

At one point in the past, I even had a discarded shelving unit screwed into a wall in the room, and I’d ensure every slot was labelled and filled with the necessary quantities ahead of my needing them. And that worked for the most part, until of course I wasn’t scheduled in that room, which became an issue when someone else was facilitating in there and I’d need to gain access to retrieve one handout.

Towards the middle of last year, I found this dolly. Well, truth be told, a coworker was using it more as a storage unit. It was mine for the asking, so I took it over and saw possibilities. It’s perfect for letter sized files. What it allowed me to do was store the files I’d need and transport them anywhere in the building I would need them. You can’t believe how comforting it is to know that all the handouts I’m potentially going to want are right there at hand when I’m facilitating.

Now of course, some people are like a few of my colleagues who prefer to have all their handouts in book format. This eliminates the need for handouts completely, and you just progress through a workbook page by page or jump around in the book as you want. Me, I’ve used that style in the past but it’s not my first choice. No, I’d rather know all the content I want to cover, but respond to the needs of each group by constantly adjusting the content. This style of facilitation is more challenging I believe; I mean you have to read groups, identify their wants and needs, pick up on comments and questions asked and all the while think to yourself, “do I have a handout for that?”

The other thing I’ve never really liked about giving out a workshop manual on day 1 is that some people flip pages only when you tell them to while others flip and scan the whole book to see where you’re taking them. Some even work ahead without the benefit of a facilitated discussion, invariably completing some exercise incorrectly or differently at best than they would with that discussion. I don’t want people regurgitating the information from later pages; telling me what they’ve read not what they really think on their own. So for me, for my style, it’s handouts one at a time.

And that’s where Dolly comes in. All the files are alphabetically contained therein, and it just falls to me to ensure that I’ve got 30 of each ready to go prior to any particular workshop. However, Dolly has a few issues. I remember in Star Wars, C3P0 spoke about being better than previous versions; a higher functioning and more valuable commodity than his predecessors.  I think Dolly is ready for a melt down soon too. I mean it’s shown me that there’s an advantage in having this rolling file system wherever I go, but it’s pretty full as you can see from the photo, and to move it, I’ve got to hunch down as I push it.

So I’m thinking a project for 2020 here at home is to build a customized rolling filing system in the workshop. Maybe a two levelled contraption, which would solve space issues and transporting it at the same time. I’ve got the tools, I can get the materials, my goodness, dare I say, “We have the technology”. From Star Wars to the 6 Million Dollar Man, I’m all over the place with this blog and obviously still connected to past decades.

I share this with you my readers as a tool I use when facilitating in multiple locations. Maybe you’re in the same kind of situation and are lugging papers from one room to another. If so, this little idea might spark something new for you in 2020. Of course, I’d love to be paperless entirely; good for the environment and good for those who love tech. The thing is however, many of the participants I have before me like paper copies to write on and hold in their hands. Some don’t have computers at home, others just aren’t computer literate. So to be fully accessible, the traditional paper in hand still works. Why I even give them a snazzy folder in which to assemble their own, ‘book’ if you will.

I’d be interested to hear your style of facilitation with respect to handouts and course materials. What works for you? Hey never too old to learn!


Would You Remove Them From Class?

I’ll put my position right up front; never. Nope, I’ll never remove someone from any class I lead with one exception. (Drat! There’s always one exception; and if there’s one exception I can hardly say I’d never remove someone now can I?)

Seriously, the only time I’ll remove someone from a class I lead is when it is clearly in THEIR best interests. I’ve known a lot of people over the years who kick people out of their classes simply for their own personal benefit. Oh they may say it’s for the good of the other participants but in reality, well, we know better!

Now you might not agree with my position on refraining from removing people from a class for sporadic attendance as an example. Well, here’s how I see things. Perfect attendance is ideal; after all you can’t learn what you miss hearing, seeing and experiencing. When you’re in a class where success is achieved by building on what was learned the previous day, missing class is a huge barrier.  However, the way I see things, when referring to adult participants, treating them like adults means the accountability lies with them rather than me. In other words, they get out what they put in. I’m here, I’m sharing and instructing to those who show up, and if you come and go, you have to assume the responsibility for both what you learn and what you miss.

I know unemployed people have more than just the job hunt taking up their precious thoughts. I’ve met a vast number of people who earnestly want to get a job. All they can control however – and make note of this point – is what they can control. That sounds trite but my point is unemployed people never just have the lack of a job to focus on; no, not ever, and they may lack resources to solve problems too.

Right off the top, the lack of a job often means the person lacks an identity. Instead of saying, “I’m a Carpenter and I work for ________”, they can only say, “I’m a Carpenter by trade”, leaving out the shared identity with an employer. Coupled with this loss of identity as employed is a huge hit to self-esteem. Why after all do you think people hide their unemployed status from family and friends as long as they can? And when was the last time you asked someone what they do for a living and they responded with a confidently delivered, “Why I’m unemployed and in receipt of government financial assistance. Thank you for asking.” Yep; never.

So lack of status, self-esteem and obviously financial income. No job, no money. No money, mounting bills. Mounting bills, increased debt. Increased debt, poor credit score. Poor credit score, no job in some organizations. All of these lead to soaring stress, anxiety, confusion; a trip along the rollercoaster of applying for jobs with high hopes, crushing defeats of being ignored completely, rising hopes when interviewed, dashed dreams of success when rejected..

Now let’s add the stuff that isn’t shared by everyone. You know, the specific problems a person has. Here you can choose from dysfunctional families, homelessness, threats of eviction, physical ailments, concerns with being too young or too old to be taken seriously. Literacy issues, isolation, depression, single-parent status with no childcare, lack of appropriate clothing for interviews, transportation, gaps on the resume, lack of current education and/or expired licences and certificates. Take a breath. How about rent payments due, lost bus passes to agonize over, mislaid identification, court proceedings with the ex to discuss support payments and visitation access. Let’s round things out with the parents who fret and worry about you being so vulnerable and who keep saying you just need someone to take care of you; totally undermining your long held belief that you are independent, strong and quite able to take care of yourself.

Yes, so with all the above going on – or if not all the above then certainly a lot of the above going on with those looking for a job, it borders on cruelty to misread someone’s sporadic attendance as entirely their responsibility or fault and penalize them by removing them. All this accomplishes is adding another failure to their growing list of things to feel bad about.

So when someone doesn’t attend the way you’d like in your class, demonstrate empathy and allow them to continue. Don’t ask why they can’t commit because honestly, they may not be able to articulate all the reasons. As for the others in the class who do show up daily and do contribute and do their best to succeed, praise them for doing so.  You might tell them that you’re taking notice of their good behaviours and that their actions are all contributing to their future success. You might even go so far as to remind them that the stresses they are experiencing may be similar to what others are going through, only the others have fewer resources than they do to cope.

The gift you give your participants is a new perspective; empathy for their fellow classmates. You are suddenly not just teaching people about job hunting or career exploration etc., you’ve just added a life skill; a human element that came as an added bonus not mentioned in the promotional brochure that enticed them to attend.

Well done!

Giving 100% Might Still Not Be Enough

Has this happened to you? You’ve just sat down to eat and you reach for the salt and start shaking it only to find all you get is a few grains of salt. While you did get every last grain you could out of the container, it was still inadequate. So you got up and grabbed a second salt shaker and got the quantity you wanted.

Whenever a group of people come together to learn, you’ll find those in attendance have varying abilities to receive, comprehend, internalize and then use the new information in the way it was intended by whomever gave it to them. Just like that first salt shaker, one person might give it all they’ve got, but it’s clearly not enough to term their experience successful. Others in the group might be more like the second in that they don’t need to invest 100% of themselves to grasp the lesson; they’ve got so much more to give and aren’t taxed to their limits.

This is something that you should remind yourself if and when you find yourself instructing any group. It’s easy to misread someone in attendance and openly question their level of commitment, their self-investment and how bad they want to learn whatever they’ve signed up for. It could be that other things going on in their lives have robbed them of what they would have otherwise loved to pour into your instruction. Yet, the multiple things that are occurring around them outside of your own awareness has them distracted, consumed with worry. As a consequence, they find it difficult to process what you’re sharing and then demonstrate they have mastered the learning.

This is true whether we’re talking about children, teens or adult learners. The major difference experienced by those in these three groups is only the things they worry or stress about; but the experience of being distracted itself is shared. So you may see a child unable to focus or pay attention in elementary school and make the error of assuming they are a daydreamer or assume they just wont’ concentrate. A teenager might walk into a class and look sullen, withdrawn, unmotivated etc. but really they are fixated on something they are experiencing in an all-consuming way. As for an adult, it’s not hard to now understand that while a person might tell us they are committed 100% to learning, what we might observe is skipped classes to work on solving outside issues that they feel take priority.

I suppose then it’s ourselves we have to look at when at the start of a class we tell the those before us to give 100% of their focus to the materials. While we assume our meaning is clear and direct, upon reflection, we might be failing to lay out what’s required in order for each person to ultimately be successful. Why? Life gets in the way is how I put it.

Let me use my own experience this week and last as an example. I started with the expectation I’d have 12 unemployed people and over the course of two weeks I’d share with them much of what it takes to successfully land a job. Cover letters and resumes, interview preparation and job applications, all crammed heavily into 10 consecutive days of 9:00a.m. sharp to 2:30 p.m. Before being accepted into the class, I spoke individually with each of the 12, going over their expectations and mine; specifically asking them if they were prepared to commit to these days and times. All 12 told me what I wanted to hear and accepted the invitation.

What I’ve observed is not all 12 have the capacity to keep to that commitment. It’s not that they are lazy, combative or don’t want to get the most out of time together; it’s that not all 12 are actually capable of being present for the 12 days. So what’s got in the way? Life. What does Life look like? It’s mental fatigue, mental illness, a threat of eviction, a bad decision to stay home and await a phone call with a job offer when they could have attended with their cell phone in hand. For some, it’s the trigger of something raised in class that’s brought back a haunting memory from the past of failure, shame and the need to, ‘take a day or two to work things out’.

What we can’t tell just from looking at someone, is how much they’ve got inside themselves to give. If I could line the 12 up and see them like 12 salt shakers, I could easily see how much they each have to start with, and I could also see how close they are to emptying everything they’ve got. The expectation I have for how much they need to invest in the first place to succeed and perhaps their own ability to accurately self-assess themselves may be unrealistic.

Maybe I should get a few salt shakers of various quantities and sizes and illustrate this point to the group. Perhaps it might save someone from feeling bad about not meeting my expectations or those of the course. Hey, when you give it all you have, it doesn’t matter how much is expected of you, you’ve emptied the tank. Demanding more of someone who has nothing less to give is unrealistic and does them a disservice as they are set up to fail.

Hmm… maybe this would be a good read for anyone who helps people.

A Word For Presenters

Whenever you’re learning something new, you can no doubt find many people who having already learned the basics, are able to share with you what they know. As you learn what they know, you sometimes seek others with even more information, until you get to the point where you know all you want.  At this point, you may just know enough that you can discover what remains to be known by yourself.

When you’re on the other side, possessing knowledge of a subject and sharing that knowledge with those who seek it, just knowing what they don’t know isn’t good enough. No, it takes someone with both the knowledge and the knack for communicating that knowledge. I’ve known way too many people through the course of my life who, while very intelligent and educated on subjects, fail miserably when it comes to communicating that information in such a way that their audience learns what’s being taught.

Lest you think this is confined to a classroom in the conventional student/teacher relationship, while it’s true that failing to communicate occurs here, it is by no means confined to the classroom. Think about when you were learning to drive and how your father got so exasperated trying to teach you. As you struggled to change gears, or took far too long for their liking as you attempted to parallel park the car, their patience lowered as their voice raised. When you continued to grind gears and jerked the car forward a few feet at a time, their tolerance eroded and your ability to learn was hampered by your increasing stress. In short, they weren’t the best teacher, and you in their mind, just weren’t getting it. You were failing to learn in their mind, and in yours,  you realized you needed a better communicator.

As a Workshop Facilitator, I find myself each and every day having to modify how I communicate to my audience. Sometimes, being direct and straightforward is the way someone learns. At other times, being so direct might shatter what’s left of a fragile self-esteem, and extreme patience and words of encouragement go a lot further.

If you facilitate workshops, lead seminars or teach any subject matter, I wonder how you go about communicating what you know to your audience. I’ve been to some events where the presenter failed to make a connection with their audience and just droned on reading their slides as they came up on the screen. They may have just as well emailed us the presentation and stayed home. But this is an example of where their teaching style and my learning style didn’t jive. No, I like more dialogue, more interaction, question and answers, activities, humour, a lively and animated speaker.

When I first started as a Facilitator, I likely thought I was pretty good. I mean, it’s only natural to think we’re doing okay when we get started, even though we know we have much to learn. I probably wasn’t as good as I thought I was though. That too only makes sense. The more you work at communicating a topic to others, the better you get at communicating period.

In short, you get – I got – better at reading your audience. Looking out at those faces, you can pick up the quizzical look that really says, “I don’t understand”. You can see the glazed over eyes that say, “I’m tuned out” or the tilted head that says, “I hadn’t thought of that before and I’m taking a moment to process what I just learned.” If you read your audience well, you adjust your communication to get more of what you’re after, smiling faces that say, “I understand, my knowledge is increasing and I feel good.” When you fail to read your audience or don’t even try, you’ll have people take extended washroom breaks, leave and not return, or sometimes actually cut you off and say, “What are you talking about?” Of course, you won’t see any of these if you aren’t engaged yourself as presenter.

The people in an audience are most probable to have different learning styles. Each brings their past knowledge in your subject, from absolute novice to those with some familiarity and of course those who may actually know as much or more than you. Good presenters touch everyone and their message resonates with each person in the audience so all leave feeling they got something out of the time they invested.

I know when I’m at the front of a room, I’m scanning faces all the time, watching the body language, checking levels of engagement and I try to get to people quickly who may be struggling to keep up, grasp a concept or have a question. It may be someone needs an analogy to something they already know and comprehend completely that makes learning something new relatable. For some, they might need a comical moment of entertainment, some visual or audio enhancement of what’s being shared. When I see those, “Oh, now I understand!” faces, I know that the message I’ve been communicating has been received as I intended.

This is the objective and responsibility of any presenter; communicate your message so that your audience receives it as you intended. If you succeed then great. If you fail to communicate your message, it’s not your audience; look in the mirror. And yes, I’ve looked in the mirror. A lot. That’s how to improve.


That Negative Attitude In The Audience

If you’ve ever run a workshop, taught a class, or led a project, I think you’ll agree that one of your hopes is that all the members of your audience actually want to be in attendance and hear what you’ve got to say. After all, when you’ve put a lot of preparation in ahead of time, you’re hoping it will be appreciated.

So perhaps you can identify with the situation I found myself in yesterday. There I was standing before 16 people, just about to welcome them formally and kick off a 7 day Career Exploration workshop. My audience consisted of unemployed people choosing (for the most part) to take this free course and learn not only what jobs or careers might be the best personally fit, but a lot about themselves in the process.

Just as I was about to begin, one person said, “How long is this? I don’t want to be here but my worker is making me. And are you paying for childcare because it’s a PA day today and that’s the only way I could come today.” Now if it were you, what would you say? There’s a few different ways you could respond; kick them out, tell them that’s too bad, maybe even take them aside and tell them you don’t appreciate their attitude. I rejected all of these; none of them actually fit with my style.

I was sad of course, because this overtly negative attitude had the possibility of spreading and infecting others, and what she didn’t know – and still doesn’t – is that she had opted to sit herself down immediately beside a gentleman with phobia’s and severe anxiety. I was sad also to think that this negative attitude was also preventing herself from benefitting from being present. However, things had to be nipped in the bud.

I’ve done workshops and presentations for a long time now, and one of the things I know is that every person in the room starts forming an opinion of the presenter right away. Just like seeing someone for the first time in an interview, or any social situation, we start sizing other people up. So heads turned to me to see how I would respond to this person and what I would say and do. Not the way I would choose to start but a good challenge nonetheless.

“You don’t have to be here; none of you do in fact. You can get up now and walk out the door and miss the extra money, gift card and certificate for attending. You only have to attend one workshop and this isn’t it; it’s optional. If you choose to stay, you’ll not only get extra money, you’ll learn a lot about yourself that you don’t know and you’ll be better prepared to talk about the strengths you’ve got. We’re talking 7 days out of your entire life, and the thing is, it will be fun. So leave now or stay, but if you stay, why not choose to be more positive? You’ll have a better time and so will everyone else.”

She didn’t get up to go. But if you think that her attitude switched immediately, you’re wrong. It did however improve slightly. When I asked people to put their names on both sides of the tent cards in front of them, she put her name on the side facing her and on the other she wrote, “No Name.” Yeah, that wasn’t going to work. So I asked her politely to not fight things all the way, and she relented and switched it around. Oh well, name projecting out and to her, a little hold on her feisty attitude; a compromise. It’s not about wining her over by completely defeating her spirit.

We did an exercise yesterday where everyone developed a personal motto or slogan based on their beliefs and things they hold important. When invited to share her own, she did so, dropping an f-bomb and expressing how the world will mess you up. I decided not to take the offered bait and just thanked her and moved on to the next person.

Later in the day when each person was adding another bit of information to their summary page, I noticed her Motto section was blank. Questioning her, I asked why she hadn’t filled it in. She replied, “I want to take it home and think about it and come up with something better.” To me, this was a breakthrough moment. She was actually investing in the process – in herself really. “Good for you. I really appreciate you deciding to stay and with a positive attitude. Thanks for that”, I replied.

You know, a lot of people have multiple barriers and want their lives to improve. They want better futures for their children and some of the good things in life that they see on television, the movies or in watching other people. I don’t know what this young woman has gone through to get where she is now, nor do I know the effort that is required just to get to class. I hope she sticks out the 7 days and makes it back in today.

Sometimes the people who present with the most overt negative attitudes are the ones who later will appreciate most the help offered them. I hope this is the case here. I also hope the way I’ve handled things is a learning moment for others in the class.

When Sharing A Skill

Whether you’re a newbie or a long-time, seasoned veteran, you could be guilty of making a rookie mistake; sharing a skill and assuming the other person can do it without actually observing them try it on their own.

Now it’s not that you’re smarter than the people you’re sharing what you know with. No, it’s more than that. It’s that you’ve had practice over time and have come to master or improve what you once found new and they haven’t. If you make the assumption that someone who is nodding their head in the affirmative can do for themselves what you are instructing them on, you’ll be surprised to find they often can’t. The danger here is that when you do discover they can’t perform up to your – or their – expectations, you might actually even set them back further than when you started, as they wrestle with a drop in self-esteem and question their abilities.

Case in point, the dreaded resume. I know, I know, why that! Ah but it’s true my readers. Yes, as an Employment Counsellor I help many people daily and one of the most common things I’m passing on to those I help is how to craft a winning resume. This is something many people think is pretty simple to put together; they believe anybody can make one. On the one hand, this belief is absolutely true; however, not many can make an effective one, and that’s the difference. I regularly see people genuinely show they understand the suggestions I’m passing on, and most importantly, the reason behind those suggestions. Yet, if they sit down on their own to implement those ideas and suggestions, there’s often a gulf between what they understand and what they produce.

So may I suggest that when passing on a skill, do more than just tell someone how. Perhaps for the auditory learner; those who just need to be told how to do something, this might work. However, the majority of learners I’ve found need to not only hear what you’re passing on, they need to also see it done and then have the opportunity to try it themselves under some watchful guidance.

Again, it’s not that the learner is inferior to the teacher but rather, the teacher has had more experience learning a new skill, practicing it repeatedly and mastering the subject. A new learner has neither the practice doing what you’re passing on, or the time to have mastered what you impart.

A trap you also want to avoid is feeling somewhat smug about your superior knowledge in whatever you’re teaching and then making the leap to feeling superior as a person overall. Whomever you’re sharing your skill with is without question the expert in other areas; certainly better skilled say in what they do for a living than you are at the moment. So a trained and experienced Office Administrative professional might not be able to market themselves in a résumé as well as you, but they may well have superior knowledge about keyboarding skills, shortcut keys, use of tabs etc.. if you’ve never had formal training in Office Administration and everything you know on a keyboard has been self-taught, they just might be able to share a few things with you!

As I say, the majority of people I’ve come into contact with as an Employment Counsellor, Trainer and Facilitator learn best by being given the opportunity to practice newly learned skills. A tremendously good thing to do during this learning period is to give encouragement and recognize the skill development so watch your words. If they hold you in high esteem and value your opinion, they’ll be greatly influenced by both your praise and your corrective criticism.

I have found that taking a few minutes while sharing what I know, to learn something from those I’m working with does us both a lot of good. First of all, I learn and appreciate what this person can do; a little insight into a job perhaps that I only have a basic understanding of. More importantly by far however, the person I’m helping feels good that I’m both interested enough to want to know, and they experience some measure of improved self-worth in knowing what I do not. We are after all, two people with skills in different areas, both having strengths and areas to improve upon. We just happen to be in a situation where my strengths are being showcased and drawn upon. This however, doesn’t make me better overall, or in any way superior.

It is also of critical importance to recognize just how much a person can take in during your time together. If you’re working together for 2 or 3 weeks, you can pass on much more than telling them everything you’d like them to know when you’ve only got 30 minutes together. Your expectations of what you can share and what they can grasp and retain must adjust to the circumstances.

So share what you know while checking both the learners comprehension and ability to do for themselves what you’re sharing. Share to the ability of the learner in a partnership model; working together to pass on a skill or series of skills and not the model where one is the, “Wise One” and the other an empty vessel to be instructed. See if this makes a difference.

Why People Don’t Change

A very common mistake in the helping professions is to make a blanket assumption that the people we serve want to improve themselves and are ready to change.

So when we that help don’t see change take hold in our clients, we run the risk of silently chastising the client. By  way of example,a person signs up for a class to learn basic computer skills, seems enthusiastic and open to learning, but during the class you observe them reverting to old habits. Although you taught them the home row and keyboarding using all the fingers and both thumbs, they are pecking away with one or two fingers like they did when they first came in.

Similarly, you spend time showing an unemployed person how to go about job searching, telling them it’s a full-time job in itself but observe them a day later apparently goofing around on the internet instead of applying themselves full-time trying to land a job.

Yes it can be frustrating. It is however just possible that a couple of assumptions were made – not by them but by you and I at the outset. These assumptions are the reason that lasting change has not taken root.

The first assumption may be that we assume the person wants what we ourselves would want were we in their position. So if they lack computer skills, we assume they have the equal desire to learn. If they are unemployed, we assume they want a job and the financial independence and rise of self-esteem that comes from having one. Not everyone as it turns out who takes a computer class really has the same commitment or strong desire to learn, nor does everyone actually want a job who says they do.

By projecting our own assumptions onto others, we start our interaction off on the wrong footing. “Of course you want a job right?”, and the person will nod their head and verbally agree with you. But do they? That very old expression, ‘actions speak louder than words’ translates nicely into realty. Does the persons actions support their assertion that they in fact really do want change – REAL change?

Let’s face it, old habits die hard. It takes effort and drive to learn new things, to change out of what we’ve done and has been normal for us up to a point, and then struggle from what’s been easy to what is in the beginning hard. Self-discipline isn’t universally shared. So it isn’t hard to understand that a person you’ve shown how to properly use a keyboard will revert to old habits rather than struggle. In the short-term it’s just faster to use those two fingers, and it’ll take much longer to use all your fingers.

One of the things I’m often heard telling those I work with is that they have to want it more than I want it for them. ‘It’ referring to whatever we are discussing be it a job, computer skills, a career, their education etc. If they don’t own the desire to change, change will start and fail. Lasting change means doing things differently than they’ve been done before over a long period of time, and that can only be successfully achieved when the motivation to change is in the person.

Now, let’s suppose the desire to change is sincere. A second assumption we run the risk of making is that the person has the necessary skills required to take what they are taught and then implement the new ideas, concepts and skills on their own. So even the most sincere person who comes to us and asks for our help may not ultimately be successful in reaching their goal. They just don’t have the necessary building blocks for the new skills we are imparting to build on.

At this point, resist the temptation to assign blame. It’s not your fault that you couldn’t get them to move forward, nor is it theirs for failing to implement for any length of time what you’ve shared. You and that person are however at a wonderful place if you can both see it and act on it. You may be in a place where you can evaluate together, what you need to put in place first so that higher learning can take root.

An undisclosed learning disability might be the problem. It could be just as well that the person who says they want to work is pretty comfortable with their present situation. You and I? Oh we’d want a job, and the independence it would mean, but them? Well if they pay rent to their parents, have their food and rent paid by social assistance and don’t have a strong desire for materialistic things, they might just really be content to keep the status quo. I’ve heard many a person eventually tell me this, but don’t assume everyone on social assistance feels this way.

Our values may not be the values others hold. To make this assumption is an error on our part. To assume others want to change the way we’d like them to change is likewise a mistake. It is equally important to check out if the person we hear requesting our help has the necessary pre-requisite tools for the skills we want to impart to be built upon.

As you teach others, be conscious of what others teach you.



Schools And How To Job Search

When I say that young people don’t know how to job search, is that because it isn’t taught in schools? Sure there is the internet, their friends and family, but in large part, society as a whole counts on our education systems to teach young people whatever knowledge they need to get a good start in life; at least in the developed world.

While acknowledging that schools and the people who work there are under increasing demands to teach beyond reading, writing and mathematics, I have to wonder at how much job searching is touched on. Teachers these days have some groups of people wanting them to get back to basics. Other groups of people want issues they feel passionate about taught to our children. Yes I can certainly empathize with the people who design the curriculum as they try to keep everybody happy; all the while in a system that has the same number of hours in a day, weeks in a school year.

The case I would make in order to have more attention paid to teaching effective job searching skills would be that the point of educating young people is to give them the knowledge and skills to live successful lives. We give them diplomas to acknowledge that success, grades to gauge their comprehension, and then we turn them loose as young adults.

Now I can imagine my fellow colleagues in the education systems around the world are dying to read to the end and hit the reply button so they can tell me how they do teach job searching techniques in school. That may be. If so, there are a great many folks I know who collectively must have been away or not paying attention when it was taught.

I can not nor would I ever use my own school experience as any relevant addition to this piece. I graduated from high school in 1978, University in 1981, College in 1983. Just because they didn’t teach it then doesn’t mean anything when comparing what is taught today. And my memory might be suspect! So I rely on the feedback I get from people I meet in my personal and professional life who tell me their own experiences with the school system. Some of them are unemployed youth and adults, some of them teaching professionals.

It can certainly be said and well defended too I suppose that the information I’m getting isn’t scientifically gathered; certainly isn’t the universal experience, and things therefore may be quite different in various parts of the world. I could check in with local school boards too and get the definitive answers when it comes to education curriculum and how much if any time is spent on job search techniques.

I haven’t done this however, and here is why. No matter the answer I would get from any educator, I still see a steady stream of young adults who show only the most rudimentary skills when it comes to knowing how to look for work. Most of these people tell me how they are going about looking for work usually has come from a family member or friend.

Now, suppose you and I did agree that learning how to look for a job is important enough to teach in schools. Could we agree on the grade or grades in which this should be taught? What about the length of time it gets covered? I know there are career days where community members file into schools to talk about their jobs, and career counselling in high school is supposed to help shape a students future education to meet the requirements of potential job posting. So yes some time is spent getting ready.

What about the kids who won’t be heading off to University or College? They should be equally prepared to know how to go about getting a job. There is a huge responsibility on the students themselves however to be receptive to this kind of educating, and we have to be honest and say there are some teens who know it all, think their teachers are out of touch and in short, close their minds to learning. That’s reality.

It’s an unfortunate reality however, that many young people are leaving school (before or after graduation), and don’t have the necessary skills to compete for work. So they may have recent education, academically know their stuff, but how to market themselves and compete for work is a missing link.

But wait: I can recall some young people who have learning disabilities, dysfunctional families and living conditions that made learning hard if not impossible. Could they have indeed been taught how to job search but only so much (and maybe very little) got through?

Could it be that educators today are thinking ahead and doing all they can in a tight curriculum to prepare young people for the world that awaits them? And those that are going to drop out because they want a job now, not another year of school to graduate; would any amount of talking convince them to stick around?

Maybe this is part of natural selection. Some pick up survival skills and succeed, some don’t but learn and succeed later, some don’t get it ever and don’t. They teach that in schools.

Maybe after all, they do teach job searching in school, and as a student it’s your responsibility not just to be in class, but to BE PRESENT. Hmmm…



Sharing Skills With Your Co-Workers

I sent an email out to my co-workers just yesterday, asking if they’d be interested in a lunch and learn session next week on the subject of social media and LinkedIn specifically. Lunch and learn for those of you that don’t already know is literally where you bring your lunch and eat while someone is making a presentation.

It is known to me that at least some of my co-workers are skeptical of social media, a little gun-shy about putting their personal information out there, and others who do get it might still have reservations about what it can do for our clientele; many of whom are not technologically savvy.

This kind of volunteerism, sharing a skill you have with your co-workers so that they personally and ultimately their clients can benefit has a huge upside. For starters, if you are trying to get noticed in your organization, standing up in front of your peers and facilitating a session gives others a chance to see you in what could be a new role. Speak well, answer questions with intelligence and provide a safe room for questions and you may get a few folks thinking of you in ways they didn’t before.

Another benefit is that in sharing your skills, you upgrade the knowledge and ultimately skills of others. With a shared understanding of the subject matter, you’ll be undermined less. Undermined? Definitely. Suppose for example I was in this case extolling the virtues of social media for a job seeker and one of my peers chirped in by saying that they personally don’t think it’s all that necessary and just a fad for upper level business professionals. Now they haven’t ever done this just to be clear, but as an example it works. All of a sudden the job seeker might not want to put forth the effort required to take my advice, and I sure wouldn’t appreciate having my suggestions cut out from beneath me. Intentional or unintentional, that remark may come out of ignorance of social media itself and how to best exploit it.

Another benefit is that the employer need not incur the cost of bringing in some social media guru who in the end might not be as effective as you. After all, you know your business and if you know social media, you know best how to utilize it. Without knowing your business, clientele and their capabilities, no one from outside is as best positioned to maximize this tool as maybe you yourself.

Now think about your own business whatever that is. Surely there are people on your staffing body who have expertise and skills in certain areas which exceed those skills had by most others. Is there a person who is up on the latest trends, seems to be the go-to person when it comes to technology itself, or just knows how to use the advanced features on the photocopiers!

Instead of doing nothing at all which has the impact of keeping knowledge from being shared, or paying someone to come in and share knowledge but at a price, why not initiate your own lunch and learn activity? Now not everyone is going to jump at the chance to get up in front of their peers and lead a session. I get that. Some people would rather sign up for root canal.

Surely however, there are at least a few people who would be willing to speak with some of their co-workers (a voluntary participation over lunch, not mandatory) about something of interest to their co-workers on a topic they themselves know something about.

Take me now. In doing a short presentation on social media in general, and LinkedIn specifically, I’m hoping to demonstrate to my peers how best to help them help our clients. After all, if someone has heard of LinkedIn but doesn’t really understand it, they are not going to be able to sell it as an effective tool to be used in networking and job searching.

As the business my colleagues and I are in is helping others gain and sustain employment, we should be looking for tools to use that give them a competitive advantage. With social media being so prevalent and common these days, using it actually levels the playing field somewhat rather than giving them an advantage. The advantage is already being enjoyed by their competition!

Suppose however you are a clerk who knows how to add your digital signature to documents produced by the printer or the digital photocopiers. I would think that more people in your office would like to know how to do this too. Why not set aside 20 minutes of your lunch and gather those interested so you can walk them through how to do this. 20 minutes…no formal teaching role just standing at the photocopier…showing them what you know…that might be possible?

Again, think of your role in your present job. What do you know that others would benefit from knowing? If you are in Management why not float the idea of your talented workers sharing their knowledge with each other – say once every two weeks. Then step back and let it morph and grow on its own. Book the room, then sit at the table just as one of the gang and see what you can learn. You might be enthusiastically impressed. Skills on the front-line don’t always need to come from those at the top.

Workshops: Responsibilities And Opportunities

If you think back to your days in high school, College or University, you can perhaps recall all too well some of your instructors. Thinking back, no doubt you can recall the really invested ones who made the material they taught authentic, the learning was fun and they used creativity to bring the content to life. Conversely, you can remember those for whom it appeared were just going through the motions with monotonous tedium.

Well if you fast-forward to the present, you might find that in some of the classes or workshops you are attending as an adult this same reality exists. You can spot someone who is excited about sharing their knowledge and experience from someone who isn’t invested in the learning. Those who aren’t usually present the material very factually, there isn’t much you can openly question about the content, but the method of delivery leaves something to be desired.

This for many is the crux of the problem. While the actual information being shared is valuable and welcomed, it is the method of delivery – how it is shared that often makes a difference. The difference from someone just getting the intellectual information and someone getting both the information and receiving it in such a way that it is memorable. When its memorable, its potential to stick and have everyday opportunities for implementing that new information increase.

So why then is it that some facilitators who are academically well qualified are not the most effective presenters? A second question might be why is it that once effective presenters seemingly lose their ability to deliver an impassioned message that fires change in their audience?

First of all the answer to the first question might have more to do with a persons skills. A person may be extremely knowledgeable about a subject; possibly the leading authority on a subject, however they lack the skills to effectively share that knowledge with an audience in such a way that their audience is equally inspired. Not everyone is suited to deliver information and content. Not everyone is similarly suited to put in the work to uncover and learn how to engage an audience on many levels. So you naturally get some quite smart people who only know how to share that knowledge one way – stand and speak.

Good presenters, like good teachers, use a multitude of approaches to share their information. They employ humour, speak with varied tones in their voice, use an appropriate but not excessive number of gestures and body language. Some employ slides, question and answer, video, role-playing and even dramatic silence to punctuate what they consider to be an important piece they want to drive home.

Authenticity means keeping it real. If you have ever heard someone pitching a product they are paid to pitch but don’t believe in, you know what it means to be disingenuous. Companies don’t want people pitching their products who come across as fake or phony, because then the product by association comes into question too. It works in reverse too; a person who values their reputation will be extremely selective when promoting a product, and won’t pitch something they know to be a scam because they by association will be less than trustworthy themselves.

So back to facilitation you might deliver or experience. If your work puts you in the front of others then I implore you to rekindle if need be your passion for the topics you share. Maybe you need a new or more creative angle for delivery. If you can’t find that passion or excitement about your subject matter that you once had, understand your ability to leave any kind of lasting impact on your audience is also compromised. Now the question is do you care enough to do something about it?

If you find yourself in the audience when someone is facilitating, you’ve got a responsibility too. Oh yes you do. It’s up to you to invest yourself in the experience and make sure that before you leave you get the most you can from having listened. Far too many people go to presentations, sign the attendance sheet to get credit for having been there physically, but they mentally never arrived or checked out early. Respect the presenter and the material.

If you are texting during a presentation, only getting invested in socializing at break time or are the first one all packed up to go 20 minutes before the speaker is due to finish, you’re not invested. And that’s a shame, because you or more likely your employer has paid money to give you an opportunity and you’re wasting it.

To get the absolute most from a presentation, sit at or near the front. Avoid folks who distract you with passed notes and whisper snide comments. Ask a question of the speaker, comment  and participate in group work. Instead of making a dash for the door, introduce yourself to the speaker and comment on something you heard; even question something politely.

The best presentations occur when both the speaker and the audience are engaged in the time they spend together. Both have responsibilities and both should be working to get the most out of the time together. There is a joint responsibility for learning, and speakers often learn from their audiences too; what goes over well or like a lead balloon.

Immerse yourself whether you are in the audience or addressing one.