Rebuilding The Damaged Psyche


My business card says my job title is Employment Counsellor, but in truth, I spend a vast amount of my work life providing emotional support, helping others to see the good in themselves and doing everything I can to help people rebuild their fragile self-confidence. Yes, there’s so much more going on in the course of my day than employment counselling alone.

I’m fortunate to be in such a position actually and it comes with tremendous responsibility. When I think of all the people I’ve come into contact with through the course of my work, it’s more humbling than anything to realize just how lucky I am to have met so many wonderful people. And what makes it all the more remarkable is that our lives always intersect when they are at a low point; unemployed and financially dependent on social services support.

I tell you though, some of the stories I’ve been fortunate enough to have shared with me give me tremendous hope for many of them. You would be amazed to see and hear the resiliency in their voices; the determination to improve themselves and make better lives for their children, their hopes for a better future. To see the impoverished and only assess them by their financial health would be a mistake. They are first and foremost people, and they are deserving of respect, care, support and service with integrity just as any other person.

But here’s what I find tragic and regrettable. The vast majority of the unemployed people I come into contact with all share a damaged psyche. How they view themselves in the present and their prospects for the future is skewed because of how they’ve been treated in the past. Now sometimes the treatment they’ve experienced is clearly abhorrent; mistreated physically, sexually, financially by an abusing partner for example. However, I’ve also come to believe that far more people are held back, put down and damaged by less overt sources.

Just yesterday I was assisting a young woman as she crafted a targeted resume for a job she’s interested in. I noted in the choice of words she used during our conversation that she was fixated on her lack of paid employment as a barrier to getting an interview. I pointed out how some of the phrases she was using communicated a lack of confidence and doubt about her suitability for the job, and that in an interview, she’d be better off changing her language. I said I’d like to work on changing how she marketed herself but that first she’d have to truly believe in herself. She replied that I had my work cut out for me then because in College, they were all told their biggest liability was their lack of paid work experience and until they were hired, there was nothing they could do about that.

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Isn’t it interesting to hear how this comment resonated so deeply with this one student? She told me that her lack of paid work was her biggest worry now that she was done school. So just to be clear, what she has going for her is: 1) just graduated with a diploma 2) she’s early twenties and can make a long commitment of service to an employer 3) she has 4 non-paid, positive experiences on her resume in her field, 4) she’s got the right aptitude for the position she’s going for and 5) she’s determined to succeed. And yet, with these and other positives to celebrate, she’s held up and hung up on that message from a trusted and respected Teacher that her lack of paid employment is this huge barrier.

I only have her version to comment on of course, but I would hope that trusted Teacher would have focused not on the lack of paid employment itself, but on strategies to circumnavigate the problem of a lack of paid employment. For her resume, I suggested we ditch the words, “co-op placement” entirely. While true, what I know to be the case is that not every employer values volunteer, co-op, internships and seasonal positions as much as they value paid employment. So instead of a heading, “Work Experience” which implies paid work, I always use, “Relevant Experience”. Under this heading, an applicant can put all their non-paid work right alongside any paid jobs; it is collectively then,  a summary of the positions held that are relevant to the job being applied to.

When we were done, I pointed out how we were still faithful to the truth; there were no lies on her resume, but the lack of paid work was now entirely concealed. What I saw in her was a smile, her shoulders dropped and relaxed from the tense, stress feeling she presented with initially, and she said, “I like it!” What was really happening was a small shift in her self-perception. She could defend this resume, she felt better about how she represented herself, and this sparked a boost in self-perception.

I don’t always win and I sure don’t know everything. I do know there’s more I don’t know that what I do know and this has me keen to learn more and keep discovering new approaches, new strategies and new ways to improve. What I do know with certainty however is that there are a lot of people walking around, appearing to function, ‘normally’ who are suffering with a damaged psyche. Let’s be careful to help not hinder, mind our words, mind our actions.

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Been Out Of Work For Some Time?


One of the challenges for someone who has been unemployed for a growing period is when, at an interview, they are posed a question that asks them to give a recent example of their time management, organization and/or prioritization skills.  Now come to think of it, it’s a challenge to come up with a recent example of any skill if you’ve been out of work for some time.

And here we’ve hit upon one of the key reasons employers most often cite when they say they have a preference for hiring people who are currently working or have a small employment gap versus those with long-term unemployment. Recent experience using the skills you’ll be using in this new job is attractive to employer’s because your skills are likely more polished. When you’re trying to convince an employer you have the skills required but can’t back that claim up with recent history, you’re asking them to take a leap of faith.

Now, for a moment, let’s sit on the other side of the table; we’re the employer. From the many who have applied, our interviews have brought us down to three candidates. Of the three, one is currently working, one recently laid off due to downsizing of the company, and the third hasn’t worked in 4 years. As the interviewer, we know our own Supervisors have high expectations that we’ll select the right candidate; typically one with experience, skills, the right attitude and work ethic.

If we’re being honest here, that third candidate; the one who hasn’t worked in 4 years? That applicant has to have something, or some things,  that set them significantly apart from the others. It’s just too easy to eliminate them from the running as the other two have more recent experience; they have proven examples of recent work history. When making a recommendation to management that the third person be hired over the other two, their own credibility is on the line. If they work out, the interviewer looks great. If the third candidate is hired and is a bust however, fingers will start pointing and whispers about their lack of good judgement are going to start. Playing it safe seems the better way to go.

But hold on. Okay, now back on our side of the table. So, we’ve got this shot at a job, and for the moment, we’re still in the running. Walking into an interview in such a situation, it’s a good idea to imagine your up against people with recent experience; using the skills on a daily basis that you know you’ll need everyday. Imagine this because it’s highly likely the case.

We have preparation on our side though. We should be ready for the interviewer to ask about that gap. To stay in the competition, we need to not only convince them our skills aren’t rusty, we need to demonstrate that as a person, we’re the right fit. The things we can control have to shine through; our eagerness, friendliness, likeability, appreciation and gratitude for the opportunity, our ability to get along and be productive with co-workers.

There’s a shift in hiring going on at the moment which is growing in momentum. More companies are coming to understand that hiring the right people is the best option. The best people aren’t necessarily the ones who have more experience, more education, more proven work history. Sometimes the right person has less experience, but their attitude and how they go about things gives the employer the belief that they are highly trainable. Train the right person and you may have a long-term winner. Hire someone with a questionable attitude or work ethic based solely on their year’s of work and you may regret your choice.

Now, if you are currently unemployed and that gap is growing daily, this comes as good news. Still, consider taking some action now to address things. Volunteering, taking an online course, or even some free online training will put things on your resume. A Health and Safety course or First Aid training are two examples of transferable assets you could easily take and add as well.

Anyone who is unemployed for long will tell you it’s a mental struggle more than a physical one to stay competitively at a job search. It’s mentally fatiguing to constantly strive for work with an upbeat, all-in philosophy. Self-doubt, frustration, let-downs, flat-out rejections; all of these come at you and yet still you’re expected to be positive and optimistic. We’re talking stamina, focus, resiliency and tenacity. Say…. stamina, focus, resiliency and tenacity; those are some of the very qualities an employer might be impressed with, and these are the SKILLS you are using over this employment gap.

Now, whatever has happened in your personal situation that has you were you are today, you’ve got this chance to start a new chapter; and there’s no time better than now. It’s up to you of course, but why not get going on things here and now?

If you’ve been stuck and not done much, honestly it will take effort to get going. Do it. Momentum can’t be built on if you don’t start. When you get moving, you can build on the little things you do each day. String together some of those little things and you’ll start creating behaviours that lead to better results.

You can do this.

15 Resume Mistakes


Have you ever worked on something important, felt it was perfect, submitted it with confidence and only then discovered you made some fatal error? Too late, you frantically search for some recall feature but alas, there’s none to be had!

Your resume could be just such a document. The only thing worse I suppose is being totally oblivious to your mistake(s) and continuing the practice of sending out flawed resumes. Yikes! Could this be why you’re getting very little or no positive results?

Having no way to provide feedback on your personal resume without seeing it, I’ve listed here some common mistakes I see on resumes. Check your own resume and see how you compare.

  1. You mistyped your email. Just last week I came across a resume with the word, ‘professional’ as part of the email but it was on the resume as, ‘professinal’. No one had caught it as they reviewed her resume, as the mind sees what it thinks rather than what the eyes see.
  2. Bullets don’t line up. Get out a ruler if it’s a hard copy or click and hold down the left mouse button on the ruler in MS Word to draw a straight line on your resume where your bullets are. Do they line up or are they off?
  3. Inconsistent use of periods. Look at the end of each line on your resume which starts with a bullet. Do you have periods at the end of some lines and not on others? Get in the habit of not using periods; period.
  4. Irregular capitalization. Nouns should be capitalized and so make sure any job title has a capital letter at the start of each word if there is more than one as in, ‘Customer Service Representative’.
  5. Dates don’t line up. Look at the dates on your resume. Are the dates all over the place or are they uniformly lined up on the extreme right where they should be? Lining these up makes it easier on the eyes; your resume is less cluttered.
  6. It’s all about you. If your resume starts off talking about what you want, stop! Employers want to know how you’ll benefit them, not the other way around. How is hiring you profitable?
  7. You added the dreaded, ‘s’. When you add a simple, ‘s’ to the end of a word, it can change the language from 1st to 3rd person. Suppose you communicate effectively as a skill. See how there is no, ‘s’ at the end of the word, ‘communicate’? That’s you talking about you. Add an, ‘s’ and it reads, “communicates well” and this is 3rd person; someone else talking about you. This suggests you didn’t write your own resume; someone else is talking about you. The entire resume now comes across as less than authentic.
  8. ‘Responsible for…”. Don’t start a line with, ‘Responsible for…”. Being responsible for something doesn’t indicate whether you are or were actually good at whatever you are referencing. It only indicates you are/were responsible for it. Maybe you actually performed terribly, but hey, you WERE responsible!
  9. Photo included. Get your photo off your resume and do it now! A growing number of people in Human Resources automatically dismiss resumes with photos included because they don’t want to expose themselves to claims of bias or personal attraction based on appearance.
  10. “References available upon request.” It’s a given that you’ll provide references when asked to do so. Including this on your resume is outdated.
  11. Repeating yourself. Look at the first words that begin your bullets. If you see the same word repeated, (sometimes even on consecutive lines) alter the words. It’s boring to read when you start multiple lines with the same words.
  12. Your qualifications don’t match. Job postings for the most part list desired qualifications. So pull one out that you applied to. Look at your resume and see if what they asked for was what you gave them. If yours don’t mirror the ad, no wonder you didn’t get an interview.
  13. Spelling errors. I get it. If spelling is an issue for you, it’s hard if not impossible to know when you make a mistake. Using a spelling and grammar check is good but a second pair of eyes is also recommended; as long as those eyes belong to someone with excellent spelling and attention to detail themselves.
  14. You included personal data. Get your age, sex, marital status, religion and nationality off your resume. By the way, is your age easily guessed in your email of all things? Yikes!
  15. You named your resume what? When you send your resume, people at the other end see what you called it as they move to open it. You didn’t call it, ‘My 2nd best resume’ did you? Someone I worked with did. Let’s go with a combination of job title and company name.

Okay 15 general tips for you to read over and more importantly use to improve your own resume. Maybe cleaning up your resume can be your goal for today. Resolving a job search barrier every day is a great way to feel you’re making positive moves to increase your odds of getting interviews and getting hired.

The biggest mistake of all continues to be mass producing a resume and handing it to many employers rather than targeting it to jobs you apply to. No matter how many times I say it, for some this comes as shocking.

It’s Not Enough To Want A Job With Animals


Working with unemployed or underemployed people as I do, I often hear statements like, “I’m not really a people person, I’d like a job with animals; maybe a Vet.” So many fail to understand that almost all those animals they want to work with have an owner; someone they are going to have to interview to find out what the issue is with the pet they are about to treat, and to recommend how best to keep that animal recovering so they get the best chance at getting back to their full health.

Now, I’ve no issue with listen to the musings of people as they consider various occupations. No, I actually believe this is a good thing. Listening to someone express their thoughts about what they might like to do and more importantly why they feel that way is very helpful. Listen attentively and you can really understand their motivation. However, I also find people don’t have the necessary information on a job to really decide if they are cut out for it or not. Almost inevitably, there’s been no research done into a possible career. That Vet they are thinking about becoming does a lot more than spend time scratching a hard to get itch or getting a thankful nudge of a muzzle.

When I talk about how they feel about putting an animal down or dealing with an owner who works all day and can’t take the dog out for a walk, they often tell me such people shouldn’t own dogs at all, and that they’d never be able to intentionally end an animal’s life just because the owner doesn’t want to pay for needed operations.

Now at the other end of the spectrum are those that want to work with people but don’t know how. “I want to help people” is how some of these first conversations start. What kind of people? Helping the wealthy invest their money and watch it grow? Blasting out natural terrain to build roads or pipelines that will carry oil? That would help many people. “No! No! No!” Not that kind of help!” You see, helping people can be done in a lot of ways? So what do the people look like that you want to help?

One key thing needed by both groups of people; those that want jobs working with people and those that want jobs with as little people interaction as possible, well, its education. Not the kind of education you can get in front of a computer monitor but the kind you can only get when you’re receiving formal in-person instruction.

This is typically where a barrier comes up; sometimes derailing an entire dream. “I can’t go to school.” When asked why, often those who want to avoid interaction with people at all costs will cite their discomfort or anxiety at having to be around others. Those that enjoy other people cite the debt they’d rack up. Nope, schooling is out. Well, you would think that the goal would change to something that didn’t need formal education. Sadly, it often doesn’t. 10 years will pass and that person will still tell people they meet that they’d like to be a Vet. They still won’t invest in formal education, but somehow they are holding on to that notion of being a Vet.

There are other occupations however that don’t involve years of education, excessive debt and will still meet the desired goal of working with animals or helping people. However, somehow the people involved have to first become aware of these occupations and then they have to understand the scope of what those occupations do on a daily basis. When this happens, possibilities surface and forward progress can take place.

A Dogwalker for example often visits a home when owners are out and spends their time in the company of the animals they love. It’s not a bad way to stay in shape yourself by the way as you’re out exercising more than just the dog. Independent work for sure; maybe not rich, but then again that was never a stated goal. Productive, helping, less people contact and yes, some income. A little interaction with owners of course, notes explaining how the animal behaved, collecting payment etc. Pretty minimal stuff most of the time.

But be warned. When you are talking to others, do more than say you just want to work with animals if you expect them to really help you discover your dream job. Case in point; see what you think of this job posting:

Wanted

Hiring 10 people to work with animals. $16.00 per hour plus bonuses. Overtime available. Job requires kneeling, bending and standing for extended periods. No education required, no previous experience needed. Will train on the job. So how does that sound? Interested? Great! You can start immediately as well, which is always a good thing. The job? Catching and killing chickens.

Oh it’s a real job – but when you said you wanted a job with animals you weren’t specific. You say you don’t want to kill animals and that you figured this was obvious? Maybe it was obvious to you but you didn’t say that. Good to know. We’ve just learned you don’t just want a job with animals, you want a job with animals where you don’t kill them. Our search is narrowing down.

 

Why Do You Do What You Do?


Why? A simple question using only 3 letters and a question mark. In this case, the, ‘why?’ refers to whatever it is you do in your work or professional life. Of all the jobs and careers which exist in our world, why do you do what you do?

Some people don’t think about this a great deal. They work at the job they do because it’s a family business, it’s what they went to school for, or it pays the bills. In some cases, there are those that don’t want to think about why they do what they do because they aren’t proud of their job, they feel trapped in a job they hate, or telling others what they do just opens up discussions they’d rather not have.

You know what I find extremely interesting? Almost all the people I interact with who have no job at all think a great deal about why they’d want or not want a certain job over others. Whatever job they focus on has to be fulfilling, bring a sense of security, tap into their creativity, offer opportunities for advancement or bring about positive changes in the lives of others. So why are so many who are out of work focused on the why of what they’d like to do moving forward, and yet many with jobs don’t think a lot about the why of what they do once they’ve been in a job for a period?

I don’t know where you are on the age timeline, but it doesn’t matter as much as you think it might when it comes to figuring out what you want to do in one key respect. When you are considering various career or job options, if you don’t fully know what a job entails, what the pros and cons experienced by the people who hold them at the moment are, or why the people working in those jobs love the work they do, there’s one simple thing you can and should do; ask them. Simple really.

“So, Ahmed, why IT?”

“You obviously enjoy your job Dave, why is that?”

“Nancy, why did you first think this career would be right for you?”

You see it’s not that hard to pose the question and you can come at it from a view different angles. Bottom line, you’re still asking, “why?” You can go on of course to ask the other questions; How did you get started?/”How should I get started?” “Who helped you in the beginning?” “What are the qualities generally found in the people who succeed in this position?” “Where are the opportunities for tackling current issues?” “When would you suggest I apply?”

Now I suppose you might feel that you’re being invasive; you know, asking something of someone you don’t know at all or very well, why they do what they do. Is that the truth or is that actually a tactic of your own for avoiding asking because of your own comfort level? I tell you this, a lot of people would love to pause and remind themselves why they do what they do. Further, if they feel positively about the work they do and the impact they have, they would truly love to share that with someone (insert your name here!) who is genuinely interested.

As you’d be well aware, a great number of people change jobs and switch careers entirely over their lifetime. Want proof? Connect with a large number of people on LinkedIn and you’ll get daily notifications inviting you to congratulate your connections who have started new positions. I get 2 or 3 a day – no exaggeration. People move and the question I wonder every time starts with why. “Why the move?” Why now?”

Of course sometimes the why turns out to be getting away from something that’s turned sour, but the majority of the time it’s for something the person perceives as a better fit. Again the question is why though? Better pay, a change of scenery, a fresh start, the infusion of energy brought about by a greater mental challenge? Why?

There are so many, ‘why’s?’ in this piece, I’m reminded of young children who keep asking why this and why that, almost exasperating the adults around them with the never-ending  series of why’s that follow every answer. We can learn from them though because this is how young children make sense of things they are curious about and want to understand. Likewise, you and I might be just as curious to know why someone chose a career, why they’ve stayed for however long they have, why they might be thinking of a move, or why they made the change. It’s how we can gather necessary information needed to make better informed decisions about our own career paths.

You objection is likely that you don’t want to be viewed as the young child pestering people with questions to the point of exasperation. So don’t pester. You should still ask politely and learn what you can about career choices, why people do what they do and why they find fulfillment in the jobs they hold.

The next piece in these lines of inquiry is to take that information learned and look at yourself. Why would this job, this company, etc., be right or perhaps not for you?

If you haven’t thought about why you do what you do for a while, why is that?

Out Of Work? Get Your Team Together


I think it’s a behaviour common to many people; when we’re embarrassed, ashamed or we feel we don’t quite measure up in some way, we do our best to isolate ourselves and keep the source of our embarrassment to ourselves. After all, the fewer people who see us in these moments, the less likely we’ll feel exposed and we hope to reintegrate ourselves back into our circle of friends and family when we’ve recovered.

Being out of work can feel very much like this scenario. Lose your job and you might tell a few of your closest supporters, adding, “Please don’t tell anyone. I don’t want everyone to know.”

The irony of this behaviour is that we often miss opportunities because the very people who could tell us about job openings are kept unaware that we’re looking for a job. As you’re unaware that they know there’s a job opening, you don’t even know what you’re missing; but you’ve missed it all the same.

It’s our ego though that needs protecting; and I don’t mean this is in a self-centered kind of way. Protecting our ego, how we view and see ourselves, is a natural response. The fewer people who know about our unemployment the better; and if they want to assume we are still employed but on some vacation or leave, that’s fine. We’d rather they don’t even know we’re off in the first place. And this is the problem. We don’t want to have to explain why we’re not at work, so what we often do is stay inside our apartments, condo’s and houses; going out only to gather food and necessities.

Like I said, this behaviour is natural and instinctive. So having stated this, let me suggest you consider doing something which on the surface goes against your natural instincts; get your support team together.

Your support team isn’t just made up of Employment Coaches and Resume Writers. It isn’t made up exclusively by your spouse or your best friend either. No, your support team is composed of people you can trust to help you out while you look to regain employment. Just like many other teams you’ll be apart of in life in your personal and professional life, team members have specific roles.

Here’s some of the people you might want to enlist to be a part of your team:

  1. You

You’ll need to be the CEO or lead of your job search team. As you’re going to be recruiting people to help you out, you’ll need to prove that you’re seriously invested in this project. It will mean reaching out to people, getting them on board, checking in with them to make sure they stay committed – and they’ll work more for you if they see you working hardest for yourself. You need to be accountable therefore; show up for meetings, do your homework and work hard at finding work.

2. Emotional Supporters

Before we get to the technical helpers, you need people who will empathize with you, care for your well-being and understand the highs and lows of the job search. You’re going to have bad days precisely because you’re human. Emotional Supporters are those who get that and love you anyway. These folks pick you up and pick up the tab here and there when there is one. They keep you included in get-togethers and find the ‘free stuff’ to do is important to staying connected.

3. Technical Support

You’d be well-advised to have some expertise on your team when it comes to resume writing, employer and employment research. A good proofreader, a sounding board or Employment Coach to offer the critique you need but in a supportive and understanding approach. Whoever you have in this area might be your mock interviewer, helping you find and keep the confidence to do your best in those up and coming interviews.

4. Partners and Family

Obviously if you’re single and have no family you can pass on this one. However, when you have a partner, your spouse, boy/girl friend, etc. is critical to providing you with the stability you need when the assurance and identity a job brings is missing. Sure you might not want to, ‘burden’ them with your news and hold out telling them above all others, but your partner is a partner for a reason. It’s not your job that they value most – it’s you. If you want to deepen your relationship, trust them when you’re at a low point with being out of work. This is when partnerships often work best; you pick each other up and move forward together.

As for the family? Sure you might not want to tell mom or dad to protect them from worrying and protect yourself from all the dramatics of their concern; but that concern is genuine. You might end up with a few lasagna dinners being dropped off or depending on their status, a job lead to follow-up. Some moms and dads are really good at stepping up even when their kids are in their 40’s!

Now there are others too, but I leave it to you to decide who you need on your job search team. Essentially what I’m saying is go the counter-intuitive way and reach out to people instead of shutting out people. Take care of your physical and mental health while you find yourself out of work. This unemployment won’t last forever and will pass.

Getting Past, “So What Do You Do?”


Within the first few minutes of meeting someone for the first time, you’re likely to be asked some version of the question about what it is you do. When you’ve got a job or career, it’s a comfortable question to answer, especially if you enjoy your job. However, when you’re out of work and can’t find a job, that question can be irritating because for many, it’s hard to answer and not feel some embarrassment or even shame. A solid answer and we feel good, a vague answer or stating we’re unemployed and we feel bad. Why? Because either way, we can feel that we’re setting ourselves up to be judged.

The work we do is of course only one aspect of who we are as a person, but it’s the one thing that keeps coming up early in those introductions when first impressions count so much. I suppose it’s asking about something that’s viewed as a social norm and not too invasive. However, if you’ve ever told someone you’re between jobs or out of work and had them quickly walk away and begin a conversation elsewhere, you know that feeling and isn’t a good one. You just know that you’ve been judged and deemed in some way not up to par.

Like I said though, our occupation is only one part of who we are as people. Some of our other pieces include the state of our finances, social life, housing, spiritual, emotional, physical or mental health. There’s our use of personal time, beliefs, personal philosophies, values, leadership styles, the way we interact with the natural world, places we’ve been, accomplishments, hobbies, intelligence IQ, However just imagine your reaction if someone introduced themselves and said, “Hi, I’m Dave. So generally speaking, how healthy is your investment portfolio?”

The curious thing is that people with what society might regard as a prestigious job – say a Family Law Lawyer, Chief Executive Officer, Coroner or even a Teacher, aren’t automatically better people than the rest of us. They have problem marriages, dysfunctional families, stresses, mental health issues and challenges just like you and me. But still we start those conversations with asking about what someone does for a living.

If you listen to people talk about themselves, you can clearly hear them share what they want you to know. If they keep bringing up their job and the work they do, they might be doing so because this is an area they feel comfortable and proud talking about. They believe that this aspect of their life is one you’ll judge them favourably by and walk away with a positive impression of them.

Now when you’re not working but would like to be, talking about your unemployment can have the reverse effect. This isn’t an area where you feel on solid ground in a conversation and your fear of being judged negatively and leaving a poor impression is heightened. We constantly hear how making good first impressions is important, and we know this ice-breaker topic is likely to come up, so consequently some people will avoid social situations completely to limit the number of bad first impressions they’ll make. This ‘feeling bad’ about not having an answer to share with confidence and pride just reinforces our feelings of not fitting in until we’ve found work once again.

There’s some irony however in that the percentage of adults who have at some time in their lives been out of work is quite high. Being laid off from your job is something typically beyond your own control. When a company moves or shrinks its workforce, it’s well beyond your ability to keep your job. Still, when at that social gathering, it would seem weird to say, “Hi, I’m Joan and I was let go 6 month’s ago for reasons beyond my control and I’m now unemployed.”

This is however, part of a great answer if you’re introducing yourself at a job fair for unemployed people looking for work. Imagine what a relief it would be to be in a room surrounded by others out of work, where everyone is in the same predicament. Asking, “What do you do for a living?” would be replaced with, “So what kind of work are you after?” The feeling is more positive – you’re after something – being proactive.

Wait a second…maybe we’re on to something here…

Just imagine you meet someone for the first time and they ask you, “So what do you do for a living?”, and you said, “At the moment I’m pursuing work as a _____. It’s a great fit for me personally and I’ve got the education and experience. If you have any connections or leads I’d appreciate being hearing about them.”

What do you think? Instead of feeling embarrassed or dreading the question because of a weak response, you’ve taken an assertive position. You’ve told them what you’re after and you’ve shifted their thoughts to whom they might know, how they might help you, and all it takes is one person to give you a name that could lead to that next interview that results in a job.

Why, you might even give them your contact information, or ask for theirs and follow-up in a couple of days with a call or an email. Try it once and it’s new and awkward. Twice and it’s easier; often and you’re an assertive networker.