Me Vote? Why Bother? Nobody Cares What I Think

You guessed it, there’s an election looming in the province where I live here in Ontario. It’s tomorrow actually, Thursday June 7th, and the stake couldn’t be hire. That’s hire; h-i-r-e in this case not, ‘higher’ which would be grammatically correct in almost any other sentence. Why? Simply put, your job could be on the line.

Now if you’re unemployed and have no job to lose, don’t feel smug and protected; you could be looking at a longer unemployed status, higher hydro bills and gas bills and a higher debt level for the province meaning you and your children will be paying higher taxes for years to come. Yep, this one is all about, ‘higher’ and ‘hire’.

But hey, you’re just one person with one vote. That single vote will likely be nullified and useless when the next person in line steps up and votes for another candidate – so what’s the point? Not only that, but suppose you haven’t got a clue what the issues are, who stands for what, where to vote or even how to go about it. Why, you might even feel that nobody cares what you or others in your age bracket or social class think anyway so you just don’t care; and it takes time out of your busy day too. Hold on there, sure these are reasons not to vote.

Well, no matter where you live in the world, I agree these could sum up the situation where you live when a vote comes around, be it a national or local election. Oh wait, that’s not true is it? No, I took for granted for a second there that everybody in the world has the right to vote and that’s not the fact. There are after all many countries in the world that aren’t democracies, where the people haven’t won the right to make that little ‘x’ beside the name of the person they’d most like to represent them in a position of power.

Now, yes, you might feel nobody knows you or others in your situation, and they don’t care to either. Let’s assume for a second you’re right. You could choose not to vote and perpetuate their lack of interest in making your livelihood better. On the other hand, suppose you and a lot of other people just like you DID get out and vote. Nothing might happen in this election, but voting numbers and WHO voted does catch the eye of politicians. Suddenly they would take an interest because it would be in THEIR interests to take an interest in you. You can bet that in the next election you’d hear them pleading for your vote and to get it they’d be both listening and putting the things in their platforms that you’d want for yourself. Don’t vote though and they spend their time dangling money and better living conditions for others.

Okay so even if you did decide to vote, you don’t know the issues? At one time, neither did I. Sure you can turn on a radio, listen to the news and find out a little day by day, but the election is tomorrow! I went online and typed the following into Bing, my favourite search engine of choice: ‘Ontario Provincial Election Issues 2018’. The first link that popped up gave me a breakdown of each parties position on the same issues. This took all of 3.7 seconds. Reading it and forming an opinion of what would be in my best interests and that of my family took about 10 minutes. Voting itself is at a neighbourhood school and it will take about 15 minutes to get there, vote and get home; unless of course we stop and socialize with some of our neighbours who pop by at the same time. Less than half an hour to get educated and vote. Hold that up against 4 years of the wrong party in power and it’s not an inconvenience.

So imagine if you will that a large number of people in poverty or young adults barely old enough to vote suddenly did so. These are two groups who typically get ignored by politicians because they don’t vote anyhow. You can bet the smart politicians – and there’s an oxymoron for you – would want to get your vote. They’d be holding town halls, visiting schools in greater numbers, improving social housing units, making transportation cheaper, eliminating some things you pay for now, and they’d make your future prospects better. They claim to do these things now in some cases, but often these are the first things to go when the money is tight and they get in power. That wouldn’t happen if the electorate threatened to vote them out. You see they get hungry to stay in power once there.

So look at who is bringing jobs to your neighbourhood. Who has money for training? Who will raise your wages or your quality of life? Who will shut down your industry and force you out of a job with their plans? In short, who will hurt or help you.

Vote or don’t at your discretion of course, but I hope you choose to. However, if you don’t, you should at least know what you’re passing up and be ready to live with the results for good or bad whatever they turn out to be. In fact, your present situation is largely shaped by your decision NOT to vote in the past.

Mental Health, Unemployment; Compassion

I have learned over the years that first appearances don’t always tell the story. There are many people who, upon first meeting, seem to be in earnest to find employment, but whose actions conflict with what their words would have you believe. It’s easy to mistakenly assume that these people lack commitment to finding a job. You might categorize them as lazy, attempting to intentionally deceive, not putting in the effort to get a job  while telling you they want to work. Often you come to realize however that something else is at play.

Most government programs that provide the basics such as food and shelter have expectations that people look to find income, usually obtained via employment, and work towards financial independence. At its simplest, those who work give a portion of their income to support those in society who don’t. Those with employment income generally assume that those in receipt of help are working hard to get off those programs and join the ranks of the employed. They also assume that those who administer such programs are providing help and advice to aid the unemployed to reach this same goal as quickly as possible.. They also believe this safety net built into our society is meant to support people for a relatively short time until a person finds financial independence.

Most people I believe, have compassion and care for those who are out of work, especially for those incapable of supporting themselves; for whom there is no alternative to find food and shelter. And there is the crux of the situation for a lot of people who see themselves as supporting others; some want to work and try hard to become financially independent. Others seem to avoid looking for work, and these are easier to spot to the average citizen. After all, someone looking for work is either inside some employment agency, working at finding a job from their home, or they are mingling on the street, dressed like workers, on their way to job interviews, meetings, etc.

Those who avoid looking for work or seem to be avoiding looking for work are easier to spot. These are the people we see who look to be of a working age, but are loitering about, sitting in parks and coffee shops, permanently dressed in ‘weekend’ clothes, walking with no purpose, certainly seem to have no work destination in mind. If we saw a cane, a limp, a cast on the arm or some such visible sign of disability, we’d extend compassion, believing their idle time is justified.

However, for many such people, there is no visible sign of disability. Look them over quickly and they seem to be healthy and capable of working; doing something productive. It’s likely that this person you’re looking at is dealing with some mental health issue. Now you might be thinking that this presumption is a bit of a leap, brought on the amount of time I’ve spent in my profession. Fair enough.

So let’s look at you. So you’ve got a  job and you’ve never been on assistance let alone out of work for long. You’re self-image is pretty intact and you’ve got a pretty healthy outlook on things. Suppose now you found yourself out of work. Downsized, laid off, fired, had to move to another city because your spouse took a job there, went back to school and are just job searching now – take your pick. In the short-term you find yourself in shock. No matter, you’ll be working soon.

While optimistic at first, you find your social connections; friends and past work colleagues treat you differently. First off, the work connections are only accessible when you call on them, and there’s less and less to talk about from your end. Your friends keep up at first, but you find you’re left out more and more because after all, money is tight and get-togethers for Spa Days and weekend jaunts to concerts and hotels out-of-town aren’t in your budget, so they call less on you to join them.

You cut back where you can on groceries, trips in the car, clothing and entertainment. Your parents and relatives tell you to just get a job, after all you’ve been successful before so it won’t be long. But it is. Your self-esteem has taken a hit as has part of your identity; the part of you that identified yourself by a profession and as an employee.

Making a résumé and applying for jobs seems simple enough, but you’re not getting the results you’ve had in the past. While applying for work, you’re not eating as well as you should; groceries are more expensive so you buy the cheaper, pre-made and packaged stuff. You put off dental work and new glasses maybe – you’ll get them when you’re working.

Look, the bottom line is the longer you’re out of work the harder it is to keep positive. Doubt, anxiety, sadness, depression; it’s not hard to see how these creep in and can be debilitating. When you experience these yourself or work with those who do, it’s easier to see how someone can want to work but literally be unable to do what is necessary to be successfully employed; sometimes for a long time, some times forever. And the longer ones unemployment lasts, the harder it becomes to break the routine.

Depression And, “Hello. How Are You?”

“Hello. How are you?”

Could you ask a more innocent, well-intentioned question? It’s almost automatic; typical of how we greet each other. Oddly enough, those who ask don’t always want to actually know how you’re doing, and those who answer don’t answer truthfully much of the time. Yet, again and again, for lack of a better, well-thought out form of greeting its used time and time again.

It’s true you know. Just pay attention and listen when you’re greeted by someone for one or two days as an experiment. Today being Monday, most of your co-workers will today say, “Hi, so how was your weekend?” Tomorrow and for the rest of the week, they’ll say, “Hi, how are you?”

A couple of days ago I sat down with someone suffering – and suffering is the right word by the way – with depression and poor mental health. He’s been out of work for over a year now, and his life-long depression is getting much worse. He told me that one of the things that bothers him more and more is the constant question of how he’s doing; especially from people he knows don’t want to really know.

Are you guilty of this? I know I am and I imagine you are too. I’m not naïve enough to actually believe that 95% of the people around me are fine or good; even though they say so. Sure many of us are good and doing well. However, it must be painful as this fellow says, to be living with depression and constantly asked how you are. He then told me how much his life was being affected. His favourite time of day is when he goes to bed – at 11:00p.m. usually. After lying awake for 2 hours, he sleeps until 11:00a.m., gets up and eats, then sits in front of the television almost the entire day, not going out unless he has to.

Now he’s cut back on family gatherings because so many of those extended family members are going to naturally ask him, “How are you?” and while he could tell them the truth, he knows they really don’t want to know, nor could they help him if they wanted to. Well, aside from stopping the asking of how he’s doing in the first place! So it’s a cycle of feeling ashamed of doing nothing day after day, seeing Life go by without improvement.

This depression has affected his memory too. He’s positive that he can’t be trusted to remember things he’s told, and so for now, work is out of the question. Not to mention the depression has left him little patience in some situations he might meet with the public. All this passive living is affecting his physical as well as mental health too. A lack of exercise has led to weight gain, lower self-esteem, poor stamina.

Yet, to meet with him you’d see a happy fellow, quick to laugh, friendly and knowledgeable about topics of the day. Kind of an Eleanor Rigby type, “wearing a face that she keeps in a jar by the door. Ah look at all the lonely people!”

Now how many people I wonder will you – and I – come into contact today who are similarly suffering from depression? Let’s make that Depression with a capital, “D”. When living with this mental illness, it can affect energy, focus, judgement, motivation, self-perception and it’s not just a quick visit to the doctor to get a quick fix. We’re talking long-term implications.

Sometimes there are medications to help change the chemical make-up of the brain and attempts to stimulate connections through electro-therapy. I’m certainly no expert in treatments although I’ve friends and co-workers as well as many clients and people who use my support and advice in the course of my job. While it’s helpful to listen without judgement, providing reassurance that talking about one’s mental health is okay with me and not a topic I find uncomfortable, it’s frustrating knowing that waiting lists for treatment are long, treatments aren’t always effective, and other than listening, what can I do?

While it’s not necessary to experience what another person is experiencing to be empathetic, sometimes I feel being an empathic listener just falls short really. I suppose though this one’s not about me – or you for that matter. This one is about the person with Depression. If listening with empathy helps them feel understood and helped, maybe that’s something.

Think how difficult it must be on a daily basis for someone living with Depression; post-traumatic or ongoing, anxiety, psychotic or personality disorders, etc. It must be and is for many, debilitating. So maybe when we see some person who appears to be lazy or worse yet able to do fun things but not work, maybe extending some compassion and erring on the side of considering they may have a mental health issue would be preferable to believing them to be sponging off others generosity or tax dollars when their perfectly capable of contributing.

I suppose we might choose to hold our tongue and check our thoughts; for truly, we have no idea to what degree someone might be suffering with and already feeling ashamed of themselves for not being more productive.

So today, instead of, “Hi. How are you doing?” maybe we might say, “Hi. What are you up to today?” or if you do ask how someone is doing, look them in the eye and pause long enough to hear and care what they answer.

You Can’t Win The Race From The Sidelines

Bad news, unfortunate circumstances, poor luck, worries, stresses, pains and LIFE; all reasons for putting off looking for work. Might as well add in low self-esteem, anxiety, an unreal perception of one’s reality, lack of motivation, money in the bank, a dependency on others or possibly contentment. Yes there are many reasons why people – perhaps you? would put off looking for employment.

By the term, ‘looking for employment’, I mean really looking for work. Casually glancing at want ads for three or four minutes a day isn’t job searching so let’s not delude one another. Looking for work these days – as has always been the case by the way – means making a serious investment of time and going about it intelligently with an injection of enthusiasm.

In order to be successful and win your next job though, you’ve got to throw your name into the mix. There’s no way you’re going to win out in the end if you’re not even in the race. Whether you start strong and count on your stamina to hold off the competition or you go at a steady pace and gradually pick up steam near the finish line to surge ahead of the others competing for the job you want is up to you. Sit on the sidelines though and one things for sure, you’re not winning. And whether it’s a thoroughbred horse, an elite athlete or even a beer league hockey player, the longer you’re not practicing and training, the longer it’s going to take to get into game shape and do anywhere near your best.

Have you heard the phrase that looking for a job is a job in itself? It’s likely you’ve heard some version of it. Looking for work is work; which is why many people avoid looking for work. After all, it takes effort and it doesn’t pay anything until it pays off with a job in the end.

Now I understand if you’ve been out of work for a long time or under whatever your personal circumstances are that you might be deserving of both some empathy and some sympathy. Sympathy by the way isn’t a bad thing; even if you say you don’t want or need others sympathy, a lot of folks actually do appreciate it. Neither sympathy or empathy however will ultimately get you a job. Eventually, you win the job by putting in the effort to land interviews and market your skills, experience and attitude to meet an employer’s needs. It’s you in the end going to those job interviews and performing well.

Make no mistake; I agree there are personal circumstances that impact negatively on one’s ability to job search. At the extreme, there’s a death in the immediate family, everything’s been lost in a natural disaster, you’re reeling from being unexpectedly fired, you’ve got ailing parents and suddenly you’re the only caregiver. Of course there are some sound reasons for NOT giving your job search  your total focus.

However, as I acknowledge the above, you have to similarly acknowledge that the time you spend away from seriously looking for work is working against you. Your references become less significant or completely irrelevant. Your knowledge of best practices, leading technology or even your keyboarding speed drops faster than you’d think. Self-confidence starts to fade and erode.

I know. Everyday I work with people who have been out of work for various periods of time for an assortment of reasons. Those who have not been looking for work with much success often tell me at some point, “I had no idea that how you look for work had changed so much. No wonder I’m not having any luck.”

The thing about looking for work is that yes, you might get fortunate and have a short search and end up working soon. However, while most people HOPE this is the case, it rarely is. It depends largely on the kind of work you’re seeking and the level you’re applying to in an organization, but seeking work generally takes stamina, character and persistence. Those three just aren’t that often immediately present in people who have been out of job search mode for long stretches.

Look, you might be smarting a bit, even resentful because there’s no way I know your personal situation and to make these kind of blanket statements is unfair. You might indeed take offence to what’s coming across like a shot at not just your job search efforts but you personally. Where’s that coming from though? Is it bitterness that you’ve had a lack of success? Is it hearing what no one close to you has told you out of not wanting to hurt your feelings, but you know to be true?

Deal with whatever needs attention; absolutely. I’m not cold and unfeeling! However, not indefinitely. The longer you put off your job search, the longer too you’ll need – perhaps – to steel yourself for what could be a prolonged search. May I suggest you get help; both to deal with whatever you’re going through that stands between you and looking for work with 100% focus, and get help with the job search itself.

Being out of work can be isolating. Getting support during your job search from a professional who knows best practices can not only get you off the sidelines and into the game, but help you get out in front of the competition.


So You’ve Reached A Plateau

It can happen at any level in an organization right from an entry-level job through middle management and right up at the top position in the entire organization; the plateau. You know, that sudden realization that you’re not making progress. It can be good or bad depending on your personal situation and it can be short-lived or go on for a long time.

For some the plateau is a dreaded thing; the creative juices have dried up, the muse no longer whispers in your ear, the ideas you’re cranking out are coming slower and the ones you produce are borrowed more than original. You’ve hit the wall, the ceiling – call it what you will but you’re no longer the employee on the way up; your stagnating… Well that’s one way to look at things.

Then again, you may have been overworked, strained to the limit and close to burning out and what others might see as negative upward movement you’ve come to perceive and appreciate as a period of traction. You can hold your own where you are now and while you’re not progressing at the moment, you’re refilling your tank, re-energizing your batteries etc. and when you’re ready can once again find the stamina for another climb on the corporate ladder. This plateau period is a welcomed period of calm… A second way to look at things.

Here’s another perspective; we’re human and as such have things which go on well beyond the walls of any organization we work within. Sometimes the life events we’ve got going on take precedence over our work priorities. For many of us we can handle the things which occur in our personal lives while functioning at a high level in the workplace. However, there are events which occur and impact us to varying degrees which demand our focus and attention; impacting therefore on our ability to contribute in the workplace the way we would like; the way we have.

At such times, the plateau or leveling off of our production is self-driven by choice. We do just enough to get by, pass on taking on additional projects and assignments that we just haven’t got the energy or time to commit to. This can be a healthy choice by design and the key is to perform at the level you’re at and not decline to a level that is detrimental to the team, department or organization as a whole.

The plateau is also something that can creep up on you unexpectedly. It’s when you pause in some moment of reflection and realize you’ve been coasting. Perhaps the job is one you know so well you can do it without much mental investment. You realize you’re going through the motions, the roaring fire that once burned inside is now a controlled burn with less intensity. In short, you’re consistent, comfortable, and you’ve leveled off.

In some organizations where the competitive edge is critical, they’d view this leveling off as dead weight. They need hungry workers who come to work yearning to make the big sales everyday, produce the next best thing or push to exceed their targets which only last week were achievements to be proud of.

So what’s up? Are you stuck and miserable as a result or are you content and happy to be where you are by choice; not wanting or needing to reach for more?

Not everyone has what it takes to move up to the next level in the organization and many organizations make the fatal mistake of simply promoting people based on the number of years they’ve been with an organization.

If you’re hopeful of making it to the next level where you work you would be well-advised to look at the skill requirements – not for you job but for the job you wish to aspire to. Look objectively at your skill set and find where you’re lacking. What do you need to develop and master in order to position yourself for the future? Who do you need to cultivate a good working relationship with and get better known by? How are you going to move from the circles you’re in now to those new ones? Are you going to be able to hang on to what you’ve got now and add more to your plate or not and if not, what are you prepared to let go of to get more?

The plateau you’ve landed on might have been a welcomed accomplishment in the past of course. However, if you find you want more and are ready for what’s next, it almost always involves the inclusion of one basic necessity; effort. Yep, you’re going to have to put in the effort to get beyond what you’re currently doing. This effort might mean heading back to school outside of your workplace, or taking a year off to get that certification you need. Could be that your work pays all or part of the cost of training or you have to make the investment yourself.

It might mean overtime too, coming in early, doing some of the mental or physical work beyond what you’re accustomed to. Maybe it’s more travel, assuming some leadership on projects etc. So how bad to you want to leave the plateau?

Could be too you’re out of work entirely and have hit a plateau where looking for work is too much effort. Plateaus are not reserved for the working.


Take A Short-Term Job? Why?

So you’re looking for a job. Excellent! Good for you. You even know what you’re looking for and it’s something you’re qualified to do in terms of your education and experience. The problem? It’s taking longer than you would have thought. Your financial resources are being depleted and the stress of unemployment is mounting. Sound familiar?

While it’s commendable that you have this narrow job focus and aren’t being distracted with the temptation of every job opening that comes your way, you’re entertaining the idea more and more of applying for positions other than your targeted career. Is this something you should or shouldn’t do?

These jobs you are thinking about applying for more and more are typically called survival or transition jobs. The idea of pursuing these kinds of jobs while at the same time still putting the bulk of your time and energy into your ideal career job has been around for a very long time. So if you’re thinking more and more about going this route, you’re in good company.

Let’s look at some of the pros shall we? So we are clear, you haven’t given up entirely on your career job. You’ve just come to the point where you looking at another job for the here and now. Don’t worry about that voice in your ear that keeps telling you if you seek out one of these other jobs you’re somehow a failure and have given up on yourself. That’s rubbish and can only lead to lower self-esteem and is anything but productively helpful.

First of all a transition or survival job (and from here on let’s use either one of these terms interchangeably) is short-term in nature. By short-term, the actual length can vary and is only intended to be kept once secured for as long as it takes to land your career job; a longer-term proposition and source of income. The fact that it is short-term should appease that fear you might experience of making a big mistake by taking one.

These jobs are typically entry-level positions in organizations and come with lower pay as a consequence, but the lower pay and the entry-level status also means you’ll have fewer responsibilities and that in turn means you should have both physical and mental energy left to devote to your career-based job search. Please don’t misread that I believe short-term transitions jobs are always filled by people who don’t have to use their brains whatsoever and you could do the job blindfolded. We’re all made up different and so the job you take as a sideline until something better comes up might at the same time be someone else’s career job bringing them great satisfaction. I’m not judging the people holding these jobs and you shouldn’t either.

As these are entry-level and lower paying positions more often than not, there is also a greater number of people available in the job market with the necessary skills to fill vacancies as they come up. Hence if and when you quit a short-term job you’ve taken as a survival job, the employer will have less of a challenge filling it come your departure. Less guilt for you if you’ve got a conscious.

A job by its very nature is going to provide you with income; income you need perhaps to pay some bills and keep your debt to a minimum. The nice thing about seeking one of these positions is that you’re likely to hear the words, “you’re hired” quicker than holding out for that dream career position you’ve been applying for. There’s likely only one interview, two at the most; and you’re in. That’s good for the self-esteem; ie. somebody wants me.

Another benefit of these jobs is the human connection. Job searching is isolating as in unemployment. It’s you against the world and it seems like you’re the lone wolf scavenging to stay alive. When you’re working in a transition job you benefit from being part of a team, meeting people and having adult conversations about just about anything other than your own lack of employment success. So even if you’re making someone a sandwich or selling them a sweater, what you’re doing is exercising your people skills; communication skills, customer service skills etc.

Play it right and you might also be working in a job where one of the other benefits is a break on the purchase of whatever it is your producing. Need some shoes and income? Take a job in a shoe store and perhaps you get an employee discount. Need to update your wardrobe? A job in a fashion store means they’ll want you wearing their goods, so count on some of your income going towards an outfit or two which could in turn become your new work clothes when you leave.

You won’t lose sight of your long-term objective in a short-term transition job. There are people however who have taken short-term work and found they liked it so much they actually stayed for years and it became their career jobs as they moved up the ladder. Hey, if you like it once there, why not?

Other benefits? They get you out of the house, keeping a good pattern of behaviour, fill up your gaps on a resume and get you current references. There’s a lot of good to be found in short-term survival jobs if and when you’re ready.


The Hiring Charade

Ever had one of those job interviews where you suspect the job is already taken by another person and they are just having you in to give the appearances of having held a competition? The entire interview is about 10 minutes long and just when you start to settle in and focus on all the things you want to stress the other person stands up, shakes your hand and tells you they’ll be in touch!

The above is not how any organization should conduct themselves, nor is how they should treat prospective employees; although in fairness to them, they might smugly state you were never a potential employee because they had already made a decision before you even showed up. When this happens, and it does occasionally; all you can really do is move on and leave your indignation behind.  The energy, frustration and outrage you might feel isn’t going to make the job suddenly available, so it’s best to take the high road and leave with your pride in place and focus on other opportunities.

What I personally find frustrating about this practice is the total lack of respect for the people being used by the company to justify their decision. I think most applicants would rather be contacted before they travel to the site of the interview and be told the job is no longer available. However, the likelihood of this happening is low if the company feels they need to go through the charade of conducting interviews. It could be the Hiring Manager already has their pick made, but they have to satisfy someone in Human Resources who wants to go by the book; and this is just one scenario.

What’s frustrating for the people being used – and abused – in this process is the investment of time, energy and hope that this job interview will culminate with a hiring offer made to them, concluding their unemployment and their job search together. There’s an investment in several things preparing and going to an interview. The most obvious investment is the cost of travel to and from the interview. When you’re out of work many of course batten down the hatches; they spend what they have to spend only and there is no discretionary spending. That public transit fare or gas money was precious.

There’s an investment in preparation time too. Researching what the company stands for (this being subsequently re-evaluated after being mistreated so poorly), looking seriously into the job responsibilities and qualifications; preparing proof stories for all the potential questions one may have been asked in a legitimate interview. There’s time getting the clothing ready, cleaned and laid out, hygiene matters attended to, including perhaps a haircut, some new clothing or accessories – all on a tight budget.

Coming out of a false interview can also leave a person feeling jaded; and let’s face it folks, an unemployed person probably has a shaky self-confidence to some degree so being mistreated isn’t helpful. A job seeker can’t afford to be negative and has to do their best to keep any negative feelings reserved for times they are alone.

Now some of you might disagree and feel that were it you, you’d give that company via their interviewer a piece of your mind. No doubt some would say that they wouldn’t want to work for a company with so few scruples and calling them out on using you and people like you is much better than meekly walking away. There is an argument to be made for taking this approach, and part of me certainly agrees that it could strengthen your own feeling of self-worth to do so. The problem I have with this approach however is that life seems to find ways of having us move in circles and sooner or later in the future, you may find yourself wanting to apply for a legitimate job with this company, or perhaps running into the interviewer again but at a different firm. Odder things have happened. Then you may wish you had bit your tongue and risen above the experience so you’re name isn’t on some black list of people to avoid.

As hard as it is at the time, I suggest moving on. Laugh it off, punch the steering wheel (when you first get it not on the road), tell your best friend how lousy that was of them; do anything that gets rid of your emotional response to the bad situation but do move on. There are other opportunities that may be better suited to you and with better companies which, if you are wallowing in self-pity or going on an anger outrage fit, you may miss altogether. Remind yourself your goal is employment and get back into the job search mode without giving yourself a poorly timed gift like a week off of job searching to lick your wounds.

There are other poor practices that some companies engage in; advertising a job that doesn’t really exist in order to collect resumes of those who otherwise might be good candidates in an effort to see what’s out there. Never liked this practice either myself; few companies would even admit to this practice either because of the poor ethics connected to it.

You can however state in your exit that you were previously under the assumption that the job was legitimately open and you had looked forward to competing on a level field for it. Then walk out with your head up.

“Why Don’t People Just Follow The Plan?”

One of the great assumptions most of us make who provide employment counselling and support is that the people we work with want to gain employment. That’s a logical assumption; we are Employment Counsellors and Coaches after all, so it stands to reason that anyone approaching us for help in finding work does so because they’d rather be working than unemployed.

So why is it then if we take this basic assumption that so many people don’t follow through with the expert advice they receive? I remember many years ago I used to come up with plans for the people I’d be working with – and they were great plans. I’d map out where the person is and where they wanted to end up. I’d look at their possible barriers to reaching their goals and I’d devise great pre-emptive strategies for moving past those barriers. The person I was working with would marvel at my skills and knowledge and I’d send them on their way with a big smile on their face and some optimism in their steps. “They’ll be working in no time if they just stick to the plan”, I’d think.

The problem more often than not is that for some reason the person didn’t get very far with that grand plan. I’d puzzle over that and end up with the same conclusion again and again; they just weren’t trying hard enough. The plan was excellent and seemed to end in success if they’d just follow the plan. The plan itself was never the problem; the problem as I’ve come to understand it was that it was never the person’s plan at all, but rather MY plan for them.

Well that was only part of the problem. In order to have any lasting impact, a plan not only requires ownership of the individual working the plan, it requires that the person have the necessary motivation, skills and resources to implement the plan.

Now this might seem hard to wrap one’s head around if like me you are employed and thankfully so, but not everyone is motivated to work. Even when someone says they want a job and comes across as self-motivated and earnest, it may well be that in reality, they have come to accept a comfort level with things just the way they are yet they don’t grasp this fact. Ironically, i’s not that this is necessarily their preferred lifestyle either, but the push to work hard at getting a job; the effort and the stress of putting in the work and getting rejected isn’t something their psyche can take. It may well be that from the outside; the person is sabotaging themselves with self-destructive behaviour, or just appears lazy.

What it comes down to much of the time is that the more we come to know someone, the more insight we gain into what they are capable of, which differs from what we think they are capable of. They may in fact not have the skillset required to ultimately be successful and the result of this means that the time they require to move from where they are to where they want to end up is longer than they’d like. In other words, they have to be introduced to and internalize some skills they don’t have at present; skills that are pre-requisites to taking all the steps to their goals. They then have to have the skills to actually implement the newly learned skills. That’s a lot of skills!

Complicating the process of providing help is that people don’t always know themselves and what they are capable of but they think they do! We, as the people working with them, may also make the mistake of simply asking someone if they have a certain skill or capability and then taking them at their word. Something as simple as asking, “Do you have basic computer skills, like using the internet to job search?” could have the person answering, “Yes”, but if we were to sit them down in front of a computer, they might ask, “Okay, how do I get to the internet?” Suddenly the gulf between what they said, (what we assumed) and what they are capable of (the reality) is painfully clear. So instead of talking about employer research, we have to go back and learn basic computer skills.

People are not intentionally difficult. They may not have the stamina required for a lengthy job search. They’ve been so emotionally beaten down they just don’t have the constitution required for a sustained job search – especially what is required in 2016 to find employment. Whether it’s online applications and employer research, social media profiles and networking, applying for work challenges some in ways they aren’t capable of.

Look, being out of work for many is shameful enough. Add to this drop in self-perception the innocent questions they get asked like, “What do you do for a living?” and suddenly something not intended to offend causes a furrowed brow, a dropped head, an apologetic response and a desire to withdraw.

Helping someone reach their financial independence requires a mutually invested effort; a plan that the person themselves devises with some guidance. In other words, it’s got to be their plan and the role of an Employment Counsellor or Coach is literally to help but not take ownership for the plan.

Plan the plan, then work the plan.


Convictions And Unemployment

I bet you know someone who has a criminal record. I’m not saying they’ve told you about it mind; I’m just betting you know someone who happens to have a criminal record. Given all the people you know as family, friends acquaintances and all the people you interact with in a given day, I’m betting it’s inevitable that at least one if not a few have been convicted of some offence.

What you may not know is how difficult it is these days to get a job when you have a conviction; even a conviction that happened 20 or 30 years ago, perhaps when the person made a serious error in judgement and did something stupid. Maybe it was a group of young adults joyriding in a stolen car, maybe drinking excessively and getting a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) conviction. I’m not excusing or defending the behaviour, but that behaviour might have been a one-time occurrence and it was ages ago. Since that time, the person hasn’t re-offended; not even a speeding or parking ticket.

So fast-forward to the present and you’ve got this person who has gone on to get an education, but then can’t find a job in the field they were trained for because at the conclusion of every job interview, the interviewer says some version of, “Congratulations. We’d like to extend an offer of employment to you – pending a clean criminal reference check of course.” It’s at this moment that the sinking feeling in the pit of the applicants stomach hits, and despite anything they say to admit and explain their behaviour way back in time, the next thing they hear almost all the time is, “Gee, I’m really sorry but that’s a condition of employment. If you can clear your record with a pardon, get back to us because otherwise you’re exactly what we are looking for.”

Two things you should know at this point: 1) this single person will repeat this experience all the time and 2) this isn’t a unique situation because there are thousands of people in this predicament. Essentially, these people are unemployable. Do they want to work in meaningful jobs? Yes. Are they willing to start with entry-level jobs where they can prove their worth, earn their way up the ladder and justify your faith in them by working responsibly? Yes. Does that seem to matter? No.

Here’s some irony for you to think about. In listening to employers talk on the radio, I hear them say from time to time, “We can’t find qualified workers locally, so we have to look off-shore and Canadians don’t want to do the work so we have to bring in immigrants.” Their words by the way, not mine. Seems to me that there are some very well qualified unemployed people who are out there, but by qualified, I mean they meet the job requirements in every way except one; a clean criminal record.

If these people with convictions were hired, what would immediately happen is that the number of unemployed would be reduced. That would mean taxpayers would have less of their money given out to people trapped on social assistance who can’t get a job. Governments would win because these same people would transition from social assistance recipients to taxpaying employed people. With more people working, the unemployment numbers would drop, the economy would pick up too as more people would have money to spend on discretionary items.

Now I don’t mean we should sponge away every person’s record and that every person with a conviction should have that information denied to potential employers. It makes sense to me that we don’t want someone convicted of sexual abuse working in a childcare centre, nor a thief exposed to temptation by working at a cash register. There are exceptions.

However, take a 25 year-old male who had a few too many and succumbed to peer pressure and went along for a joyride in a beat up car with his friends at 18 years of age. Now say for the 7 years since, he learned his lesson, stopped drinking, made a new and better circle of friends, completed University and has a degree. By now he’s also paid for his crime with community service or a short stay in detention. That sentence is over as is the probation. The criminal conviction that he carries with him every day seems unusual punishment that just goes on and on without end. Aside from your ethical beliefs, is he employable as a Printer, Researcher, Psychologist?

Would you be surprised to learn that many employers wouldn’t even hire such a person to wash dishes, sell clothes or wait on tables? None of these six jobs involve cars or alcohol; so is it saying that the conviction reveals a character flaw?

Some employers say it’s an insurance thing; and that if the person should ever re-offend, customers or clients could sue the company and win bigger awards because they knowingly hired a ‘high-risk’ applicant. High-risk? We’ve got people out there in their 50’s with a conviction they got at 19! Hardly high-risk.

It’s about time we used some common sense and pardoned people once the punishment assigned by our courts is served in full. What we have now is cruel and unusual punishment, sentencing people to years of unemployment, making their ability to provide for themselves near impossible. And it’s cheap; pass some legislation, and keep that past conviction in some cases from coming up in a criminal record check.

How Not To Get Hire; 7 #1 Mistakes

Many people who are looking for work point their finger at things they can’t control as the reasons for their unemployment. Be it the economy, the interviewer with weak interviewing skills, a lack of jobs in their field; there always seems to be a reason to explain their lack of success.

I have found however, that the primary reason that a person is out of work is often – dare I say it – one of their own making, and furthermore, within their ability to fix. Now let me just say up front that there are also a number of people who are doing everything they can to find work, and they will not appreciate appearing to be kicked when they’re down. I assure you, this is not my intent; but if you happen to see yourself in one or more of the following behaviours, let this be your wake up call to change.

  1. Clothing Faux Pas
Just because you aren’t employed doesn’t mean you exchange your work clothes for sweat pants and oversized t-shirts. When you’re out of the house, you never know who you’ll meet, or who might see you from the other side of the road. Wearing your pyjama pants to drop off the kids at school, or even worse, just nipping into a department store sporting the latest look in grunge is not doing yourself any favours. You can lose a job without losing your personal dignity.
  1. Passing On Personal Grooming
Deciding not to shave, shower, use deodorant, do your hair or even trim your fingernails are the kind of decisions that say more about your self-image than you’d believe. Why would you want to put yourself in the position of having to apologize for your appearance if you should meet someone when this is one area you actually have complete control over? Even if you are job searching in relative isolation at home, you’ll be more productive and energized if you pay attention to your basic hygiene needs and are dressed smartly.
  1.  Choosing Isolation
C’mon, you’ve got to be visible in order to be found, and you’ve got to be connected with people in order to ward off anxiety, isolation and depression. It doesn’t take a fat wallet and a healthy credit card to stay engaged with your friends, employers and employment assistance groups. You’ll find yourself getting emotional and social support as well as possible job leads if you keep up your social networking. Lock yourself in your home and close the curtains to the world outside and you’re making it very hard on yourself to be visible to opportunities.
  1. Declining Positivity
Lose your negative outlook, turn your frown upside down, and be nicer to be around. Yes, I know it’s so much easier to be happier when you’re working, and I do know you’ve got a lot to worry about when you’re out of work; I get it. However, you’ve got to remind yourself that anyone remotely in a position to help you find work is likely sizing up not just your qualifications but your general outlook and disposition. Why make it hard for others to see past your scowl and furrowed brows? If it’s hard work to appear positive at this time in your life, then hard work it is; but you don’t want your sour face to stick and become how others see you.
  1. Holding Out For Perfection
While it’s healthy to both know what you want and stay true to your end goal, don’t make the mistake of narrowing your job search down so much so that you close your mind to anything but your ideal job. This is a critical error made by many who are out of work. It may require that you take a job with less income and less responsibility and work your way back into a job at your previous salary and status. Pause and strongly consider offers that get you working quickly.
  1. Refusing Self-Investment
The longer you are unemployed the less attractive you become to employers as your skills get rusty, your knowledge out-of-date; and depending on your industry, outdated might be as little as a few months. If you are asked in a future interview to explain what you’ve been doing since you last worked, what will you say? Make some investment in training, be it time, money or both. Upgrade your computer skills; stay relevant by reading articles and taking a single day or two week course. You’ll add to your resume, network, maintain good habits and answer that interview question with confidence.
  1. Misreading The Need For Help
It’s tough out there; you’ve got a lot of competition and up until this point in your life getting hired may have been easy. Times have changed and some believe your job search will be a month long for every $10,000 you’re looking to earn; a month of really putting forth the effort that is. Going it alone and not getting an objective opinion could mean how you are going about looking for work is also out-of-date and you’re not helping yourself. Open your ears to constructive criticism and suggestions; hear what you need to hear and be thankful for help given.