The Words Unspoken


I’m willing to bet this has happened to you; 5 or 10 minutes after you’ve finished a conversation with someone you recall something you had planned on saying. Or perhaps you think of something insightful and knock yourself for having missed that opportunity to say it. You stop yourself in your tracks and say, “Why didn’t I think of this at the time?”

This differs from the other times when we know exactly what it is that we want to say but for whatever reason we intentionally leave unspoken. It’s also quite different from the times when we blurt out something unintended or ill-advised and we say to ourselves, “Why on earth did I say that?”

In the situations above, whether it’s words we said and wished we could take back or words we’ve left unspoken, how we feel is similar in some respects. We might feel disappointed with ourselves, and depending on the situation and what was at stake, we can be downright mad at ourselves and say things like, “Ugh! I’m so stupid! I blew it!” And what did we blow exactly? Usually it’s an opportunity of some kind and something we’d really wanted and figure has passed us by; something we had only one shot at.

Job interviews are like this for example. You apply for a job and land the interview. The more you want the job the more you tend to see this as THE job; the big one. It would be perfect in so many ways like salary, location, advancement etc. but the best part is doing what you’d be great at and therefore love the work. With all those things aligning up this job was made for you! Now with all that accumulated stuff making this the ideal fit, you’re feeling the pressure rise to be perfect.

So what happens? You go in brimming with confidence and high expectations. The first little stumble – maybe a question that caught you off guard or a momentary blank – whatever it is becomes magnified in your eyes. Suddenly you feel things slipping away; the job of your dreams moving just out of reach and so you try harder to get to together. With that increased focus you hope to get a firm grip on things and you wish you could hit the pause button and freeze time long enough to recompose yourself; maybe even hit a rewind button and answer differently something you’ve said previously.

But time marches on doesn’t it? And so, you’re shaking hands walking away, the interview completed and you’re dazed wondering, “Where did my thoughts go? I had everything I wanted to say all ready?” If you’re really fortunate of course things didn’t go nearly as badly as you imagine they did and surprise, surprise you get a call offering you a second interview or even the job itself!

However, just as often, it didn’t turn out like you’d hoped because what you didn’t get out and express was key to marketing your strengths and strong suitability for the job. Sure it’s a moment of learning – if you learn from it. If you don’t learn from it, well, it’s really just a mistake.

So how do you go about ensuring that you don’t leave words unspoken? Excellent question! How fortuitous that you should ask now BEFORE the opportunity before you slips away.

Imagine first a personal conversation you are going to have with someone about an important issue. Whether it’s talking about sex with your son or daughter, speaking with your partner about selling your home, moving mom or dad into a long-term care facility etc. Now you wouldn’t just decide to ‘wing it’ and have a spontaneous chat over a meal. That ‘chat’ is going to be nipped in the bud because they aren’t ready for what you’re springing on them, and you won’t have prepared yourself to address the important things you want to bring up.

The best scenario is to plan in advance what your arguments are and to anticipate the counter arguments so you’re prepared. Of course you have to listen attentively to respond to things you didn’t anticipate as well. Your strength going in to these discussions is the homework you did ahead of time so you’ve got your facts ready; brochures for mom or dad about the home, a budget showing the numbers if you sell your house.

So leading up to the big conversation – aka the job interview – do your homework. Write down what qualifies you; both academic and experiential. Name the qualities you possess that make you an ideal fit with the values and goals of the new employer. Ensure you have tangible examples that prove you’ve done what you claim you have done. Please do yourself a favour and be as specific as you can when relating your past experiences; don’t generalize your past good works.

Jot down a word or two that will trigger your memory if you need to do so – so that even if you blank out for a second or so in the pressure of the moment, you can look down, see that word or phrase and remember what it is that you just have to say in order to make the strongest possible case for what it is you want.

Too many people unfortunately let opportunities to say what’s most important to them slip by and we don’t always get 2nd chances.

The Worst 4 Letter Word In Your Vocabulary


Over the last couple of weeks I’ve noted a number of people I’ve been having conversations with have unwittingly put themselves down and in more than a few instances unintentionally put down many other people with the use of single word.

Yes whether in the community theatre group I’m with at the moment or at work, the word is possibly one of the worst four letter works you can use. The odd thing about this particular 4 letter word is that you can use it in any social situation and you won’t raise a ruckus with anyone for slang, swearing, vulgarity or causing embarrassment. Yet, as I say, by using the word in the wrong context, you can insult yourself and others and let your opinion slip out unintended but there for all to see.

Okay so enough of the cryptic beginning; what’s the word? The word my dear readers is, ‘just’. “Just? That’s it? What’s the big deal?”

Here are a few actual comments I’ve heard uttered recently.

“I’m just a stay-at-home mom.”

“I’m just looking for a general labour job.”

“I’m just looking for a job until I find out what I really want to do.”

“I’m just living in Oshawa until January.”

“I’m not really qualified to do anything so I’m just looking for a job in retail.”

Ouch! Each one of these statements is real and in each case the person gave no indication whatsoever that they insulted both themselves and others; offending in order: moms, those in general labour jobs, all those living in Oshawa and all those working in retail.

Please do yourself a favour and stop using the word ‘just’ in a similar context to the examples above. IF you’re only interested in my point to this blog feel free to stop reading here. If on the other hand you want to read on you’ll gain more insight into how this betrays your lack of self-esteem, self-image and can hurt your employment opportunities.

Okay all you moms out there, yes you. Are you a proud mom? Are you good at running the household, budgeting meals, housing and recreation costs on what you bring in? Are you the kind of mother that puts her kids as a first priority, raises them as best you can with the skills, education and good sense you have? In short, are you a good mom? Then why would you say, “I’m just a mom.” This short sentence composed of four words the longest of which is only 4 letters is a put-down to all moms everywhere and expresses the view that you yourself see motherhood as something of little value. More to the point it says you view the people who are mothers around the globe as in some lowly occupation of little social standing. I doubt that is your intent.

As for the retail example above, when you say, “I’m not really qualified to do anything so I’ll just get a job in retail”, you’re betraying to anyone listening that you have a low opinion of those in this profession. It’s like your saying, “Working in retail doesn’t really require any specific skills; anyone could do it”. Your personal opinion may and probably will offend a large number of people who would gladly educate you on the required skills to work successfully in retail. Oh and by the way, the employers who hire people to work in retail positions are doing their very best to make sure that they avoid hiring people who are not going to invest themselves in the work and see it as some kind of ‘pay for doing precious little’ job.

Now I grant that in our various societies around the globe there are certain professions that have more prestige than others. In some cultures its Doctors, Bankers, Architects and Professors. In some countries you might find it’s the patriarchs; the mothers who are esteemed and held in high regard. General Labourers might not be on your personal list of valued professions, but without them consider how the life you lead would be impacted. Once again, there are many highly skilled and valued people toiling quite successfully who are general labour positions.

Look I know you probably don’t mean to put anybody down let alone yourself. Watch your language and listen to yourself for subtle words like, ‘just’ that creep into your everyday vocabulary.

Here’s an interesting thing to drive home this point. When we meet someone for the first time or the first few times, we instinctively start to gather all kinds of information on them in order to figure out who they are and how to interact with them. Our eyes take in their body language and appearance, our noses pick up on body odour or fragrances. Our ears pick up on tone of voice, language skills and words. Our brains process all this information and do it amazingly quickly. All of this information comes together and we have what we generally call an impression of someone. As we gather more information, our first impression is strengthened or adjusted.

Phrases that start, “I’m just a…” suggest to our brains many things; possibly that the speaker has low self-esteem and views themselves as being of less value. This gives an advantage to the listener in dominating the speaker and possibly in ways which can be harmful and controlling.

Something to think about. Just saying.

“Um, Ah, If I Wrote Like I Talk, Then Like, Ah…”


Can you imagine how painful it would if we had to communicate in writing the words we actually speak? Come to think of it, this might be precisely how educators go about transforming the horrendous language skills some people have.

I was conducting a mock interview not long ago with a person who was pretty sure their interview skills were top-notch. While they had great content to share from their present and past to prove they had the experience to compete for employment, what they also had was a constant use of the words, ‘like’, ‘um’ and ‘ah’. At one point, I actually realized I had shifted from evaluating the strength of their answer to counting the number of times they used these three words.

So why do people consciously or unconsciously overuse these words? I believe the words, ‘um’ and ‘ah’ are used most often to hold the speakers place in the conversation, while their brain accesses memory files and arranges their thoughts in a meaningful way so that when the spoken words are uttered, it sounds coherent. It’s as if the person is saying, “I’ve got something else I want to add, just give me a moment to organize things in the way I want to share them; here it comes…right, I’m ready.”

Every now and then this kind of behaviour creates for the speaker a real unexpected problem. The overuse of, ‘um’ and ‘ah’ can cause a person to finish a thought and then the mouth almost instinctively throws in one last, ‘um’. The listener’s interest is piqued as the speaker has something further to add, so they themselves go silent and wait with anticipation to whatever is about to be said. The problem? The speaker who uttered the dreaded ‘um’ has nothing further to add whatsoever, and so lamely says something like, “Ah, it’s okay.”

What I find most interesting myself as someone who is often on the receiving end, is that the speakers either know they have this habit as others have mentioned it to them, or they are completely oblivious to this habit. They may say therefore, “I know, I know it’s a bad habit; everybody tells me!” Or they say, “Really? Wow! I had no idea!”

Here’s the thing about your language skills: you communicate much more than words alone. When you listen to someone, words combine with tone, body language, voice intensity, vocabulary, facial expression, eye contact etc.; all of which strengthen or detract from the content of the message you are delivering. If for example someone says, “Help me please, I’m desperate” and has a strained expression, their words are barely audible but intense and their eyes a wide and fixed on ours, – we do not doubt their plea. However, were they to say, “Help me please, I’m desperate” while shrugging their shoulders, grinning ear to ear and the words uttered in a mocked tone, then we might be left with an impression they aren’t really serious.

It’s the same when we overuse the word, ‘like’. “Could you like, help me, ’cause like, I’m – you know – like, desperate.” Is the visualization in your head right now of the person uttering this sentence a young, poorly educated female? If I told you it was really a university educated senior management person in the commodities sector would that image seem genuine? No probably not. So how we communicate does conjure up things we associate with people who talk a certain way.

Therefore others who hear us make assumptions about our education level, our professionalism, our income level, our intelligence; all from our vocabulary. Lest you think that it is wrong of people to make all these assumptions and judge you based on these alone, don’t exclude yourself from judging others based on the same criteria. As we listen to others speak, our minds take in all this data and access past memories and experiences we have had dealing with others who have appeared to us to be similar. In a matter of seconds, we think, slang = casual, overuse of ‘like’ = valley girl, overuse of ‘um’ and ‘ah’ = slow thinker. Of course these associations might not match your own experience, but they might match other people; people who are interviewing you for a job, or deciding whether or not they can help you in some way.

One way to change how you are perceived if you wish to do so in the first place of course, is to simply pause and be silent instead of using the dreaded, ‘um’ or ‘ah’. Silence is actually very effective when used in speech as it shows you are reflective.

If something is similar to something else, by all means say that this thing is like that thing in a comparative sense. However saying, “This apple is like amazing!” isn’t any more effective than just saying, “This apple is amazing!” The word, ‘like’ in this sense is unnecessary and inappropriate. Do yourself a favour and stop overusing it and using it in the wrong context.

The wonderful thing about your language skills is that unlike so many barriers to employment or promotions is language is entirely within your control to use and improve. Not only should you choose your words wisely, you can improve your skills in this area as you can with any other skill.

Then, you’d be like, totally amazing.

Activity: Listen To Your Words


Pay attention to the words you speak in the coming day or two and see if the words and phrases you use in everyday speech are revealing more about you than you had thought.

For starters, you should be cautious of the word, “just”. This word suggests you have a poor opinion of yourself; that you have low self-esteem, and you aren’t living up to your potential. All that from one single word? How is that possible you ask? Look at these two sentences:

  1. I’m a Receptionist.
  2. I’m just a Receptionist.

The first three word sentence is an assertion or statement of fact; I am a Receptionist. The second sentence on the other hand, with the insertion of a single word four letters in length, ceases to become a statement of assertion and pride. Now you are implying that the position of Receptionist in your view is a lowly one, and it almost comes out like an apology; “I’m sorry but I’m just a Receptionist.”

By the way, don’t get hung up on the title of Receptionist. This has the same impact if you say, “I’m just a Line Cook”, I’m just a Manager”, “I’m just a Musician.” You can’t utter the sentence with the word, “just”, inserted and not have it sound like you are downgrading both the position and yourself.

Another word that creeps in silently but betrays you if you use it is the word, “if”. Suppose you are job searching. You might catch yourself saying, “If I get an interview…”, “If I get a job…” The far more assertive statement is, “When I get an interview…” When I get a job…” Removing the word, “if” and substituting it with the word, “when” changes your sentence from a possibility to a certainty. “When I get an interview”, communicates your belief that it’s not up for debate whether you will or won’t get an interview, it’s just a question of time. The word, “if” suggests you might get an interview but you might not – you’re not sure.

Another word I see many people use in their cover letters that betrays them is the word, “believe”. Now if that word stood alone, it’s a good word, and has been used successfully by many people as their creed or motto. It implies that if you believe, then what you want will come about. Fine. However, watch the word in action in the following sentence and tell me now how it changes your perception of someone’s self-confidence: “I believe I am the right candidate for this position.” The way this could be read is that you believe it but it may not be the case. Remove the first two words of that sentence and you get, “I am the right candidate for this position.” That’s assertiveness – not aggressiveness or boasting; it’s a claim you’re making and you then back it up with examples of that market yourself positively.

There is a slang word that has slipped into everyday language so frequently, a growing number of people don’t even know that using it reveals them when they speak. They continue to use it which can suggest a limited vocabulary which in turn could suggest a low education – possibly less than grade 12. The word is, “youse”. “Youse have a great company”, “I’d like to work with youse guys.” The word doesn’t exist; stop using it.

Did you notice in the last example I used the word, “guys”? I find it amusing and interesting that someone can speak to a group of men and women, or indeed a group of women exclusively, and then say, “I’ll see you guys later.” Save the word, “guys” for males. Consider using, “people”, or “all”, or even just remove the word, “guys”. “I’ll see you later.”

The use of the word, “guys” indicates a familiarity or friendship when used in the context above. You may not find that using it in all situations is appropriate or welcomed. “I’d like to work for you guys”, doesn’t communicate a professional respect for the employees you are speaking with. It detracts from your self-marketing and you may actually create the opposite impact on your listeners where they want to distance themselves from you and the assumption of casualness you are making. Next you’ll be telling the interview, “I’ll be waiting for your call pal.” DON’T DO IT! I’M KIDDING.

Finally, try to catch yourself using or forgetting to say the words, “please” and, “thank you”.  When someone does something for you – anything from opening a door, being your reference or granting you an interview, express your thanks. No gushing suggested, no boot-licking, just common personal and professional courtesy. If you request something of someone, use the word, “please.” “Would you please stand as a reference for me?” Could we move the meeting to Monday please?” “Is it possible to have an afternoon interview please?”

Language skills are vitally important to how others perceive you; they are a part of your brand. Your use of words can accelerate your career or hold you back, prompt a job interview or keep you from meeting with an interviewer.

Listen to yourself and listen to others around you. Language is a learned skill. Work on getting some words out of your vocabulary and other words in. Like anything else, you can improve on your language skills with practice.

Some Words To Work By


Having worked in the field of Social Services for many years, I can acknowledge quite openly that the way I think and interact with my clients and co-workers has changed over the years. Call it maturity, wisdom, experience, even trial and error, but I like to think it’s a sign of growth and continuous understanding. Many have guided me along.

And so, I would like to pass on some thoughts and advice to anyone interested; whether you are a client, a customer, a seasoned professional or just launching your career, I hope you’d agree that sharing such information might prove a good read and useful. Take what you will, leave the rest, add your own as you choose.

Listen attentively in order to determine exactly where your clients are in this moment.

Don’t assume the goals you’d have in someone else’s place will be theirs.

Be forgiving of those who fall short. Find the positives in what they did and start anew.

Surround yourself with positive people whenever you can; you’ll be happier.

Trust in your Supervisor when you’re asked to. Leave things with them.

Be observant, learn from everyone. Your teacher might be a client with a problem.

Build a personal code of ethics and follow your moral compass. It always points North.

Share what you can with those at any and all levels who are open to learning.

You’re skimming without reflecting. Pause, reflect, consider.

Make sure you only hit, “Reply All” when it’s appropriate.

If you are in a position of influence, do so with the best of others in mind.

Do your best whether you run a corporation or dig ditches. Take pride in your work.

If the job isn’t for you, get out without regret over money or benefits. Save yourself.

Hope is sometimes all people have; you may in their eyes be that Hope. Think on that.

Be consistent with your answers and your actions. That’s your reputation growing.

Work productively when no one is watching and a lesser you could get away with it.

Be a person of integrity; you’ll come to admire the person you see in the mirror.

Humour can lighten many a stressful situation.

Smiles cost nothing to give and often have the power to appear on others when given.

Be a Superhero and discover your super power.

Offer to help a co-worker when you can, learn to ask for help when you should.

If you’re lowest on the hierarchy, you influence the people who matter the most.

Dress yourself not for your current job, but for the job you eventually want.

Be kindest to the people who are most affected by the quality of your work.

Even when you are at the top of an organization, you needn’t look down at people.

Asking for help is a sign of strength not weakness.

Being asked for help is acknowledgement of your ability to provide it.

Do what’s right; always.

Be punctual at all times which respects the time of others.

Apologize when you make a mistake. It takes two words; “I’m sorry.” Done.

When you say, “Good morning”, mean it.

If you ask someone, “How are you today?” wait for the answer.

No matter how much you know, you’ll never know it all; keep learning anyhow.

Every now and then, stretch yourself and try something challenging.

Get out into the sun and clear your head. Breathe in some good air. Repeat.

Every so often, “No” is the word you are looking for.

There’s always a way to say, “Yes”. “Is there the will?” is the question.

Re-read your job description at least once a year. Surprise yourself.

Thank the person with a note who cleans your office. Surprise them.

Be considerate of others who share your workspace.

Others have to find their way just as you did. Let them make small mistakes.

People are counting on you; don’t let yourself down.

Be proud of the scars. You survived whatever assaulted you.

Get help before things completely fall apart. Know your limit.

Kind words build good working relationships.

Be someone to look up to even when you’re at the bottom.

Market yourself, promote your skills and abilities.

Your next job interview has already begun. Someone is always watching.

Get over yourself; others can replace you and maybe do things better.

On your very first day, think what they’ll say about you when you retire.

Know when it’s time to move on and have the courage to leap.

Even in bad times, see the bigger picture.

Every so often, get up and watch the day break over you.

There is usually at least one other solution than the one that you know.

People are entitled to hold their own opinion.

As you age, realize things aren’t black and white, right and wrong.

You can make a difference, and it always starts between the ears.

I certainly don’t mean to come across as a philosopher or a preacher. The ideas and thoughts above are just this mornings thoughts passed on for you to take in, think about, possibly act on or share.

You I’m sure have your own intelligence, wisdom, advice and suggestions which are also valuable. And so, I would encourage you to pass that on to your clients, your peers and me. There is much to be said for learning things on your own, trial and error etc., but advice offered is a valued gift.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How You Write Becomes You


Many of the people I deal with on a daily basis are decidedly against the practice of including a cover letter with their employment applications. While they may give various reasons at the outset for their reluctance or outright refusal to use them, what it really comes down to eventually is their inability to communicate in words what they wish to express.

This inability to effectively communicate in writing is often because of weak grammatical skills, a minimal vocabulary and a low education. Despite their lack of grade 12 education, many have a strong history of employment where the work they have performed has been largely devoid of communicating using the written word. Some have even been extremely successful, coping and hiding their poor literacy skills. Their specific jobs are where their expertise exists, and different skill sets are required.

So it is not a surprise then that when the time comes to apply for work, some are uncomfortable if and when it is suggested to them that their chances of gaining an interview would be enhanced with the inclusion of a cover letter. I’ve personally witnessed some of these people sitting before a keyboard. Their heads are bowed down not looking at the monitor as they make error upon error, looking up only to find their mistakes. They tap or pound the keys with one finger – sometimes one from each hand. What they communicate often has punctuation and grammar issues, spelling mistakes and doesn’t express well what they intended.

Left on their own, they might actually be better off sending out their resumes without a cover letter at all so that they are not revealed as a weak communicator. It might be useful for those who struggle with written communication skills to take courses in basic literacy and an introduction to the computers. However, while such courses would benefit them, they are often happy to have the cover letter made for them in the belief that when they get their next job, they won’t be needing those skills again for a long time if indeed at all.

On the other hand, some people can communicate most effectively in their writing. Their words engage the reader, prompt an emotional response, readers can’t get enough, look for other publications by the same author because they like the style etc. Such people are gifted to be sure, but that gift didn’t come by birth. They’ve worked extensively in their writing, practice it daily or on a regular basis, maybe write blogs or daily journals.

What is important no matter what your skill level when it comes to the written word, is that you fully understand what’s happening in the mind of the reader as they go over your work. A representative of a company for example who has received your resume, cover letter, manual or on-line application, and perhaps an email can’t help but form an impression about you as a person based on what they’d received.

The general thinking is that when you have responded to a job posting, or are sending an unsolicited request for a meeting etc.,this sample they’ve received is likely you at your very best. If the document they are looking at is mistake-free and gets to the point the overall impression is positive, and by association, they feel positively towards you. On the other hand if they notice spelling and grammar mistakes and the overall quality is poor, then by association so is their impression of you.

Communicating effectively is a transferable skill; it moves with you from job to job, can be useful in a volunteer position, your personal life, even when filling out your yearly performance evaluation at work. Because it’s a transferable skill that can help you both personally and professionally, investing in yourself by taking a writing class in the evenings might be an excellent use of both your time and your money.

One of the most often cited frustrations for many of those out of work is when they know they have the skills to perform the work they are applying for, but their hand writing and spelling is so weak they can’t even fill out an application form. These are the kind of people who long for the old days when they could just ask to demonstrate their skills on the job site and get hired on the spot. Those days are largely gone.

Being able to confidently communicate both verbally and in writing are prerequisites which will make other skills easier to master such as using technology. Whether it’s using MS Word instead of a pad of paper to write a letter, or delivering a message to a group of co-workers, communication skills can limit or accelerate your career and open or close off future promotion considerations.

This idea of communicating effectively, mastering spelling and expanding your vocabulary should also be of major interest to people who now regularly communicate in abbreviations, brief text messages and acronyms. While it may be perfectly acceptable in some communications, it has yet to become mainstream in the professional world of employment.

You are who your writing skills reveals you to be. Good advice is to take some time, make the effort to improve, proofread and communicate clearly what you intend.

 

Unintentionally Coming Across As Insecure?


I am a strong believer when it comes to speaking with assertion. Assertive language is empowering and oozes confidence when communicating with others. when you think about your own use of language, I wonder if you might catch yourself using words which betray or reveal a lack of self-confidence.

Two such examples of this I noted yesterday when giving feedback to a woman who had just constructed a cover letter. I’m going to share these two examples, but I caution you first not to roll your eyes as you read what they are and say to yourself these are no big deal. Why do I say this? Because it’s inevitable that some readers will in fact think it’s not a big deal and that I’m being overly picky. Be open I say, and read on.

The first small gaff came in the second sentence where she said, “I believe I have the qualifications stated…”. Note how the word, ‘believe’ in this case weakens the statement. Do you have the qualifications or not? Or maybe you believe you have the qualifications when in fact you don’t. If you eliminate the first two words from the sentence it now reads, “I have the qualifications stated…”. In the revised sentence, it is a statement of fact; I have what you want.

The second such example I pulled from her cover letter came in the final paragraph, which had the impact of leaving an otherwise fairly well composed letter on a weak note. It ended, “I’d like to request an interview…”. Can you spot the words setting up a weak request? Omit the words, “I’d like to request” and replace them with, “I am requesting”. After all if you’d like to request an interview why don’t you?

Now some folks get all worried because they are concerned that assertive words will be misconstrued as aggressive words. They are concerned that aggressive language sounds pushy, and the last thing they want to do is come across as demanding. There is a difference between assertive and aggressive I’d point out, and I have been often told by those who read resumes for companies that they look for people to state they want an interview if that is their goal.

Consider this sentence: “I am requesting an interview to demonstrate in-person the skills, qualifications and personal qualities I have which uniquely qualify me for this position.” Now the reader is aware that your goal is to get an interview and you are being courteous but clear. The sentence also tells them you are uniquely qualified and you are prepared to demonstrate that. What is also evident is that you are aware skills and qualifications alone aren’t going to be enough – as others will have identical skills and qualifications – but you’ve got the desired personal qualities that make you an ideal fit.

Here’s another example of language that betrays a lack of self-confidence and reveals skepticism of achieving personal success; the use of the word, “if” instead of the word, “when”. “If I get an interview”. “If I get a job offer.” I hear these when working with unemployed people who will ask me, “If I get an interview can you help me prepare for it?” By changing the single word, “if” to “when”, it becomes, “When I get an interview, will you help me prepare for it?”

There is an immediate change in the message sent. Getting an interview suddenly goes from a wish to a certainty. “Oh I’m getting an interview make no mistake.” The use of the word, “if” comes across as, “Gee I’d love an interview but I have my doubts I’ll be that lucky.” One word changes the whole message conveyed.

Now imagine if someone – possibly you – used the word, “if” over and over, and in letters used passive language like, “I believe”, “I’d like to” etc. The cumulative impact is that you come across as insecure, lack self-confidence and the underlying impression you are unwittingly conveying is that if you have self-doubts about your abilities, maybe they should too. The alternative leaves the impression that if you are confident in your skills and abilities to perform the job, maybe they should too.

This shift is something I share with people I work with in my job hunting groups. I put it on the board and it reads, “In this room it’s “When” not, “If”. I task myself with listening for the instances of, “if” and correct the person stating these. I am thrilled to say that after a very short period of time, people catch themselves and correct themselves, and then the language changes. So big deal you say? The language alone isn’t all that changes. I’m not just correctly written and verbal language, I’m working on creating a mental shift in self-perception.

This is only one of many small things which I pass along to my job seekers. When they put all these little things together, I can see (and more importantly they can feel) a change in how they conduct themselves and apply themselves in their efforts. Communication skills improve, self-esteem is being rebuilt and a transformation is underway. The result is a much more appealing and strong applicant who comes across better in the interview as well as the resume and cover letter.

Hopefully you find this helpful. Catch yourself, mind your words. All the very best today!

Help Yourself; Read


We are increasingly moving towards living in a society where we get our information in short bursts; and whether by design or by choice people are reading less and needing to be stimulated more often. If War and Peace burst were to burst on the world stage in 2015 for the first time I have to wonder if the general populace would have the stomach to even do more than flip through it in a bookstore let alone read a few pages and certainly not the complete vast book it is.

We do however an injustice to ourselves if we fail to read and it hampers us unknowingly when we express ourselves either in writing or verbal communication. I’m afraid when it comes to writing cover letters, resumes and being able to effectively market ourselves in job interviews, many find themselves handcuffed and unable to express themselves to the extent they would like to do. Many have lamented, “I know what I want to say, I just can’t get it out.”

Now I am not perfect with respect to written communication, and while seldom at a loss to verbally express myself, there are times when my vocabulary is tested. Yet while I admit such shortcomings, I still assert my communication skills to be a strength of mine in most situations. But this piece is not about me; it is directed at any and all who have lost or never had much interest or love in reading.

Here is the thing; when you read on a regular basis you get introduced to new words and discover their meaning. New words and the order in which they are arranged spark new thoughts, some of which may challenge your beliefs, and from that we grow and learn new things. Reading can spark change, take us to places we otherwise would never go, and even in reading non-job related pieces for sheer pleasure, our own vocabulary expands. The consequence of reading on a regular basis then allows us to better communicate ourselves when in the company of others, and so you come to my point in including this appeal in an effort to help readers of this blog in their job searching and career advancement.

Look around you and you’ll see a generation texting in 140 characters or less using social media. Instead of descriptive words that build a strong vocabulary it is essential to minimize and reduce words to their smallest denominator that still communicate the intended meaning. So words like, ‘you’ become, ‘u’. Phrases such as, ‘laugh out loud’ become, ‘lol’ to use some of the more well-known examples. Rather than berating Twitter and texting in general, for I acknowledge their appeal in marketing to the desires of people who want to say as much by saying less, I applaud on the one hand the skill it takes to communicate thought in those 140 characters.

Ask anyone who enjoys reading to share one of their favourite titles with you. When you ask them why it appeals to them so much, you will likely be told that the writing is vivid, the text rich, the words depict pictures and images in their head which they grasp, and they come to care about the characters, the fate of the protagonist. If it’s a job-related book, they will tell you how it impacted on how they go about their work, gave them pause to re-think the way they did something, or introduced them to new ideas and best practices.

Putting books and the printed word aside for a moment, think too of people you find interesting to listen to or conversely grow weary of as they drone on and on and on in some tiring address. Those of interest capture the listener with stories and examples sprinkled in their talk. Their voices vary in pitch, intensity and volume. When making a speech they need not shout to be heard but hold everyone’s ears with their content, mixing in humourous antidotes, getting serious when needed, and they can evoke laughter and tears with equal acclaim.

I would caution you too that you are in danger of revealing much about yourself whether you intend it or not just in your own choice of words which can limit you or serve you well. It’s true, for our vocabulary often reflects our education level, and in an interview you might wonder why some interviewers will suddenly ask you the name of the most recent book you’ve read. This is not a harmless, random question. It is designed to gauge your interests, your level of comprehension, your literacy and your general commitment to your own development. If you say you aren’t reading anything at present or the last book you read you can’t even remember the title of, well that’s telling on you.

Start with anything that interests you – but read. Be it a fantasy novel, a short story, a daily read of newspapers, blogs, news articles on the web – whatever you find motivates you to read more. Re-introduce yourself to a library if you can’t afford to buy books and have no library of your own. The more you read, the more you may find your spelling improves, your grasp and understanding of words becomes.

You may find in reading more that you gain a stronger ability to communicate and express yourself both in the printed word and in speaking to others. And selling yourself to a potential employer is all about communicating your value!

What your words say about YOU


“So, like, I totally thought my last boss was like, well, you know not cool. I mean, am I right? He was so, well, mean! Like, he just isn’t like youse guys, all cool and stuff. So yeah, glad he’s in the rear view mirror.”

“Hmmm….well I think we’ve heard enough to make a decision. We’ll be in touch.”

The words we use to communicate with others often conveys a second message which often becomes the primary message received by those with whom we are talking. The actual message we might want to communicate is understood however, the language, the use of slang, curse, wit, puns, the verbage, the vocabulary also suggests our education level, our intelligence, our upbringing and our professionalism – or lack thereof.

If you want to improve your oral communication skills, there are a number of courses, classes and sources of information, (many of them free) that you can access. Contact school boards for adult education classes and do some academic upgrading, a College, or even look in the phone book under literacy. Organizations such as the John Howard Society often have literacy programs, and if they don’t, they certainly will have a community organizations directory which they will use to find one for you.

I was working recently with a client who used the term, “youse guys” several times in a few sentences. He was surprised to learn that “youse” isn’t an actual word, and when I mentioned this to him, he was grateful to be informed of this. In an interview he had a few days after our conversation, he apparently caught himself about to use the incorrect word a few times, and refrained from doing so. He thanked me afterward and never once did he feel ridiculed or ashamed – all to his credit. I suspect the reason for this is that he realized my intent in pointing this out to him was for his betterment, not my amusement. Accepting advice that is intended to be helpful and well intended is a sign of wisdom and maturity so good for him!

I myself had it pointed out that I used the word ‘irregardless’ from time to time and it should be, ‘regardless’. Oops. We can all learn and that’s a positive thing!

So in your daily conversations, do your best to use proper language. Even if you feel you have the ability to speak eloquently in an interview but outside of it you can revert to slang etc., you might be surprised to find that your language skills either enhance or limit your ability to move up in a company even after you pass probation.

Likewise contain your enthusiam to be bombastic if this applies to you!

A Guiding Philosophy


What’s the importance of having a personal philosophy?

A personal philosophy is a brief statement that helps guide the person who has one throughout their life, throughout their day, from one decision to the next, and not only in your professional life, but your personal life as well.

For example, if you believe that the people you work for are your first priority and you’re faced with the dilemma of going for your one hour lunch or helping someone who needs your personal attention, your guiding philosophy will make your decision easier. In this case, you choose to provide the person with your attention, and then adjust your lunch either by shortening it, or speaking with other employees to take your full lunch in a different time slot. This will vary from employer to employer as to what may work in your stituation.

Your philosophy if you live it, will be something others recognize without you necessarily having to voice it either. Not everybody has actually taken the time to put their personal values and beliefs into a nce catchy philosophical statement. Given time though, people can generally tell you what they believe. Most of the time it’s these same people who through long experience, unconciously and conciously behave in ways that are consistant with an interrnal guiding philosophy. It’s so built in and part of them, that the thought of putting it into words is something they have to stop and think about, and will often search for just the right words to accurately express themselves.

Safety is our number one priority. The customer is always right. It’s about the bottom line. What do you believe? What motivates you? What’s important to you in your personal / public life? Answer  some of these questions and you’re on your way to developing your own philosophy.

One of the best things about having a personal philosophy is it helps reduce the stress of being faced with competing solutions to problems. Should I do A or B? What’s my inner voice telling me will sit best with who I am so I make the right decision?

Remember too that your next employer might ask you what your philosophy is at your next interview. If they do….be ready!