Friday, 16 December 2011

Up and In, Down and Out: World of Work

Up and In, Down and Out: World of Work
Column by Keelin Carey

Since the economic downturn in 2008, the global economy is on the teeters with unpredictable stock prices, debt defaults, and fluctuating unemployment rates. Although the labour market gradually improved in Canada, there are people still looking for work. There are people who are employed and struggling to deal with workplace dilemmas and achieve optimal level of job satisfaction. Ultimately, when it comes to work, they all have questions: What makes a productive job search that results in gainful employment? What makes a satisfying career with good relations with the boss and co-workers? Read on to read common questions employment counsellors usually field in their line of work regarding job search.

I have been looking for work for over a year with no luck. What should I do?

There are numerous factors and suggestions that cannot be covered in this column. The first thing will come to my mind is your employment goal and the qualifications you possess. The second is your research on the labour market.

Grab five different job postings and read the requirements. Check off the ones you possess. Do you see all items checked off? If the answer is yes, review your marketing documents (i.e. resume, cover letter) and job search techniques. Seek assistance for revisions. Obtain a second opinion. Revise again. Many applications were discarded because of one or two grammatical or spelling errors. Pay attention to details in black and white. What about your job search skills? Maybe they need to be updated. Visit libraries and Employment Resource Centres. Sign up with employment / job development services. Talk with friends, family, and professionals. Take out books on job search. Surf the Net for articles on specific topics. Explore ideas and possibilities.
Suppose the items are not checked off, re-examine the requirements. If the first three requirements are checked off, then there is some hope. Options you may want to consider are: Taking a course; registering with a governing body or an association to receive a designation that is essential in your field; or, lending your time to an organization to acquire experience using specific skills. To pay bills, it might mean going off-track in taking an interim position – survival job - until you build up your skills-set to achieve your employment goal.

If you do not meet the requirements, then do not lose hope. What other jobs are similar to your employment goal that you can start off first? You might want to consider an apprenticeship or take out an OSAP loan to attend college or university or visit your local Employment Ontario organization to discuss Skill Development. An investment in time and education, along with a little elbow grease and positive attitude, will pay off in the future.

It is critical that you become proactive, not passive, in your quest. Desire and conviction in what you do will lead to a great job.

Should I disclose my Deafness in the cover letter?

The safe answer anyone will tell you is not to disclose any details regarding race, religion, ethnicity, age, marital status, sexual orientation, and disability in your cover letters. The reason is that resumes and cover letters are to focus on merit – skills, experience, education, and accomplishments, thus prospective employers’ biases will not come into play when choosing who to contact for interviews.

Of course, such disclosure may be used to your advantage if it is a Deaf organization or an organization – business or non-profit – that has a hiring motto of being an Equal Opportunity employer. 

Some job seekers decided to disclose because they want to be upfront, especially when they rely on email and text-messaging for initial contact and need ASL interpreting services for the interviews. Few have said that some managers know “a friend of a friend who has a Deaf cousin” and, because of their familiarity with Deaf individuals in the past, they are willing to interview Deaf candidates. This is clearly in opposition of what Human Resources professionals and employment counsellors are trained to say in regards to disclosure of Deafness, but disclosing has been an advantage for some.

To disclose or not to disclose, that is the question. Which action are you comfortable taking? To decide, trying both will not hurt. Just make sure that you place the strongest emphasis on your MERIT above anything else in the letter and let your optimism shine through.

I have been offered interviews, but no job offers. What am I doing wrong?

Clearly, you are qualified for the positions applied. Resumes, cover letters, and job search techniques are not a concern, which leaves me to wonder about your appearance, interviewing style, preparedness, and understanding of etiquette. In a nutshell, this is a make-or-break where the interviewers decide if they like you or not within the first 20 seconds of meeting you.

20 seconds?

Yes, twenty, 20, two-oh seconds to decide if you are worth their time or not. Even less than 20 seconds. First impressions count. It is not say that first impressions define and cement our personalities and the outward appearances we present to the world, but they do define the moment when prospective employers take you in their eyes and make snap judgments. Make sure you are dressed appropriately, groomed to a T, and smiling with sincerity. Let your best qualities shine. And, mind your manners, too.

Did you ask someone to practice common interview questions with you and to throw in unexpected ones to keep you on your toes? Read about the interview process and appropriate interview behaviour and style? Research the company? Grasp the true context of the duties and required skills of the advertised position? Make a list of stories demonstrating key skills to wow the interviewer? Find out the best route of arriving on time for the interview? All of this PREPARATION is crucial to interview success.

Suppose you have done the above and still struggle to obtain job offers, what are the other possibilities? One person I know was so nervous when preparing for an interview that she became increasingly anxious and overwrought. As a result, she became mentally fatigued during the interview and was lacklustre. Oops. Know when to stop and get a good night’s sleep to absorb everything in. Another person dragged his answers too long that the interviewer interrupted him to move on to the next question. That was feedback, and he didn’t get it at the time. The interviewer may have perceived that as an inability to accept feedback and change direction – one of the key soft skills to be successful on the job.

Sometimes, it is not during the interview that impacted the decisions of the interviewer, but what happened afterwards. Following up with a thank-you note is important as it shows your graciousness. The thank-you note can address concerns of the interviewer or short-comings you may have, ending on a positive note.

It is vital to remain grounded during the interview. Staying in the moment will help you to be conscious of your body language and attitude. Be aware of the hidden messages the interviewer delivers between the lines. Determine if you truly want to work for the company. Do not forget the purpose of the interview: It is an opportunity to sell yourself as someone the company must have as part of its team.

Last Words:

In this column, everything is easier said than done. Learn from your achievements and mistakes and share them with others for insight. Know that you will get the hang of it with some faith and conviction in what you do, the doors will open. Even just a crack is enough.

Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude. - Zig Ziglar