Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Bad Attitudes, Bad work values

Attitudes and values help us see how we will be in the working world. Not many people think that it is their values learned long ago that proves them to be a hard worker or lazy worker sort of person. First off, values are beliefs that a person has about what is right and wrong. They are also something that individuals have an emotional investment in.

The difference between right and wrong is something that is instilled in all of us from a very early age. You can probably remember hearing “you should not have done that, that was not very nice.” This is an example of learning about our behavior and how it fits into the world. Our values are determined by attitudes and expectations which stems from our own ideas on how we think things should be.

We have thoughts about how things should be, but at times reality and how we think things should be are quiet different. I hear a lot that some participants feel “it is not fair that this happened” or that “this is not the way it is supposed to be.”  Well, when you break down the reality it did. Once we allow our own expectations and thoughts of how things “should be” get involved we begin to alter our behavior.

It is easy to lose a job due to allowing our behavior to make us resentful of something at work. It is easy to fall into the group of gossipers and complainers when we become angry at work. The fact of the matter is, in today’s economy, with jobs even more difficult to obtain each day, a person needs to treat each day like it is their first day of work. In your mind, go back to the first day on the job excitement, the looking and learning everything, because if we take the job for granted we might not have it anymore.

We place a lot of emotional investment into finding a job or career and we can put just as much energy into losing it also. I know that there will be some hectic days, some bad days and some stressful days, but I like to carry with me one thought. You can start your day over at any point. Now I do not mean that you can have the “Groundhog Day” type of experience, but if you are stressed, or hectic and it is starting to grate on your last nerve, you can take 5 minutes to do some breathing and re-center yourself. Even if those 5 minutes has to happen on a bathroom break just to get away from the phone/email and those coworkers who might be needing more of your time that you can afford at the moment.

If the employee does not keep an eye on their mental state, their productivity can go down, their mood can go sour and they might find their behavior helping them out of a job. To return to that first day love for the job one needs to remember that every job can end today and nothing is permanent in the world of work. It helps keep one refreshed and excited and ready to grow, learn and change.  If you go to a job just for a check then your behavior will show it, if you are unhappy at the job your behavior will show it also. We have the right to expect some things, but when you have unrealistic expectations on how things “should be” or the way you want them to be, that can be a recipe for disaster. Yes we can expect to be respected at work, not be harassed, intimidated or belittled by our co-workers, but the fact is that often times there might be one or two who want to sabotage you and see you fail. Is that right, fair, or the way things should be?... No it is not right or fair but it does happen. Remember your attitudes will determine how good of a fit you are for the job and how good of a fit the job is for you.

Remember one thing it is easier to lose a job than to find one.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Networking like a Pro

Networking in many forms can help an individual find employment. I have read and heard a lot about the importance of networking. Networking both online and in the community. It has been said that 80% of the jobs out there are not posted and that only insiders in a company know what is being interviewed for. I guess it is the old saying it is not what you know but who you know. Having contacts at a business where you would love to work can be immeasurable in helping you get the first contact needed to sell yourself.

How does one find an insider to help? Well there are a lot of different ways to locate these individuals. First, depending on the company one can research the business, find if there are community based meetings and attend those. There are opportunities for networking during conferences or in my case gaining CEU’s (Continuing Education Credits). Having a certification that requires one to keep attending educational classes provides workers from various different centers and community resources to come together to learn and network.

There are numerous other places that networking can happen. I know in the town I work in there is a reentry task force that meets monthly. This is an organization that has people from all walks of life come together to help ex-offenders in a variety of ways. There are housing, treatment centers, probation and parole, community based non-profits, police, social workers and numerous other facilities that come together to provide a task force of help.

I have told many of my participants who suffer from chemical dependency that they have the largest networking opportunity at their fingertips. Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous is an excellent place to network. It is the number one support group in the world that not only the participants know what it is like to make a mistake in life and survive, but how it feels to have a strike against you when seeking employment. The “been there, done that” mentality is the best support for an individual who needs to find those who understand their troubles. I have found several online communities where there are individuals who are unemployed and people whose job it is to help unemployed find work. Going to the various sites and join discussions increases networking much like other support groups.

There is a huge networking opportunity on the internet. Places like Facebook, CareerealismLinkedIn, Twitter and a new one I found All of these places provide employment information, a network, and great individuals who want to grow, help and learn together.

When it comes to networking online, there are things to keep in mind. Make sure you have a professional picture, professional resume or “about me” section and, if you use Facebook, make sure your profile is professional, have nothing there that would turn off a potential employer or networking individual. I have heard of some people setting up a personal Facebook and a professional Facebook. Just make sure you do not friend yourself from the professional to the personal. Employers now days are searching online to see what your presence looks like in case there is anything that would be a strike against you at the employment stage.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Professional Appearance

Professional Appearance is a concept that I feel is important to understand. There are numerous parts to this that some tend to over look. The way one dresses, the first part of the interview process, thank you notes, and following up are the most missed factors.

Working in Workforce Development helps me help others who are having a difficult time gaining employment. I have found it shocking to see that when some people are filling out applications they are going in either jeans that are half way down their rear, low cut shirts that are close to exposing the chest, or shorts. I have tried to impart on the participants that you dress in business casual or dress one level above the job they are seeking. They way you dress is the first thing that the interviewer sees and this is the first impression that needs to be set. Walking in with confidence and a strong handshake does not help if you look wrinkled, disheveled, or are wearing inappropriate application or interview attire. I tell the participants to come dressed ready to be sent to a business to put in an application and yet there are still days I would not send any of them out.

Most individuals feel the interview process starts when the hiring manager retrieves the interviewee. That is not true. It actually starts when you walk into the facility. Your first interaction with the individual that is behind the desk labeled reception is where the interview starts. The receptionist is the first line of eyes and ears for the hiring manager. There are often times that people show for an interview, sit in reception and talk on their cell phone, or are just rude to the receptionist. What individuals fail to know is that often the receptionist will report the behaviors to the hiring manager. I have noticed the Vice President of our company sitting behind the desk answering the phone and transferring calls. When you walk in for an interview, you have no idea if the individual answering the phone is the one who is going to interview you or even someone higher up.

Another part of this is individuals think it is o.k. to show up 30 minutes to an hour early. I keep reminding the participants that 10 minutes is appropriate, maybe 15 would be o.k.. I remind them that the interviewer set the time because they have a busy schedule and do not need to have that schedule interrupted due to their showing an hour early.  Although showing up late is just as bad.

In today’s society, it seems that the words "Thank You" have fallen off the grid. Someone opens the door for you and often times you just walk through and do not acknowledge that nice gesture. I grew up in a family that made it a must to say please and thank you. So why is it hard to send a thank you note to the individuals that spent their time and energy to help you and to interview you. The one way to stand out in the mind of an interviewer is to send a “personalized” thank you note. When I say personalized, I mean that if you heard the interviewer say something like, “oh I notice you are from Colorado, I love Colorado, I love to ski” Then in the thank you note make sure you mention that connection and wish them happy skiing. It is also important that if you had a pleasant conversation with the receptionist, or if they were helpful in giving you some of the low down of the company, or just giving you information, it is impressive and well noticed to send that individual a thank you note also.

The final piece to this professional appearance is the follow up. Most people go to an interview and then sit by the phone waiting to hear. There is an ethic that goes with following up. The first follow up is the thank you note, then one should wait a week and either place a call or send an email (which ever is the form of communication previously established) and here is an example of one that I sent via email.

“It was very enjoyable meeting with you about the Counselor position with ‘Insert Company name here’. The job seems to be an excellent match for my skills and interests. The family atmosphere you described confirmed my desire to work for company. In addition to my enthusiasm, I will bring to the position strong detail oriented writing skills, assertiveness and the ability to encourage others.

I appreciate the time you took to interview me. If there is anything else you might need from me please do not hesitate to ask. I enjoyed meeting with you and look forward to hearing from you regarding this position.”

Signed Name

Waiting for the phone to ring and not being proactive in the follow up and job search is one thing that is often overlooked. I would suggest a week after an interview make one last contact, then move on to the next interview.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Co-workers that sabotage

Part 2

Co-workers that sabotage others, or at least try to so they look better themselves. This can be a dangerous web for an employer to find themselves in. I have witnessed individuals in different jobs do things and say things about another worker that were not true. When asked I do what I always do, tell the truth. I wonder what it is in human nature that makes sabotaging such an issue. I have this sneaking feeling that it has to do with the “keeping up with the joneses” mentality. Maybe there are just individuals out there who are so unhappy that they do not like to see others succeed, or maybe jealously rears it’s ugly head. Whatever the motivator is there is never a good outcome for anyone. Some suggestions if the individual is so unhappy in their job that they want others to be as miserable would be:

1.Remember the first day of work. The excitement, the meeting all the new people, and the friendly hand shakes received.

2. Do what you are expected to do. I mean 40 hours a week for 30 years comes out to 62,400 hours in a life time that we work. (that is if my math is correct) Make sure you do what you are expected to do.

3.Talk to your co-workers daily, even 2 minutes of small talk can help build better relationships.

4. Stay away from that group of complainers that every company has, to have the well poisoned is never good.

5. Document everything and always have some preparation for a meeting. This is not paranoia, but a good plan for anyone. Always have proof of what you do at a moments notice.

6. Rise above the situation. Not everyone at the job will or has to like you. If you are the person to them that you wish to be treated like things will work out more in your favor.

It is never fun when you find out that one person you felt you did not have a problem with, has a problem with you, or something you have done or received. Life is full of these fun kinds of interactions. Remember everything is a learning experience, just like everything you learned in life what you learn in the employment world has to be practiced. Trying to do everything yourself and not asking for help is one way individuals sabotage themselves. Is it pride that stumbles them? Is it that if I ask for help on something I might look incompetent? One can only answer that for themselves, but to make the best out of the 62,400 hours of work, one needs to remember that the feeling you had on that first day of work, can still be the feeling you have 30 years later.

Our own attitudes and values come into play even in the working world. Do we value that employer? Do we value that job? Do we show we value our co-workers? How our attitudes are at the job tend to speak loudly at how productive and dedicated we will be, and how long we will be with that same employer. Things we value often times are the things that we have an emotional investment in. Now, if we have a negative emotional attachment then we will have a negative experience, but if we have a positive attachment then only good things can happen. I personally do a thing I find helps keep me grounded and able to focus at work. I imagine a time clock outside the entrance to my job and every day I imagine that I clock into work. Now that does not sound strange but I take it further, I clock in to work and clock out personal life. I work my day, then when I leave I clock out of work and back into personal life. This helps me not bring home to work and work to home.

To have the best life at work, remember you are responsible for you, others might try and mess with your work life but the fact is the employer will look into any accusation no matter how false and come up with a solution. Cover your rear and do not only what you are expected to do, but stand out and do more. So the last ideas are try and find some humor in the sabotaging co-worker, try and stay away if that is necessary, and if all else fails, confront it head on, go to that person and find out why they are doing what they are doing.

Employee/Employer Loyalty

I have been reading a lot of articles over the past week, and there seems to be a trend on employees concerns dealing with two different topics. I wanted to throw my hat in the ring and share some personal opinions on these two topics.

The first is employee/employer loyalty and the second is co-workers that sabotage others.

According to, being loyal is defined as:

1. faithful to one's sovereign, government, or state: a loyal subject.

2. faithful to one's oath, commitments, or obligations: to be loyal to a vow.

3. faithful to any leader, party, or cause, or to any person or thing conceived as deserving fidelity: a loyal friend.

4. characterized by or showing faithfulness to commitments, vows, allegiance, obligations, etc.: loyal conduct.

I would like to focus on number 3 in the definition.  "Faithful to any leader, party or cause, or to any person or thing conceived as deserving fidelity: a loyal friend".  When it comes to being loyal one has to have a greater sense of fidelity, not only with themselves, but the place they fought so hard to work.  The individual does not need to expect that they will have friends in the company or that the company is their friend, that is a different relationship all together.  I believe that, over time, the true colors of any relationship come out and often times people do not know how to confront them.  In the first months of employment, an employee is learning, looking and collecting their personal data about the organization.  Often there will be some issue that makes the employee question "how loyal will this manager or company be to me"?  Maybe it was a negative review, maybe it is falling into the group of disgruntled workers that every place has, or maybe it is just the expectations that the employee had for the company are found to have been to high.  Employees need to make sure they take extra time to also interview the company before they take the position to lessen the chance of of finding this in the future.

Now I know this economy is not great, and many individuals just want to find a job, any old job, to make sure they continue to be able to provide for themselves and their families. This is one of the worst things that can negatively affect an employee’s loyalty. It might show that they are not really dedicated to the employer, making the employer see more negative in the employee.  On the other hand, many employers do not really do much to praise the employee, motivate the employee and help them progress. There seems to also be a trend that, even as high up the ladder as the CEO, people can feel under appreciated.  Employers need to nurture their employees, praise them and help mediate when problems arise so that the work environment can be less hostile.

Most states are “at will” employment states.  This does not mean employers need to be loyal to the employee, it just means that the employee might work under a constant state of fear, wondering if that meeting they were not invited to attend could be a bad sign.  Does the fact that the newest sales person was given the account they were working on mean something.  In the days gone by, there were people who would gain employment and stay there until retirement, the trend now is for an employee to enter a company, get some experience and then take that experience to another company that seems to be more apt to nurturing the employee, until the cycle comes back around.

I know that employers feel that the pay check and the minimal benefits they provide should be the motivating factor of someone wanting to show more loyalty, but, in fact, that is just all a part of that “employment contract” that is entered into when the offer is accepted. These are not the benefits that will help that employee want to be loyal to the company. What does help is advancement, and opportunities for the employee to shine, to gain notoriety in the company and to be groomed to move up in the company and excel.

Most companies today have one goal, and that is to get the most out of the least amount of people. This mindset helps employees burn out and become frustrated and looking for other employment opportunities. On the other hand, I do think that employees need to remember what they have… Employment. Employees tend to forget that they themselves are responsible for their own happiness and dedication to the employers. The real solution is to have weekly meetings with the employees, share the news of the company and give praise where it is deserved. Keep the lines of communication open, and keep everyone, from the lowest person on the totem pole to the highest person, completely and honestly informed as to what is going on in the company. Secrets will break down a company faster than anything. Secrets start the rumor mill going and that is like dynamite for a company where that one person who is frustrated and unhappy will begin to spread their paranoia like a blazing wild fire.

Since this is so long I will name it part 1 and make the sabotaging article part 2.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Employment World with Ex-Offenders

Working in the world of employment services is much different than working in the counseling field.  Do not get me wrong, there is still a lot of counseling happening, but ex-offenders are a completely different breed.  My experience has been working in strictly substance abuse counseling, but now I work with ex-offenders who also have a myriad of other needs and issues.  I have found that there is a higher rate of denial about how they ended up where they are, demands that they do not need counseling they just need a job, and the knowledge that their social, interpersonal and soft skills are nearly non-existent.

Social skills, according to many, are the skills that you develop and learn from birth and continue to work through for the entirety of life.  We are all social animals, who enjoy being with like minded individuals, those that motivate us, teach us and support us.  Sometimes these skills take a turn, and decisions are made that are not the best for us.  Working with ex-offenders has taught me that first one needs to break through the denial that their thinking/feeling process is skewed and bring the reality that if “you do what you do, you get what you got”.  The one most important aspect I have learned from working with ex-offenders is that accountability is the most needed ingredient to be able to help.  Manipulation is the main mindset of an ex-offender, the more they can get away with something, the more they continue to try.

I always ask the participants to tell me about themselves and I get responses ranging from what they did to end up in jail, or what society has told them that they are.  When I am working with the individuals to learn to identify their interpersonal skills, how to develop them, and how to take those skills to a job, it is sometimes difficult to help them learn they are more than that.  I explain to them that we all have interpersonal skills that we all learned and developed over our lives and that these might be overlooked in our skill sets.

The last thing I had to learn how to help them with was Soft/Hard skills.  Both are necessary in employment and often times employers hear the same soft skills in interviews. I teach them to be proud of the skills they developed, even the ones gained while being incarcerated. The one thing that seems to blow their minds is when I tell them “I do not care what you did, that does not tell me who you are”