Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Busy Jobs

Busy Jobs

As a consumer, it occurs to me that there are some careers where one definitely wants to be left waiting, and others where this is unacceptable. For example, when it comes to Surgeons, I absolutely do NOT want to go to their office, ER, or Surgical Center and find them anxiously waiting on me. Setting down their FaceBook or Candy Crush, they proclaim “I am SO glad you made it today, I WAS SO BORED today.”. I would find this “concerning”, if not downright “distressing”.

Likewise, when I am filing my taxes with the IRS, I prefer the services of an accountant who has a messy desk. Though I do demand a certain level of order, organization, politeness, and customer service, I would rather not have an Attorney (Thank you again, Angela) who is sitting next to the phone awaiting my call.

Sometimes, when folks are busy, it is because they are good at what they do. I want THOSE competent performers in my life.

Now, there are OTHER jobs where waiting for service is a problem. Paramedics, Law Enforcement, and Firefighters leap to mind. Similarly, I would not want to sit next to a busy Interstate for hours waiting for a Tow Truck driver.

A Server in a busy restaurant poses a challenging problem on this topic. On one hand, the restaurant is good (or trendy, at least), and busy. That indicates that you are in a good place to eat. The slow service might be attributable to the fact that your Server is out back, smoking (possibly tobacco), while your order sits and fades away under a red heat lamp, with Mel ringing a bell and screaming “ALICE! Pickup!”.

But then again, maybe the slow service is the fault of an excellent and overworked kitchen. Who knows? Why exactly do we pay Servers below minimum wage, and hold them responsible for things they may or may no control? 

I would absolutely wait for my food, happily and patiently if Gordon Ramsey were the chef. Wait 4 hours for a cable guy to drill a hole and install 2.5 feet of wire in my wall? Not as much patience.

I think that tells us that the skill and talent matter. If you are in a job where you are feeling overwhelmed and flooded, then maybe it says that you are talented and good at what you do. Looked at a certain way, this is a GOOD problem.

How to deal with the issue is for another article, which is forthcoming.

Good luck and best wishes,


Thursday, November 5, 2015



There are many job seekers who have professional supports and assistance in their job search. Some have Recruiters (Headhunters), some are enrolled at their local workforce development or Veteran Services agency, and others have disability-specialized supports. There are others, such as College Placement Offices, or Worker's Compensation, and the same concepts to follow apply as well. This article is not about the quality of the services, it is about the job seeker understanding the basics of the environment in which they swim.

Regardless of the source of support, it is important to understand the rules and umbrellas under which your 'Headhunter” is operating. Starting with the Recruiter, there are two types-Contingency and Retained. Contingency Recruiters typically are only paid when they make a placement, and that fee can be up to 25% of the annual salary and bonus (excluding benefits). They get paid when buttocks begin to warm a once-vacant desk chair. In all fairness, it is not quite that mercenary, because they want to establish relationships with the employer (so that they can get another paycheck next time), but at the end of the day, they get paid when you get hired.

You are a product which is for sale. Retained Recruiters offer their services to the company, for a flat fee, present them with a “slate” of 4-7 screened candidates. You are still a product for sale.

Being a product for sale is OK, as long as you realize that the real customer is the employer, and not you.

Moving along to Workforce Development (WIOA), Veteran's Services, and disability services, as in anything, your mileage may vary. In my opinion, the key thing to recognize here is that you are a number. Politicians and bureaucrats will take any opportunity to take credit. I recently had the opportunity to attend a state-wide meeting where the public agency took great pride and credit in their increased outcomes. They went on at great lengths about their initiatives, new policies, procedures and so forth. At no point did they mention that during the reporting period, the unemployment rate dropped by 50%. However, there were high-fives, hugs and sincere back pats because things improved by 25%. In this environment, you, and many others like you, are products for sale. Here, the real customers are the politicians, bureaucrats, and taxpayers.

All that said, here is the real point of the article. You are a product, and that is OK. Just understand that reality, and don't turn over responsibility for your job, your career, and your life to a Recruiter, a Bureaucrat or a Politician.

Certainly, access those services. They can be one tool of many in your toolbox. Don't relinquish responsibility for our job search to another party. Be in charge, accept responsibility, and use the supports and services available. Just remember, they answer to customers too, and that is likely not you.

Good luck,


Saturday, October 24, 2015

What's the Difference?

What's the Difference?
An updated, bullet-pointed, article to a previous post.

As a Career Counselor and Certified Disability Management Specialist, I am fortunate to have the opportunity to work with many different people. The people I serve are of all ages, from teens to retirees. They are of varying educational and skill levels. Sometimes they have no real accomplishments on the job, and other times, they are highly regarded professionals. I have been fortunate to have helped people with every job title from A (Architect) to Z (Zoo keeper).

It is fascinating that the teen worker seeking their first fast food job at McDonald's experiences the same process as the CEO of that same billion dollar company. That process is:
The point is, no matter if you are a beginner, or a CEO, there is a processto the job search. Take consistent, achievable steps, and work toward your goal.

Good luck,


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Time For A Change

After a nearly two year hiatus, the writing bug has returned, and I am updating again. My current interest and focus is along the career counseling line, and I have chosen an easy topic to know come of the rust from my keyboard.

Time For A Change.

My grandfather worked for the Armco Steel Company for 44 years. My father was with Montgomery Ward for more than 35 years. Those days are gone, and job changes are a simple fact of our economy. Grandpa and Dad both built solid Blue Collar to Management careers. They moved up the ladder a rung at a time. Now, in many cases, you have to change ladders to get to the next rung. The question is “How do I know when it is time to change?”

First, you have lost your passion. Your productivity has faded over time, and things that once seemed to matter, well...not so much anymore. Sunday nights (or whenever you return after a day or two off) are terrible these days. Anticipation has turned to dread.

Another sign that it is time to leave is if the organization is in trouble. This trouble may be expressed through re-organizations, sudden management shifts, or the departure of co-workers. In the Armco and Montgomery Ward era, companies sometimes were much more loyal to their workers, and this was a two way street. In today's reality, for right or wrong, companies are willing to take whatever actions they feel are needed. This includes right-sizing, terminations, and other actions which employees might see ass adverse.

Life is change. This applies to companies as well. Has the organization taken a different ethical direction which does not fit your personal or professional beliefs? Has the workplace culture changed? Do you get far less feedback from your supervisor? Do you have a new supervisor? This last point is an important one, as very often, people work for managers less than the company.

Have your job duties and responsibilities changed? Have you become under-utilized and bored? Perhaps things have gone the other direction, and you are stressed. If you feel like you are doing the work of two people, or that your duties are irrelevant, it is time to change things.

The theme of this article is that change is important in the decision to stay with a company, or to leave. It has to be a manageable level of change, and shoud offer opportunity for personal and professional growth. Workers should have reasonable opportunity, without being forced to drink a firehose of constant change.

Regardless, if a job change is due, then, remember to not burn bridges, and if possible, to line up your next job beforeyou go.

Good luck and best wishes,


Sunday, August 11, 2013


In a job search, it is easy to become overly-focused upon job search techniques, crafting the 'perfect' resume, or polishing interview skills. While these are all important activities and skills, there is an underlying foundation that requires attention.

That foundation is persistence. I believe that this is one of the most difficult times to job search in the last 50 years. Beyond the economy, today's job seeker receives very little feedback. Previously, a job seeker would commonly go to a business, request a paper application, and turn it back in to a human being. They could get commentary and opinion about their job prospects by asking, or by looking at subtle cues like body language and tone of voice. Today, applications are submitted online, and the only responses are automatic emails. The job seeker is often stranded in an electronic desert.

This situation only enhances the need to be persistent in a job search. To do that, begin with the end in mind. Set a goal, and write it down. Take your larger goal, and break it into manageable parts. Commit to making steady, consistent progress, and don't forget to take (small) breaks along the way. Reward yourself when you complete a step.

Another important part of maintaining a persistent attitude is getting support from others. Let the appropriate people in your life know what your goals and plans are. Not only can they offer encouragement, they also provide accountability.

Now, everything will not always be smooth. Be prepared to be flexible, and remember that flexibility and stubbornness are two different things. Learn to adapt, and when you get knocked down, pick yourself up and start again. Analyze the problem, and adapt accordingly.

In conclusion, I suppose that my message is to set goals, work toward them consistently, and keep going. Winston Churchill was a rather determined an persistent person:

We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender...”

Friday, July 19, 2013

Four intangible factors in a job search

Motivation, supports, previous success, and perseverance.

Sometimes when people are in a job search, they get caught up in the mechanics of the task. Tangible items and activities, such as resumes, cover letters, and networking calls are easy to see. Further, it is deceptively easy to get caught up in doing only these activities. Before beginning a job search, and at times along the way, I often advise clients to step back a moment and think a bit deeper.

Human motivation is a very broad topic, and far exceeds the scope of this article. Here, I would like to ask the Reader to consider their their own motivations, and how deeply those motivations go. For example, I have worked with many job seekers who were motivated by external forces, such as losing their house or car. While desperation is bad in a job search, folks in this situation work hard to find a job because they have to.

In contrast, there are other job seekers who are looking for work because of internal factors. Perhaps they are financially comfortable, but would like to get out of the house, learn a new skill, or contribute their talents. These folks are motivated internally, and seek to gain a different kind of benefit from work.

The above examples are not an attempt to imply that motivation is an either/or situation. The motivations of most people are a mix of external and internal drivers. The key point is that the Job Seeker needs to understand what is driving them.

The second intangible factor is that of supports. Supports come in a wide variety of types, and for this discussion, I am going to talk a bit about the support of people. Networking contacts are one obvious source of supports, and make up about 60% of new hires.

However, there are other people who factor into this job search. A supportive spouse is an obvious support. What if the job seeker is a young man who just graduated high school, and has his first 'real' interview. The person who teaches him how to tie a tie is a support. Perhaps the key support is a friend or neighbor who drops by for a cup of coffee, and lifts your spirits when things feel rough. That's a support. Look for, and enlist the help of your supports.

Next, a history of success is helpful in a job search. If you have succeeded before, then you have proven your capability to do it again. Yes, things have changed. Technology is a major player in modern job searches, and this may be a shocking change for some. Many job seekers are used to a different approach-paper applications and handshakes. Believe it or not, you learned a specific set of skills back then, and you can learn a new set of skills now. At the end of the day, you did this before, and you can do it again. For the younger or inexperienced worker, I would like to add that precious success is helpful, but not required. Everyone started with no experience, and worked through a 'first time' (I meant job search, and I know what you are thinking, Reader).

Returning from the gutter to intangible job search factors, let's discuss perseverance for a moment. A jo search is actually a sales activity, at least at the front end. A quick version of the old Salesperson Story is in order. One day, a very successful, master Salesperson has a rookie shadowing him. They do a sales call, and the master Salesperson gets shot down. As they leave, the Rookie notices a certain spring in the step, and a smile from the master Salesperson. He asks why he is so happy, since he got shot down. The Master Salesperson replies “It takes about 100 'No' responses to make a sale. Now that that is out of the way, I am one closer to yes”.
So, let's fast forward a few decades to today. Many hiring processes are automated. Feedback is non-existent. Twenty years ago, even five years ago, if you interviewed and did not get the job, someone actually picked up a phone and told you so. You had an opportunity to ask them what they liked about you, and why you weren't hired. Those days are essentially gone.

What is the connection to perseverance? Many job seekers will place 100, 200, or more, online applications before they hear anything. You must be prepared to doggedly persevere. Develop the right sales pitch, and keep going.

In memory of a great Therapist and friend, Susan Miller, RIP.


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Burned Out in the Social Services, part 2

I did an earlier article on burnout in the social services. I liked the topic, it is relevant, and I think I could do a better job at having a conversation about burnout. So, I thought I would try again.

Burnout is that job phenomenon that everyone faces, regardless of profession, sooner or later. It is different from a stress-induced problem, though we often try to apply stress management techniques. In the human services, I feel that Burnout is often caused by overwhelming demands combined with a perceived lack of resources and supports.

Why do I feel that way? Frankly, I've personally burned out, left the field for a few years, and returned stronger because of the experience. My burnout was because I let myself be put into a situation where I felt that I was on an island, without supports, but I maintained my internal desire to do more. To borrow a football term, “I out-kicked my coverage”. In football, the defenders get strung out, isolated and ineffective. For me, that meant that I wanted to do more, didn't have the needed supports, and became frustrated. If anger is an explosive emotion, frustration is a corrosive one.

Here are my signs of approaching burnout:
  • You have bad Sundays, dreading the return to work on Monday.
  • Your energy level is drained past the point where you know it is unhealthy.
  • You have two kinds of tasks-boring and unimportant OR overwhelming.
  • You become reactive (as opposed to proactive).
  • What you do doesn't seem to make a difference anymore.
  • You feel that don't have a professional support system (Boss, Co-worker, etc.)

This is the point in the article where the reader might expect some tips about handling stress at work. I am not including stress tips in this article. Stress and this 'burnout' phenomenon are distinctly different. Stress is generally about too much. Too many clients, too many regulations. Too much paperwork. Too many Bosses. All problems, and a different article.

Burnout is about emptiness. Not enough of something. I'm empty. I have no more to give. I have no help/support/direction. It used to never be about me, but now it is about just surviving to earn a paycheck. I used to be so caring/giving/motivated. Now I am empty, I have nothing left to give. I used to care, and worked harder/smarter/better. Now I am worthless to my clients.

What do you do about it? Be your own Client .
  • Recognize the problem.
  • Assess the situation.
  • Develop a plan of action.
  • Get help as needed.
  • Implement same.
  • Review progress.
  • Revise and adapt as you go.

Sound familiar, Social Services Worker? Yes, it is a Service Plan. Do one for yourself. In writing. Hold yourself accountable. Forgive yourself if you stumble along the way. Get help. Keep going.

You've helped hundred or thousands of people. Why not help yourself? You can do this.  We need YOU, and we need you to be healthy enough to keep helping others.  You can do this.  It can be better.

Good Luck and Best Wishes,