Get Loud for Mental Health

It is Mental Health Week and the Canadian Mental Health Association is running a week long awareness campaign. We are being encouraged to #get loud – a trendy way of telling us to stop being embarrassed or callous and get on with learning about the issues.

Mental illness is difficult to understand.  If you have never suffered from depression, it is hard to understand that someone cannot just “snap out of it” or “get over it”.

It is so easy to joke about a colleague’s behaviour instead of taking the time to try to understand what they might be going through.

There are many resources available to help us with this.

http://www.mentalhealthworks.ca/employees/what-i-wish-i-knew

http://www.camh.ca/en/hospital/Pages/home.aspx

https://www.workplacestrategiesformentalhealth.com/

These sites offer free resources to employees, friends, colleagues, managers and HR Departments.  There is a lot of good stuff here to help you get familiar with different types of depression, anxiety and other forms of mental illness.

I am not saying you need to become a psychologist for your cube-mate. There are Employee Assistance programs for that. But you can be more empathetic and understanding towards people who are having difficulty. You would hold the door for the guy with the crutches, right?

You know what would be a good start?  If we took negative mental health references out of our everyday conversations. “That guy is crazy!”  “My client just went nuts.”  I think that would go a long way towards helping our friends and colleagues feel like there is more support and that they are not as alone.

So, read up and be nice. We are counting on you.

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Humour in the Interview – Tread Lightly

I had a good discussion with one of my friends this week about using humour at work, especially when you are new in a group or organization.  That got me thinking about humour in an interview setting.

An interview is like a first date.  You are listening and answering to see if there is a fit, to see if you get along.  Do you relate to the same things?  Do you share a common language or way of speaking?

There certainly can be some shared laughter in that kind of conversation but be careful it’s not nervous humour.  High pitched giggles and bathroom humour are definitely out.

If you are going to say something that you think is funny, check first – is it respectful and professional?  There is definitely no room for sarcasm in an interview.  Even if the hiring manager seems to be okay with it or throwing out some barbs, don’t do it.  Sarcasm is mean and even if it’s delivered in a funny way, it can still hurt someone’s feelings.

If the interviewer says something that’s funny to you, check their face before you burst out laughing.  If their eyes and mouth are not warm and smiling, perhaps it is not funny to them.  Definitely avoid laughing if they are not laughing.  This can be very awkward.

So tread carefully and pay attention.

And disregard this whole thing if you are interviewing at a Comedy Club.

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On-Boarding Does Not Start on Day One

If you just hired someone, chances are, it will be a week or two before they start.  If you don’t communicate with that person until the day they show up at reception, you are missing a big opportunity.

We often just breath a sigh of relief once we get the signed offer of employment. We move on to the other thousand things on our list.

Think about how that makes your new team member feel.

What if you sent them a company newsletter and some company swag the day after they sent you their documents?

And what if they were included in some emails for the group they are joining?

And how about if an announcement was made to the team about their impending arrival?  A nice note that gave some background and a nice shout-out.  And how about if they were copied on that note?

That means the week before they start, they are already getting nice, warm, welcoming notes from their new work family.

Sure, this takes a few minutes and you are busy.  Don’t underestimate the impact of that warm feeling carrying into their first few days of work.

This may sound cynical but it also has the added benefit of reducing the cold feet that might creep in and will really help to firmly turn off any other opportunities they were looking at.  It is pretty hard to ghost a manager who just send you a great note and a company hoodie.

Once you get the offer back from the candidate, start thinking of them as am employee and treat them as such. Get some reminders in your calendar and make the most of it. It will be so worth it.

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The Write Thank You Notes

Contrary to popular belief, the thank you note is not dead.  In fact, there are more ways than ever to thank someone for their time and effort.

The Old Fashioned

Keep a supply of plain-ish note cards and stamped envelopes near your desk.  When someone goes out of their way for you, stop and write a brief note of thanks, address it and drop it in the mailbox or on their desk if it is for a colleague.

The Hallmark Moment

Sign up for a Hallmark e-card subscription.  Not only is it pretty cheap but it gives you access to scads of different cards for different occasions – including thanking someone. You pick a card, add your note, pop in the email address and hit send.  This is also particularly handy if you forget to get a paper card for someone’s birthday.

The Quick and Thoughtful

There is nothing wrong with a regular email note to thank someone.  I suggest sending it the next day.  If you send it right after, it might seem like you had it composed and ready before the thing actually took place.  When you send it the next day, it seems like you have not only given it some time to percolate but that you have taken time out of your day to take the action.

The Voicemail   

Don’t discount the value of a cheery, upbeat voice mail.  It may not sit on the person’s desk like a paper card but there is always the option to save a voice mail allowing your thank-ee to be reminded about your sparkling personality and phone manner anytime they like.

In the end, it is not the format that’s important.  It’s the message and the thought that went into it.  That’s what will make you stand out.

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Dig Deep – Drive your Career in the Right Direction

I don’t want to belabor the strength and tenacity that Bianca Andreescu displayed last weekend at the US Open but there are some serious things about her victory that we can all use.

It is okay to be frustrated about your job or your job search. It is okay to complain to your partner, colleague or great aunt. It is not okay to just complain. You need to take action.

Of course you are busy. Sure, you might be the underdog. That’s not an excuse.

Make a plan. Take action. Do something.

If you could design your dream job, what would it be? Make a list of the responsibility you want to have and the knowledge and skills that you want to use. How and what do you want to influence? What do you want to solve?

Once you have that list, get on LinkedIn and find people who are doing those things. Take a look at the Job section. See anything that looks right? Go for it. Hit apply.

Then go back to the people who are doing your next job and send them a note. Ask them to connect because you really admire what they have been able to do in their career. Invite them to reach out to you for a conversation.

Spend some time looking in your own organization. Does the role exist in another office or on another floor? Know anyone there who could introduce you around? (If you work in a really big organization, LinkedIn can be a handy place to look for this intel).

Stay disciplined and focused. Block on your calendar to follow up and do more. Work to not let your busy-ness get in the way of your progress.

Because when you think you have come to the end of your rope, if you look inside, you will always find just a little more.

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Don’t just spit in the wind – make a Plan

I think that Labour Day should be renamed Resume Day or Apply-for-Jobs Day.  There was a big spike in activity on job boards, corporate sites and especially LinkedIn.

This is not unusual long weekend behaviour, especially if the weather is on the crappy side.  While it’s lovely to get a lot of “join my network” invitations, I can’t help but think that people are spitting in the wind.

If you are genuinely interested in finding something new to do, then you need to plan a campaign and then execute it.  You can’t expect to find success by flinging a few resumes into the universe.

If you only have an hour every long weekend for your job search, then you might as well join the smokers outside your building or hang out in a hockey arena.  That kind of random networking will give you about the same results.

The first step is to give your search direction.  What do you want to do?  Specifically.  It can be based around an activity or a technology.

  • I want to lead a team.
  • I want to fix a broken process.
  • I want to build something new.

 

These are the starting points.  Once you can identify that, the rest will fall into place.

Your resume should emphasize why you are qualified to do what you want to do.  Provide good, hard evidence of what you have done and where you did it.  It should be easy for a hiring manger to understand where you would fit into their organization.

Once you are happy with your resume, show it to at least three people you trust.  It is helpful if one of them is a grammar geek or at least a big reader.  You want to make sure it flows nicely, it logical and does not have any spelling mistakes.  This is key and cannot be undervalued.

Now, you are ready to move into the research portion.  You know what you want to do.  Where can you do it that is better than where you are now?

Check out Linkedin, simply hired and indeed.  Look for the right keywords and geography to see what is posted.  Apply with a short and pithy cover note.

There are some neat alerts/tools on each site that you can use to automate this part.  Once you know what you are looking for, these are handy and efficient.

I am not guaranteeing that this strategy will get you the next great gig, but it will give you a targeted approach to the market.

It will also help you solidify your goals.  Your ears will perk up when you hear the smokers or hockey parents mention an opening, and you will be ready to pounce all over it.

 

 

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Pre Interview Checklist

You have gotten through the phone interview and now you have been confirmed for a face to face meeting with HR and the hiring manager.  You are short of breath and sweaty.  A bit of panic is fine, but here’s a list to help you get focused and constructive as  you prepare for your interview.

The day before:

  • Check out the company’s website
  • Look up the people you are going to meet on LinkedIn (don’t invite them just yet)
  • Search Google for the latest news about the company
  • Address the hairiness of your eyebrows and/or neck
  • Iron two shirts ( in case you spill some coffee)
  • Print and review your resume
  • Call a friend and tell them about a difficult situation at work and how you dealt with it
  • Check out the address and decide how you will get there and when you need to leave

The day of:

  • Shower and dress (easy on the cologne)
  • Brush and floss
  • Pack your resume, something to read (Forbes, The Economist), a comb, gum in to your briefcase
  • Make sure to eat something.  Passing out in an interview is not cool

When you arrive:

  • Stop by the washroom to check your teeth and your zipper
  • Turn off your phone
  • Go to reception no more than 10 minutes early
  • Check in with a smile that goes up to your eyes
  • Sit down and pretend to read while you take deep breaths through your nose

Now you re ready to knock it out of the park!

 

 

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