Q. “So what kind of work are you looking for?”
A. “Anything that pays good money.”
Q. “Okay well what are you qualified to do?”
A. “Anything. Or I can learn it fast.”
This is how a conversation with a 53-year-old man who looks 59 or 60 went just yesterday. Now because he was one of a dozen people in a workshop I was giving on another topic altogether, I never got to continue the conversation privately. This was just how it went between us as I was chatting with everyone at the outset while we waited for anyone else to arrive.
The only other piece of information he contributed to the dialogue was an acute bitterness for temporary agencies, who in his opinion are set up to keep people chronically unemployed permanently in order to keep their agencies open. I won’t repeat what he thought should be done to, ‘those people’, but it wasn’t kind. And in the one minute this entire exchange took place, he told me more about himself than he did about temporary agencies, and he identified himself as a person who would be very difficult to work with because of the huge chip on his shoulder, and his inability to quickly share the kind of work he was both qualified and interested in pursuing.
Now yes it was only a minute. And I grant that if we were seated down together alone for an hour, I’d have drawn out a more accurate picture of his skills, work experience etc. But first impressions are so critical and his just isn’t good. And that’s the curious thing really. You see he was honest, forthright in his response, made no attempt to say, “They may be right for some but this has been my experience” for example, and I believe he genuinely thinks his willingness to do, “anything” is a positive. It’s actually a red flag.
A red flag is the mental “be cautious with this one” sign that gets raised. In this case it refers to barriers that need to be explored before he is really ready to succeed in finding and keeping work. The first barrier that becomes immediately obvious is that he may be so desperate to do anything, he takes a job that is a poor fit, and because he’s not suited for the job, he quits or gets fired. Repeat this formula again a few times, and you now have an embittered person who blames everyone else except himself. I can almost hear him saying things like, “You expect me to do what?” and “If you think I’m doing that, you’ve got another thing coming, it’s not worth it.”
The second red flag is the built up anger manifesting itself in the black and white, right and wrong kind of absolutes communicated in his attitude and words. While I can’t share the cadence of his voice, the burning direct eye contact, and the tone of his voice in print, it was easy to tell this fellow has very little patience for anyone who doesn’t agree with his view of the world and how things should be done. He’s not likely therefore to be very flexible to doing things any way that doesn’t immediately seem logical to him. And that makes him hard to hire.
And I’ll tell you this. As I said, this exchange started at the outset of the class, when I was just going around the room making conversation prior to really starting the presentation. As he was one of the last to go, I can see in retrospect that he knew what was going to be asked of him, and the opportunity to share was his pent-up anger being released and he didn’t really care at that moment about much else except getting his point out. Like I say though, it came out as bitterness bordering on hostility.
Now imagine you were in the position of trying to help an employer find someone to fill a vacancy. As a Recruiter, you want to send over potential applicants who will not only successfully complete the work to be done for their sake, but you also want to send over good people so the employer has a good experience and calls on you to send over more good people. Each person who does well essentially paves the way for other unemployed people. And of course Recruiter’s don’t have a job for very long themselves if they keep sending people who don’t work out.
So how do you help yourself? Get yourself under control and drill it into your head that you can’t afford not to make a good first impression. If you feel the need to vent and spit out venom do it in a confidential setting with a Mental Health Counsellor. Maybe an anger management class or one on how to handle stress; it’s what you need prior to looking for further work.
And knowing the kind of work that would be your first choice based on your skills and experience is critical. “Anything” will never be posted on a real job board. Put yourself in a position where you can be successful.
Written By Kelly Mitchell
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