Occupational Wellness–Help Me Help You

pencils

Occupational wellness.  It’s a touchy subject for me. As a result of life choices when I was younger I’m one of those people who finds herself topping the hill never having a career despite working since she was sixteen years old. Lots of jobs—always a job—but not necessarily a career with a path. That’s my own fault, except it’s not a fault. I took a long time to figure it out. I moved every six months to two years. Even after I put down roots I kept my employment horizons exciting and new. For extra seasoning I decided in my 40s to chuck working for other people and become self-employed. Then I chucked that and went back. It’s been an adventure.

I’ve been unemployed before. However, I’ve never remained unemployed for any length of time that wasn’t an active choice, which is a long way of saying I’m good at getting jobs. I am. That’s my truth. I can land a job. I make a good impression. I’m good on the phone. I’m good at the interview. It’s a skill set I’ve developed. Who was it—who said it’s not bragging if it’s true? For me, this is true. The reward for changing jobs so often was learning how to successfully change jobs so often. Perhaps this is why so many employers perennially choose me to hire people.

Through all of those changes I never failed to land, sooner or later, in a position to hire people and manage people, which typically includes firing people as well. The Universe puts me back into that chair every time I bounce out. Alternatively, I keep saying yes to that chair every time it’s offered. For whatever reason, mystical or practical, I always return to the task of managing people. Depending on your perspective, this is either my penance or my occupational set-point.

I’ve read thousands of resumes. I’ve held hundreds of interviews. I’ve hired people of every race and gender, in every legal age group, gay and straight, rich and poor, under and over-qualified, and every personality from timid mouse to raging tiger. I’ve fired them too. The only thing harder than agonizing over a new hire is the prospect of firing someone I hired. It is never easy; not even when it is justified. Firing people sucks but it cannot always be avoided and sometimes it is necessary suckage. I can say this because every time I’ve been fired from a job I learned something I probably wasn’t going to learn any other way.

If the Universe ever brought me an opportunity to galvanize all of this experience into a wellness outreach it would place me in a position to coach job seekers, promotion seekers, and those on the brink of getting fired. If this is a thing, I should be that thing. I should teach folks how to pass muster with hiring managers like me. I’ve been doing it long enough to know the instant turn-offs, the deal-breakers, and the kisses of death. This goes double for the instant good impressions, the deal-makers, and the answers to staffing prayers. The world is full of staffing agencies with staffing agents working on commission. This would be more like an Occupational Wellness Consultant.

But to tell you the truth, I wish the world didn’t need it. I wish this stuff was taught in high school. It makes me sad. American workers start off as American job seekers but no matter how well qualified they may be, the fundamentals of landing a job—any job—aren’t a priority. No one should graduate without a course in seeking employment. If you think I’m making too much of it, consider how many people I haven’t hired because they didn’t have basic common sense about personal hygiene. Someone could have saved those people from being passed over. Someone could have coached Mr. Mistake not to take a phone call from his wife in the middle of the interview and let her talk for 10 minutes while I waited. Seriously. His excuse? “Sorry, she gets a little crazy if she can’t reach me.” Someone should have taught him better.

I kid you not, job seekers have come to me:

  • Using nicknames on a resume, sometimes in quotes:  Mary “Sweetness” Smith or Lisa “Baby Girl” Jones. Staffing managers don’t think this is cute or original.
  • Using redneckgurl@email or platinumdiva83@email or money_baby2000@email. Don’t do this. Get serious. Get a simple professional email for your job search.
  • Sending out resumes and/or applications with voicemail not set up, voicemail full, or phone number disconnected. I’m not kidding. Every week I call people I can’t reach because their numbers aren’t in service or they never set up their voicemail.
  • Using all caps for the text of the resume. Folks must think this helps them stand out. It does, but in a bad way. Staffing managers aren’t fooled into believing your experience is more important because it’s in caps. This comes across as obnoxious, not innovative. Also, don’t put your name in lower case.
  • Using copied text from an old job description (or worse, the job post from your recent vacancy) and passing it off as duties and accomplishments. It’s lazy and false. This tells a staffing manager you didn’t know your job well enough to describe it on your own. Don’t do that.
  • Using slang or street language on the resume.  A staffing manager will question your judgment and rightly so.
  • Using religion on the resume, such as scripture, praising a god, or long essays detailing how you are trusting your god to get you this job. Save the prayer requests for the church bulletin. A staffing manager will choose someone more professional.
  • Excruciatingly bad spelling or very poor grammar on the resume when the job post makes it obvious that reading and writing are required. I don’t mean missing the average typo. I mean using egregiously bad language that leads people to believe you didn’t get out of the fourth grade.  It’s no crime to be bad at spelling or grammar but if this is your reality, ask someone else to write your resume. At the very least, have someone with superior reading and writing skills proofread it. You can’t expect to get in the door if the staffing manager thinks you are borderline illiterate.
  • Using a resume when you have no previous experience. This makes you look like a poser and your resume is destined for the trash. There’s nothing in the world wrong with having no experience but if this is your reality, don’t submit a resume at all—fill out an application instead. Don’t list Stay At Home Mom on your resume.
  • Telling lies on the resume or in the interview. This wastes everyone’s time. We verify your previous employment. We notice when you list friends instead of employers as references. They always give themselves away. We can tell when you’re trying to keep us away from your old bosses. Don’t say you worked somewhere for a year if you worked there for six days. Staffing managers won’t hire you if they catch you in a lie.
  • Trying to hide past indiscretions. We check your criminal history. We check your driving record. We check your credit. Don’t play dumb when a background check comes back with negative findings—you know what you did. Hiring managers respect honesty when it comes to past mistakes.
  • Saying you left your last job because of haters or drama. This tells the staffing manager that your motivations at work are based on social factors rather than professional ones. It’s also a clue that maybe you create or invite haters and drama. Don’t risk it.
  • Flossing your teeth as you walk in the door. Floss your teeth at home or in the car, not at the office. If you do walk in flossing your teeth and a giant chunk of food flies across the table and lands in front of your interviewer, don’t say “Do not judge me.” You might as well have said “Do not hire me.”
  • Neglecting to wear deodorant to the interview. If you smell bad the staffing manager will not hear or absorb a word you might say. He or she will cut the interview short to get out of your stink. He or she will also question your judgment.
  • Wearing jeans to an interview. Do not wear jeans to a job interview.  Ever.  Do not wear shorts or flip flops to an interview. Or pajamas. Or yoga pants. Or a hoodie. Or a ball cap. Or a tank top.  Just don’t, even if you are applying for job with a casual dress code.
  • For women, allowing your bra to be visible in an interview, exposing your cleavage, wearing too much perfume, or dressing too sexy. For men, allowing your underwear to be visible, wearing dirty or stained clothing, wearing too much cologne, or dressing like a thug.
  • Scratching your crotch, under your breasts, picking at scabs, or playing with bumps on your skin during an interview.
  • Sucking or chewing on random objects during the interview. Don’t put anything into your mouth during the interview. Not the pen, not your fingernails, and not the end of your hair.
  • Bringing Starbucks into the interview. This tells the staffing manager you probably aren’t taking the meeting seriously. Also, don’t bring a bag of chips with you into the interview. Don’t chew gum. Don’t eat candy. Don’t be wolfing down your breakfast or lunch from a fast food bag while you wait—eat it in the car.
  • Placing a cell phone on the table in front of all parties present. Put it away (and for heaven’s sake, turn it off). Plopping your phone on the desk tells the staffing manager that you will submit to distraction before the distraction ever happens. It’s also a clue that you can’t work without without your phone if you can’t get through a 15 minute meeting without your phone. Also, get your car keys off the desk unless you want the interviewer to think you’re ready to leave. Get all personal items out of sight. Give the interviewer your undivided attention and he or she will be more likely to give you consideration.
  • Touching the interviewer on the leg, arm, or shoulder. Don’t touch the interviewer at all except to shake hands. No kidding, I once had a fellow reach across and squeeze my knee while promising me that if I hired him “I would never be sorry.” Creep out the interviewer and you’ll never get the job, bucko.
  • Showing the interviewer unsolicited pictures of children or grandchildren. Hiring managers will assume you’re trying to sucker them into a sympathy hire. Even if you do have a family to support, the employer is not hiring your family. Don’t pressurize the decision for the employer before he or she has decided to hire you. Once you’re in, share all you like but not in the interview—unless asked to do so.
  • Asking for a pen. Bring your own. This seems like a small deal but the candidate who comes in prepared will stand out from a herd of lazy turds who can’t be bothered. Same goes for returning an employer’s call. Don’t dial the phone until you find a pen. I say again, do not get on the phone without a pen in your hand. This is a universal pet peeve. If you need to write down an address or an appointment or anything important you don’t want to make the employer hold while you find a pen. Show the employer you came to the call prepared.
  • Freaking out when asked for a drug test and expecting to be allowed to leave and come back in 45 minutes. You might as well stay gone. Don’t come back. We know what’s up.
  • Having Mom come in and fill out the application for you, having Mom call incessantly demanding an interview for you, having Mom drive you to the interview, sit outside the door listening to the interview, and then pounce on the interviewer to give better answers to the questions you were asked. This happened. The candidate was not a child. He was in his thirties. Cruel as it may seem, staffing managers will not hire a 30 year old man who is still breastfeeding.
  • Don’t show up late and blame traffic in a small town. Especially if the office window faces the interstate and I can look over your shoulder and see there is no traffic. You just told me in the first ten seconds of knowing you that you will lie to cover your ass. Staffing managers always regret hiring liars. Don’t be one.

I could go on. I probably will go on. I think this is the start of a new feature here on the blog; occupational wellness tips. Every week I wish I could pull someone aside and tell her not to walk into another interview doing whatever she just did in my interview. I don’t know if this information is not available to job seekers or if job seekers just don’t care. I care. Our occupations (and lack thereof) directly affect our wellness, individually and as a community. Instead of writing a book shaming every sorry candidate who didn’t know any better, I’d like to provide a way for them to know better. I’ll start here. Today. In plan language. For free. And hope one job seeker finds it a Google search. Change starts with one.

— Delicate Ladykin

(likely candidate)

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