Friday, June 28, 2013

Fun weekend ahead

Am in bed early, because tomorrow am driving to Oberon where I will meet up with my adult children for lunch then an afternoon of hooning it quad bike riding. Am feeling pumped and dare-devilish right now.  Bring it on!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Magically Yours

Today I applied for a job with a business in the building industry which had the word 'Magic' as part of the business name.

Now, I know I am a professional Employment Consultant and that in doing what I just did I have probably just broken every good rule in how to apply for a job, but because I have always been inspired by magic in this application I went a bit 'whimsical': In my cover letter I wrote "I would love to cast my office administration spell"  and later signed off as "Magically Yours" instead of "Yours faithfully."

And you know what, I don't care that I broke the rules:  I'm hoping that by showing my lighter side, and connecting with their business name I have set myself apart in a good way -- though I am aware that I could also have come off as being a bit of a nut case too.

I'll let you know if my being magically inspired to apply for the job with a magical name turns out to grant the first of a possible three wishes situation: to get an invitation to attend an interview.

I'm hoping that this role is 'meant to be.' Wish me luck!

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Business Review: Impact Publications

A couple of months ago, to help me in my role as Employment Consultant, I ordered a book from Impact  Publications. Impact Publications specialises in Career and Life style related books, and the book I ordered was aimed at case managers (like myself) on how to develop good case management skills to work with and assist clients overcome their barriers to employment.

My order arrived in an acceptable but not outstanding timeframe, and it had been packaged up well. The book lived up to the blurb and description on the website, so I was happy that I got what I paid for.

The company had six other books that I wouldn't mind owning, but because I had to take so much unpaid leave in order to care for my mother earlier this year resulting in my struggling to get by on such little income (it was my decision, I'm not complaining - my mum's wellness was more priority than me going to work) I didn't go back and reconsider or order my next purchase from Impact Publications until last Tuesday as I've only just got over that difficult financial hurdle to afford to buy a non-essential item.

After all the success I've been having with my Jobsearch Centre, and all the positive changes I've implemented that clients and staff have reacted well to, I remembered that this business had other books that I had been interested in, and, wanting to start breaking down my client barriers further - now that I'm on a roll - I Googled "Overcoming Barriers to Employment" and there sixth on the list of results was Impact Publications, the company I was looking for.  I ignored the other choices and went straight to this company website because I already trusted this company and the quality of its publication, so was prepared to gamble that any future publication purchased would be met with the same positive experience.

But I was wrong.

I placed an order for overcoming barriers to employment, and paid for the order.  I expected to receive an email the next day confirming the order had been received and or the item has been shipped.  Instead, I got an email requesting I pay more money.

The company only wanted an additional $5.95, and at first I was going to email and say 'fine' and allow them to charge me the additional fee.  But I was getting ready for work, and wasn't able to reply immediately.  I wanted to beat the traffic in getting to work so I would get a decent spot in the all day car park near work - which if I even so much as arrive five minutes later results in my having to park a lot further away and or be lucky to get a spot at all some days - so I delayed sending my response until I was safely parked near work, because I had half an hour before I needed to clock on.

But on the drive to work it occurred to me that I shouldn't have to pay additional money to receive those goods.  The website quoted the price for the item and the shipping, and I had accepted that cost, and made my payment.  The reason provided by the company for wanting to charge me an additional fee is that the postal service had put up their prices and they had not updated their website yet.  So this company's policy was to solicit additional payment from the customers rather than bear the cost of their mistake their own selves.

That to me is an unfair, unethical business practice. 

We make a mistake but you have to pay for it?  No. 

Purchasing products is a contractual agreement between the supplier and the purchaser, and once agreed upon is not subject to change. 

I shopped with this business and accepted the price quoted in good faith. It is not my responsibility, once the deal has been agreed upon, to bow to additional charges - no matter who is at fault.  Actually, if the business wanted to provide good customer relationships to encourage repeat sales, then it should have just shipped my goods, and rectified their website billing immediately so the business doesn't lose out on its profits with future customers. But I'm not sure Impact Publications understands how to build good customer relationships now.

The price of the book being purchased (in American dollars) was $17.95.  The company was already charging $18.00 for international shipping - which is very steep, and at least twice the cost that other retailers I have recently purchased from charge to ship from America to Australia (Amazon, a Sunrider retailer and a medical supplier have each charged me less than $10.00 in shipping for heavier items and express delivery) - and is already more expensive than the item being purchased.  Could they not use another postal service?  Those other companies I order through use different (and cheaper) postal carriers, why can't Impact Publications source fairer costed options?

In Australia, consumers are protected by laws to prevent undisclosed costs being tacked on after price has been agreed upon.  Businesses that tack on additional costs, if it goes to arbitration, are dismissed as not being payable because it breaches the laws and regulations of business trading, and such businesses that try to put one over the customers like this are deemed 'dodgy'. I don't know if America has similar consumer protection laws or not but I am left with the feeling that Impact Publications have acted dodgily towards me.

I wrote back to Impact Publications, and expressed that I disagree with their unethical practice, and requested they cancel my order and issued full refund on principle.

I received two emails after I wrote back to them: the first, received about eight hours later, advising me that the items had been shipped, and another emailed twelve hours after the first advising that refund had been made.

I've checked my bank account, I haven't seen the refund come through yet, and I don't think the item was shipped despite receiving the email advising this - I will update in 6 - 8 weeks if the item is received (very expensive postage for such a long delivery period compared with the cheaper and faster two week delivery of those other companies), and will update when the refund shows up on my bank statement.

In the meantime, if you wish to purchase any products from this company, please be aware that the company may email you with additional charges after you have made your purchase.

Impact Publications have ruined the customer relationship for me - all for the post sale greed of $5.95.

But we are both losers here. The purchases I was going to make over the next few paydays would have totalled close to $200 in sales with that company.  I no longer trust the company enough to purchase books from them any more - but those books are not available to be purchased elsewhere on the Net - so I miss out.  But I'd rather reward with my business a company that will maintain good relationships with me, and I am confident that I can find a comparable product with another supplier.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Microsoft Word tips for Authors: Indentation and Space Between Paragraphs

First line indentation and space between paragraphs.

In my role as Employment Consultant, on a daily basis I need to fix up a lot of client resumes; and one thing I have consistently found is that too many people use their word processor as if they were using a typewriter, that is manually inserting space in order to achieve a desired structural look rather than use features contained within the program that achieves it for them quicker, easier and applied more consistently.

Logically, I feel it is safe for me to assume that if such a high percentage of my clients consistently make this same mistake in trying to replicate how a document should be appear rather than using features to achieve it because they don't the feature exists or how to use it, then other users of Microsoft are possibly making the same operating mistakes in manually trying to produce documents as that of my clients.

So today, I am going to show writers and author’s how they can format a Word document to indent the first line of every new paragraph – which makes the text easier to read.

You will need to open up either a blank document, or an existing text based document.  

For a blank document, press Control + A to highlight the entire document, and then apply the changes.  
For an existing document, if you want to apply the changes to the entire document, then you can press Control + A to highlight the entire document too, and apply the changes in the same way as you can for a blank document.  
If you only want to make changes to certain paragraphs only, then only highlight the paragraphs with which you are going to apply the changes.
  1. Press Control + A to highlight All (already done)
  2. Move your mouse to the Paragraph options section on the Home tab ribbon.
  3. Click on the X button which will bring up the Paragraph options menu (I don't know what this button is called, so I am calling it X button for this tutorial).

  4. Click on Line Spacing Options...

  5. Click on the Special drop down arrow box under Indentation Options (currently displaying ‘None’)

  6. Click on First line. 
  7. The ‘By’ section under Indentation Options will change to show 1.27 cm which is the current default setting for length of the indentation.  You can change this to make the indentation larger or smaller depending on publisher specifications.
  8. Click on Ok to implement the changes and close the dialogue box.

Now, every time you hit the Enter key as you are typing, you no longer need to manually hit the TAB key to create a first line indent as Word will automatically apply the indentation for you.

Sometimes you will also want a gap between paragraphs.

  1. Move your mouse to the Paragraph options section on the Home tab ribbon.
  2. Click on the X button like you did earlier.
To attach extra space after a paragraph, click on the Add Space After Paragraph option, or
To attach the extra space before each paragraph, click on the Add Space Before Paragraph option.

Tip: You should only need to add space either before or after paragraphs, not both.

If you want to increase or decrease the space before or after paragraphs, click on the X button again and then click on Line Spacing Options... 

When the Paragraph Options dialogue box appears, under Spacing, you can increase or decrease the spacing by clicking on the up/down buttons to increase/decrease by 6 pts per click, or you can set your own pts value.  Once finished, click on the Ok button to return to your document.

Hope that helps.

If there is something you are struggling with in Microsoft Word and would like a tutorial on, then please let me know either in the comments section below or by using the Contact me page.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

A Jobsearch Coach vision and plan: Step One now completed.

Last weekend I created quite a few motivation posters for the jobsearch centre, to encourage and inspire my clients to break out of their jobsearch ruts and regain enthusiasm and drive to make their employment goals a reality. My aim was to introduce a bit of colour and positivity to the bland room. (You can read my post about this here).

Knowing the 'big wig' manager that I work with (and turn to when my immediate site manager is unable to help me and of whom I have a great relationship in amongst all the poor ones) was on site for a full week, I took my finished posters in to work with me on Monday, and in a private meeting shared with my plans and vision for changes to the jobsearch centre. I was pleased to receive the go ahead to 'redecorate' the jobsearch centre on Friday afternoon during clean up (the earliest possible free time any of us might have; and actually instead of me doing clean up because this was a sort of clean up in its own right) and, actually, was then ordered that my proposed changes must occur all thanks to my very convincing argument as to why changes need to be implemented and the ideas I was offering as solutions addressing each and every multiple problem raised.

So all week the two of us kept the plan a secret -- she didn't want anyone else knowing what we had up my sleeve until it was happening -- and I got through a very tough, extremely tiring week because I had this 'dream finally being realised' changes upcoming to see me through.

What I didn't know was, the 'big wig' manager discussed my intentions with Head Office and all the other 'big wigs' (there are plenty of them, sometimes it feels like there is more managers overseeing the staff than there is actual workers). Each of them, apparently, became excited by what I was going to do, and they all then came up with additional ideas... and developed plans that the second jobsearch centre and other sites should probably do something as motivating and inspiring too.  So, they made purchases and gave the receptionists some 'craft' work to complete in addition to their usual duties.

Friday afternoon arrives, my direct newbie colleague, the big wig and myself set to task of recreating the jobsearch centre while the other semi-related team staff did the standard clean up of vacuuming and cleaning of the office (company is still skinflint and won't hire commercial cleaners, buy hey if they want to have their higher paid staff doing work that can be done a whole lot cheaper in the big picture situation then so be it).  Big wig manager proudly and excitedly (but ignorantly) tells me of the 'alterations' to my vision that Head Office have come up with -- completely undermining the underlying reasons for why I wanted some specific changes to be made.

Instead of getting upset, I just said 'no' and explained this was MY idea, MY vision and none of what the changes they are proposing are in keeping with what I am trying to achieve, so no, we are not implementing those changes.  Not until MY vision is up on the wall for everyone to see and understand. (Think of an artist - they've just painted a masterpiece painting, and then the gallery owner starts giving suggestions on making alterations -- let's just politely say that such 'suggestions' don't go down well and call it at that.)  I have to say, I don't think my big wig manager expected to hear 'no' to the head office ideas -- but she indulged me.

Once the room was completed, I'm happy to report, non of the alterations from my original plan were re-suggested or insisted upon -- biggest smiling face here!

And the feedback was fantastic!  I, like most people want to receive praise for a job well done, so was happy when each staff member saw the rearrangement of tables and chairs, the new noticeboards and inspirational quote posters. Suddenly, staff that had been miserable all week, were suddenly happy and enthused to come up with changes 'like this' for the other jobsearch centre that they are in charge of, suddenly, they are talking about new and fresh ways of helping their clients 'starting next week' when they clients will discover their new jobsearch centre.  None of the other team staff want THEIR jobseeker clients to remain miserable in that jobsearch room while OUR clients get to feel so positive and inspired.

Other managers 'dropped in' to our site unexpectedly - having heard about the planned changes and wanting to come in and see what has been done so they could then add their own suggestions on how to make it even better - only to walk around the room, read each of the quote posters, and voice their approval of the new look and feel of the room, and then tell me 'you've done a great job, well done'.

The phrases that were tossed about within their positive feedback that has made my day, included: 'it looks really inviting', 'it looks really professional', 'it is subtly powerful and positively motivating', 'wow, I love this quote', 'oh, that quote is so true'... and the best feedback of all: 'if I were a jobseeker, I would like coming to this room now; I'd feel like success is about to happen'.

And the next good thing that came from this is that the big wig manager has now also approved of me introducing new rules for my clients to follow - changes that I have asked previously, but never been given permission to carry out, such as introducing a no food and drink (except bottled water) policy -- I am an Employment Consultant / Case Manager / Jobsearch Trainer Coach Mentor, not a clean up after you mother.

I can't hardly wait for Monday to arrive; I'm really looking forward to seeing the reaction of some of my long term clients.  Some of the complaints that they have been making to me, they will finally see that they have been really listened to and fought for.  I hope they become as enthused as the staff became (which I wasn't expecting, by the way, but for which I am extra pleased with myself about).

I have always felt like I was making a difference with my clients since I started working in this industry... but this one change has already made me feel like some of the 'shadow side' to this industry is worth all the anger, frustration and heartache.  Here's to next week being a really great one!

(PS. Sorry I can't put up photos to show how good it all looks).

Update.  My jobseeker clients liked the changes to the walls, but as half-expected were none too keen with the new rules implemented. All the clients are competing to help each other out by finding jobs that they can't apply for and let others know about it - so this part has been an instant success.  The Tuesday Thursday group have already got interviews up on the wall, so I am disappointed with my group not having any, but as soon as I get just one client telling me they have an interview, I am going to make a huge fuss about it in front of the rest of that group so they can catch on that it is a good thing.

My offsider and I were called into a meeting with the manager on Thursday and congratulated - both my offsider and I nearly fell over with being told we are doing something right (the company just doesn't ever see the good in their staff usually, only the bad) - and I am not surprised that because of the success and inspiration that has occurred in our site, management is now implementing the new jobsearch centre rules across all sites.