Pondering A Social Services Career?

So you’re thinking of getting into the field of Social Services? Why? I’ll bet it’s because you want to help people; make a difference. Noble of you really, and we can never have enough good people with good intentions who care and are willing to serve others.

Social Services however is pretty broad though isn’t it? I mean helping people is a pretty all-encompassing statement that you’re going to have to narrow down somewhat in order to determine the population demographics you want to work with. So for example is it children, teens, young adults, middle-aged adults or seniors? And there’s more. The unemployed? Those in the corrections system? The field of addictions, (alcohol and drug, prescription medication abuse)?

Maybe you’re thinking of the homeless or those who have been physically, mentally or sexually abused? We haven’t even scratched the surface here. Are those you want to help dealing with bereavement, anxiety, social phobias, poor self-esteem, isolation, abandonment, mental health and the list goes on and on.

So here’s a tough question: what is it exactly you’re going to do for the population of people you identify? And while you may have identified a segment of the population to work with, if you haven’t been told or figured it out on your own yet, no matter which population demographic you’ve settled on, you’d better be prepared to work with multiple issues from those I’ve described above. No one ever presents with just a single issue.

Take my job as an Employment Counsellor. I’ve been dealing lately with some pretty serious issues; drug addiction, mental health challenges, over and cross-medication, alcoholism, homelessness, poor self-esteem, family estrangement, reliance on social services and food banks, separation and divorce, unemployment, incarceration, cancer and other serious physical health issues.

All the above have walked into the resource centre where I work with a variety of such combinations. And while I personally don’t have any of those issues, the people who I interact with do, and because they do, so do I. Thankfully I don’t have to live with those issues beyond quitting time at work and I’m grateful for that.

People such as myself and my colleagues must deal with whatever walks in our door on a daily basis. Imagine how convenient it would be for the helpers like you and I if upon entering they would fill out a label and disclose all their issues and then wear it prominently. One might read, “Evicted, low-self worth, alcohol addiction, criminal record (assaulting a police officer), unemployed, bi-polar, arthritis.” And then after filling out his label, he says, “Hey buddy can you help me?” Okay, you’re up; go for it.

This isn’t some once-in-a-blue-moon kind of client who I’m exaggerating about. This is a regular run-of-the-mill kind of person you’re going to meet face-to-face who is going to present one day as pretty together and wanting to change and the next as rude, looking for a fight and resentful of that smug attitude you seem to have from the other side of the desk.

Even if you wanted to work with seniors in a retirement home, those kindly old folks are still dealing with multiple issues: declining physical health, mental health challenges sneaking in and robbing them of their memories, concerns with dying, the hereafter, family abandonment, loss of independence. You don’t just get one issue with one population no matter which you choose.

And that’s the beautiful thing about us as a human species; we are so multi-dimensional. So what does this mean for those of us who choose a career in the field of social services, health care, corrections etc.? We have to be prepared to deal with multiple issues, balancing between knowing when we are in over our capabilities and need to bring in qualified help, yet also listening enough to get a bigger picture of the people we are listening to in order to determine what help we can provide.

Even when we determine what issues a person presents with, what complicates things even further is that there is no one tried-and-true method of dealing with all people who present with the same issues. People are unique. The strategy for dealing with Thomas won’t work for some reason with Harry. While you may have really got through with Samantha and feel pretty good, Tanya thinks you are totally inept and yet seems to have the exact same situation.

This is precisely why no two days are the same in the field. The issues might be similar, the stories sound familiar, but the dynamics of the people involved, their own histories if you will, are different. Therefore in many situations, it is important – no it’s critical – to listen with an open mind as if you were hearing things for the first time. First of all you might find just really listening is something they appreciate. That alone is a great start.

You can make a difference but don’t think you can save them all. ‘Saving them’ in the first place isn’t necessarily even the goal. Being present, being available, providing that one safe haven where the marginalized and often-judged can relax a little and not feel pestered, abused, used and devalued might be enough. Maybe.

There’s a lot of work to do, and we can always use good people. Not a few good people mind you; a lot of good people. Be one.






How To Keep The Job Search Interesting

Anyone putting in a full-time effort looking for work will tell you that it is often frustrating and hard to keep sustained momentum going. While there are highs and lows, when the rejections or lack of responses happen, it can be tempting to give in and give up. So how do you keep investing a steady flow of energy into a job search?

The answer in a word is, ‘variety’. If you’re going about the job search only sitting in front of your monitor for example, you’re bound to get bleary-eyed and you can be susceptible to feelings of isolation, loss of confidence in your interpersonal skills, and you might also find yourself over-checking your inbox only to find no responses which will only further increase your feelings of frustration.

Going about your job search using a multi-dimensional approach means not only using the internet, but also the phone, knocking on doors, meeting with people, setting up information-gathering interviews, reading, doing some self-assessments, mock interviews and also ensuring you have some positive, healthy diversions. Yes you can and should have diversions even in a full-time job search.

A good way to get going with such a job search is planning. Schedule yourself some time to get on the computer perhaps first thing after some breakfast. Check your email for anything that came in overnight, for new postings you want to take advantage of. Set yourself some goals related to diversifying your day. Maybe your plan is to call 3 people that day, write a couple of cover letters, apply for 3 jobs, spend 30 minutes out for a walk or a run, having lunch with one of your references.

In order for the above to all get done, you’d have to organize and plan your day. You want to finish the day checking off all the things you had planned to do, not feeling bad that the time just got away from you. This kind of structure to your day mirrors the kind of structure you might find in a job. You are practicing the same skills – planning, goal-setting, organizing – that your job would require. This kind of behaviour also gives you ammunition if you decide it’s appropriate and want to bring it out in an interview.

You’ll appreciate how different this kind of approach is from the person who wakes up, has some breakfast and says to themselves, “Now, what will I do today?” This kind of spontaneous approach is more likely to result in a scattered, hit-and-miss kind of day where at the end you might find too much time was spent doing a thing or two and too little or no time was spent doing other important things.

So suppose you spent one day doing what I had outlined earlier. Your next day might be to get up, eat breakfast and then check your inbox and job postings but then change-up your schedule. Could be you opt to take advantage of a sunny, bright day and visit 4 potential businesses you are interested in working for. Meet the Receptionists, pick up some literature, observe the employees for clues on their dress code, soak up the atmosphere (busy, laid-back, formal, stressful?).

Giving yourself permission to get out from behind the monitor and out of your home can improve your disposition, give you a sense of purpose and opportunities to work on your people skills. Once home, reading some of the literature you picked up (promotional materials, annual reports, brochures about products and services) can all help you better answer a potential interview question, “What do you know about us?”, or “What did you do to prepare for this interview?”

You should observe that activities you do are not activities in isolation; they all build on one another. So by visiting a business, introducing yourself and getting the name of the Receptionist, you have started the basis for a relationship that you can build on with a phone call. “Hello Brenda, this is Kelly Mitchell. We met yesterday when I dropped around to pick up some information. It was very nice to have met you. As you know I’m interested in speaking with Mr. Campbell, and am calling at the time you suggested. Could you put me through please and thank you.”

Brenda the Receptionist now has a clear idea of who you are from your visit the day before, sees that you follow through, and may have some emotional connection to you which could improve your chances of getting her onboard with your efforts to get through to Mr. Campbell. While you could have called and just said, “Mr. Campbell please”, recalling yourself to Brenda first shows her respect and increases her own self-esteem as you remembered her name.

Be sure to add some small diversions placed strategically throughout your day. In the business world, you’ll have breaks scheduled, so do this at home too. Short breaks to refuel and re-focus. If you record a half hour television show and advance through the commercials, you’ll have a 22 minute break and then get back at it. Conversely, read a chapter of a short story on the back patio in the sun.

By using variety in your job searching, you will avoid mental fatigue, practice a variety of work-related skills, and feel you’ve done more at the end of the day. Keep your job search positive and interesting!

Feedback always welcome!






Schools And How To Job Search

When I say that young people don’t know how to job search, is that because it isn’t taught in schools? Sure there is the internet, their friends and family, but in large part, society as a whole counts on our education systems to teach young people whatever knowledge they need to get a good start in life; at least in the developed world.

While acknowledging that schools and the people who work there are under increasing demands to teach beyond reading, writing and mathematics, I have to wonder at how much job searching is touched on. Teachers these days have some groups of people wanting them to get back to basics. Other groups of people want issues they feel passionate about taught to our children. Yes I can certainly empathize with the people who design the curriculum as they try to keep everybody happy; all the while in a system that has the same number of hours in a day, weeks in a school year.

The case I would make in order to have more attention paid to teaching effective job searching skills would be that the point of educating young people is to give them the knowledge and skills to live successful lives. We give them diplomas to acknowledge that success, grades to gauge their comprehension, and then we turn them loose as young adults.

Now I can imagine my fellow colleagues in the education systems around the world are dying to read to the end and hit the reply button so they can tell me how they do teach job searching techniques in school. That may be. If so, there are a great many folks I know who collectively must have been away or not paying attention when it was taught.

I can not nor would I ever use my own school experience as any relevant addition to this piece. I graduated from high school in 1978, University in 1981, College in 1983. Just because they didn’t teach it then doesn’t mean anything when comparing what is taught today. And my memory might be suspect! So I rely on the feedback I get from people I meet in my personal and professional life who tell me their own experiences with the school system. Some of them are unemployed youth and adults, some of them teaching professionals.

It can certainly be said and well defended too I suppose that the information I’m getting isn’t scientifically gathered; certainly isn’t the universal experience, and things therefore may be quite different in various parts of the world. I could check in with local school boards too and get the definitive answers when it comes to education curriculum and how much if any time is spent on job search techniques.

I haven’t done this however, and here is why. No matter the answer I would get from any educator, I still see a steady stream of young adults who show only the most rudimentary skills when it comes to knowing how to look for work. Most of these people tell me how they are going about looking for work usually has come from a family member or friend.

Now, suppose you and I did agree that learning how to look for a job is important enough to teach in schools. Could we agree on the grade or grades in which this should be taught? What about the length of time it gets covered? I know there are career days where community members file into schools to talk about their jobs, and career counselling in high school is supposed to help shape a students future education to meet the requirements of potential job posting. So yes some time is spent getting ready.

What about the kids who won’t be heading off to University or College? They should be equally prepared to know how to go about getting a job. There is a huge responsibility on the students themselves however to be receptive to this kind of educating, and we have to be honest and say there are some teens who know it all, think their teachers are out of touch and in short, close their minds to learning. That’s reality.

It’s an unfortunate reality however, that many young people are leaving school (before or after graduation), and don’t have the necessary skills to compete for work. So they may have recent education, academically know their stuff, but how to market themselves and compete for work is a missing link.

But wait: I can recall some young people who have learning disabilities, dysfunctional families and living conditions that made learning hard if not impossible. Could they have indeed been taught how to job search but only so much (and maybe very little) got through?

Could it be that educators today are thinking ahead and doing all they can in a tight curriculum to prepare young people for the world that awaits them? And those that are going to drop out because they want a job now, not another year of school to graduate; would any amount of talking convince them to stick around?

Maybe this is part of natural selection. Some pick up survival skills and succeed, some don’t but learn and succeed later, some don’t get it ever and don’t. They teach that in schools.

Maybe after all, they do teach job searching in school, and as a student it’s your responsibility not just to be in class, but to BE PRESENT. Hmmm…



Job Interview Help

Many people I listen to when discussing employment interviews, raise the issue of having difficulty coming up with real life examples from their past when responding to interview questions at job interviews. They are searching for extreme situations they have been in that highlight extreme responses and in many cases, they draw blanks.

Situations that require our skills to resolve, organize, lead, cooperate or meet targets probably happen much more frequently than we first imagine. Equally, we succeed in achieving successes on an ongoing daily basis much of the time but fail to recognize these moments and therefore fail to recall them when we wish to.

Let’s start with a very simple example; one I’m not suggesting would be interview worthy but an example nonetheless. Have you ever gone to get a drink on your break at work and after ordering found you are a tad short on the change in your pocket? That quarter you thought you had turns out to be a nickel? How did you resolve the problem? Did you decline the drink? Offer to run right back with the missing 20 cents? Borrow the 20 cents from a person you went with? Ask if you could pay them later the same day the missing 20 cents? Any of these work as an example of how you resolved the problem.

Interview worthy? No. An example of being in a stressful situation where there is a problem and you have to resolve it somehow, yes. Or have you woke up ill and had a full day of meetings planned with clients? What did you do to resolve that? Go in ill? Call in and tell the boss you wouldn’t be in and where he or she would find the names of people to be called and rescheduled? Just went back to bed and did nothing?

This gets closer to something you could use in an interview, but neither is some major hurdle that resulted in newspaper reporters banging on your door to get an exclusive interview with you because of the extreme skills you displayed in overcoming the issue at hand. Both do however show your judgment in action, your quick thinking or your ability to follow established procedures and level of personal responsibility.

You can find examples of your skills not only in the world of paid employment but also in the realm of volunteerism. If you are donating your time and giving of yourself with a non-profit organization, you are still required to have a level of accountability and punctuality. You are still showcasing your organizational skills, interpersonal skills, perhaps your computer proficiencies. Is your work – and truer to the point – are you yourself – valued and depended upon where you volunteer? That could be shared and score you points.

One of the key difficulties I often hear from people preparing for job interviews is that they fell ill-prepared for the questions they’ll face precisely because they don’t know what questions they’ll be faced with. Like I’ve said in my blogs before, you can anticipate with fairly good accuracy what many of those questions will be however. Yes, you can predict with a high degree of probability the questions in advance of the interview, and that in turn should guide you in coming up with some examples of your past performance to respond in kind to the questions.

If you are going for an IT job where the job posting specifically states you need problem identification skills and problem-solving skills, it’s a safe bet you’ll be asked to give examples from your past that clearly prove your accounting skills. Wouldn’t you agree? Oh you wouldn’t? Good for you. Yes I am being smart here. Sorry. You wouldn’t be asked to give examples of your accounting skills because the job you are applying for doesn’t require that skill set. It does however seem likely you’d best have a couple of situations in mind that prove or demonstrate your problem-solving skills.

So the smart thing to do in the example above would be to sit down now ahead of the interview, and recall some concrete, very specific examples from your past. Examples in which you were faced with a conflict or problem, and then next compose an answer that shows how you identified it, step-by-step worked on it, and then the positive outcome. Voila, you’re on your way to a good interview.

If the job you are going calls for leadership, be prepared for that question and pull out examples that show leadership. Whether in a time of crisis, a project with others, a sales competition, even a medical emergency on the street, situations that you’ve been in which demonstrate your skills and performance and match the qualifications the question is looking for are all good.

If you have difficulty coming up with your skills and stories from your past, I can assure you that a good Employment Counsellor can in a conversation, draw out your skills and name them just from hearing you talk about your past. This kind of skill identification will increase your self-esteem, your confidence and reduce your interview anxiety when it comes to answering questions if you feel anxious, unsure or don’t believe you are truly qualified somehow.

Starting today, look for moments in your daily life AS THEY OCCUR which show how you to respond to situations. Note them. Maybe you’ll surprise yourself.




Starting Dialogue: An Example

Yesterday I found myself scheduled to spend my day in our drop-in employment resource centre instead of running a workshop. These days are good mental breaks and diversions from planning, running and evaluating workshops and are a welcomed change from time-to-time.

Now I find you can do one of two things while you are scheduled to staff that area. You can on the one hand circulate around the room, engage visitors in conversation and spruce the place up a little by tidying up etc. On the other hand you can choose to sit at the staff desk and deal with people as they approach you. I generally opt for the engaging style myself, but on most days you’d find me doing a mix of both.

So it was when I was at the desk printing off some job postings that a woman came up asking to use the stapler. Rather than saying, “Help yourself” and returning to my task, I said, “Help yourself. Hey is that your resume? Would you like me to cast my eyes over it for you?”

That initiative; the decision to engage with the person, start a conversation and extend an offer of assistance is such a small thing. I point it out however as a tangible example of a decision to simply and effectively start a conversation, creating an opening where a user of your service can voluntarily choose to also engage or not.

Now in this instance, the woman handed her resume over and sat down. I was immediately conscious of trying to accomplish two very different tasks simultaneously. First and most obvious, I began to scan the resume, looking for ways to strengthen it. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, I started to size up the person sitting across from me. How open was this stranger to my feedback? To what degree was she able to grasp, understand and be receptive to the changes I was recommending?

Starting with a suggestion to not staple the two pages together that collectively made up her resume, we went through content, grammar and spelling, layout and format etc. All in all we spent about 15 minutes there together until she left to return to her computer and input the suggestions before leaving.

A chance encounter? Maybe. What if she hadn’t needed that stapler and had brought her own? What if someone else had been there instead of me, or I had been too caught up with something else and she came and left quickly just using the stapler without asking at all? Was it fate?

If you break things down, a lot of things go into that 15 minute engagement. She started things off by taking the initiative to approach me and had the manners to ask for use of the stapler which created the possibility of a conversation. I made a decision years ago to engage people where I can and find opportunities to start conversations so it was natural to initiate the offer of help and she was wise enough to accept feedback.

Furthermore, like peeling back layers on an onion, as things were pointed out on her resume to correct, improve, add to or re-format, she was patient and open enough to accept the comments made, making further and more meaningful suggestions possible. Had she been defensive, close-minded or downright impervious to new ideas and dismissed the ideas presented to her, I’d have been less helpful and would have hoped for a better reaction another day.

As someone else needed assistance after our 15 minutes together, she returned to her computer station. I made another decision to go ’round and saw she was in the process of already implementing the ideas I’d given her. That initiative on her part to implement the ideas presented also shows me her wisdom. Wisdom I say, but not because the ideas were mine, but because the ideas and suggestions are borne out of experience accumulated over many years, current best practices, and supported through evidence of job seekers getting interviews when using those ideas themselves.

I wanted to share this encounter with you precisely because it is such a small thing to accomplish. Whether you are the professional employee in a position assisting others, or you are a job seeker, you can interject yourself in either position and see how the engagement process works from both perspectives. What I find noteworthy is that unlike some interactions, this one started off spontaneously without any stress leading up to the conversation.

You might feel mounting stress for example were you to book an appointment with a resume professional or a career counsellor. You might agonize over having your work criticized, judged and by association being judged yourself. If you are a quieter, reserved or introverted person, you might not have the assertiveness to even initiate contact and seek help. These opportunities are in front of you everyday however. Instead of lamenting or beating yourself up over missed opportunities yesterday, jump in and risk a conversation today. You could start with, “Can I use your stapler? Would you mind looking this over?”

On my side of the desk, remember colleagues that there are opportunities before us each and everyday. They don’t always present themselves in scheduled appointments, and can often start as chance encounters. It’s about being in position, having the knowledge, looking and acting receptive to help and serving.

A pretty simple encounter broken down.





Sharing Skills With Your Co-Workers

I sent an email out to my co-workers just yesterday, asking if they’d be interested in a lunch and learn session next week on the subject of social media and LinkedIn specifically. Lunch and learn for those of you that don’t already know is literally where you bring your lunch and eat while someone is making a presentation.

It is known to me that at least some of my co-workers are skeptical of social media, a little gun-shy about putting their personal information out there, and others who do get it might still have reservations about what it can do for our clientele; many of whom are not technologically savvy.

This kind of volunteerism, sharing a skill you have with your co-workers so that they personally and ultimately their clients can benefit has a huge upside. For starters, if you are trying to get noticed in your organization, standing up in front of your peers and facilitating a session gives others a chance to see you in what could be a new role. Speak well, answer questions with intelligence and provide a safe room for questions and you may get a few folks thinking of you in ways they didn’t before.

Another benefit is that in sharing your skills, you upgrade the knowledge and ultimately skills of others. With a shared understanding of the subject matter, you’ll be undermined less. Undermined? Definitely. Suppose for example I was in this case extolling the virtues of social media for a job seeker and one of my peers chirped in by saying that they personally don’t think it’s all that necessary and just a fad for upper level business professionals. Now they haven’t ever done this just to be clear, but as an example it works. All of a sudden the job seeker might not want to put forth the effort required to take my advice, and I sure wouldn’t appreciate having my suggestions cut out from beneath me. Intentional or unintentional, that remark may come out of ignorance of social media itself and how to best exploit it.

Another benefit is that the employer need not incur the cost of bringing in some social media guru who in the end might not be as effective as you. After all, you know your business and if you know social media, you know best how to utilize it. Without knowing your business, clientele and their capabilities, no one from outside is as best positioned to maximize this tool as maybe you yourself.

Now think about your own business whatever that is. Surely there are people on your staffing body who have expertise and skills in certain areas which exceed those skills had by most others. Is there a person who is up on the latest trends, seems to be the go-to person when it comes to technology itself, or just knows how to use the advanced features on the photocopiers!

Instead of doing nothing at all which has the impact of keeping knowledge from being shared, or paying someone to come in and share knowledge but at a price, why not initiate your own lunch and learn activity? Now not everyone is going to jump at the chance to get up in front of their peers and lead a session. I get that. Some people would rather sign up for root canal.

Surely however, there are at least a few people who would be willing to speak with some of their co-workers (a voluntary participation over lunch, not mandatory) about something of interest to their co-workers on a topic they themselves know something about.

Take me now. In doing a short presentation on social media in general, and LinkedIn specifically, I’m hoping to demonstrate to my peers how best to help them help our clients. After all, if someone has heard of LinkedIn but doesn’t really understand it, they are not going to be able to sell it as an effective tool to be used in networking and job searching.

As the business my colleagues and I are in is helping others gain and sustain employment, we should be looking for tools to use that give them a competitive advantage. With social media being so prevalent and common these days, using it actually levels the playing field somewhat rather than giving them an advantage. The advantage is already being enjoyed by their competition!

Suppose however you are a clerk who knows how to add your digital signature to documents produced by the printer or the digital photocopiers. I would think that more people in your office would like to know how to do this too. Why not set aside 20 minutes of your lunch and gather those interested so you can walk them through how to do this. 20 minutes…no formal teaching role just standing at the photocopier…showing them what you know…that might be possible?

Again, think of your role in your present job. What do you know that others would benefit from knowing? If you are in Management why not float the idea of your talented workers sharing their knowledge with each other – say once every two weeks. Then step back and let it morph and grow on its own. Book the room, then sit at the table just as one of the gang and see what you can learn. You might be enthusiastically impressed. Skills on the front-line don’t always need to come from those at the top.

Social Anxiety Got You Missing Opportunities?

I recently finished up working with a group of 12 individuals, all of whom came out of work and on social assistance. In reviewing their files, through conversations with them and observation, it struck me and not for the first time, how many people are impacted with social anxiety.

Now this particular workshop is one that is only made available to clients if they are referred by myself or my fellow Employment Supports co-workers. What this means is that in order to even get to the point where they’d be considered for admission to this specific workshop, they have to be employment ready. So my criteria is basic computer skills, willing to come for 10 days from 9:00a.m. sharp to 2:30p.m. dressed in business casual clothing, (no jeans and t-shirts). They have to know what kind of work they are after, be open to constructive criticism and feedback, and more than anything else, they have to want to be in attendance and want to work. In short they have to want work more than I want it for them.

So with that kind of criteria, and with the expectations clearly laid out to them weeks before the program begins, you’d think that the people referred, screened and accepted would (for lack of a better term), be the cream of the crop. However, social anxiety isn’t one of the things that up to now I’ve thought about discussing with potential participants. Maybe that responsibility is something I’ll have to own myself in the future. Yes, learning all the time.

Now to some extent, I think everyone if you ask them feels some moments of uncertainty when starting something new. Most of us would call it nervous excitement; the anticipation of beginning something meaningful and wanted, coupled with the questions about who will be there, how you’ll fit in etc. So to that extent, we all have thoughts about the uncertainty, or possibly the anticipation of wanting to see if things turn out the way we imagined or are something different.

So what then is it that causes some people to physically and mentally experience a higher degree of intensity with respect to these feelings; an intensity so rich that they may literally have to withdraw?

In the group I ran, one person didn’t even show up on day one. It took her boyfriend apparently to convince her to show up on day two. As a facilitator, missing day one is extremely annoying quite honestly because so much work goes in to assimilating the participants with one another, going over expectations and ground rules, creating a climate of trust and reassurance. For someone with social anxiety, missing day one can be a disaster therefore, especially if you then on day two you are entering a group already established. This is akin to self-destructive behaviour.

One participant who eventually dropped out altogether exhibited behaviour that made her eventual decision predictable. It started with her stating she took some time to warm up to people, then not voluntarily participating, missing a day due to illness, then a second of illness with an email saying she’d understand if she wasn’t welcomed back. Then sending another email withdrawing even though she’d be told she was welcome to come back. She was obviously wanting the decision to not attend to be made by me, rather than having to take the responsibility for it herself.

What I find sad personally is that so many of the people I interact with who state they have social anxiety are good people, with marketable skills and qualifications, who state they want to work. It would appear that in some cases they are truly incapable of overcoming their anxiety at present; debilitating them to the point where they cannot physically take advantage of opportunities. In other cases I’ve had people eventually tell me that they’ve just got too comfortable not working, but know they have to make a show of looking for work, and therefore use social anxiety as an excuse to quit courses and they put their energy into other things. That is more than unfortunate, it’s deplorable.

So is social anxiety somewhere between full-blown agoraphobia where people can’t leave their homes and simple shyness? I’m no expert and don’t pretend to know. What I do know is that whatever it is, it’s robbing people of the ability to take advantage of many opportunities. It is through socializing, human contact and the discussions that take place that people feel inclusiveness, belonging and a rise in self-esteem and personal confidence as a result.

Social anxiety can lead to isolation, withdrawal, feelings of missing out, and possibly depression as a result. Always good to remember is that other people have issues too, sometimes obvious and self-declared and sometimes hidden, less obvious but every bit as real.

It’s also the case that in joining any new group, all of us have the choice to reveal our barriers immediately and gain support or conceal it as best we can and that can be good too if we can pull it off. After all, people only know what they see and what we tell them.

You have to do what works for you. If you are experiencing social anxiety, having someone tell you to, “just get over it” isn’t helpful. Consider getting counselling if you haven’t already, and take some small, safe risks.