“What’s the big problem? Get out and get a job!”
Reading those words might instantly bring to mind someone who has said them to you in real life. They imply that getting a job is relatively easy; all you have to do is make up your mind you want to work, put in minimal effort applying for work and bring home a pay cheque. Ah, but you and I know it’s not that easy don’t we.
One of the very first things we must do is define what barriers stand between the goal we want and wherever our starting line is. By the term, ‘starting line’, here’s what I mean. Suppose two people are looking for work and both of them are being evicted at the end of a month by a landlord who needs the space for family members. One has the money to pay last month’s rent for a new place and one doesn’t. They both have a goal of getting a new place to live, but the one is much more ahead of the other and has an advantage in solving their mutual problem sooner. So one can focus back on the job search faster than the other.
Barriers are of two kinds really, those we are consciously aware of and those we are blind to. The one’s we are aware of could be for example, a criminal record, fear of interviews, limited experience doing the job we want. As for hidden barriers, it could be we have an undiagnosed mental health issue that other people can detect but we are not aware of affecting how we act, or we could have a resume we believe is good when in fact it’s very weak.
The huge difference between the barriers we are aware of and those we are blind to is that we can only work on improving things we know. Until we become aware of what has been previously unknown to us, it would only be by sheer chance that we could improve in an area like a poor resume.
Okay so a good place to start is to make a list with pen and paper of our known barriers to employment. Here’s some things to consider:
- criminal record
- communication skills
- job-specific skills and experience
- interview skills
- expired certificates / documents
- technological skills (computer)
This is a very short list and there are plenty of others but it’s a start. You might find this exercise discouraging at first, especially if your personal list is a long one. It might cause you stress just making the list and then looking at it suddenly realizing how many significant things stand between you and the employment you want. Take heart! Imagine how thrilled you’ll soon feel eliminating items from this list!
Now the second list is harder to compile. After all, how can you make a list of things which are hidden barriers to you? This is a tricky one and it requires objectivity and honesty, plus some bravery. You see in order to really find out what barriers to employment might be standing between you and the job(s) you are applying for that you aren’t aware of, you need to ask others for feedback. As hard as that might be to hear when your self-image and confidence is low, it’s very important and could be the difference in taking a long time to get hired or shortening that time significantly.
This feedback has to provided by people who know you, know what you are after, and come from some kind of background where they would be qualified to know the characteristics of people who successfully attain what you are seeking. So asking your mom or brother, best friend etc. won’t likely get you the information you need. You might be better asking an Employment Counsellor, Job Developer, Employment Workshop Facilitator, or employer where you’ve been passed over if they’ll give you honest feedback.
Steel yourself. You might hear things which because they have been unknown to you, hit you hard and your first reaction might be to defend yourself and dismiss what you hear as entirely wrong. All that will do is silence the people who you asked and you’ll miss some very important clues to barriers you might actually need to work on.
Okay so you get your two lists. Now what? For each barrier, you now make a list of the steps you need to take to eliminate that barrier. If you lack grade 12, don’t just write down, “get grade 12”. Write down, “1. research schools I could attend. 2. get registration dates/fee schedules. 3. register 4. pay fees 5. attend (how long?). 6. graduate.” That barrier has steps which might be 10 minutes in length (step 1) and steps which could be 10 month’s in length (step 5).
As you progress through the steps you’ve identified, your confidence grows as you feel movement forward. You’ll need steps for EACH barrier and that’s a lot of steps to take which can be daunting to look at. The steps are still there though whether you write them down or ignore them. The sooner you get going, the sooner you’ll feel progress and a rebuilding of your self-esteem.
If you lack the ability to define your steps needed, ask someone who is in a qualified position to help you out and has the skills to plan with you what you can manage. The professionals I mentioned earlier are a good place to start.