kid_choosing_ice_cream_flavorsWe are extremely fortunate in 2019 that we have such a wide variety jobs and careers from which to choose. However, it is precisely this reality that causes some anxiety, trying to make sure that whatever we settle on is ideal for us. For these folks, only having a few career options to decide between would be preferable, just like having to decide between vanilla, strawberry or chocolate ice cream as opposed to having 48 flavours to choose from and deliberating for a ages so they don’t lament what isn’t chosen.

The analogy of choosing a flavour of ice cream is a good one though. If you’ve ever been in line looking at those 48 choices, you probably rule out some immediately. Some you’ve tried and don’t enjoy while others just don’t appeal at all. The list is reduced to ones you’ve tried and enjoyed and the ones that arose your curiosity. But as you stand in line, getting closer to ordering, the real question is, “What do I feel like right now?” And so, you order Raspberry Thunder even though you also like Pralines and Cream, Butterscotch Ripple and Double Chocolate. This choice of ice cream doesn’t restrict you to placing the same order next weekend and every weekend to come; once decided upon, you leave satisfied and enjoying what you have – not regretting what you didn’t choose.

Picking a career works much the same. There are likely several jobs you would enjoy doing and others you rule out automatically. Of the ones you don’t want to apply to, you may have had previous experience you don’t want to repeat or just instinctively feel you wouldn’t like or be good at. What you might be left with on your list is deciding  between things you’d like and things you’d like. Anyway you look at it, you win.

So what’s the problem? Well, one problem is we don’t have a board with all the occupations on it to choose from. Even if such a board existed, new job titles seem to be added all the time. How are you to know if you’d like a job or not if you don’t understand what the job actually entails just from the title? Take examples like: Bung Hole Borer, Value Creator or Augmented Reality Designer. You’re excused if you ponder what these could be before reading on. Bet you search online for one of them if not all. Furthermore, job titles are often shortened such as a CSR (Customer Service Representative) or QA Inspector (Quality Assurance Inspector). I recently helped someone with their resume who couldn’t even remember what the letters meant in a previous job title they had because they only used the short form. They had to actually call the previous employer and ask!

All is not lost though. Remember those ice cream flavours you narrowed down as the ones you’d enjoy? The thing is you know that any one of them will actually satisfy your taste buds. To fully enjoy the ice cream as you walk away cone in hand, all you really need to do is focus on what’s in your hand at this moment and move on, leaving behind the others.

Choosing a job works the same way. Over the course of your working life, you’ll have several jobs in all likelihood. This decision you’re contemplating doesn’t mean you’re locked in to one career forever anymore than choosing Rocky Road today means you have to choose it every single time you get a cone.

I hear your objections already. This choice of what to do; of what to be is much more critical than choosing an ice cream flavour. The implications are more serious. Are they? Really? Remember you’re choosing from jobs you’d enjoy, not jobs you wouldn’t. Once you’ve eliminated jobs you don’t want to do, you’re left with ones you’d like. Don’t worry that there’s some job out there you’re totally unaware of that would be perfect for you. That’s like denying yourself a flavour of ice cream right now because somewhere in the world there might be a flavour being sold that you’d go nuts over. That doesn’t help you if the ice cream shop you’re standing in line at doesn’t carry that flavour. And besides, you wouldn’t even know what to ask about would you?

As we grow up and meet new people, experience new things, we do learn about the different roles, jobs, occupations and careers in the world. You can go online and look at job websites, search for odd job titles if you wish or just discover them accidentally. Some will have sticking power and others are just weird and disappear quickly. We still have Teachers, Doctors, Construction Workers, Labourers and Sales People; probably always will.

Deciding between a job you’d like and a job you’d like therefore might come down to just flipping a coin. When it’s in the air, you likely feel hopeful for one over the other. Make a decision and move on or apply for both and go with the one that offers you an interview and then puts forward a job offer. Start doing the job and when you feel you’re ready for something new or possibly different, make a plan and put it into action.

Can’t decide? Do several jobs; find what you like and don’t. It’s all part of growing and it’s normal. All the best.




STOP! Before You Job Search…


Before you start or continue to look for work, what if I said you’re setting yourself up to fail? That the odds of finding work are stacked heavily against you? What if I suggested you should come to a complete halt?

Now why would I in my role as an Employment Counsellor advise you to stop; especially when I’ve got your best interests in mind and I want you to ultimately succeed in finding and keeping a job? The answer is I’ve got your best interests in mind and I want you to ultimately succeed in finding and keeping a job.

The truth of the matter is looking for work is easy; the internet is full of them. However getting hired in a role that you find satisfying, one that you’re good at and one that brings in sufficient income – that’s more involved. Additionally, you’ve got to have things in place before you can pour the energy into a job search that you’ll need to be successful.

See how you measure up with these essential requirements needed to find work successfully.

  1. You have a clear job or career goal.
  2. You actually want to work and you want it bad enough to push yourself.
  3. When you apply for work, you tailor each resume to the specific needs of the job.
  4. Your resume doesn’t have your age on it.
  5. Your email doesn’t contain your birth year or age within it – or a number that could be interpreted as either.
  6. Your resume doesn’t have your address on it.
  7. You include a personalized cover letter with every application.
  8. You regularly check your email, including SPAM folders for replies.
  9. You sound friendly on your recorded phone message and identify yourself.
  10. You return phone calls and emails. Promptly.
  11. If you have pre-school age children, you have childcare and a backup in place.
  12. If you have school-age children, you have childcare and a backup in place.
  13. If you care for a family member, you have an alternative set in place for every day.
  14. You have reliable, dependable transportation.
  15. You have the funds to get around – gas money or transit funds.
  16. You have a minimum of three presentable outfits now for as many as three interviews with the same company.
  17. Your physical health is up to the demands of a full-time daily job search.
  18. Your mental health is up to the demands of a full-time daily job search.
  19. You’ve got a safe place to live and can focus on looking for work not housing.
  20. You’re eating properly, fueling yourself for the demands of an extended job search.
  21. You have the required education to compete for the job you want.
  22. You have the required experience called for by the employer’s in the ads you read.
  23. You know how to market your skills, experience and education.
  24. You can objectively state with confidence you’re a good fit for the job you want.
  25. You know your salary expectations and needs.
  26. The jobs you’re applying for meet your salary expectations and needs.
  27. You know the geographical limitations of where you can work.
  28. If you’re taking prescribed medications, you are actually taking the medications.
  29. Any medications you’re taking won’t interfere with your performance.
  30. You don’t have any immediate travel plans.
  31. You’re prepared to change any personal plans you have for interviews and of course to start working when offered employment.
  32. You have the support from your partner (if applicable) to job search.
  33. If you’re employed and looking for a new job, you’re prepared to work full-time in your current job and put in the extra hours to job search.
  34. You pay attention to your appearance and personal grooming.
  35. You’ve let go bitterness, anger, frustration, hostility or hate.
  36. You successfully mask bitterness, anger, frustration, hostility or hate and you’ve confirmed this by getting honest, objective feedback.
  37. Whatever job you’re going for now is something your prepared to actually do.
  38. You’re practicing your interview skills with someone who is trained to give you constructive criticism.
  39. You are receptive to constructive criticism.
  40. Your social skills are practiced; you’re polite, say please and thank you, cover your mouth when you yawn, don’t interrupt, you listen when others are talking.
  41. You pay attention to your posture both standing and sitting.
  42. Your clothing choices are appropriate in the employer’s eyes, not just yours.
  43. You have sufficient funds for unexpected expenses such as an interview over a meal, car repairs, increases in rent, insurance, additional clothing requirements.
  44. All job-specific licences are current and you have the certificates.
  45. You have 3 professional job references.
  46. All your references have your current resume to access when needed.
  47. You are tracking all the jobs you apply to and the outcomes.
  48. You are balancing your job search with personal interests and other commitments.
  49. You have a quiet place to take phone calls in your home.
  50. You are NOT applying for jobs where you’ll have to work hours you refuse to work.
  51. Your salary expectations are appropriate.
  52. You know your strengths.
  53. You know areas you need to improve AND you’re doing something about them.
  54. You know the kind of supervision style you’ll thrive under best.
  55. You know your problem-solving skills and you’ve got examples ready.
  56. You provide specific examples when asked of all claims you make in an interview.
  57. You have good things to say about your present and/or past employers.
  58. You have a solid answer for that one interview question you dread being asked.
  59. You’re punctual.
  60. You’re grateful for help received.

Working On Autopilot? Not Feeling It?

Bored black businesswoman in office
Bored unhappy young black business woman at desk in office

While my job as an Employment Counsellor brings me in contact with many who are out of work entirely, I’ve also become aware of lot of people who would love to change jobs.

For some, it’s a case of having done the job for so long, there’s nothing left to provide the mental stimulation of discovering anything new. The job they do has become monotonous, routine and they just feel that something big is missing. Many of these people are quite good at what they do and are paid well for their skills and experience; it’s just that there’s no excitement anymore, there’s no challenge. The work they perform is pretty much the same day after day, week after week; they sometimes feel they could run on autopilot and let their imagination drift into other things and no one would know the difference.

The easy answer is quit and move on to something new. Ah but the reality of course is this is so much easier said then done. Most people have mortgages, debts, bills, etc. that need attention and they’ve come to live in a lifestyle that they are reluctant to alter. The decision of what to do as an alternative and subsequent career keeps them from turning another chapter in their working life. Stuck. Immobile. Paralyzed. Choose your word, it’s pretty much the same no matter which you fancy.

Looking at things from a big picture point of view, it’s rather sad actually. So supposing you work until your 65 or 67, you calculate how many years you’ve got to go. With that number, you now multiply 46 weeks a year as an average x 35 hours a week. What number did you arrive at? This is how many hours you’ve got to go until you retire. Each one of those hours will be similar to the one you’re experiencing right now if the job is that routine. If you’re feeling little stimulation in the job, you’ve already learned pretty much all there is to know and you see no prospect of the role being expanded upon, well…yes, it’s sad. This is it; this is how it will end.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. And changing what you do at this point doesn’t mean you’ve had a mental breakdown or crisis of confidence. If anything, it’s you responding with courage and vigor to reinvent yourself; kick starting the process of bettering your well-being. While it can be daunting to walk away from something you’ve become accustomed to doing for so long, it can also be invigorating and hugely satisfying.

It costs nothing to think about what’s next. For some, the answer is to stay in the same field and transition your existing job-specific skills into a more enhanced role. A life-long construction worker might become a Home Inspector, a Site Foreman, work with a Manufacturer to design better tools used in the job, or look at passing on the knowledge they’ve acquired teaching others in a Trades program. Like I say, thinking of possibilities costs nothing.

For others, if they are going to do something new, they want a clean break from the entire field altogether. The Massage Therapist is exhausted using their own body to relax others, and while they don’t know what they’d like to do, they do know it falls beyond this career.

There’s so much good that comes from people moving on to other things. First of all, there’s almost always a number of people who are waiting for openings to occur so they can apply. The applicants-in-waiting are hungry to get started, excited and enthused about launching their careers doing what you do now. While they lack the expertise you have, they want to learn, they are eager and that mental stimulation they have is exactly what you fondly remember yourself. It’s not hard to feel envious.

It’s also good for employers to have a changeover in their staffing; it provides an opportunity to re-evaluate roles, move people around, promote from within or bring in outside help to infuse new ideas, best practices or reinvigorate some employees. Customers win too, for although many will miss you, they’ll come to appreciate with time those who replace you, just as they came to appreciate you when you replaced your predecessor. How long ago was it?

There is a danger too if you stay too long on autopilot. You may become disinterested in keeping up with new technology and better ways of doing the work you do now. You may actually become a danger to yourself, your co-workers and the products or services you offer may actually deteriorate if you’re not mentally focused in the work you do. I’d not want to have a Surgeon operating on me who has lost the enthusiasm for his work, nor work around dangerous machinery with a co-worker who isn’t focused on safely going about his or her day. One slip up and one of us could be paying for that lack of attentiveness for the rest of our lives – no exaggeration.

Save yourself. You’ve got this one life to live and time keeps ticking. You don’t get to flip the hourglass or get a do-over.

Need help exploring a next move? Consider some career exploration with a professional. Do it. The best know the answers aren’t in them but rather in you. The alternative dear reader is …?

Networking Defined And In Action

When you’re looking for employment and meet with an Employment Counsellor for support, I’d be surprised if they didn’t tell you to start networking with people. That term has been around for such a long time that many who use it make the assumption that everyone knows what networking is. The problem? Many who have heard the word will nod their head and pretend they know what it is when in fact they don’t.

Networking is when you engage with others beyond the initial reason for conversing. It involves the sharing of ideas and information through conversations which can be in professional or social situations.

Now a definition like the above might be enough for many, but an example for others would be most helpful. So, let me share what it looks like in the real world.

This past weekend, my wife and I were invited to our grandson’s first birthday party. It took place in a local brewery; an industry my daughter has worked in for several years. What we knew in advance of the party was that she and my son-in-law had invited a number of their friends, many of whom have children of their own – toddlers, infants and some in grade school among them. Others would be there too, such as their immediate neighbours in their 50’s or 60’s, but most would fall in the 30’s age category.

The scene if you can picture it, was a large floor mat with some activities for the little ones to play with, surrounded by some picnic tables and benches for sitting on and an enclosed area for all in the party to mingle. Off to one side was the actual sales area and fridges and additional pub-style booths and seating for the Saturday drop-in crowd. Right behind our area were the brewery machinery, giving a very industrial feeling to the venue.

When we arrived with our grandson, they had already set up an area with food and the birthday cake. There were some children playing on the mat and I noticed that a gift I’d made for him and presented just the previous evening had been set up for not just him to enjoy but others as well. It’s an easel made of wood with latches, locks, wheels and door springs that a child could touch and explore, sliding, unlocking, flicking, etc.; it’s called a busy board.

When the moms and dads found out that I had created it, they were quite impressed and complimented me on its design and execution. Flattered that they enjoyed it, I thanked them and it was rewarding to see it in action. A couple of the moms even went so far as to tell me I could make and sell them for about $100, and that got me thinking about that on the side. Ah but I digress.

Networking. Now as I spoke with these moms and dads and of course those there without children, they introduced themselves and told me how they knew my daughter or son-in-law. In some of those conversations, I’d ask them were they worked and what their roles were. In one exchange, I learned that Max is a Teacher and his wife Susan works for a downtown University where she helps struggling students to complete their education. So what?

Well, I could move on and as many people do, let that nugget of gold slip away and talk with others. What I could do as an alternative though is get out my phone and make a note of their names and roles – especially Susan’s. IF I’m thinking opportunities for employment or even just a networking resource, fostering a business relationship beyond this social chance meeting could be mutually profitable in my role as an Employment Counsellor. With some thought, is there a possible opportunity to create a role for myself in consulting with the University and getting to these students, offering them advice on getting jobs in the real world once they graduate? Potential income for me, a service for them and something that benefits the school as well on their continuum of service that differentiates them from similar institutions. This is networking.

Now the party for a one year old in a local brewery is not the place to throw a business proposal at someone. However, setting up a future meeting at that time, or even getting a name and phone number to follow-up a few days later would be entirely appropriate.

Oh and the idea of making those busy boards? If I chose to, I could potentially make up two or three and test the waters. One woman said she assumed I was an Engineer. When I said I was an Employment Counsellor, she said, “Oh really!” This too could have been an opportunity to talk a little about my job and I could have put a business card in her hand with an invitation to call me if she or someone she knew might find a conversation beneficial.

Networking sounds complicated but it’s taking something most of us already do and just adding some focus to those interactions we have. Too many people think networking is connecting with people on LinkedIn and then doing nothing more with those connections. You might have 500+ connections but how many of those connections are you actually developing into mutually profitable relationships?

How’s the 5 day challenge in yesterday’s blog coming along? Today is Day 2.

The 5 Day Challenge

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Today being Monday, I’ve something you can do today and each day this week if you’re up for a challenge. It’s free, won’t take any time out of your day, could help your interpersonal skills and it has the possibility of benefiting yourself in ways we can’t imagine. So what is it? Introduce yourself to one person each day, so that at the end of the week, you’ve made yourself known to five people; five more than you know now.

Now this challenge might be something you don’t consider a challenge at all. You may for all I know, make it a regular practice to introduce yourself to others and as such, it comes easy and naturally for you. So if you count yourself among those who do this regularly, I say good for you, keep it up. In fact, take things a step further and work on strengthening relationships with the people you’ve met.

Not everyone – let’s be honest – not many people, are in the habit of introducing themselves to others. When you think about all the people you interact with; all the people you COULD interact with if you so chose to do so, we seldom introduce ourselves and in return learn the name of the other person. Many of us are private people, choosing to keep our own identities private unless we see value in sharing who we are.

In order to take up this challenge, it likely has to have a real or perceived benefit to you personally, or otherwise you’re highly unlikely to participate. That’s only fair. In a good way, if it doesn’t help you out, if there’s nothing in it for you, why do it?

Fair enough. Consider your level of comfort when you go to a job interview, when you have to introduce yourself over the telephone and follow-up on a job application, or when you’re reaching out to some contact of yours with the hope of getting their help on a job lead. If we never introduce ourselves to others – excepting when we absolutely have to – even sharing our name, shaking hands and hearing the other person give us their name can be stressful.

Think of all the opportunities we have to make ourselves known in a day. The Front Counter Staff at a local tea/coffee shop, the Gas Station Attendant, the people we sit beside on our commute into work and back home, the Proprietor of a newsstand where you grab your magazine or daily paper. These people represent opportunities to practice introducing ourselves, and the interaction between you and them is expected to be brief. Being a brief encounter, you don’t have to worry about what to say after you’ve introduced yourself.

Take for example, the Front Counter staff where you’re picking up a drink on the way into work. They are likely wearing a name tag, and so your introduction could go like this:

“Good morning, (looking at their name) Julie. Hello I’m Dave. A medium Orange Pekoe with two milk please and thank you.”

And that’s it. You don’t have to worry about remembering Julie’s name, and Julie certainly can be forgiven if she forgets our name in short order too. After all, she’s going to serve a lot of people during her shift and her mind is on getting orders correct, not remembering people’s names. If she calls you by your name the next time you meet, be impressed!

But okay, you don’t see the benefit. You can’t see Julie offering you a job, or handing you a note with the name and phone number of a potential connection who might have a job lead for you. Obviously I agree with you. How you benefit though is just practicing introducing yourself so that when you do go through the introduction stage in a situation you find yourself in with more on the line, your comfort level is greater.

So, these short greetings with people we meet briefly are relatively low-risk encounters. We know our verbal interaction will be limited to what is typically a prescribed dialogue. Their expectation is you’ll tell them what you want, you’ll get it and you’ll go and they’ll start all over again with the next person in line. If you find verbal interaction causes you anxiety, start with these quick interactions; one each day this week, 5 in total and don’t worry about remembering names.

When you’re past this stage of anxiety, you move on to introducing yourself to the people in your daily life where the conversation is a little longer, but still is of a relative low engagement level. Take a Serve at a restaurant. Many now  introduce themselves with a, “Hi my name is Gwen and I’ll be your Server today.” You can try humour if you want, “Nice to meet you Gwen, my name is Barbara and I’ll be your customer today”, or just leave it at, “Nice to meet you Gwen, my name is Barbara.” This is someone you may chat with when she takes your order, as she checks in with you during your meal and again when you settle up your bill. Other than these 3 interactions, you’re on your own. 

The thing about introducing yourself to others is that it’s an expected norm when job hunting. You can reduce any anxiety you might feel when meeting others if you practice. Are you up for the 5 day challenge?


Stuck In The Career Starting Blocks?

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Do you wake up every day still trying to figure out what to do with your working life? Still trying to decide on what to be? You may be out of work or perhaps working on a casual basis just to bring in some income while you figure it out, but feel mounting stress as the days pass and you’re still no closer to knowing.

This continuous doubt isn’t healthy, and you might be asking yourself another question; “What’s wrong with me?” It’s like you’re in the race of your life but still stuck in the starting blocks while all the people you know are disappearing in the fast lane well ahead of you.

First of all, may I suggest you avoid comparing yourself to other people. This is hard I know because much of your life that’s exactly what you’ve experienced. Whether it was your parents comparing you to your siblings, your teacher grading you against your classmates, or someone on television trying to sell you something you must have to keep up with the neighbours, you’ve always been compared and contrasted to others. This however, is your life; you’re unique.

Maybe you have some idea of things you don’t want to do. Knowing what you don’t want to do is useful yes, but ask yourself what it is about a certain job that doesn’t appeal to you. Is it the ever-present contact with people you want to avoid? Maybe it’s the noise level of the job, the monotony, the low pay or the environment you’d have to work in. When you can identify why certain jobs are unappealing, you might start to see some common elements in things you want to avoid.

So knowing the things you don’t want to do is useful. However, this is only so helpful. You may know in what direction you don’t want to move, but until you leave those starting blocks, you’re still not moving. A second thing to think about moves beyond what you don’t want to do and why to looking at the things you do enjoy. So what are you doing when you find yourself happy? What is it about that activity that brings you joy? Is it the solitude? Is it the challenge of a crossword? Maybe you enjoy the physical exertion of working in the garden and seeing the results of a full days weeding and pruning your shrubs. Perhaps you’re the kind of person who feels at your best when you change the oil in your car and detail the inside so it looks in showroom condition.

Writing down the things you enjoy and looking at why these things are enjoyable can – just like the negative things – reveal some commonalities. What are the common threads that connect all the things you love doing? Maybe you’re happiest in the company of other people or when you’re all alone and on your own. Maybe it’s the quiet of the early mornings before anyone else is stirring that you find so stimulating and peaceful.

Armed with some knowledge of things you enjoy and some you don’t, plus the even more important reasons why behind each, you’re posed to start moving forward. Now is the best time to start doing a number of things – and the order in which you do these doesn’t matter. Look at the people you know and imagine yourself in their role. Consider yourself working in the office like your best friend, or assisting a Dentist like your neighbour. The woman across the street who drives the tow-truck? Yep, picture yourself doing her job too. Now, despite your assumptions about how each of these people spend their day, you probably only have a very superficial understanding of what they actually do. One obvious thing to find out more is to have a conversation with these folks. Ask about their jobs, what they find satisfying and what ask them to tell you something you’d find surprising about their job.

Another thing you can do is look up what a job is all about online. If you live in Canada for example, you can check the National Occupation Classification (NOC) code at Cut and paste that link into your browser and by entering in a job title, you can find out what the responsibilities of jobs include. There are far more jobs there then you’d come up with all on your own, and you can research all those occupations from your easy chair.

With every activity you do, be acutely aware of why a job is one you’d dismiss or find attractive. What are the commonalities of the things you’d like to consider doing. Seeking out people who actually do these jobs and interviewing them is a good idea, but keep in mind you’re you and they are not. You might love the job they do while they have come to find it less fulfilling than they did at one time. Don’t base your career decision solely on their happiness.

Career Counsellors at Universities and Colleges or Employment Centres are other sources of information. Schedule a sit-down meeting and explore some possibilities. If you find one person not very helpful, ask others and don’t use one poor interaction as a reason to stop your search. It’s your life here we’re talking about!

You’ll likely need some training and education moving forward. Embrace it and get started.

Navigating New Systems

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Consider the times in your life when something you need to do or acquire brings you into contact with a system you’re unfamiliar with. Getting a passport, a driver’s licence, applying for Social Assistance, Employment Insurance, doing your taxes or even vacationing in a foreign country.

Whenever your needs are great enough that you have to interact with that unfamiliar system, there are generally three ways to go about it. You may choose to:

  1. Call on your past similar experiences
  2. Consult someone you know who has first-hand experience
  3. Rely on the expertise and assistance of the people from those groups

Now it’s likely that some of us do all three or more than one of the above. As we engage in the new process, we take in what do and if we repeat this in the future or find someone else about to do it for the first time, we might be willing to share our own experience. So with taxes for example, we do them once a year, and for some of us we hunker down with a calculator, T-4’s and T-5’s and away we go. For others, paying someone else to do them for us is preferable; be they an income tax professional or perhaps a good friend or relative.

With taxes there are line-by-line instructions; enter this amount, subtract this, add that and you come to a conclusive number where you owe or you get a refund. When you’re on a vacation, you might rely heavily on a vacation host, a traveller’s organization, or where all-inclusive, you’ve taken care of the money aspect right up front and have no worries on that account as to haggling or over-paying for things.

What about applying for jobs though? On the surface you figure it’s fairly straight forward and so they apply for jobs. However, when things change in this process, how are you to know? Remember those three options I mentioned earlier? A lot of people go about applying for employment drawing on their own past similar experiences; the first option. They haul out some old resume, add the new job and change the phone number, make 20 copies and start circulating the resumes; some pounding the pavement and dropping them off in person. This is how they did it in the past and this is logically then how they start out in the present. When they first hear an employee tell them they have to apply on-line, they reply, “But why? I’m standing right in front of you now and I’ve got my resume right here?” There’s a learning curve about to take off because what was is no more and what is has yet to be learned.

Now whereas you might start out applying for jobs with some basic understanding of needing a resume and having an interview before getting hired, other things we have to navigate might be more challenging. There is little we can draw on in our past experience when we for example, apply for social assistance or welfare. Not knowing where to start at all, the first thing that’s needed is an access point. If we don’t know anyone receiving assistance, we can’t rely on their aid, so we do an internet search for a location or phone number. In the past we’d have used a phone book, or asked someone who might have some direction to give us. With this particular need however, it’s also likely we don’t want some to know this is the help we’re after as our status is at stake.

It can be intimidating and overwhelming not knowing what to do, what information you have to provide – or even why certain personal things have to be shared. It might feel invasive, leave you feeling exposed and vulnerable – and this is no reflection on the behaviour of those asking the questions to get the information they need to assess your eligibility. It’s really just that much of the information you’d be asked to provide is typically the kind of information you might hold private in other situations. Here you rely entirely on the expertise of the people who work in the organization to have your own best interests at heart, to provide the help you’re after and fulfill your needs. It can be stressful for sure, and they may or may not be able to provide for all the things you need or ask for.

So whether it’s applying for social assistance or getting a driver’s licence for the first time, you have to find out what is needed in order to apply and then go through a process to obtain it. Just like needing a passport, there are procedures to follow, general timelines to adhere to and new, unfamiliar systems to navigate.

The stress you feel; large, negative, exciting and/ or even positive is normal. This doesn’t necessarily make it any easier for you personally but the stress you feel is felt by others. How you handle it and for how long is a personal thing though. If you find it overwhelming, reaching out for help in your neighbourhood is a sign of strength and not weakness. Refusing or avoiding at all costs to do whatever is needed to avoid such stress may do you more harm than good, such as not doing your taxes at all or giving up on job applications.

Here’s to hoping for your success today and every day.