Do You See College/University As More Debt?


A problem familiar to many people has to do with taking on more financial debt in order to return to College or University. Has this got you or someone you know so stressed and anxious that they’ve made the decision to pass on further education and look for work with their existing experience and skills? If so, think again.

There are a number of reasons you might not be willing to take on extra debt. Perhaps you’ve already got a loan hanging over your head and the idea of taking on more is scary. After all, if your existing debt has you this stressed, you don’t even want to think about increasing it now do you? You might even have an existing student loan such as the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) here in Ontario where I live, and is it possible you’ve just been ignoring paying off what you already owe, not because you don’t want to pay it off but because you’ve no income to do so with?

This extra debt you’re closed to increasing is worrying because you didn’t complete the program at school that the first loans were for. There’s that nagging feeling that maybe you’d make the same mistake of taking on debt and not finishing a second time; what a waste of unfinished education and more money to owe hanging like a dark cloud everywhere you go.

I’m no fan of debt myself, so I get it. It’s stressful to think about.

I wonder though if, putting money aside for a paragraph or two, we could just focus on the education you might be wanting. You know, it could be that the reason you didn’t complete that other program is because it just wasn’t right for you in the first place. Maybe you weren’t ready for College or University at that time, needed to mature a bit or it wasn’t school at all but something else going on in your life at the time which made focusing on school and putting in the effort impossible. The consequence? You failed or were failing – maybe academic probation and you dropped everything…except of course the looming repayments.

Back in the present however, now you’ve grown. Maybe those, ‘things’ that kept you from succeeding are taken care of and behind you. Or, perhaps you’ve got a better idea of what it is that you’re passionate about and if you could only have the education needed to get going, you’re sure you’d flourish and succeed. That thought is pretty exciting; to know what turns you on and what you’d love to do!

It’s a shame that earlier failed experience and unpaid debt is keeping you from taking on more debt right?

First things first, let’s shift that viewpoint and stop looking at the education fees as debt. Debt is such a negative word. What you are in fact doing is making an investment in yourself. Consider the money needed to buy a house or a car – relatively big and important purchases. Neither of those two investments maintain their value over time with any guarantee – especially the car. Eventually both get replaced too. Education however, wakes up with you every morning and you carry it with you every day of your life. It shapes the way you think and how you experience the world. That investment is a lifelong investment in yourself.

I sense a second problem that has you reluctant to make such an investment; what if you’re wrong? Again. You know, what if you just think you’d like a certain program but then it turns out to be something you don’t? Hey, come on. Instead of assuming something you haven’t even started is going to be a huge mistake, imagine it turns out to be the best thing you’ve ever done for yourself and you do well in school precisely because you took something you really are interested in!

Some people will tell you that even after they finished school they ended up in some minimum wage, entry level job they could have got without having gone to College or University. There will always be these negative views, and they are basing those views on their own experience so you can’t blame them. On the other hand, there are many more people who will tell you that the degree they hold or the diploma they graduated with were needed to get hired doing what they do now and without it, they wouldn’t have been hired. They love their job, they are making use of that education and their income is considerably better than it would have been without it.

Suppose you owe $10,000. You’re thinking, “Yikes!” Okay, so you spend another $8,000. or even double your original amount – you now owe $20,000. Scary right? Of course. But now you have that diploma or degree in your hand and you’re pumped. You’re self-esteem is high, you’re proud of your accomplishment. The resume is stronger, you’re outlook better, and you compete stronger because for the first time, you’re really invested and qualified to get a job you’ll love. So you get a job making $23.00 an hour.

$23.00 p/hr x 7 hours per day x 5 days per week x 4.33 weeks in a month = $3,485.65 x 12 months = $41,827.8 a year. This is the formula you can use yourself to figure out what you’d make a year.

$23 an hour is just a number, but you can see that the $20,000 it total you’d ow can be paid back soon. That’s $41,827.8 a year. Multiply it just over 5 years and you’ll have earned $209,139.00!

Having your current $8,000 debt suddenly seems small when you think of your potential income. Bazinga!!!!!!!

 

About That Big Gap On Your Resume


One of the most common worries many come to me with is a lengthy gap on their resume. You might find my thoughts on this matter helpful whether you too are in this situation or like me, you’re in the business of providing help and support to those seeking employment. Let me just say here and now that I’d absolutely love to hear your own thoughts in the comments section; perhaps the advice you’d give yourself or what your personal experience has been – the good and the bad.

To begin then. When I first hear someone tell me they are worried about a lengthy gap on their resume I ask them why; not why there’s a gap but rather why they are worried about the gap. What I’m listening for are a couple of things. The first is hearing what they believe an employer’s possible objections are in order to hear if they accurately understand just what the gap implies. The second thing I’m listening for is actually the tone of their voice. It’s in the tone of the voice that I will detect anything and everything from utter despair and hopelessness through to defiance and bitterness. Most are somewhere in the middle actually;  does it SOUND like they really want to work and do they FEEL they need to overcome this barrier in order to get a job offer.  The tone is perhaps as important or in some case more so than what they say.

Now of course I want to also hear the truth when it comes to what they’ve been doing with their time during the gap, as it is often unexplained on their resumes. My direction to them is to tell me the blunt honest truth so that in that knowledge, I can determine the way to craft a few potential strategies in responding to the problem.

For a problem it is. Anything that undermines a person’s self-confidence and stands between themselves and their goal – in this case an employment offer at the conclusion of a successful interview – is a problem. One thing I’ve found over and over by the way is that when you hang on to your problems, you don’t often resolve them as quickly as when you share them with someone who has the knowledge and experience to provide you with options for reaching a resolution. Be selective with whom you share your problems of course, for telling anyone and everyone about your problems is seldom a good idea.

So, exactly how lengthy a period or gap are we talking about? For someone used to working their whole life, a 1 year gap can be their big worry. In the case of another, it could be 8 – 10 years. The length of time we’re talking about here is critical to know because there’s your perspective and the perspective of a potential employer, and they may not be the same shared view.

One positive thing about a gap in the present day is that it’s far less uncommon that in years past. Today more people transition from job to job, companies relocate, others downsize and reduce their workforce. More people find themselves as primary caregivers for aging parents because quite frankly medical advancements mean longer life spans than in years past. Sheer numbers alone play a factor too; with more people than ever working or looking for work, the odds of many of those people being out of work (after all there’s just so many jobs to go around) is up.Then there’s the people who were off due to physical or mental health issues.

One thing good to know is whether you’re unemployment was due to an issue which no longer exists. Caring for an aging parent that has passed away, or raising children who are now school age are two examples.

When I listen to a person tell me about the reason why they have this unemployment period, I always ask them what they DID do during that time, rather than what they didn’t do. Did they do any self-improvement activities such as volunteering, take a course of any kind, address some personal health issue such as losing weight, having a surgery, etc. All this information is what I’m after before I can offer up a few potential strategies on how to respond to the issue when it comes up in an interview.

My goal in responding to the person asking me for help is to provide them with three potential angles to choose from in addressing their gap. From these, they can best pick one that they feel most confident and comfortable with owning for themselves. It is remarkable to see first hand how having a good response can shift a person from dreading the question about their gap to hoping it actually comes up in the interview.

Once a strategy is selected, I’ll ask that person 3 questions which are:

  1.  Explain this gap on your resume.
  2.  What did you do between (date) and (date)?
  3.  I want to talk about this gap…

Yep, any version of the same issue asked 3 times. This gives you the chance to hear what the person actually says and gives them the chance to practice until they feel they own it and can confidently reply. With confidence, not only does the answer given satisfy the gap, the body language, facial expression and tone of voice come across as assertive.

If You Want Success In 2020…


When new year’s eve rolls around this year – and right now it’s so far off it’s likely not even remotely on your mind – you’ll be looking back at 2020 with either general regret or satisfaction. The difference between the two perspectives will come down to the decisions you made in this year; those decisions good and beneficial or poor and harmful to yourself.

So what’s going to guide you in your decision-making so that you make more good decisions than bad? Too many people base their decisions on what seems right at the time. What they want in the moment that would seem best. String together all these little decisions that felt right at the time and you end up having made all your decisions with very little thought to any long-term goal. As a result, the benefits to yourself are short-lived. For example, when you crave something that will satisfy your sweet tooth, you can eat a chocolate bar and enjoy it. However, when pull to eat it is gone, you may be left feeling guilty and disappointed in yourself because you were trying to avoid eating treats. What you decided on in the moment to feel good proved to be a poor decision and counter productive.

So how can you make better decisions this year; decisions which in the end you’ll feel really good about having made in 2020? The answer is to first establish what you’d like to achieve for yourself and second ensure that reaching that goal will bring you a measure of happiness and satisfaction. When you reach your goal, you will feel successful; that you’ve brought about this success by making good decisions which continuously moved you forward to the point you stand now – having reached that goal.

Now be careful and give yourself the best chance at success. If you say your goal is to have a job or lose weight, it likely won’t happen that you achieve your sense of fulfillment. Why? Well, those two goals – as positive as they sound – are too vague. What kind of job is going to make you feel you’ve achieved success? How many pounds would you like to lose to feel you’ve achieved success? A quantitative number is required to put some specific objective in your goal. When you say your goal is to lose 25 pounds or to have a full-time job and name the one you’re after, you increase you’re chances of success having something specific to work towards.

Now write it down and store it somewhere where you will notice it frequently as a constant reminder of your long-term objective. That’s great, but alone this isn’t enough. If this is all you do, you’ll feel guilt and poor self-esteem every time you see it as all it will be is a reminder of how you’re failing to move forward. This is why in January and February you might notice people stick up goals to lose weight on the fridge and pantries, but those signs / pictures come down in March because they’ve come to resent seeing these every time they reached for something they wanted to eat.

With a specific goal in mind though, you’re on the right path. Your next move is to make another good decision, and by good, I mean to make a decision that is in line with your long-term goal. It’s time to break down your long term goal into manageable things you can do – call them smaller goals if you will, or steps. For example, if losing 25 pounds is your year goal, maybe you decide to avoid buying treats when you’re out shopping. After all, if they aren’t in the house when you feel tempted, you can’t eat what you don’t have. So make a shopping list and stick to it, avoiding the candy or snack aisle intentionally to avoid temptation. Do it once and you feel good – a small victory. Do it a second and third time, you feel you’re making progress – and you are as you set a new pattern of behaviour.

And your goal to find full-time work? Get in a new routine. Dedicate a block of time – say a couple of hours a day – and do it in a dedicated space where you’ll be productive. Job searching from your lazy boy or the couch if you’d rather watch television is not setting yourself up for success. Maybe you head to the local library or an employment centre for two hours a day, three days a week. Maybe you just sit at the kitchen table. And perhaps you decide to actually do what you’ve only pondered for the last two years, actually reach out and speak to a professional; one in the job search business.

Plans are good at helping you stay on track so you move continuously towards your goal. Plans however require one other thing – actions. The best plans don’t mean a thing if they aren’t executed and put into action. And actions alone aren’t good if there’s no plan – that’s just a lot of energy and confusion.

So if you want to be successful and look back at 2020 with satisfaction, set yourself a realistic, attainable goal and make it specific. Develop a plan of action and set smaller goals which will all move you forward. You’ll feel good as you make small decisions and a series of small but good decisions sets you up for success.

Seeking To Be More Positive


I’m willing to gamble that like me, you’re someone who likes to have positive things happen in your life. I think that’s a safe bet. That’s not to say we’re immune to troubles; that we don’t have problems and challenges to deal with of course, but we do like it when good things happen to us.

The question then is whether or not these positive things happen to us randomly and by chance or can we somehow go about our days drawing these positive events to us? Well, just as I believe you can create good fortune through the things you do, I hold that yes, we can put ourselves in situations which we’ll find positive. If we do this on a regular basis, then we generally have a series of more positive events, and these then become linked together, thus creating a pattern.

Now of course, negative things must happen to us all; physical ills, accidents and problems not just for us but for members of our family and friends, yes they’ll continue to happen. We cannot eradicate death, disease and …. well, you get the point. However, those things aside, we can if we choose, go about our day with positive thinking and having our eyes open to situations which we can benefit from being involved in and to which we can add benefit for others.

Think for a moment of the people you come into contact with every day. As you do so, are you able to discern the ones you find generally more upbeat and positive? Again, like me, I’m fairly certain you can. These folks generally appear happier, they may automatically wear a smile when they see others, and they have an overall positive outlook. These are the kind of people you genuinely want to say hello to and have a conversation with because you just know you’ll enjoy it. My guess is you enjoy being connected to them. Wouldn’t it be great if what you see in these people was embedded in all the people you worked with daily?

The naysayers and negative types are likely thinking to themselves that the kind of work setting I’m describing doesn’t and can’t exist. They would say to think that any work site would have just positive people going around all day is a fantasy. Well, isn’t that just the kind of thing you’d expect them to say? There’s irony for you!

A generally positive outlook is what you’re after here. Yes, you’ll still find aspects of your job frustrating and you’ll still undergo stressful situations which challenge the positive energy you’re seeking to bring out. Like every other thing worth having, being positive can be learned. It make take years to get where you want depending where you are now, but it’s worth striving for I believe.

One thing you can do on a practical level to get started is look for positive upsides when difficulties arise. It’s so easy after all to gravitate to the negative and see problems when problems present themselves. But in those challenges, there is likely an opportunity to find a positive. Losing a job is a great example of this. It’s stressful for sure, there’s a loss of income and identity, a fear of what will happen and it can be something we want to keep private rather than share out of shame or guilt. However, losing the job we’ve had can be flipped into positives. We now have the opportunity to look at other options we would have said earlier that we’d love to look at but just don’t have the time for. Well, now we do.

The stress that accompanied that former role is gone now too; replaced I get it by the stress of looking for work, but there are varying kinds of stress and some are actually beneficial. It can be very invigorating to be explore new employers, new careers, school options etc. It’s not all doom and gloom.

The loss of a job can also give you more time with your family, allow you to get the odd thing done around the house you’ve put off too long. Cleaning out the garage or painting the living room might just clear your mind of tasks hanging over your head and that’s a positive thing isn’t it?

Look for good when bad things happen. This is a gift you can give others too. If your job brings you into contact with people who have frustrations and problems, you should certainly acknowledge their feelings – absolutely. However, if you then get them talking about the positive opportunities they may have now that they didn’t have before, you may lighten a heavy load and get them thinking more positively, which in turn can make your interaction better overall.

And the really nice thing about being positive? You draw people to you who are similar in their outlook. That combined outlook is energizing and creates a positive relationship be it in your personal or professional life.

Hello Dolly! (My Rolling Files)


Luke Skywalker had R2, Will Robinson had Robot and I guess I now have Dolly. Or Rolly. Geez I’ve never really thought about giving the rolling file contraption a name. Maybe if I could motorized it and control it by voice command that would be different.

Back in 2019, (now there’s the first time I’ve used that phrase and it already seems so last century), I frequently facilitated from one of our 5 workshop rooms. I found myself constantly carrying in and out many handouts I’d be using when they’d run; varying from one day to 3 weeks in length. By the time I was ready to start on day 1, I’d have my front table all laid out with the handouts I’d plan on using. That’s just the way I like to organize things. My colleagues have varying styles; some bringing things in day by day, some using a book where everything is given out together on day 1.

At one point in the past, I even had a discarded shelving unit screwed into a wall in the room, and I’d ensure every slot was labelled and filled with the necessary quantities ahead of my needing them. And that worked for the most part, until of course I wasn’t scheduled in that room, which became an issue when someone else was facilitating in there and I’d need to gain access to retrieve one handout.

Towards the middle of last year, I found this dolly. Well, truth be told, a coworker was using it more as a storage unit. It was mine for the asking, so I took it over and saw possibilities. It’s perfect for letter sized files. What it allowed me to do was store the files I’d need and transport them anywhere in the building I would need them. You can’t believe how comforting it is to know that all the handouts I’m potentially going to want are right there at hand when I’m facilitating.

Now of course, some people are like a few of my colleagues who prefer to have all their handouts in book format. This eliminates the need for handouts completely, and you just progress through a workbook page by page or jump around in the book as you want. Me, I’ve used that style in the past but it’s not my first choice. No, I’d rather know all the content I want to cover, but respond to the needs of each group by constantly adjusting the content. This style of facilitation is more challenging I believe; I mean you have to read groups, identify their wants and needs, pick up on comments and questions asked and all the while think to yourself, “do I have a handout for that?”

The other thing I’ve never really liked about giving out a workshop manual on day 1 is that some people flip pages only when you tell them to while others flip and scan the whole book to see where you’re taking them. Some even work ahead without the benefit of a facilitated discussion, invariably completing some exercise incorrectly or differently at best than they would with that discussion. I don’t want people regurgitating the information from later pages; telling me what they’ve read not what they really think on their own. So for me, for my style, it’s handouts one at a time.

And that’s where Dolly comes in. All the files are alphabetically contained therein, and it just falls to me to ensure that I’ve got 30 of each ready to go prior to any particular workshop. However, Dolly has a few issues. I remember in Star Wars, C3P0 spoke about being better than previous versions; a higher functioning and more valuable commodity than his predecessors.  I think Dolly is ready for a melt down soon too. I mean it’s shown me that there’s an advantage in having this rolling file system wherever I go, but it’s pretty full as you can see from the photo, and to move it, I’ve got to hunch down as I push it.

So I’m thinking a project for 2020 here at home is to build a customized rolling filing system in the workshop. Maybe a two levelled contraption, which would solve space issues and transporting it at the same time. I’ve got the tools, I can get the materials, my goodness, dare I say, “We have the technology”. From Star Wars to the 6 Million Dollar Man, I’m all over the place with this blog and obviously still connected to past decades.

I share this with you my readers as a tool I use when facilitating in multiple locations. Maybe you’re in the same kind of situation and are lugging papers from one room to another. If so, this little idea might spark something new for you in 2020. Of course, I’d love to be paperless entirely; good for the environment and good for those who love tech. The thing is however, many of the participants I have before me like paper copies to write on and hold in their hands. Some don’t have computers at home, others just aren’t computer literate. So to be fully accessible, the traditional paper in hand still works. Why I even give them a snazzy folder in which to assemble their own, ‘book’ if you will.

I’d be interested to hear your style of facilitation with respect to handouts and course materials. What works for you? Hey never too old to learn!

 

2020 Your Opportunity?


About this time of year, I read a lot of posts from colleagues or listen to them as they talk about the year ahead. What I read and hear is brimming confidence and hope that, “This is going to be my year!”

Well, I wonder about that. I mean, what do they mean? Generally they mean that things are going to be different; they plan on taking advantage of opportunities as they come up, really commit to something they want (and this generally in turn means self-improvement of a fashion).

However, I don’t see the required change in behaviour much of the time; oh there’s short bursts of it yes, but not the sustained, repetitive actions that in sequence result in real change. These false starts are sparked by initial good intentions, but without being repeated, no pattern of new behaviour comes about; the very behaviours that cumulatively form new reputations, nurture commitment and enthusiasm to keep going. Without a change in behaviour on a consistent basis, the, “This is my year!” rant fizzles out and is replaced by a defeated-sounding, Same old, same old.”

Opportunities you see are around us every day no matter what day of the year the calendar proclaims it to be. Sure January 1st is a good time to mentally adjust our thinking. However, the first of January is an external cue not an internal one. The internal cue is that voice that you know is there deep inside you that whispers all the time what it is you want most. It’s so palpable and real too isn’t it? I mean you know what you want most; whether it’s losing weight, a new job, the courage to tell someone just how much you love them, ask for a promotion, etc.

That internal voice is no louder on January 1st than it is the rest of the year. It’s just that the flipping of the calendar gives us permission to pay that voice a little bit more attention. And with people all around us making new year’s resolutions, that collective energy makes it easier for us to proclaim our own good intentions to change something and feel universally accepted and supported. In short, it’s easier to make a resolution to do something when others are doing the same thing.

However, there are those who believe that the slightest little slip up puts the whole resolution bit in jeopardy. So you have a slice of cake when out with friends and your inner voice that’s been at you to lose weight is drowned out by another voice that says, “Failure! Told you so!” And there goes that unblemished resolve to not eat fatty foods that taste great but detract from your goal. Well might as well pack in the, ‘lose weight’ resolution for another 12 month’s and try again. Nonsense! Don’t be so hard on yourself. Just start again.

Opportunities come up every day and many in any given day. I suspect however that many people fail to see opportunities for what they are until they pass. I include myself in this number too. On a small scale, we all have the opporunity to get up, walk over to a colleague and compliment them. Perhaps it’s something they’ve achieved at work or in their personal life. Or perhaps it’s the risk they took that you compliment them on rather than the result. (This by the way is one of the things the enlightened recognize and do more than others).

That doesn’t sound like a big opportunity does it? I mean choosing to get up, go over and say something nice to a colleague. Big deal you might think. Do it once and it’s noteworthy for it’s uniqueness. Do it a second time and a third time and it’s establishing itself as a new pattern. Continue with a pattern and you build a reputation. This is true whether it’s complimenting a coworker, visiting the gym, reading a book, going to concerts or anything in fact.

It’s the small every day choices we make that in the larger context we look back on and say we either seized an opportunity or let it slip past. Could we have lost that weight last year or three years ago? Sure we could have, but we missed those opportunities out of the choices we made. However, it’s 2020. On this day we could make the decision to seize an opportunity and resolve to commit to some new behaviours. Be kinder, be more forgiving, go a day without dessert – then maybe another, drive the speed limit rather than 20 km’s above it.

I’ve resolved to ask of three people how I might be better. I’ve yet to decide who the three will be, but I’m wanting to choose people who know me well. Why three? It’s manageable and until I hear what they have to say, I’ve no idea the effort required to be better will take to sustain such change over time. We’ll have to see…

Consider yourself one this day as you read. What opportunities are you hoping for and looking forward to in this coming year? To bring them about, what are you doing this month, this week and this day? For most opportunities require us to do things that put us in position to take advantage of them as they arise.

Cheers to you, to me; to us! For we are in this together.

 

Safe At Home? Be Grateful


I did a fair bit of driving this weekend. Saturday it was the trip from Lindsay to Toronto and home again, then Sunday the drive from Lindsay to Mississauga and back again. As I made the final turn onto our Crescent both evenings, the Christmas lights on the front lawn and house itself brought me a measure of both happiness and relief; we were home.

Home is sanctuary; the place with which within I am calm, protected and at peace. It’s where I recharge, relax, settle back with a blanket and at this time of year, enjoy the festive decorations, the Christmas tree, and perhaps a cup of tea. Yes, every time I make that last turn in the road and ascend the hill to our home, the promise of such sanctuary awaits me.

I imagine many of you might have similar feelings as you travel home from both near and far, whether it’s a house, condominium or apartment you return to. Once inside, it’s your space; your private sanctuary from everything beyond your door.

Of course it’s not the case for everyone. I can’t truly imagine what it must be like to live without that promise of a safe and secure place to take my rest at the end of a day. When temperatures outside are below zero degrees Celsius, not only does being homeless rob a person of much of their physical energy, it has to be incredibly taxing on the mind to constantly have to focus on finding a place to spend the night. Can you picture having to spend much of your day scrounging for shelter and then when you wake up the following day from a restless sleep, you have to move on and repeat the same process; wondering again where your head will rest that night?

Now were it you or I, we likely believe we wouldn’t be in such a predicament long. We’d likely use our resources acquired over time, including our interpersonal skills to locate and secure some place of safety and warmth. We’d turn quickly to finding work, then use our earned money to rent a place and begin to improve our lot.

The difference I suppose though is were we truly homeless, the mind that we rely and trust to make good decisions each day would be adversely affected. The mental strain upon us is not something I believe we would be prepared for. The lack of a place to shower and clean ourselves would be an eye opener, then even if we had such a basic resource, how upset would we be putting on the same garments, unwashed themselves and thus carry with us the grime, the odour? Without money, how would we feed ourselves? How might the quality of the food we do consume when we find it differ from what we eat now?

You and I, we not be rich, but we are rich by comparison. We can not only close our doors to the world each night, we sleep in comfortable beds, we eat without having to guard our plates; when thirsty we find options in our fridges. We don clean clothes each day, we snuggle in against the bitter cold, raise a thermostat if we so choose. Lucky? Well, yes I suppose we are.

Now yes, we do make our own luck I’ll affirm, but what we make our luck with is an educated mind. We have had resources our entire lives some never will have. If you grew up with a mother and father, lived in a house, had three meals a day and went to school, you likely took much of that for granted. As a child,  perhaps this is how you believed we all started out. Not so. If you’ve never had to visit a foodbank other than to drop off a donation, or never had to leave some items at the checkout because you haven’t got enough money to pay for them, you’re lucky indeed.

The nights are dark and cold, the daylight shorter at this time of year in my part of the world where winter is upon us. The streets are often slushy, which makes it trickier to walk for some in heels and harder still to push those shopping carts and buggies with worldly possessions in them for others.

If you think the simple solution is to get a job and be self-supporting, think of what herculean effort that must take. A homeless person has to concentrate on where to sleep, where to eat. They have few items to improve their personal hygiene and fewer to clean and maintain the cleanliness of their clothes. They are often shunned for their appearance, their smell, their cleanliness and much of the time lack personal identification such as birth certificates, health cards and social insurance numbers.

Luxuries are things like haircuts, dental visits, prescription glasses, non-processed foods, undamaged fruits and vegetables. Families are typically dysfunctional, relationships hard to establish and harder still to maintain. Without an address, services are hard to get, being always on the move, they have no sanctuary at the close of a day, sleeping with one eye open out of fear until absolutely exhausted.

Enjoy your home as do I, but be benevolent when you can. Consider a donation, be it a used article of warmth, food, toiletries, or your time. Be grateful, be humble.

What Hopes Do You Have For 2020?


Start thinking about January 2020 and what you’d like to see happen for you personally in the new year. It’s the 13th of December today, so we’ve got 18 days left in this year to come up with a few things.

So what are you after? A job perhaps? Perhaps a better job. Maybe you’re considering a return to school in order to finish your high school diploma or launch yourself into a new career by attending College or University. Could be a change in your diet is in mind; getting healthier, being kinder, showing more patience and forgiveness or even getting around to popping THE question to your special someone. There’s any number of things you might be hoping will happen in 2020.

Okay so have you something that came to mind? Something you’re hoping for in the coming year? Let’s go with whatever came to mind. Of course, we’re only in the third paragraph here, and you might need a few more hours or days to come up with what you really want to see happen next year. But even in this short time since you first started reading, think for a second about what DID come into your mind first and foremost. Hmm… why did that surface? Could be that whatever it was came to mind for good reason.

Now hoping for something is always good. Hope is a wonderful thing, because it can keep us going in tough times and it can sustain us when things look bleakest. I’m a big believer in hope. However, while hope is a good thing to have, you’ll likely find that hope alone doesn’t always bring about the things we hope for. Confused? Okay, I can understand that.

Hope often needs a plan and action to bring about the realization of whatever it is we’ve hoped for. You can hope to play a musical instrument, but the odds of picking up a trumpet and playing it instantly or sitting before a piano and bringing your favourite song to life are minute as best. You’d agree I think that planning to take some lessons, finding someone to instruct you and putting in the practice to actually learn how to play is increasing your odds of success. Hoping to play an instrument in 2020? Find a teacher, rent, borrow, buy or get gifted an instrument and you’re giving your hopes a fighting chance.

Now supposing that you’re hoping to find a job in the new year. That’s a good thing. You feel mentally up for it and 2020 is going to be your year. Congratulations on coming up with a commendable ambition for the new year. So the question now is what has to happen in order for your hopes of employment to come about?

These days you typically need a resume, computer skills to apply online, interview skills to perform well when meeting with someone from an organization, and a little self-confidence and self-esteem thrown in would be a big help too. I’m simplifying things here for the sake of illustration, but let’s go with that list: basic computer skills, a resume, interview skills and practice and some self-confidence.

By listing the things above that you’ll need to successfully find work, you can then move to the next phase which is turning to the community in which you live and the people you know in it, seeking to find the help in acquiring the skills to check off each need. You may believe you have a good resume – well, good enough at any rate – but having someone look at it who can make some helpful and intelligent suggestions for improvement would confirm your belief. If it’s good, that’s great. If however it’s not as good as you believe it is, you’ll save yourself a lot of frustration and disappointment by learning how to improve it and then doing so.

As for the computer skills? Well, basic skills needed to compete for jobs these days means you have to be able to send and receive emails, attach your resume and cover letters, know how to upload a resume to a job site online, and of course being able to sit down and type out that resume and cover letter is required too. Can you do these things? If so, again, great! If not, a basic computer class is all you need to learn these essentials.

Okay so on to the interview skills. Mom or dad might be okay to practice with, but I would guess they aren’t up on using the STAR interview method or know much about behaviour based interviewing. For interview help, you’ll want to tap into someone perhaps at a local employment centre, maybe even going so far as to hire the services of a self-employed Employment Specialist or Recruiter. These are options you might want to look into.

Hope as I say is really good to have. Hope alone however usually doesn’t bring about whatever it is you’re hoping for. Action is what you’ll need, and your action is best put into place only after you first settle on a plan. With no plan, your actions might give you the illusion of doing something to move toward your goal but in reality just be one step forward and two back. Plan your work, work your plan.

A job, a relationship, a purchase. Whatever you hope for in 2020, here’s to hoping it comes true.

Victims And Their Predators


Yes I suppose I’m upset, but more accurately, I’m disappointed; again.

I’m sad too, because once more, some good people have every reason to become cold and hard. Most are women – but there are men too; the victims of abuse. I ask you read on.

Why oh why I ask myself again and again are some people so intent on ruining the self-esteem, confidence and self-perception of others? Why is it that small people determinedly go out of their way to elevate themselves in sick, disturbing and twisted ways by intentionally diminishing others? What makes some people pour their energy into financially, emotionally, sexually and physically hurting and exploiting others?

Her name could be Sandra, Delores, Kelly, Cindy, Fatima, Tatiana or any other. She could be living in poverty, entrenched in the middle class or among the well-to-do. She just might have a degree or her Masters, dropped out before getting her high school diploma or be back in an adult education classroom. Her height, weight, eye or hair colour don’t define her, nor the country of her birth, the family she calls her own. She is at the same time anyone and everyone; your next door neighbour, the person you share the bus with, the driver in the next lane, the co-worker you admire for her good work habits. She could be your daughter; and you could be entirely unaware. And not be excluded, his name could be Dan, Keith, Jordan, etc. with the same realities as those above.

I’ll tell you this: he or she didn’t deserve what’s happened. She didn’t ask for it, he didn’t seek it out, neither one is in the least deserving of being on the receiving end of an abusive relationship. Let’s make it personal. YOU; yes you, you are blameless. You deserve better; you’re worthy and your not at fault. What you looked for, what you thought you’d found, wasn’t the abusive, manipulative relationship you ended up in. Those emotional beatings you’ve been on the receiving end of are just as real, just as devastating as a physical assault.

So what’s prompted this? Well, as you’d have guessed, once again, I’ve encountered victims of abuse; suffering at the hands of their past and current partners. What do these predatory men who’ve inflicted this abuse on these people have in common? Here’s their description:

  •  They are polite, well-spoken, charming and well-mannered
  •  They introduced themselves as caring and loving
  •  They discouraged contact with the victims friends
  •  They separated the victim from receiving help/support
  •  They went too far, apologized, said it would never happen again
  •  They bought gifts, they came smartly dressed
  •  They keep the victim guessing, on their guard and nervous
  •  They set impossible standards, demean and shame

Recognize anyone you know? These are the fellows who can charm parents of the victim into actually taking their side, who act and sound remorseful when it suits their needs and punish, pummel and humiliate when they are in the mood for, ‘fun’. These abusers dash hopes routinely, snoop through purses, get their mutual friends convinced they are the, ‘good’ one. These are the ones that turn kids against the victim; making it out that the victim is to blame for the fights, the arguments, the separations, the divorces. They are often extremely intelligent, convincing, likable and their greatest skill is manipulation. You might even like them very much yourself and come to doubt the truth of the victim’s claims.

I’m working closely with two victims of abuse at the moment. We’re looking to move forward with interviews that will lead to employment offers. I’ve only a small glimpse of the abuse suffered and endured. I’m hurting for them – and I’m not being trite – I’m being serious. But my hurt is absolutely nothing in comparison to theirs and please don’t think I’m suggesting it is.

What I see is two beautiful people both inside and out. They’ve got a lot to offer potential employers. They are bright, intelligent, well-spoken, educated, have superior interpersonal skills and… they are fragile, damaged, but not for a moment are they anything less than amazing and deserving.

What they want; what they deserve is decent jobs and stable, caring, meaningful relationships in true reciprocating partnerships. What annoys me and saddens me is when good people – strike that – beautiful people become jaded and hardened towards the world; when they distrust (with reason) others and miss the very healthy and secure, loving relationships they so crave. Those abusive, small-minded, evil abusers at that point have won.

If you know an abusive individual, stop pretending they aren’t doing any harm. Distance yourself from them and call them out. Abusers don’t like being in the light. If you know a victim, offer support, believe them and stand with them. Be a good ambassador for humankind. At this point, more abusers are male, more victims female. If you’re a male, you’ve got an onus to be one of the good guys; to keep alive the slim glimmer of hope for some woman that good men, while hard to find, are still out there. This is especially true if you’re in a position of authority and work with vulnerable populations. It falls to all of us however to be decent.

If you’re moved by this, impacted by this, add your voice. A like, a thumbs up, a comment. Let us stand together.

Don’t Apply For Jobs In December


There are many job seekers who see a lot of logic in not bothering to apply for work in the month of December. They’ve determined that companies are soon shutting down for the holidays and the people responsible for receiving all those resumes and selecting candidates to hire are really looking at taking time off.

If you’re one of the job seekers who holds this belief; that it’s pointless to job search in December, you’re making a huge mistake. But please! By all means yes, continue to avoid applying for work this month! You’re making it so much easier for the people I’m partnering with in their job search. In fact, let me extend a sincere thank you for reducing the size of the competition.

As you know, applying for work is a very competitive endeavour. There are more people applying for various positions than ever. Apparently, from the information I’ve gathered from employers, for every job advertised, there are approximately 150 – 175 applications received. The fact that you’re doing your part to reduce that number and increase the odds of those I’m supporting to land interviews and get hired is most appreciated!

Next week I’m holding a two week job search group; that’s December 9th – 20th on the calendar. Yikes! What  tough time of year to job search right? There’s the Christmas traffic, the Christmas hustle and bustle, the kids Christmas concerts in school, people to buy or make Christmas presents for, the house or apartment to decorate for Christmas, the shopping for the Christmas ham or turkey. Why you’re likely exhausted just thinking about it. Best you put your feet up and recline in the lazy boy. Add a job search to all that? No, of course not; you best take it easy.

Still, my little group and I will be at work, researching opportunities, writing cover letters and resumes, practicing our interview skills, and above all else, applying for jobs. While there’s every possibility that we might land a hire or two in these two weeks, it’s probable that the interviewing and hiring won’t actually take place until the new year. That’s absolutely fine with us; we’ll be ready.

Look, any job seeker will tell you how difficult it is to land work and that any advantage they can see they’ll seize. So, when the competition starts to falter for lack of enthusiasm, that’s the very time to ramp up the effort. The same goes for rainy days, extreme cold or heat periods, and Mondays. You see the same folks who have stopped job searching in December are likely the kind who wake up, see the clouds pouring down on them and choose to roll over and go back to sleep. Again, thank you if that’s you!

Job searching IS work. It takes sustained energy and focus to successfully job search. You’ve got to have a willingness to carry on in the face of what appears to be indifference or rejection by some employer’s. All that work researching companies, targeting resumes, writing cover letters, completing online profiles and repeating this process again and again. It can certainly get discouraging. I think this is why the people who have accepted my invitation to join my group are so looking forward to the experience. You see, they’ll partner up with me; someone they believe will motivate them when they feel the urge to slow down. They’ll also be supported by their fellow job seekers, and enthusiasm my reader is contagious!

If it’s true that attitude determines your altitude, we’re aiming high. We aren’t hoping to get interviews and jobs; we’re EXPECTING to get interviews and jobs! You see, the belief I plan to share and instil is the same belief I’ve always held; if we create strong resumes, quality resumes and improve upon our interview skills, the chances of success rise – substantially. If we then work to improve on our quantity of quality applications, our chances of success rise substantially again. Quality first, followed by quantity.

But you can do your part to help us along. If you’re a job seeker yourself, take the month off; nobody is hiring anyway right? If you’re an Employment Coach or Counsellor, suggest your clients ease back on the job search and conserve their energy for the new year; nobody is hiring anyway right?

Of course this advice is entirely tongue in cheek. If nobody is hiring, why then are there jobs being advertised? Do you think companies advertise just to falsely get people’s hopes up? That they have too much time on their hands and want to conduct interviews for jobs that don’t exist just to meet people? No of course not! They are advertising jobs because they have a need for qualified and enthusiastic employees.

Remember this basic truth; if they advertise a job, THEY have a need. Sure you need a job, but they need an employee. It’s not all desperation on your part and no stress at their end. They have to find someone and it can’t be just anybody. They are looking at hiring the right someone, and this is where your research comes in. Present yourself as the right candidate.

Of course, if you were looking for a sign that you shouldn’t bother looking for work until 2020, take this blog as your sign. Pack it in, put on, “White Christmas” and cover yourself up with that warm throw.