Re-Inventing Yourself?


Whether by choice or necessity, have you ever, or are you now in a place where you’re re-inventing yourself? You know, moving in a completely new direction from what you’ve typically done work-wise in the past. Depending on your circumstances, this can be an exhilarating time of hope, possibilities and uncharted exploration, or it can be fraught with stress, desperation, anxiety and worry.

So, is it starting to sound like I’m speaking to you directly? There’s actually a good chance that this resonates with you to some degree because all of us have times in our lives where we assume new roles. This is important to both hear and comprehend; all of us go through this.

It’s true you know… becoming a teenager then an adult, being a parent or grandparent, the first job where we joined the ranks of the employed, leaving one job for another. There are all kinds of moments in our lives when we transitioned from one role to another. But somehow, changing your career at this particular time in your life seems markedly different from all those other transitions. This is magnified when you feel forced to make the change instead of initiating change out of a personal desire.

For a lot of folks, the anxiety is stirred up wondering what to actually do. It’s like that year in high school where you had to make a decision on what you wanted to be when you grew up. As awkward as that period might have felt way back then, it pales in comparison to the present where you’re no longer 17 or 18 years old with your entire work life in front of you. No, now you’re looking at yourself and wondering, “what am I going to do at my age?”

For the men and women who have been in positions of labour their whole lives, this idea of needing a new vocation could be brought about because their bodies are no longer able to take the physical demands of their trade. While the body is refusing to do what it’s always done, the brain is fully capable and stress is caused because the work they’ve done is only what they know. It’s like laying bricks for 37 years and then the back and knees give out, so the Bricklayer struggles trying to figure out what else they could do.

Sometimes the body isn’t the problem though. Sometimes the prevailing problem is of a mental rather than physical issue; the need to change careers is however just as valid. For many, there is still the notion – completely wrong in my opinion – that a mental health issue needs to be concealed, while a physical issue can be more easily shared and understood. So the person with two bad knees and a back issue gets empathy and understanding while the person with anxiety and depression draws more skepticism and doubt. As a result, some people hide their mental health challenges as long as they can, thereby making it difficult if not impossible to get the very support and help they need to move forward.

A good place to start when you have to re-invent yourself is taking stock of what you have on hand. Imagine yourself on a ship with your destination fully known and suddenly waking up one day to find yourself shipwrecked on an island. You need to survive so you take stock of what resources you have. You don’t go off exploring your surroundings without first taking your bearings and assessing your needs and your resources.

Using that analogy, you’ve gone through – or are going through – the shock of an abrupt change in your work life. The future is going to be very different from your past and while you understand this on an intellectual level, you’re at that crossroads trying to figure out in what direction to move. You’re worried perhaps that with the limited time and resources you have available, you can’t afford to just move in any old direction in case you choose wrong. If only you could look ahead and see the rewards and pitfalls in all directions and then decide. Life doesn’t always work this way though; as you more than anyone has just found out because you didn’t foresee where you are now in your future just a few years ago.

So take stock of your skills, experiences both paid and volunteer. What did you like and dislike about the work you’ve done in the past. What are you physically capable of and mentally able to take on? It may be that the very best thing you can do is give yourself the gift of a short break. Yes money might be tight but if you can free up funds for a short trip to somewhere you feel good in, you may do wonders for your mental health.

Getting a booklet on courses from a community college or university might enlighten you  to jobs you haven’t considered; and you might discover funding assistance at the same time to go back to school if you wish.

This crossroads you’re in could be a blessing too. You’ve got time now to really think about what to do with your life; something some people who dislike their current jobs would envy you for. When you’re ready, and definitely not before, reach out and share your thoughts with someone you who’ll listen with an open mind.

All the very best as always!

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Help In Dark Places


Sometimes in the deepest, darkness places, where lurk the demons Confusion, Doubt, Depression and Despair; you may find at that single moment when you feel resigned to give in, give out and give up; a hand reaching out and offering a way out – if you’ll only reach back and grab it.

Don’t you sometimes feel that although you know not everyone has it easy in this world, you really do believe that no one knows the depths to which you’ve personally sunk? Don’t you feel (if you haven’t succumbed to the numbness that your own decline has brought) that no one really gets you and therefore no one can really help you out of the pit you’re in? It can be like that. If you feel that way right now take heart if for no other reason than you haven’t lost your ability to feel; even if what you feel is an encroaching pallor of blackness.

When it comes to being trapped in a dead-end job, I bet I can take an educated guess at some of what you’ve experienced or are experiencing. If you loathe your job, I’m guessing you’ve thought, “Is this it? It’s a pretty sorry existence when I was brought into this world, told I could be anything I put my mind to and I’m stuck here doing this! Is this it for the rest of my working life? This is how I’ll leave my mark on the world? What a joke!”

Or if you haven’t got a job; are fraught with indecisiveness, feel like you’ve got so much to give but nobody cares to give you a break, you’re left feeling hopelessness and isolation. All the rejection from employers is like dead air on the other end of a phone call when you’ve used your last change and you know if you hang up no refund is coming so you’re hanging on with less than a slim hope that Life will give you a chance. If you had any energy left your last words would be, “All I asked for was a chance…”

Take heart. When you’ve got no sound reason left to believe in Hope; when all the logic in the world suggests you haven’t got a prayer and you hear Despair whispering in your ear that quitting would be so much easier and that yes the world is such a cruel place for someone like you…breathe…and have Faith.

That hand that’s reaching out in the darkness in your direction offering you a way out of the enveloping darkness has always been there and will continue to be there for you – always. All you have to do is put yourself in a place where you can see it, recognize it for what it is, and then have the wisdom to reach back out to it and hold on for all you’ve got until you’re able to stand on your own and move forward with confidence.

I’ve been struck silent 6 times this week if you can believe it by 6 different people who shared their stories with me. Each conversation had the same theme; the person was in a very private dark period in their life, and the darkness was all around them day after day and appeared to have no end. What each of them held onto was exactly the same thing however; I had believed in them and saw something of value in them when they couldn’t see it for themselves. That was all it took to sustain them until they began to believe in themselves. I’m sharing this with you not because I value self-praise, but because in sharing their experiences perhaps you might give the hands reaching out to you the opportunity to help with your own burdens. Perhaps there is a way out of your own dark places.

I don’t know why 6 people over the course of 2 days felt now was the time to express their thanks for seeing something in them in those dark days. I’m grateful, humbled and to be honest feel exhilarated to know that I played a big part – without knowing it at the time – in helping them become the people they are. In all 6 instances, they have made positive changes and feel greater self-esteem, confidence and inclusiveness when it comes to the people around them. Those same 6 I can say with absolute certainty will pay it forward, and without intending to do so, be the hand that reaches out to help someone else.

If you work in Social Services you understand my message. You’ve been the hand in the darkness yourself, looked and found redeeming qualities in those you come into contact with. These were my 6 and I might go for long stretches before the next person thanks me for believing in them. But you; you’ve had the same impact on people in your circle.

If you’re struggling; really teetering on packing it in and just surrendering to the void, look at least a few more times in your bleakness and grasp the hands of Help and Hope that surround you. You must help yourself by making yourself visible and ask for help. YOU are far too valuable, significant and important to give in to Confusion, Doubt, Depression and Despair. If you can’t at the present believe in yourself, believe in those who believe in you. For now, hang on to that.

Maybe You’re A Young Person With An Old Problem?


Last Friday, I had a chance encounter with a young woman who had an appointment with one of my Employment Counsellor peers. She had just finished a 3 week Life Skills class, and so it is our practice to schedule a 1:1 meeting afterwards and talk about the next steps.

Our meeting happened just because as she arrive and signed in at the reception counter I myself was walking through going from one room to another. I could have said hello and kept walking and that would have been perfectly acceptable, but I wasn’t busy at the moment, and I thought I’d chat for a moment if she was open to it.

Turns out she was quite receptive to a talk as well, and having been in a class of my own in the past, and having talked briefly in passing over those same last three weeks, we quickly got on. When I asked her where she was going at this point as a next step, she told me she didn’t really know.

At 22 years old, her career path wasn’t clear, and she was feeling pressure. What kind of pressure and from whom? Two sources actually; herself first and foremost and from her family. Yes at 22, she felt that by now she should know exactly what she wanted to do for the next 40 years of her life and people where wondering what was wrong with her.

Doesn’t this sound like a common problem for many people? You know, if we really break 22 years down, it’s not like she’s had 22 years to choose a career and been wasting her time. At infancy, no baby I’ve ever read about looked out through their eyes and mused, “I’m on my way to becoming an Arborist.” Infants take milk in and empty themselves, sleep, cuddle and cry. Well done. At this point, all the babies of the world have figure out just about the same things in life.

Then there are pre-school years where the biggest life objectives are to play and have fun. Oh sure there are little lessons to be learned like how to tie your shoes, what you can play with and what you can’t, where you can toddle off to and where you shouldn’t go. Then comes kindergarten and public school and children are exposes to some adults with careers and jobs. The simple first books children read have adults with jobs but again no 7-year-old is seriously asked to choose their career path yet.

It’s only with the arrival of high school then that most of the teens who are morphing out of childhood are asked to think seriously about jobs and careers to pursue. Teens though are more concerned with things like acne, puberty, their first kiss, will they ever be kissed?, making friends, fitting in, school marks, wearing the right clothes, not saying anything that will ruin their desired image, saying the right things that will please everyone and maybe score them a boyfriend or girlfriend. That job and career stuff can wait.

So, although the school Guidance Counsellor is impressing upon young people to take the right classes so they are ready for college or university – the choice of which could well determine if they get a certain career or not – many young people haven’t really got a clue. So there she could be at 18, being hurled out into the big bad world and only really thinking about a career or job seriously for the first time. That was 4 years ago.

Now while she didn’t go to college or university, many who do head off to those schools of higher education often choose to change their majors, opt for different careers they get exposed to. In short, changing your mind about what you want to do is normal. When I was young I remember being told that the average person changes their career about 3 or 4 times, and has about 9 different jobs over their lifetime. So where’s the pressure coming from to get it right on the first try?

I blame Aunt Ethel and Aunt Lois really. Oh you might have Aunts and Uncles with different names, but they are to blame just the same. Why? Well it’s them that started asking every time you saw them that standard question you never had an answer to, “So, what do you want to be when you grow up?”

Here’s one thing to think about; some advice really. Stop over-thinking. If you have a clear idea what it is you want to do, that’s wonderful. All the best and if you later change your mind, that’s okay, you’re not a failure. If on the other hand, you don’t know what you’d like to do, just do something. Sell shoes or clothes, bag groceries in a store, flip burgers for a while, work on a factory assembly line, when your Employment Counsellor is talking with you, imagine yourself in their job.

To prevent stalling and growing anxiety, just work or volunteer. Do many things and find out what you like and don’t. Those jobs will give you experience, references and build your fragile self-esteem. Don’t put pressure on yourself to have it all figured out at 22. At an unemployed 22, you may not be the envy of every other working adult, but many of those adults do envy one thing you do have at 22;  the gift of time to figure it out.

There isn’t only 1 perfect job for you. There are dozen’s of jobs you’ll enjoy so try them out!