Feel Just Like You Did Last Year?


In every household around the world, the calendars flipped on January 1st, marking not only a new year, but a new decade. The internet is full of people posting about the new hope that this brings, the fresh starts, the opportunities that await and it would seem all we have to do is jump on board the bus and we’re on our way with an overly enthusiastic and energetic group of positive people. How can we not have a grand time?

Yet, something is wrong. Today seems just like yesterday and yesterday felt pretty much like previous days before that. While the calendar turned over, your life seems pretty much unchanged otherwise. So you’re starting to wonder, “With everyone I read about touting the arrival of 2020 as a reason to celebrate, why do I feel left out? If anything, these overly happy and positive people have me feeling more depressed than I was before.”

Let’s be clear about one thing shall we? The turning over a calendar alone hasn’t brought about magical change for ANYONE. Having said that, it’s what flipping the calendar represents that has people excited and optimistic. Take reading a story in a book. The chapter you’re reading seems rather long and is really moving a little slower than you’d like. It’s You flip the pages just to see how long it will be until you reach a new chapter and you see there’s another 12 pages. You could skip the 12 pages of a book but you can’t do so with life. The arrival of 2020 is like the first few words on that next chapter; the one you hope will speed up the action, draw you fully in to the plot and get you wanting to read more; really caring about the protagonist and wondering how they’ll fare in the end. So this is what 2020 is and why so many are excited.

But here’s the catch; you and I – them too for that matter – we all have to work to put ourselves into the positions we need to be in for us to take advantage of the opportunities 2020 is going to bring. If we don’t invest ourselves in the work it will take, the phone won’t ring nor will we get that single email that we dream of that leads to an employment offer. 2020 can be the year that we look back on and believe was the moment our lives were forever changed for the better, but we have to do things that bring about such change.

Ah change. It’s what you want isn’t it. That’s not a typo because it’s not a question but rather a statement. You want change. But change doesn’t happen when you sit and do nothing and the chance of change happening for the better is only marginally better when you keep doing whatever it is you’ve done in the past. Real, significant change occurs most often to people who do things differently and with applied energy.

Whether you’re job hunting, looking for a promotion – hey maybe even looking for Mr. or Miss Right, two things are needed; 1) a change in how you’re going about things and 2) a lot of work on your part. The thing about the work first; it is work to find work or to land a promotion or to be discovered by the person who is hoping to meet you this year. Work though in this sense is something you should relish; after all you’re going after something you really want, so your motivation should be heightened. As for a change in how you’re going about things, it stands to reason that if you keep doing things as you’ve always done them, it’s likely the results you get will be similarly the same.

Okay, so it’s January 6th today, we’re about a week into the new year and you’re feeling down because you’re standing alone with your 2020 party hat on, the streamers are on the ground and the noisemaker in your hand just seems so phony.

Avoid looking for company so you can be miserable and disillusioned together. Misery might like company, but this isn’t the company you want. If you really want to feel alive and celebrate success, what is it going to take to get you personally motivated? Again, might be talking a job, losing weight, repairing a family issue, buying a car, improving your mental health, being more assertive etc.

My suggestion is to consult an expert in the area you want to obtain success. What they’ll want from you is a commitment to your end goal and this means you’ll have to put in the work necessary on your end if you want their help to be truly beneficial. Otherwise, you’re just giving away your time and money.

If you are genuinely and honestly wanting to improve some aspect of your life, there are all kinds of people who want to work with you and support you. Be prepared however to do things that will require stamina; both physical and mental. If you want it bad enough however, I’ll guarantee – that’s right I’ll guarantee – that you’ll achieve your goal. Why? Because when you want it bad enough, you discover that putting in the work takes less effort as you build on your own momentum. Getting started and building that momentum is the hardest part.

If you feel nothings changed, maybe it hasn’t – yet. But it can and it will if you really want it.

 

Pressure, Stress And Mental Health


By any chance, have you noticed people around you seem to be dealing with increased pressure? Perhaps too that not only are they experiencing more pressure, it’s coming from multiple sources and rather than being resolved quickly, these pressure linger?

Pressure and the stress that comes with it, seems to be more wide-spread these days. You know, there was a time when a person kept their troubles and stressors to themselves. After all, they didn’t want to appear incapable and put their work in jeopardy. When the worked piled on and piled up, the thinking was you’d roll up your sleeves, bear down and ramp up the speed. You’d come in a little early, work through a shortened lunch, stay a little later, then at some point, that mountain of work would become manageable again. Your stressors would dissipate and everything would fall back into balance.

What I see in 2019 however, is many people are putting in more effort and still falling behind. Not only are they working hard to get through the work they’ve been assigned, there’s more coming and it’s coming more frequently. So many people are playing a shell game; working on something until they have to switch tasks because something has a shorter deadline, then putting some time back into an earlier assigned job whenever they can squeeze it in. The result for many is finished work that isn’t their best; passable perhaps, but they know the result they’d love to have realized just isn’t what they’ve produced.

When a busy person takes on more, there’s two possibilities; they can handle the extra work load or they can’t. If the extra workload is successfully managed, they often get rewarded with a hearty thanks – and additional work, as they can obviously handle the increased work! The person who can’t handle the extra work; albeit they may have said they believed they could take it on – now has a known limit. In other words, the boss knows the maximum amount of work they can handle. In a just world, the boss would ensure the employee doesn’t get assigned or take on more than their capacity, but in reality, that boss is under pressure too. If the pressure they are under is get their team to deliver more, that extra work might just keep funneling down to the employee.

Pressure and stress impact our mental health and our mental health is something we don’t just put on when we get to work and remove at the end of our shift. We carry the state of our mental health in our travels back home, to the supermarket, when we spend time with our families and friends. When we aren’t observed to, ‘be ourselves’, guess what? We now feel additional pressure to be the person others have come to expect us to be not just at work, but at home too.

The result can be consistent and constant pressure to perform. Our homes; traditional places of sanctuary and places to retreat from the world and relax, become places where we are still experiencing pressure. Everyday tasks like washing the dishes, dusting and preparing meals seem taxing. Someone makes an innocent comment like, “we’ll have to buy some milk” or, “have you seen my car keys?”, and well that’s it; we snap back. Suddenly that pressure that’s been building bursts open. It’s not that the car keys or the milk alone are major issues, it’s that they are that one extra thing that you just can’t take on at the moment.

That stress you’re carrying with you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week is invisible much of the time. There’s no cast as there is with a broken limb, there’s no label that identifies you as stretched, no hourglass in your hands that shows just how little you’ve got left to give. Some of your precious energy reserves have actually been put into covering up your stress. That forced smile, the longer trips to the bathroom where you’re actually just trying to escape and have some, ‘me’ time for 5 minutes alone. When nobody knows – even though you think they should – they are the most surprised people when you act out of character and tell them to get in the car and go get the milk themselves; find their own car keys and stop leaving them just anywhere in the first place.

Sometimes of course we can work past our limits. Typically we do so for short periods and then return to our normal state. It’s even good to push ourselves the odd time to see what we’re capable of. But then, this new level becomes what others interpret as what we’re capable of all the time. That’s not right; that’s not fair and it’s not accurate. When we put extra energy into something at home or work, that extra energy is derived from somewhere; it doesn’t just materialize. Energy is finite.

Replenishing is the key to productivity. What is it you do in other words, that restores your capacity to deliver on the expectation of both others and yourself to perform? Reading? Meditation? Getting out for a walk? Whatever it is you do to recover and restore your good mental health is as important as any work you do.

It may sound counter productive, but in a day when you’ve got a ton of things to do, you may get more done if you go for a walk around the neighbourhood. Thirty minutes outside or with your door shut at work and a good engaging book in your hands. Maybe close your eyes, breathe deep, some quiet music playing through some noise cancelling headphones? Whatever it is in other words, consider building it in to your busy day so you restore some of that balance you have when you’re at your best.

You’ve Been Fired. Now What?


So you’ve been fired. Two questions if I may. Did you see it coming or was a complete shock? Secondly, does it come as a relief now that you’re no longer employed or would you go back there if you could? These two questions are important because both get at where your mind is my friend, and your thinking is probably not at it’s clearest right now.

Sometimes you see it coming as a distinct possibility or probability. It still stings when it happens of course, but it was looming. Maybe it was a poor performance review or a warning. Could be you hadn’t got past probation or weren’t hitting sales targets. In any event, the writing was on the wall and you even started taking personal possessions home with you in anticipation of this very thing. If this is your situation, you could even feel a sense of relief because the strain of going to work and wondering if this would be the day they let you go has been mentally exhausting.

On the other hand, when things are going well, you’re well-liked and you feel blindsided by your firing, it can stop you cold. In fact, you’ll feel pretty numb with the news, in severe shock and disbelief. When caught off guard, you’re at risk of soon doubting anything and everything around you because you don’t want to be similarly surprised again. This isn’t a healthy attitude but it’s an understandable reaction to the news.

We’re built different you know; some of us would just get back out there the next day, while for others, a lengthy period needs to elapse before starting to look for work again. The length of this period will depend on 4 things: 1) whether you see this parting as an opportunity, 2) if it was anticipated as a possibility, probability or complete blindside 3) the length of employment, 4) your personal resources and supports.

When the news first hits you’ll undoubtedly have felt shock. A few seconds earlier, you were an employee and now you’re not. There’s that, “What to do?” feeling as the news is received. Sometimes you get the news outside of work; a phone call, email, text etc. This might sound unbelievable to some of you, but yes, a text. More often, it’s in person. There’s the dreaded walk out and you’re not only dealing with this terrible news, you live this walk of shame by your now former colleagues without the chance to slip out quietly.

Maybe though, this job was actually getting in the way of you moving forward. It was holding you back because it was comfortable. This parting is somewhat liberating and needed but resigning is something you likely wouldn’t have done on your own. In such a case, your mind can turn to what’s ahead more readily than others perhaps. Now you can get back to the field you were trained in or turn to something you’ve always wanted to do but couldn’t because you had this job you had to go to every day. And if you really disliked the work you did, it was a long commute, the co-workers weren’t anything you’ll miss etc., yes, it can be liberating.

Generally speaking, most people need a mental break. While being unemployed isn’t what you’d choose, rushing out to get a job the same day somewhere else may not be the best action. It’s important to balance your need for income and purpose with your need to clear your mind. Any feelings of bitterness, anger, revenge, failure, sorrow and regret need to come out and be addressed. You my friend, need a period of grieving for your loss. Depending on your financial health and resources, you might need to immediately tighten your belt and think twice about all your purchases. Then again, some people have been known to take a vacation and realign their frame of mind.

So many factors now to consider. Where are you on the age spectrum? Is not working at all as you’re so close to retirement attractive? How’s your health? Is this something you can now concentrate on improving? Are you the only income earner or do you have a secondary source of income that can soften this blow?

Yes you’ll want to update the resume but before you do this, it’s rather important to know whether you’re competing in the same field for a similar role elsewhere or are you heading in a new direction and therefore need to overhaul the focus of your resume?

Something to consider is who to tell. Many don’t want friends, former colleagues and family to know. Keeping silent until you land a job might either protect your dignity or result in missed opportunities. The sooner people know you’re looking and what you’re looking for, the greater the likelihood that your network might come up with opportunities to explore.

Some general advice then? Eat healthy, get some regular exercise – even a morning and afternoon walk to clear your mind. Avoid turning to drugs and alcohol as an escape. Do little things that will make you feel good; even doing the dishes can ease your mind when you look at the kitchen.  Make sure you apply immediately for any employment benefits you may be entitled to as they start when you apply, NOT when you stopped working.

Lose bitterness; it’s not attractive. This too shall pass.

Work No Longer What It Once Was?


Call it running on autopilot or coasting on cruise control, the stimulation you used to feel when the job was challenging has disappeared. When you’re talking with friends and family, you’re heard telling them you could do this job with your eyes closed and one arm tied behind your back. When you first felt this way, it was a statement of bravado and self-assurance, but more and more, well, it’s become mundane and easy.

It seems like you’re never completely satisfied. I mean in the past there seemed so much to know and you struggled to master all the information required to be really good at your job. You wondered how those co-workers around you knew so much and performed so well. Suddenly though, you became one; now you’re the go-to person who effortlessly sails through the day, never really having any drastic lows or highs. You’re dependable, productive and instead of using your head to increase your intelligence of the job, you’re using all your mental energy just to get through the days. It’s not that it’s hard to do the job, but it’s exhausting when you keep hoping and looking for additional challenges and find there’s none to be had.

Now you’re in this dilemma aren’t you? You know, the old problem of choosing to either stay in this comfortable role you’ve got with a decent income and some security, or to step out into the stimulating world of job searching once again for something better. Hmm… security vs. stimulation. Autopilot vs. sanity.

I bet by now you’ve already had the little voices in your head whispering conflicting thoughts. “We can’t leaves; obligations we has.” “Stay we must; easy it is, nasty job searches – hates them we does!” You’re inner Gollum has taken route and when there’s nothing around you but the silence, the conflicting differences of opinion and positions keeps whispering. How’d you get here you wonder?

It really does come down to a matter of choice. It may eventually come down to whether or not you stay in this current job or whether you leave for another employer. However, before those become your only options, are there other possibilities at work? If you could transfer to another department, take on another role in your own area such as cross training or maybe even develop a new job position to present to Management, would that be possible? If you could do any of these things, you’d maintain your security, pension, seniority, vacation entitlements and of course income, but you’d feel rejuvenated and stimulated anew.

It’s not possible for me sitting where I am to know if any or some of the above are options for you in your workplace with your specific circumstances. Creating your own job when it doesn’t exist in the organization you currently work in might be an option you’d not thought of. Not only is the idea of doing something new a spark, but the energy required to conceptualize what this new role might be, prepare yourself to present and defend it to Human Resources or Senior Management and then extol the virtues of how it will positively impact on the bottom line could be exhilarating. If you only go to your boss and ask them what they’d say to you inventing a new job for yourself, it’s likely to go nowhere.

Like I said above, it may or may not be possible in your work to transfer to some other area. If you’re a welder and the whole company is 3 of you, there might not be any movement possible.

You might also be a person who has been doing the same job for twenty years or more, and feel that this job you’ve come to master is all you know. Reinventing yourself at this point might be too much of a challenge; returning to school, re-training, having to come up with money for all that and then facing a job search without the security of knowing you’d be hired. Are you worrying about that infamous dilemma, “Who’d hire me when I finished school at my age?”

It’s scary isn’t it? This problem of whether to stay in a job that’s easy but consuming yourself or venture out with great uncertainty; being afraid that whatever you choose will be the wrong choice. Consider that it’s going to be a struggle either way though. You’re either going to struggle coming into work knowing you lack the courage to do something about your fading self, or you’re going to berate yourself because one day you’re going to look back at this point in time and regret you lacked the courage to take a leap of faith.

Perhaps it’s the very lack of a guarantee that you should be thankful for. I mean, that’s part of the stimulation, the invigorating feeling you get from self-determination and creating your next chapter. Yes, you’ll have setbacks, barriers, challenges, raised expectations and disappointments. You may just feel alive again too, find a new identity and come to admire yourself for having the required courage to take a chance and risk your life on something better.

I’m certainly not going to tell which is best because I don’t know what your existing skills and education are, what you’re considering, what you’re gambling on and how stuck you are at the moment. But I do know somebody who knows all these…you.

My Advice: Hold Off Job Searching


Sounds like odd advice from an Employment Counsellor to give on the surface of it doesn’t it; putting your search for a job on hold. Yet quite often, that’s the advice I give some of the people I meet with.

Now if you’re employed and see yourself first and foremost as a taxpayer and believe that everyone in receipt of social assistance should be completely investing 100% of their time looking to work, my apologies. There are some situations in which I believe looking for a job is not only ill-advised, it can set someone back tremendously from finding employment in the long haul.

Take yesterday as an example. For two weeks, I instructed a dozen people in the basics of using the computer. I’m talking basics here; using it to make an email, learning how to access the internet, find employment opportunities, make a resume, apply for work with that resume. We did more as well, but I like to instruct with practicality in mind, so as most were unemployed, why not learn the basics of the digital world and at the same time, showing them how competing for employment these days requires computer skills? Anyhow, there I was yesterday, seated with one of the participants from that class, doing a follow up appointment.

Typically, I plan on giving someone feedback on what I observed over those two weeks, encourage them and point out moments of success and accomplishment. However, I threw all that out the window yesterday when this one woman came in and we sat down in my office. She was 15 minutes late, and said she had almost decided not to come in for the scheduled meeting. Two developments on the day before our meeting occurred; she was contacted by her Doctor who said she must meet immediately with her to share results of some medical tests and her 13 year old daughter was committed to a hospital for a few days after telling her own Doctor that she was thinking about killing herself.

Suddenly, giving feedback on computer skills and talking about using these new skills to job search seemed entirely inappropriate. Of greater importance in that moment was listening, supporting and responding to her disclosure, her fears of what her Doctor knows and must share in person immediately and her own daughter’s thoughts of ending her life. At a time like this, the focus on receiving, comprehending and processing these two major life events supersedes any encouragement to get out and get a job.

Besides, if you believe that she’d be able to effectively job search at the present moment, I’d venture you’re views are based in ideology and not practical reality. Do I think governments always get this? No. I suspect when they look at stats, they focus solely on how many people start a program, how many finish and how long it takes someone to find employment after taking a program to determine its effectiveness. Numbers don’t tell the whole story; not by a long shot.

“Will I get in trouble for not looking for a job though?” she asked. So I took an hourglass from my desk and flipped it over, letting the blue sand fall. “You only have so much energy. Right now, your focus and energy is on receiving your own diagnosis and whatever implications that holds. As a caring mom who has a daughter in crisis, the two of you have a lot to work through, you’re probably blaming yourself and you’re scared. You just got two extremely upsetting events on the same day. Forget the job search for now; you won’t be in trouble.” She looked at that blue sand accumulating in the bottom half and said seeing how the top was emptying was how she felt.

Near the end of our meeting, she told me how glad she was that she’d decided to come because she’d considered staying at home. There she was, expressing gratitude to me for making her feel better. It’s pretty humbling to hear someone in the midst of heightened anxiety and trauma be so genuinely kind and thoughtful. When she left she hugged me; we hugged each other. Somewhere in that simple act, some of her fear melted into me, and some compassion for her suffering flowed from me to her.

Do you really believe she should be focusing 100% on looking for work? Do you really think I – anyone for that matter – who counsels and supports people looking for work should pressure her into making a job search her first priority? And where I now wonder does any government making funding decisions and program cut decisions factor in this kind of experience?

I tell you this, were I that woman, receiving these two pieces of information, I’d sure be grateful to meet with a compassionate, understanding and patient person. Yesterday I was fortunate to be that guy, but this is not about me. I believe there are people with equally, even better responses everywhere, having similar experiences daily.

Something as simple as removing an expectation of finding work and assuring them they won’t have their benefits suspended, can do far more good in the long run by building a trusting, human connection. For who is equipped to deal with either of these situations let alone two on the same day?

So yes, put aside the job search; there are times when it’s not priority #1.

And your thoughts?

Helping / Living With The Unemployed


If you or someone you know is apathetic about finding employment; really not caring one way or the other if work is found or not, the only way to get them moving is to identify that one thing. “That one thing?”, you ask. Yes, that one thing that makes wanting to find work more meaningful than not caring.

For a family member, friend or professional working with an unemployed individual, this is a tremendous challenge. You are also likely to find that the longer a person has been unemployed, the greater the effort will be to shift their thinking sufficiently to get them started.

Be forewarned, you can’t motivate someone else. Oh you can help them, support them and encourage them, but you cannot motivate someone else to want something they don’t want themselves. All you’ll get if they don’t want it bad enough is a token effort, and the first time they run into a barrier, they’ll pack it in and go back to what was comfortable; not bothering to look. Unfortunately, they may reason that they can be unemployed and struggling to find work or unemployed and taking it easy. For many, a simple choice.

The frustrating part for those around the unemployed person is failing to understand why they’ve become so disinterested and why they seemingly won’t put in the effort to find work. It’s highly likely that there’s been a major shift in their values; and the values they currently hold differ from those around them to such an extent they’ve become difficult to be around. There may be an increase in friction and tension, more arguments, less things to talk about, or the conversation about work might be one they insist is off the table.

There are far too many factors that could be in play in any individual case for me to accurately know what’s behind a person’s apathy, but here’s one possibility that may be going on. After having become recently unemployed, the person took some time to self-heal mentally. This is especially true after having been fired, let go, or quit a job they found problematic. At this point, they wanted to find work, and planned on doing so soon. When they felt ready, they began to look. That period of time to, ‘get ready’ may have been anything from a week to over a year – hard as that might be for someone else to understand.

As this person started to look for a job, they found it harder to get one than they had in the past. Perhaps because of technology and having to use computers to apply online, or having a poor resume, they kept getting nowhere on their applications. Interviews weren’t happening, or when they did, no job offers came. From the person’s point of view, they’ve left a job on bad terms, can’t get interviews, aren’t sure really how to compete against so many other people now applying for the same jobs, and their psychological state is becoming increasingly fragile.

Without being able to articulate what they are experiencing and how they really feel, they retreat rather than engage, and withdraw into themselves. Socializing becomes a huge outpouring of effort and only having so much energy to get through a day, they choose to stay in the relative comfort and safety of their home or a room in their home. This isolation skews their thinking; they become anxious beyond their safety zone, perhaps more irritable and easily frustrated. Whereas they used to be happy and good to be around, they are now a constant source of worry for others and an ever-present and growing concern.

How they see themselves has changed dramatically. Once productive and self-reliant, they had dignity and a healthy view of their ability to provide. Now they feel dependent, reliant on family or friends – and when that dependency becomes too hard to live with, they remove themselves and turn to the broader society at large to support them. It’s sad, it’s unfortunate and it’s not uncommon.

Of course they – or you, never used to feel or be this way. Once purposeful and hopeful, things have changed. It’s understandable why so many might self-medicate with alcohol, prescription or illegal drugs. With the ever-present thoughts of failure, disappointment and regret, anything that takes that thinking away, even for a short time is appealing.

Suddenly, just telling someone to get a job and expecting them to respond accordingly doesn’t sound at all realistic. Getting a job is transferring our own value of employment onto this other person who doesn’t share our value system as they might once have done. Yes, they genuinely want work perhaps, but they haven’t the energy, focus, willpower and motivation to make any real progress on their own. None, until that is, they find that one thing that they want more than they want the way things are. And no, you can’t find it for them.

Conversations are good; talk that draws someone out once the trust is established that allows them to go deeper and unload the ‘big’ stuff. Some are never going to work again, some may and others will. All three types will need support however, and the nature of the support they receive will vary depending on the individual.

Sure it’s challenging for family, friends and those who work with this population. Do what you can; know your limitations.

Why You Might Not Get The Best


“My answer to your question starts with, I want to help others.”

The question asked is some version of, “What do you want to do?” Every person who has ever entered the fields of Health, Social Services and Emergency Medical Services just to name a few, has at some point been asked this question and replied with the above. Most of us asked ourselves that question long before anyone else directed at us. We are helpers.

There’s so much reward in what we do and if we’re smart, we never lose sight of the special place we’ve landed in our society. We are the fortunate ones, although many outside of our professions don’t entirely understand why we do it. Many of our friends, many of the people on the receiving end of our help don’t get it either. We often hear, “I’m glad you like what you do. I know I couldn’t do it.” That’s okay; you be the best you can be at what you do, we’ll do the same.

And you know for the most part we do; try our best that is. We hope every day that our best is consistently excellent. We admit though, sometimes the best you get from us isn’t the best you’d have received the day before, two days from now or even an hour ago. In that moment that brings us together, we’re still giving you the best we can muster.

That might not at first glance make a whole lot of sense, so let me explain. Our jobs you see bring us up close and personal with people in some pretty traumatic circumstances. We may have started our shift physically and mentally ready to go but prior to your contacting us, we just finished up with someone you know nothing about. That interaction has affected us in some profound way. Right now, we look our normal best on the outside, but in our heads and our hearts, we’re grieving at the worst and still processing at the best. It’s a double-edged sword this job of ours; we often meet people at the worst periods in their lives, and we do so joyfully – but it’s the humanity in us, the caring in us, that strong desire to help our fellow beings that sometimes has us distracted when serving you, because you were next.

So what it looks like while we still try to do our best might be a lack of focus. You know, repeating a question we just asked. Or we might seem on autopilot, just going through the motions and not all that helpful. That personal service we pride ourselves on just isn’t there at this moment and as one of those we serve, you’re smart enough to recognize you’re getting inferior service.

Now we know you don’t really care about the last person before you – not in the sense that you have zero empathy for them, but in the sense of it’s you before us here and now and you want 100% of our attention. Right now it’s all about you and you’re right, it should be. Like I say however, we’re human. The very best of us has a day here and there where something or rather someone has had an impact on us in such a profound way that we’re struggling to keep that concealed as best we can while we help you. How do we do that? Right…autopilot. At first we think we can pull it off and you’ll never know what’s going on in our head; we’re disconnected at the moment here in the present while our head is still in the past.

The thing is, we’ve been doing this job a long time. You’d think by now we’d be immune to anything that would set us back. We’ve cut our teeth on some bad situations that as a rookie we hadn’t dealt with before. We got stronger for those experiences and by now, you’d think having seen it all, we’re capable of putting that aside and just giving you the very best you’d get any day. You might even demand it, saying, “I’ve got my rights you know. Just do your job; that’s what you get paid to do right?”

The thing is though, we’re sometimes still caught in the moment; profoundly affected by a sorrowful story, a tragic event, a death or suicide, a victim’s retelling of their personal horror. It’s strangely good though. It is precisely because we are so touched at our core by these moments that we are reminded that even after all these years, we’re still in the right place and the right people to be here. The depth of the event and the magnitude to how we are touched mirrors the length of time it’s going to take us to get back.

And here’s the thing…we’re never going to be exactly who we were before. Nope, never. Why? Because this one event; just one of many, has added to who we are moving forward. We are the sum of all our experiences. In changing, we’re actually going to be better if you can believe it. Having shared your story or some tragedy in our personal lives, we now carry these as we evolve and grow. These allow us to channel our empathy – even though you may unknowingly trigger hurtful memories in us – your collective interactions make us better.

We do our best and we sincerely hope on your day – this day – it’s good enough.

Not Sure You Have A Criminal Record?


Maybe you do and maybe you don’t. It’s the, ‘not knowing one way or the other’, that’s undermining your confidence when your sitting in some job interview and you’re asked about whether your bondable or not. It’s at this moment; this precise moment that you can feel the job opportunity slipping away.

Yep, it was your momentary pause, that look you instinctively had come over your face that indicated you hid something. That indecisive moment when you weighed telling the truth and risking the job versus lying outright and hoping it would die right there and never be an issue moving forward. You remember that moment clearly. Why? Because that moment gets repeated each and every time you’re in an interview. It’s like a cloud hanging over your head, always present and always threatening to pour down on you at any moment and when it does, all your hopes and aspirations are washed away.

Too many times you’ve heard them say, “Gee, that’s unfortunate. I’d love to hire you but I’m prevented from doing so because of our policies. When you clear things up, get back to me.” Real nice of them to let you down easy; nice to know you performed well enough in the process to get to the final stage too, but in the end, the same result.

Hang on a moment. You say you aren’t actually sure whether you have a criminal record or not? So my question is why aren’t you taking steps – no wait, let me amend that question…why haven’t you taken steps to find out? Maybe it’s because you haven’t got the $25 – $40 to pay for your criminal record check and find out? Somehow I doubt that amount of money is at the core of why you haven’t had this done yet.

No, I suspect the real reason behind your lack of action is that not knowing for sure looks somewhat better to you than finding out that yes you do in fact have a criminal record. Even just walking into the police station to get the process completed may be so intimidating, you can’t get yourself in there to get it done.

So what was it? Something you did as a juvenile 15 years ago? Some mischief charge? A minor offence perhaps and one your not even convinced you were found guilty of because it was so long ago? Was it a warning or wasn’t it? Here’s the thing my friend. If you’re experiencing lost opportunities, stress, anxiety, shame, frustration – any of these, you’re still paying the price for whatever you did so long ago. $25 or $45 seems pretty insignificant in comparison to the price you’ve paid – and continue to pay.

Let’s look at the best case scenario first. You get up the determination to find out one way or the other and you walk into the police station and tell them you want a criminal record check. Getting same day service, you leave with a piece of paper stating nothing came up. Not only is that piece of paper clean, so is your conscious. No record. Suddenly the past anxiety on how to answer any questions about your past is gone. One job search barrier removed.

Okay now to the news that yes, something came up. First of all, what came up? Sure any conviction in the past isn’t good news but come on, there are some offences which are much more serious than others. If you wrapped toilet paper around someone’s house and in a drunken state peed all over their prize petunias in your teens, you might have that mischief charge to deal with now as a 35 year old. Seems to me that’s a lot different and less of an issue than assault with a dangerous weapon and uttering a death threat or stealing someone’s car and getting a driving under the influence to go along with it.

Hey at least you know now. So when that question comes up, you can opt to tell the truth and hope that the past 17 years as an adult with no further interaction with the justice system works in your favour. And while it’s more costly, get going on making some regular payments into obtaining your pardon. Might not be cheap, but it sure is a lot less than the salary you’re NOT getting every couple of weeks because your still unemployed due to that charge.

While the amount to get a pardon might seem high – say $1000.00 just to use a number, look at it this way. In 3 years, you’ll either be 3 years older with a criminal record or 3 years older without one. Which do you choose? Right. Move to the front of the class. And it might not take 3 years anyhow.

Steps to take:

  1.  Get a criminal record check done. Do it today or tomorrow. Find out.
  2.  No record? Great.
  3.  Record? Get the facts on your pardon process.
  4.  Start making financial contributions to your pardon. Make this a priority.
  5.  Got a record? Get professional help with an interview answer.

By the way, your answer to the, ‘are you bondable?’ question is yes. You’re insurable, (what bondable means), so don’t volunteer your conviction – that wasn’t the question asked. Interviewers hope you don’t know the difference between conviction and bondable and therefore voluntarily offer up your record.

While you might have messed up in your youth, don’t mess up as an adult. Get working on that pardon.

Dark Days Having An Impact?


Everywhere on our planet, albeit at different times of the year depending on where you live, the elongated orbit we take around the sun brings us increased darkness as the sun takes a little longer to rise and sets earlier at the end of the day. Where I am in Canada, here I sit at 5:50 a.m. and outside is completely dark.

Now were this a couple of month’s ago, there’d be light outside. Our summer is waning and Autumn is moving in. While it’s many people’s favourite time of year, for others, this prevailing darkness which shortens our hours of daylight is of great concern. The darkness outside touches a darkness within; moods change, some cocoon themselves away, contact with others is restricted, it’s harder to get going in the morning and there can be a prevailing sense of anxiety, worry, stress and depression.

Some of us adapt to this change in light better than others. If your job is to record the attendance figures for your organization, you may note patterns of absenteeism, increased use of mental health days, and even when people are at work, there can be a drop in productivity for some individuals. This isn’t just a case of lazy workers, but may be attributed to this period of reduced natural light.

For many people, there will soon be days of commuting to work in the darkness and again commuting home in the dark. Not everyone has the benefit of sitting with a window out into the world around them, and so it’s possible that without making a conscious effort to get out for a walk at midday, one could travel to work in the dark, never see the light of day and then return home in the dark. Now if this goes on from Monday to Friday, that’s a huge block of time being deprived of daylight.

There’s a name for this condition which negatively impacts some people; seasonal affective disorder. (Isn’t there a name these days for everything?) It’s important to remember that such a condition is not someone voluntarily choosing to be so affected. This isn’t a conscious choice to be moody; it’s not something one can, ‘snap out of’. It’s a state of mental health.

Just like many other mental health conditions, it’s invisible to the eye though. I mean there’s no walking cast or arm in a sling that gives us a visual clue to someone’s condition. Those affected may actually do their best to compensate for their mood by forcing smiles, laughing along at things they don’t really find funny; in other words, doing their best to appear to be their normal self. They aren’t sick in the sense of having a virus nor is there a need to be walking around with a box of tissues at hand.

Now you and I who aren’t affected to the extent these people are might still find ourselves missing the sun. We all have an awareness of the lack of light in the morning and evening – all of us. However, those impacted to the point where it affects their mental health experience this lack of light differently. They may not know what the problem is defined as, they may just feel they aren’t themselves. Without knowing it’s the deprivation of natural sunlight, they may just brood more than normal wondering, “what’s wrong with me?”

Now take this condition and add to it unemployment. For many unemployed people, waking up and consciously realizing there’s no job to go to is in itself a depressing state. Looking for work as you know takes focus, energy, commitment, a strength to face the disappointments of outright rejection, being passed over for someone else or getting no feedback at all on jobs applied to. When you add in the negative impact of what we know to be Seasonal Affective Disorder, well, you’ve got someone who should be ramping up their job search but who is weighed down and not at their best. Worst of all, on the outside, they appear to be normal.

So, what can be done? Well, like many first steps, getting in touch with your physician is a good idea. A check up might be in order. Yes, and be honest when you see him or her. Even if you’ve got a 1 p.m. appointment on a sunny day and your mood has improved, it’s incumbent on you to share openly and honestly about how you experience your days. Many tend to downplay their mental health; wanting to appear ‘normal’, to come across as in good shape and in control; able to handle themselves. But if you conceal what you experience, you won’t get the help you need. Like the toothache that somehow disappears the day of the dental appointment, you’ll regret not being open and honest with your doctor who can’t treat what they don’t know.

Secondly, get out in the daylight. Go for a walk and clear your head. Make a point of looking out a window during the day if possible. Consider some vitamin tablets to compensate with what you miss from the sun.

Most of all, do your best to engage when your instincts tell you to withdraw and isolate yourself. Your thoughts will go to darker places if you’re alone. And finally, open up and share how you’re doing; this is a strength my friend.

We’re all in this together.

Working and Living With Grief


Just a heads up that this blog deals with experiencing the personal loss of having a loved one pass and finding your way as you reconcile choosing to / needing to work.

The next time you find yourself in a bookstore, if you take the time to look for it, you’ll find a section dedicated to the subject of dealing with grief and personal loss. The same is true if you search for the subject online; lot’s of resource material. In your community, you’ll also likely discover there are support groups made up largely, if not exclusively, by people who have lost a loved one. While all these resources are in place and meant to be of great support, they are typically only accessed by people after a loss.

How this article ties in with my regular subject matter of finding and keeping employment is the connection between having lost someone important in your life and finding a way to return to work and contributing in the way you formerly did.

When someone close to you dies, it is often a shocking event. Whether somewhat expected in the case of a terminal illness, or entirely unexpected in the case of an accident, you’re entitled to feel exactly what you feel and nothing less. So you may feel in a state of denial, unsure that what you’ve learned is in fact true. You might feel anger, guilt, intense sorrow, an inability to function, paralyzed and frozen. We aren’t typically prepared for the moment it happens, and neither have we had the training to deal with this event. It can be devastating.

When this happens, showing up for work as usual is the last thing on our minds. Our employer’s have a right to be notified however, as business continues on. It may be that your employer has experience having had other employee’s experience loss. They’ll be prepared as a result to inform you of the length of the bereavement leave and perhaps they’ll have counselling resources to offer you or assist in some way with the funds to see someone on your own. I hope they express their condolences, tell you take the time you need and also share the news with you colleagues so that when you do return, you benefit from their empathy.

It’s an awkward thing of course for many; not knowing what to say to you when they see you except their sorry for your loss. And you yourself may or may not actually want to hear much from your co-workers when you do return. You might want an acknowledgement from them but then some privacy. On the other hand, talking through things with the people you work closest to 7 or 8 hours a day for years might be very comforting to you. There’s no single way to cope and carry on.

How much time you take before returning to work is an individual thing. If you check with your employer, you may find it’s anything from a few days to a week; possibly two. If you need more time, you might be eligible for a leave of absence. While you might not care at this time too much about your employer’s needs vs. your own, your employer does have a need for you or someone to replace you temporarily until you feel prepared to return.

And here’s the thing about returning to work; it’s normal and only natural to return and perform at a lower rate of performance than you formerly worked at. You’re likely to be distracted and unable to focus 100% on your job all day long because of the intensity and close personal nature of this event. Your relationship with the person who passed and the circumstances surrounding their passing are key factors in determining exactly how intense your feelings range and how you’re affected back on the job.

Give yourself the benefit of time. Forgive yourself (though you really don’t need forgiving) if you don’t perform up to your own standards and high expectations. You’ve been through a personal tragedy and you may have no previous experience to deal with this particular loss. You’re just trying to get through the days, one day at a time. You can have a string of a few days where things aren’t too bad and then when you least expect it, you find yourself consumed with grief, intense regret and anger. This isn’t something you sequential work through in a very orderly way. These stages of grief you’ll hear about can have loops in the journey that take you back to what you thought you’ve already dealt with. There’s no one way we all get through it.

Recognize you may want normality and to return to work asap. You may also be more sensitive, less able to make good decisions, less than at your best and mentally fragile. That’s okay.

And a word to you who work with someone returning to work after a loss. Whether young or old, from this part of the world or from somewhere around the world, we all experience losses in our lives at some point. One benefit of this is that we can empathize when others lose someone. Still, we don’t know exactly how someone else feels, nor do we need to. What is helpful is just to be there in a supportive way when a co-worker returns to work.

Thanks for the read.