Respect And Applying For Welfare

If you’ve never had to apply for social assistance you probably can’t fully appreciate how demeaning it can be to many who have no other option.

In Ontario Canada, the first part of the process once you reach the decision to actually apply starts with a phone call. Now phone calls aren’t so bad for most people actually; you’re speaking with someone who can’t see you after all. During this call you give a lot of personal information over the phone and at its conclusion, you‘re given a date and time for the in-person interview.

The shame and embarrassment if it’s going to be felt at all, starts for many the moment they push open those doors and enter the reception area at a local Ontario Works office. Notice the name, “Ontario Works” is proactive and sounds more appealing than the word, “Welfare”. That’s not an accident, but despite the name, many recipients themselves refer to it by the term welfare. It is what it is by any other name I suppose.

When your time waiting is done and your name is called, you and the person conducting the interview move from reception area to interview room. I have to tell you that most Intake Verification workers are real pros; they understand what sitting there being asked normally intrusive questions is like, but ask they must. To every question asked, an answer has to be forthcoming, and while most questions are matter-of-fact, when you’re on the receiving end, many of these questions probe areas one normally doesn’t share – especially with someone they don’t know. There’s no passing on an answer, and if the answer you give is a poor one, you may be subsequently asked again for a clearer or deeper answer.

With questions probing into your financial commitments and debts, bank account numbers and balances, personal identification numbers, details on absent partners in the case of applying with children and all your assets, you can find you’re handing over more than just the facts and numbers. You may feel that with your birth certificate and health card, you’re also handing over your pride, self-esteem and self-worth. It’s not a dignified process; especially if the only personal information you’ve ever handed to anyone is your doctor or a credit card to a cashier.

One of the most difficult things you can hang on to at this point is your respect. Now my feelings are that if and when you get to the point you are applying for social assistance, you should do your best to view this process as a sign of wisdom. That may sound odd. My belief is that you have finally reached a point where accepting some financial support is smarter than not doing so and ending up homeless, in a shelter or on the streets. There you may out of necessity find yourself having to do things you’ve never contemplated just to survive – so let’s not go there.

You know, in addition to applying for and receiving money (which comes from the community tax base), one of the biggest benefits is the help that’s available to move forward with respect to training and skill development. In fact, those that are on Ontario Works for perhaps the first time often are amazed at the range of help that is available that they didn’t previously know about.

Where I work, there’s workshops on acquiring life skills (nutrition, setting goals, dealing with anger), computer basics, resume and interview preparation, how to deal with stress and frustration, building self-esteem and confidence, finding career direction, workplace health and safety training and more.

Of course there are essentially two kinds of people on assistance; those that want to take advantage of the free supports and those who don’t. Whether it’s the chip some carry on their shoulder or the belief they don’t need the help, many don’t take advantage of the help to regain their financial independence. Those that do have the attitude that while unemployed, why not take advantage of all the support they can get – especially as it’s free – in order to compete successfully and get an edge over other job seekers.

Lest you think everyone should be forced to participate in such workshops, I can tell you by experience that forcing someone with a negative attitude to take a course or workshop with the threat of suspending their benefits only makes it harder on the Facilitator of those workshops and the participants who really do want to be there. Those with the poor attitudes could potentially drive off those who could benefit the most from retraining and learning, so that’s not an answer.

Respect is the one thing you can hang onto when you’re on assistance. Respect for the help offered to you, respect for those who have to resort to social assistance that you may have in the past thought were lazy or gouging the system, and of course, try your best not to lose respect for yourself.

It is in trying situations that some people become bitter, resentful and give in to being what they most fear. Others in the same situation choose to respect their decision to get help, to work hard to regain their financial independence and appreciate those who give the help they do.

Self-respect; hang on to it no matter what your circumstances, and ease up on judging those in great need.

Unemployed? You’re Still Entitled To Your Dignity

You may be unemployed at the moment. Or, if you are fortunate enough to be employed, perhaps you can recall a time in your life when you were out of work, between jobs, or the threat of unemployment hung over your life, like a dark cloud on an otherwise sunny day. You know then the feeling you’ve got just now? The anxiety, frustration, anger and possibly persecution?

Maybe just for a second you felt a stir of some memory of your unemployment you’d told yourself you never want to experience again. Just for a moment, thinking back to that period in your life you felt it there deep down; maybe the shame and embarrassment, the low self-esteem, the loss of dignity. And if as I started this off, you are currently unemployed, you may be experiencing this daily and wondering if it ever will get better.

For a large number of people, (I think it’s safe to say the majority of us) our employment status is closely associated with our personal dignity. If we have a good job and we do well in our job, we perceive ourselves as successful and that then is how we interact with others and thus become perceived by others; ie. he or she is successful. We hold our head high, feel good about ourselves.

The reverse is that if we have no job, we may perceive ourselves as failures, different from the norm, not measuring up or pulling our weight financially, and this too can affect how others see us. Hence, we are seen and perceived as unsuccessful, our heads drop, we shun gatherings, isolate ourselves and feel poorly about ourselves and lose our dignity.

Now while this may or may not be the case for everyone, it tends to be the case for a majority of people. But is it possible to distinguish the two things; unemployment and dignity, and see them as two different things that don’t impact on the other? In simple terms, can you be unemployed and out of work but still hang on to your personal dignity and truly convince yourself you are a person of worth? I believe you can.

For starters, a good exercise in rediscovering your dignity is to identify your strengths. What is it that you are good at? I’ve been fortunate to have a look at some of the past performance evaluations some of my clients have retained over the years when I’ve been working with them to find their next job. In those evaluations, while there have been areas in which to improve, there is always some reference to tasks the person performs well. It may be the case that in addition to tasks, other traits are evaluated; overall attitude, working with others, communication skills, attendance and punctuality etc.

These strengths are good to get down on paper. Even in a case where the same person whose name at the bottom of your evaluation is the one who released you from your job, this person was able to identify things you were good at and that they recognized in you.

One of the key things to understand is that your worth as an employee in one company doesn’t necessarily carry over to who you are to others. So even if you got fired as an Outbound Telemarketer with a large telecommunications company, it doesn’t necessarily follow that you are a bad parent, a poor spouse, a disappointment as a son, or a poor influence on friends. It’s too often the case that this does in fact get into the head of the unemployed person; and it’s not a healthy thought process because it can unfairly lead a person to make poor decisions in those other roles, and what you think can be in turn what you become.

So in other words if you fail in a specific job with a company, you might succeed in the same job but with a different company, or you may determine that the job is not for you no matter what company you are with, but it doesn’t follow that you should see yourself as a failure in all jobs. Nor does it follow that you should be a failure in other parts of your life just because you failed in one job with one company.

I’ve known people who are actually very much relieved when they lose their job; jobs they couldn’t bring themselves to quit on their own, but the release they feel on being fired makes it a positive experience. One such person worked in a store selling Adult video’s and kinky sex items. She hated the job as it went against her personal morals but at the time needed the money. She was grateful after being fired as her heart wasn’t in the job and she underperformed. Her dignity rose as she walked out the door.

May I suggest that you acknowledge your work is only one part of who you are. Taking stock in all parts of your life, from the personal hobbies, your role in your family, with friends, in your community etc. are all small parts of who you are as a whole. It is unhealthy to allow your employment or rather lack of employment and the dignity you feel in this one area, to dominate the other parts of the person you are.

There are a lot of good people out there who just lack employment. Maybe your one of them?

R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Find Out What It Means

Okay so how many of you read the title of the blog and how many of you sang the title of the blog in Aretha Franklin style? If you did sing it, I bet you added the words, “to me” at the end of it. Notice however that I stopped short of adding those two words. Why? Well because it’s not important you find out what respect means to me, but rather you find out what it means for yourself.

Is respect something that is automatically given or is it something earned? Is it initially given until lost? You may find that your answer to these questions puts you in agreement or conflict when you interact with other people who either hold your view or take a differing perspective.

Respect is an acknowledgement of what is rather than what could be, and an acceptance of that. So you may well disagree with someone else’s point of view, but you can still respect the person. You can appreciate for example how they conduct themselves, how they argue their point with passion and conviction, but ultimately you don’t have to agree with them in order to respect them. One of the most common examples of this in action would be hearing politicians debate issues in parliament. Well, sometimes there’s not a lot of respect shown for each other come to think of it!

Respect is also something you can have for other people, rules, things, property and most importantly yourself. As for property, you may for example be taking a walk around the neighbourhood and notice that the sidewalk goes along the front of a home then makes a 90 degree turn and runs down the other side of the home. Do you follow the sidewalk or cut across the lawn of the homeowner because it’s the shortest route? If you do, you’re not respecting the property of the people who live there as you wear down a path which may cause them to erect a fence to discourage people from following your lead.

In a game, there are rules established so all the players know in advance the conditions they will play under. Break those rules, and you may be penalized in some fashion. This is true too if you have a dress code at work and don’t follow it. You might find yourself being told to leave and return when your clothing adheres to the rules.

But of all the things you can respect in your lifetime, the single most thing you should have respect for is yourself. And so it is unfortunate when someone presents with such low self-esteem that they have no self-respect. I’ve run across people like this; people who don’t see themselves as people of value. And without seeing themselves as a person of value, they consciously allow themselves to be used by others in ways that only reinforces in their own mind that they aren’t worth much.

Such lack of respect for themselves can be very self-destructive, and what’s equally worse is their own aspirations and confidence are low. When they engage in activities where success isn’t guaranteed, they assume from the start that they will fail; fail because it is after all – them. And they feel they don’t deserve to succeed. What a very sad sense of self-perception and lack of self-respect.

Am I describing you or someone you know or work with? If I am, you know how difficult it is to bring about change and learn to respect yourself. It isn’t as easy as just waking up one day and saying to yourself, “I guess I’ll respect myself today.” If this has been ingrained in the person over years, it takes some time to learn how to respect oneself, and to believe that you are really worthy.

So how to start? Start small. Little things for some are huge for others. Think about personal grooming you do daily. When you wake up do you shower or clean yourself? Brushing your teeth and hair, washing your face, putting on clean clothes; these are things that show you have respect for your appearance, even when you aren’t going out and don’t anticipate seeing anyone or having anyone see you. This isn’t about being pretty or handsome, good-looking etc., this is about personal hygiene and in the case of your teeth, it also preserves your oral health.

In the workplace, you often have to have respect for people in other roles, such as your boss. By acknowledging their role as your supervisor, you demonstrate respect for them when you hand in reports requested and in the timeframe given you, or by taking their direction and carrying out assigned tasks. If you are chronically late, take extended breaks, leave early without permission and spend your time doing personal things on the computer, you don’t demonstrate respect for company property and for the job you have. Eventually, this lack of respect could cost you your job.

You are a person of worth and a person to be valued. Whether you have to earn respect from others or find they respect you right from the beginning, I hope more than anything you come to respect yourself. And respect yourself not for what you accomplish necessarily, but just for being you. Yep, R.E.S.P.E.C.T. find out what it means…

Taking Back Your Self-Esteem

Be it at a job interview, standing talking to friends, speaking with a Recruiter on the phone or chatting with an Employment Counsellor, do you give away your self-esteem or do claim your dignity through your actions and your words?

Imagine two individuals sitting side-by-side in a reception area prior to a job interview. One is sitting slightly forward, smiling, alert and feet firmly planted, back straight. The second you see is sitting slouched back, right ankle resting on left knee, head tilted back and looking up at the ceiling. If you were asked, which would you say has the better self-esteem at the moment or would you need more information? I’ve put these two images up in front of groups of job seekers in the past and asked this question. Most indicate that the first person has higher self-esteem.

Nothing in the prior paragraph describes clothing, intelligence, personal circumstances, financial stability, intelligence or addictions etc. Just some non-verbal communication is going on between the two and others who view them. So why do most people overwhelmingly think the first person has higher self-esteem? Because confident people who think positively about themselves act this way and generally speaking, those who slouch and generally look much more casual do not. Fair? Maybe.

When you are talking on a phone to someone, such as a Recruiter or an employer about a potential job, can they see whether you are in your pyjama’s, a business suit, or stark naked? Not in 2013 unless of course you’re using some technology other than the basic telephone. (Sorry for that image you’re imagining everyone). However, if you don’t already know, dressing yourself professionally, talking with a smile, and having all your job search tools at hand before you make a call, will absolutely change how you come across on the phone. Why? Because how you dress and act are part of the overall message you communicate; trying to sound professional and business-like while you are aware you are in your p.j.’s will be give yourself a conflicting message about how you are trying to brand yourself. And this conflict is relayed unintentionally to others even when they don’t have the visual confirmation.

If you’ve had a rough period where you’re dealing with several sources of unhappiness and frustration that have left you stressed to the max, do you believe you have the power to turn things around, or does your future depend on the actions of others, such as employers and whether they might hire you? Did you know that while there is a relationship between self-esteem and employment vs. unemployment, the two are not necessarily linked; it’s up to you and how you view the two. When you say, “I’ve got a lot riding on whether I get this job or not”, I sure hope you don’t mean that you are leaving your SELF-esteem up to judgement of a total stranger. However, some people do exactly this.

So if for example, you are rejected from a job you really wanted and thought you would excel in, it’s a good thing to remember that the employer probably doesn’t know enough about you personally to reject you the person, to them it’s more about choosing someone else to fulfill their need. Sure as a consequence of choosing others, you by default have been passed over. You and many others – it wasn’t meant to be a personal rejection of you the person. What they’ve just done is add someone to their organization who fits their needs at this time, and what they were looking for was packaged and presented differently. So when they say, “Don’t take it personally”, they actually mean it. They don’t know you well enough to make it personal.

Maintain your self-respect and your self-esteem by continuing to do all the little things that keep you attractive in the eyes of an employer. So volunteer your time, take some training, network, dress and act professionally whenever you are out or talking with people. Rather than hibernating in your den of sorrow, get out and stay connected. Update your resume and target it to specific jobs, write cover letters that are dynamic, interest employers and address their specific needs. Listen to the news daily and stay up on current events in your area and around the world so you can actually participate in discussions even on a limited basis so you fit in better.

Believe you are a person of worth with qualities, attributes, values and skills that employers need. Move with dignity and purpose and start getting assertive rather than passive with your job search. I’m talking to you personally here…yes you…. Oh and lest you think I could do with a little less preaching, I could do to read this post as well as the next person from time-to-time.

Now go get’em!