Dear Mom: How I’m Feeling (Please Read)


Hi mom. How are you?

Me, I’m not so good. I want to talk with you about how I’ve felt for a long time now, but I keep putting off saying what’s really on my mind. Mostly because I don’t want to hurt your feelings, and I know I’d probably shut down again if I tried and keep how I’m really feeling bottled up – once again – so this is why you’re reading it instead of having me tell you myself.

When I was younger, you used to tell me I could do anything; I could be anybody I wanted to be. I don’t know exactly when you switched or why, but now you tell me just to do anything, just be anybody, and while the words are the same, the meaning has changed. Pretty soon I wonder if you’ll tell me I’ll never amount to anything; I’ll never be anybody. And what you really mean with those words is I’ll never be anyone of value in your eyes.

Living up to your expectations is hard. I know you only had the best in mind for me, and I really hope you still do. The pressure I’m feeling though and the stress that comes with it to make my next few moves and not mess up is actually having the opposite effect. See I’m starting to feel paralyzed; unable to move forward and actually do anything because I’m afraid of making what in your opinion is just another bad choice or mistake.

Don’t be mad. Oh please don’t be mad, just hear me out. This isn’t easy mom. You know one of the greatest things a parent can do is teach their kids to make decisions on their own. It must be hard when you think you know better; when you wouldn’t make the choices I’ve made. Saying, “I warned you”, or, “I told you this would happen didn’t I?” might seem the helpful thing to do or say, but all it’s really doing is adding pressure and shutting me down. That’s not what you want and it’s not healthy for me either.

Sure I regret some of the choices I’ve made. Those choices were mine though mom, and the regret is mine too. But here’s the thing; I made the choices, I have the regrets and I am the one who hopefully learns the lessons from the choices. What I’ve learned is to put more thought into the big choices. The small choices with small consequences don’t matter near as much as the big ones, and with the bigger decisions I know I need to think them through more, do some research about what job to get, what schooling I need to train for it etc.

You want the best for me, but comparing me to other people isn’t helping – and honestly, it’s not fair. I’m my own person just as they are. We’re different mom. It’s not about, “just getting a job”, but more about getting THE job that’s right for me, one that’s going to bring me some happiness, one that I’ll do well in and feel good about doing. I’ve got responsibilities I know and believe me I want to stand up on my own, pay my own bills, be my own woman and not just survive but rather thrive. I don’t need you to remind me of my responsibilities; sorry mom but you remind me of that way too often; sometimes with words, sometimes with that look.

Okay so that’s how I’m feeling. But now I have to move on and tell you more than that. Now I want to tell you what you can do that I’d appreciate; what I’d really find helpful. Are you willing to listen to this and think about it. Please say you’ll think about what I’m saying here; maybe even for a few days before we talk?

First of all mom, please stop asking me what I’m going to do with my life. I don’t know what the next 30 years is going to look like; I don’t even know what the next 5 years is going to look like. Does anybody? Really? I’m looking ahead believe me, but I’m concentrating on the next year or two at best. My self-esteem is shaky; sometimes it’s okay but there’s more times it’s not. I doubt myself more than I’d like to admit, but I do. Still, I have to figure things out. If I can make a few good decisions; decisions that turn out well, I can build on that and make more of them, and it would be nice to have your support and recognition when I do.

Give me a little space mom. If I’m ever going to ‘make it’ on my own, I need permission to fail without those, “I told you so” looks. You were the one who said, “If at first you don’t succeed try, try again.” See I was listening and I do remember. If I don’t succeed the first or second time, it doesn’t mean I never will, I just haven’t yet.

I’m smart mom; smart in some things and not so smart in others. This makes me normal. And mom, I value you and what you’ve done for me – what you keep doing for me – really I do. That’s why you’re reading this mom. You matter to me and I want you to be proud of me.

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The “Must Haves” To Work In Retail


Like any other field of work, there are people who are cut out for the work involved in Retail Sales, and there are those who THINK they can do the job. In fact, I’m always intrigued with the number of people who assume getting a job in Retail will be easy until they find the job they really want.

First off, you have to be comfortable initiating contact with potential customers. As people walk by your store or make that first few steps inside, it’s critically important you visually acknowledge their presence and move to welcome them. This doesn’t mean you jump on them – for most of us don’t appreciate Salespeople who aggressively move to pounce.

Yes, welcoming customers to your store, asking if you can help them in locating any particular item or advising them of specials etc. would seem to be a basic must-have in the field. Yet think of your own trips to the mall and you’ll probably recall walking into certain stores where the staff huddle together in the rear of the store and only seem interested if you approach them items in hand ready to pay.  Maybe you’ve even entered and store, walked around unapproached entirely or acknowledged, and then walked out in 5 minutes with no contact whatsoever.

If you’re an introvert, you can still work successfully in Retail; just view each interaction as a short interaction where you’ll be fortunate in that the conversations will be relatively similar, focused on goods and products, prices and sales. When one conversation ends, you repeat this with others. No long, drawn out conversations where you have to work hard to keep the words flowing and stress about what to say.

Now some basic math skills are a need too. Oh sure the electronic cash registers will compute the correct change to give people, but you will need your math skills just the same. Customers might ask questions of you when you’re 40 feet from the register such as, “How much would this be with tax?” “So these are buy 3 and get one free? If I use my loyalty card and get 15% off how much would I save?” Well, maybe you could walk around with your slim Ipod or cell phone and call up your calculator, but you might not have pockets in your outfit. Oh and what would happen if Interac is out, all sales are cash only and then the power to the register is zapped, meaning you have to figure everything out in your head and make change?

That smile; it’s something that comes so naturally to some and drives others crazy to whom it doesn’t come easy. Smiling faces are approachable and welcoming. Unfortunately, there are some who have a rather serious resting face; the look might be overly serious or even brooding when in fact they’re quite content – even happy. A smiling employee will attract people to them and these faces can actually produce a smile in return on the face of the customers and potential customers with whom they interact. A rather serious face with furrowed brows could be interpreted as you’ll be harder to deal with, so customers may approach you initially anticipating a fight or a challenging interaction.

Now the Labourers will chuckle at this one, but the job is physically demanding. Just beneath that tile you’re standing on in the store is a pad of hard concrete – an oxymoron if there ever was one; ever stood on soft concrete? As you’ll be standing on it hour upon hour, day after day, you’ll need a really good pair of shoes and the stamina to survive your 7 or 8 hour shift. There’s reaching high and bending low, carrying goods from the backroom and hanging them on the sales floor. There’s bending again to tie shoes, dust the lower and upper shelves etc. Oh its physical, make no mistake.

Notice the dusting I threw in the last paragraph? When it’s quiet and there’s an opportunity, find things to do and show initiative. Whether it’s dusting, checking items for price tags, doing your inventory paperwork, tidying up a changing room, removing empty hangers, re-positioning customer handled merchandise, you’ll be wise to take initiative and look for things to do and then DO THEM! Few things will get you fired faster than standing idle throughout your day, leaning on the counter for physical support and … just … waiting …

The last must-have to work in Retail I want to share with you is that you must know what your products will do to improve the lives of those considering purchasing them. Don’t pass this one over as obvious. Don’t think, “I sell shoes! Shoes make walking nicer! Duh!” If this were all you need to know, anyone – so you’re not very vital – could sell shoes. Which shoes are best for walking? Which ones support high arches better than others? Which shoes can accommodate orthotics? Which running shoes are best for running vs. jogging or a workout at the gym? Nope, not all the same!

No matter your products, if you want to work in Retail AND be successful, it takes skills; just as in any other profession if you want to really stand out and excel. Of course you might just, ‘want a job’ and figure ANYONE can work in a store. Well, go ahead and try it and see how long you last. No wait don’t, you might be the next Salesperson I meet.

Have Anxiety? The Pain Of Job Interviews


If you’re like many people, you probably don’t practice your interview skills when you are employed. It naturally follows then that you can go for years between job interviews. As with most things, the length of time between when you last went through job interviews and the present is likely to affect your confidence in your ability to do well.

So if it’s been some time since you last had a job interview, it’s completely understandable that your skills are rusty. Maybe things have changed a lot since you’re last series of interviews; maybe you got interviewed and hired with the first job you applied to last time around and so you’re even under the mistaken impression that job interviews are a breeze and getting a job is actually quite simple.

For most, job interviews aren’t something to look forward to. Whether you’re out of work entirely or looking to move from one job to another or one company to another, thinking about job interviews alone can be stressful. That feeling of being under a microscope and being examined, interrogated, drilled, pumped for information, testing your computer software skills, having to prove you’ve got the skills and that your personality is the right fit so you don’t rock the atmosphere of the workplace – it can be very intimidating.

Now, consider the plight that those with clinical anxiety feel. It’s like taking all the above and adding this extra level of nervousness, anxiety and pressure. You can’t just say, “Get over it” and expect a person to respond, “Oh okay. You’re right. (Breath)… I feel so much better.” Don’t kid yourself; people with acute anxiety face a real personal challenge with job interviews and it takes a great deal of energy to deal with the lead up to a job interview and keep putting out that energy long enough to survive until it’s over.

Now unless you live with anxiety yourself, this might be hard to truly comprehend. The best way to develop some empathy for others experiencing anxiety and facing the prospect of job interviews is to first imagine something you feel anxiety over yourself. Think of your fear of heights, being a confined space, out in the woods alone on a pitch black night; whatever brings on the nerves for you. Now, further picture yourself having to experience your greatest fear a number of times; doing the thing you want to avoid, not in some effort to overcome your fear, but rather as something you must do – and do alone – to get something that you must have. For people with true anxiety, that’s the interview experience.

And this is what empathy is all about isn’t it? Listening to someone else talk about their fear and then going to a place in your own mind where you can get in touch with that same feeling. While you might not feel the same way about job interviews yourself, you just might be able to feel something close to what their feeling about some other event or situation.

I tell you this; many of the people I support and partner with as they prepare for job interviews have heightened levels of anxiety. In some cases, I can see clearly where the anxiety stems from, but not always. How a person imagines the interview often is different from my perception of the job interview. Take the people who have repeatedly been told they aren’t going to amount to much; the ones who have been put down, seldom if ever complimented and given words of encouragement. The prospect of going head-to-head with a job interviewer – or worse a panel of job interviewers – is daunting. Yes, feeling you have to sell yourself and prove you’re the best person when you’ve been told repeatedly you’re not by those closest to you is almost insurmountable.

The job interview therefore can be a pain; not figuratively but literally. As the body experiences the stress you feel, it attempts to regulate itself and get back to normal; whatever your normal is. A little stress every so often it can handle, increasing levels of stress coming every so often it can also deal with. However, heightened levels of stress on a fairly regular basis it can’t, meaning living this way on a daily basis could have you headed for a breakdown or illness of some kind. It’s like the body says, “If the brain can’t figure out how to deal with what I’m feeling, I’ll just shut down for a bit and heal”; so you get a cold or just have to lie down and rest for 2-3 days doing next to nothing.

This elevated state of anxiety can and does affect how and when you sleep, what you eat and how frequent. It can impact on your ability to keep food down, cause you to feel aches and pains, stress points, get headaches, become irritable, experience mood swings etc. Do you see how the prospect of a job interview on top of these can almost be paralyzing to some people to the point where they say, “I just can’t do it”; and they’re right.

This doesn’t mean of course people with anxiety should get a free pass. They know job interviews are necessary to pick the right candidate. Often, people with interview anxiety are the best ones for the job. It’s just getting past the interview.

Help Wanted


A lot of businesses in days gone by would put a sign in their front window indicating, “Help Wanted – Apply Within”. When you spied one such sign and were interested, you’d walk in, introduce yourself and say you were there about the job. The employer would look you up and down, ask a few questions and send you or your way or hire you; sometimes if you were lucky, on the spot. The sign was then removed from the window, and the people knew to stop dropping in because the job opening was filled.

Those signs did the trick for those companies. They simply said they needed help and help came knocking on their door – literally in this case!

Now, yes, I’ve been out and about and looked at windows where such signs are still displayed, but far less of them are out there than in days past. Most of the time this kind of advertising for help only works in high traffic areas anyhow. Malls, strip malls, heavy pedestrian traffic streets are places where they are most effective. As you well know, an employer is much more likely to post job openings on a job search website and instruct applicants to apply online.

What if people did the same thing when they were out of work and needed help to find and get their next job? I don’t mean holding a sign that says, “I need a job. Please hire me.” This kind of sign is pretty self-serving, the message clear; “I need a job so I’m asking you to hire me so that I get what I need – the money that comes from employment.” I see people with these signs approaching on ramps to major highways, standing on the street. Maybe you’ve seen them too?

First of all let’s not judge these folks harshly. We don’t know the first thing about what circumstances have led them to those on ramps and sidewalks. Judgement aside, what if those signs were written with a different message? Imagine they read, “Help Wanted: Job Search Assistance, End Goal: Employment.”

Now the average person walking down the street can come from one of a hundred different walks of life. While each person may not have the ability to offer job search ideas and support to a person, the one thing we’d all have in common and be in a place to give is some cash. This is why panhandling achieves its goal of rustling up some much-needed and immediate short-term cash. But job search support? That’s likely going to take the right person walking down the street and that person has to be counted on to both see the sign and then have the time and interest to stop and ask how they can be of help. Probably less likely to succeed but who knows.

But there is a fundamental difference in the two signs, “I need a job” and “Help Wanted: Job Search Assistance, End Goal: Employment.” The first is all about the person holding the sign; what they want and need. The second is not so much about a job being given them, but rather they are asking for help in learning how to get a job for themselves.

I’ll be honest with you though and tell you not everyone is interested or motivated in putting in the time, mental energy or work involved in learning how to do things for themselves. I mean that. There are people who’d rather have someone give them a job and be done with it; perhaps they’ve relied on people to give them jobs in the past and this is all they know. It’s too much work to learn how to go about job searching in 2018. They’ve no interest in cover letters, resume writing, interview skills, career exploration and skill identification; just give me a job thank you or move on.

Stephen Landry in Ottawa; a LinkedIn connection of mine just yesterday said something to me in a communication that got me thinking. He said, “Sometimes it’s hard for people to know how to ask for help when it’s all they know or have experienced.” He’s a wise one is Stephen. You see it’s not that people are obstinate or inflexible, they just may not know how to ask for the help they need. Good point Stephen.

I generally don’t recommend holding a sign asking for help out in public. Might be worth a go and get results but the odds are low I imagine. Rather, to increase your odds at getting the job search support you really want, a good place to start is with a social service organization in your community. Look them up online or walk in when you’re out and about. Even if you walk into the wrong place, all the social service organizations are well-connected. You’ll be listened to, (and isn’t that nice?) just enough to decide who best would serve your needs. You’ll likely get an address, a phone number and maybe some pamphlet on the services they offer.

I hesitate to give specific names of help organizations because this blog makes its way around the world. So this is where you my reader comes in. Please comment and suggest a few employment support organizations in your part of the world. If you add a place or two and others do likewise, any job seeker reading this blog will benefit.

Why Aren’t You Working?


There are many reasons why people aren’t working; what’s yours? Some possibilities are:

  • Not looking for work
  • Physical or mental health restrictions
  • Poor interview skills
  • Weak resume
  • Unsure what to do
  • Attending school full-time
  • Raising pre-school age children and unable/unwilling to find childcare
  • Required as a primary caregiver for a family member
  • Not motivated

This isn’t an exhaustive list of course, just enough to stimulate some thought, give enough possibilities that some of my audience is captured and yes, perhaps enlighten those that think there’s only one reason anyone would be out of work – laziness.

The first and last reasons on my list – not looking and not motivated one could easily argue are so related they are really the same; ie. not motivated to look for work. For some people, this is absolutely true. Would you agree there are those who aren’t motivated enough to seek out a job? I mean, I know people who fit this category and I suspect you do as well. They have shelter and food provided by someone or some organization, their needs are modest, their motivation to work to earn enough money to support themselves just isn’t enough to get them going.

Perhaps it’s a phrase in that last sentence that is the real issue for many; the idea that money to support themselves is the motivation to work. Money does of course, provide the means to acquire housing and food, as well as the discretionary things in life which for many improves their quality of life. However, working to support oneself when you’re already being supported isn’t much motivation. In other words, if you’re not working but getting housed and fed, you might not be motivated to work 7 hours a day just to get housed and fed – something you already have.

Work therefore, or more importantly, the motivation to choose to work, has to come when there’s more to be gained than just money for basic support. For some it can be an issue of dignity vs. shame or embarrassment. Support yourself with your own source of income and you feel independence, a sense of being in control of what you do, where you live, what you do with your money, who knows your personal business and who doesn’t.

For some people, work provides social interaction. Be it with co-workers or customers, there’s some connection to other people, which stimulates our feelings of inclusiveness; we are part of something and not isolated. Feeling isolated, left behind, left out, missing out – these are common to people who don’t work in some cases. Of course, other unemployed people will tell you they get all the interaction with people they want; many of those they ‘hang with” themselves being unemployed.

Feeling a sense of purpose is one thing employed people often tout as the best part of their jobs. What they do is significant and important to some part of our population, and this feeling of purpose gives identity to the working person. The problem for some who struggle to find a job is in fact deciding on what job to do; in other words, they are focused so much on finding their purpose, they get paralyzed waiting for it to materialize.

The irony is that when you’re unsure what to do with your life, often the best way to discover it is to start working! It is through work that you learn where your skills are, which skills you wish to develop and improve on, what you like and don’t. You learn through success and failure what you’re good at, where you make a difference, where you’re appreciated for your service and what you do and don’t want to do in future jobs. The idea that at 20 years old you should have the next 43 years all laid out clearly before you is a myth. You’ll change jobs and careers in your lifetime – perhaps 7 or 8 times or more and this is normal.

For some – and you may not like this truth – it is a question of not trying hard enough. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not painting everyone with the same brush, and I’m not saying some people who are out of work don’t put in huge amounts of energy and time. However, if you’ve gone at your job search seriously with no success for a long time, its high time you partnered up with someone and get the guidance and support you obviously need to increase the odds of success. This is precisely the action many don’t want to take and that’s a puzzlement.

The crux of the thing is it’s essential that you’re honest with yourself when it comes to why you’re not working. What you tell others who ask may not be the real reason; what you know to be at the heart of why you aren’t working is the truth. So what is it?

Good questions might be:

  • Why aren’t I working?
  • Am I genuinely happy not working?
  • What’s stopping me? (Is it really me?)
  • Where could I get help and support to find work?
  • What would make me more employable?
  • Who might help me discover my strengths and interests?
  • How do I get help with childcare, transportation, the issue of my age?
  • Would volunteering somewhere be the best way to start?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this issue; whether it’s you or someone you know out of work.

Debriefing 3 Interviews With 3 Outcomes


At 54 she’s got a lot of experience to offer; both Life and employment. It’s become extremely frustrating however over the last year to keep up the positive self-esteem. Oh for a while the image projecting out can be convincing, but the exhausted life savings, the move from living on her own to moving back in with her daughter, the sting of having to apply for assistance to provide money to live on; it’s just all been too, too much.

She and I have worked together, along with 10 other job seekers, since April 23rd, right from 9:00a.m. sharp each day through to 2:30p.m. We’ve covered resumes, cover letters, thank you notes and rejection letters; we’ve had mock interviews, talked about using the STAR interview format, looked at specific hard to answer questions that might arise – why we’ve even talked about how to predict with great accuracy the questions that will be poised.

Throughout the time together, I’ve asked her and everyone else to be positive; sure go ahead and have your moments of disappointment and acknowledge your frustration, but come back to the positive person you are more often than not, and come back as soon as possible. Yesterday at the close of the day, this was a big challenge for her; it wasn’t as easy to do as it had been earlier.

Now it started well enough this week; I mean after only working together for 5 days, she’d landed 3 interviews spanning Monday and Tuesday of this week. The first one was admittedly for a volunteer administrative role and the last 2 for paid employment, both in dental offices.

When everyone was gone at day’s end, she lingered and told me the outcomes of each, feeling so let down and disappointed, angry and frustrated as she spoke. The volunteer role she’d applied for wanted her in fact; they could make use of her every Tuesday for 8 hours.

The first of the employment interviews lasted all of 10 minutes; interviewed by a very young, bubbly woman who seemed to have clones of herself working around her. While she asked questions related to the job that were relevant, it seemed no matter the answers provided, at 54 the applicant just wasn’t a good fit. That wasn’t said outright I learned, but it was strongly inferred as, what else might, ‘not a good fit’ refer to?

The 3rd interview? Well imagine this situation wasn’t hers but yours. You’ve just had a 10 minute interview and you’re surprised and disappointed. You pull yourself together as best you can and after driving to the next appointment with your best face on, this interview is over after just 3 minutes! The Dentist determined her expected wages started at $22 p/hr and he was only able to start at $18. Game over; job lost. She was in a word, overqualified. He told her that even if she took the $18, he’d expect she’d keep looking and leave him soon and he wanted a long-term employee. She was honest in return and said that yes, she’d take the job if offered but keep looking.

If you read my blogs on a regular basis, you’ll hear me often say that you should get yourself connected with a supportive professional, and this is a good example of why. 3 bad experiences actually have positives to be drawn, and these can often be seen by having 3rd person objectivity.

First of all, the volunteer job is 2018 experience, a possible reference, provides purpose and relevant, current training in the environment she’s seeking. By telling the organization she accepts, but will continue to job search and if/when full-time employment is offered she’ll leave, she’s got a lot to gain while giving of herself and benefitting the organization. Win-win.

The issue of age at the 2nd interview? Not easily overcome I grant, but she needs a strategy to deal with this in an interview, and ironically, Age is the topic for today’s class; be someone too young to be taken seriously or too old to be of value; (not how I see it but how people themselves interpret these issues).

The 3rd job? Turns out there was more. The Dentist was impressed with her background and ability to not just work out front at Reception but also her qualifications to take x-rays and work in the back assisting in procedures; something he finds hard to find on a fill-in basis. So he suggested she think about self-employment; contracting herself out to offices. He had 3 offices in 3 cities and could use her on that basis in all 3.

Word gets around within an industry. Do well, and this Dentist would surely pass on his find to other Dentists; why he even asked her if she’d be willing to have him teach her in one area she knows she needs some brief upgrading. To get to the farthest of the 3 offices he runs, he offered to pay her more too.

After our talk, she left feeling better – much better – yesterday afternoon and in a few hours, we’ll be discussing the issue of age and how to address it; which she’ll find helpful too.

You see there are positives to be drawn from every experience; things to learn, to frame differently and to derive benefits from. Not every interview has to end with the job offer you’d hoped for at the outset in order for it to be a positive outcome. Is she employable? ABSOLUTELY!

 

A Glimpse Into The Social Assistance Experience


If you’ve never needed it, I doubt you’ve thought a great deal about what it would be like to be on the receiving end of the Social Assistance experience. Your knowledge and assumptions are probably based on what you hear in the news when an individuals’ story is profiled, from a candidate around election time or perhaps you’ve got a friend or family member who has shared a little of their own experience.

It has been my great honour and privilege to serve and support those receiving such benefits in two Municipalities; Toronto and Durham in the Greater Toronto Area of Ontario for a total of 21 years and counting. In addition to this experience, my wife has 16 or so years of experience herself working in another municipality. While my experience is extensive, I’ve never been on the receiving end myself, and I hope the choices I’ve made and continue to make into the future don’t land me in such need.

That being said, if the time comes when I’m in need, I know now that I’d be thankful the support system was there to help get me through such times until once more I became financially self-sufficient.

It can be a very demeaning and embarrassing process to apply for welfare. In Ontario Canada it’s referred to now as Ontario Works, but to many in receipt, it is and will always be welfare.  It all starts with a phone call to apply in which someone in need talks to someone in what is akin to a call centre. The conversation while initiated by someone in need is pretty much led by the receiving employee asking preset questions. Full name, address, SIN and Health numbers, rent/mortgage information, family members, assets, banking information, investments, etc.; all of which will need to be verified at an in-person meeting to determine eligibility.

I get that it can strip one of their pride and self-worth. With every document you hand over to some stranger, with every disclosure of your personal circumstances such as whether you’ve been abused or the name of your child’s father or mother and where they might be, you give up a little dignity. While most in this field are very good at getting this information in a caring compassionate way, no amount of empathy can change that stuff you’d normally keep private and confidential must be fully disclosed.

Now the agenda of the person in need is pretty clear. Almost all the time, there’s a stated desperation present or looming; rent and food. Get approved and the rent gets paid and people eat. Get denied and a missed rental payment eviction and hunger, a visit from the child welfare authorities, homelessness, begging and worse, having to steal to survive.

If as my piece began you’ve not had to experience social assistance, maybe you’re completely unaware of the community resources you’ll have to tap into. Where would you find the kitchens, thrift stores, donation centers, etc.? If you needed your ID replaced to get many of these benefits, would you know where to go and remember it’s likely you’d have to walk or take public transportation; taking your child or children with you everywhere if you were a sole support parent without a trusted, reliable childcare provider.

Now meeting with us in Social Services for many is a good experience in the end. However, in those first few meetings, the anxiety and stress of anticipating what that experience will be like is often influenced by past meetings and stereotypes of government workers. Just as you’ve no doubt got frustrated with being put on hold, re-directed, not getting through to the person you need to talk to etc. when calling for help yourself, the experience can be like that for some. What increases the importance of getting through is the immense pressure and stress of failing to get the help asked for.

Look there are a lot of really good, compassionate and empathetic people in the business of providing social assistance recipients with support. While these are good qualities, what’s really needed in addition are people both knowledgeable and able to share that same knowledge of resources needed in any one person’s situation. Whether it’s a benefit we can issue ourselves or a benefit another service provider offers, connecting people with what they need is imperative.

On the receiving end, people want to be heard, respected, treated with dignity and foremost be a person; not a case, not a number and no, not a client. Most aren’t in receipt by choice. On top of their financial needs, many have multiple barriers to employment including gaps in work history, mental health challenges, anxiety, low self-esteem. You’d be surprised though to find highly educated professionals in receipt of help; people with their Masters and Degrees perhaps. Yes, really.

Hopefully, supporting people in need is done in the way we would wish to be treated were it us on the other side of the table or end of the phone. “Do onto others…” And while we may have our hopes and plans for people, it’s critical to listen and figure out where someone is at any given moment. I mean, are they ready to job search? Would job searching just set them up to fail at the moment? Do they need stable housing first, addiction intervention, counselling, or maybe to volunteer to rebuild a shattered confidence?

Just the briefest glimpse into this experience.