Understanding The Gamer

“I don’t get it. Everyday it’s the same; hour after hour playing some silly game on the computer. Just put it down and get outside. Meet people, talk to people, get a job; start living!”

Today I raise for thought and discussion the situation of The Gamer and those living with one who can’t understand the appeal of looking at a screen and playing. What one person sees as an enjoyable way to pass the time, another sees as an unhealthy addiction.

Here in 2019, we’re living a reality that in a few years time we’ll never have again. We’ve got a generation of people who can still remember the pre-television days and the introduction of personal electronics into the home while at the other end of the spectrum we’ve got a generation that grew up with electronics in kindergarten and have been accessing the internet for decades. Both these generations are living in a shared world, and as the pre-baby boomers age and pass, soon everyone will have had a shared experience at some point in the their lives with electronics at an early age.

But this alone doesn’t explain the difference of opinion between those that spend countless hours in fantasy, role-playing and questing games and those that don’t. While there are many who feel Gamers are maladjusted and need to disconnect in order to live more productive lives, I’ll offer up a defence for the person who would appear on the outside to have an unhealthy and addictive obsession with playing; self-esteem.

There’s irony for you. As an observer, you see The Gamer retreating to their room or the basement, isolated and stagnating while the world outside goes on. The Gamer on the other hand enters worlds where they start with little, face and overcome challenges, gain riches, fame and renown. They may interact with an entire online community of fellow Gamers, communicating with keypad, a mouse and voice. They may play solo, forge alliances, plan and enact strategies, fail and suffer penalties, die and start anew, conquer and flourish, grow in stature, plunder and/or help others in their own quests.

Many still don’t get it though. How do you feel about literature? Literary classics perhaps? You know, picking up a good read and sitting back with your favourite drink and immersing yourself for an hour or two. What’s your pleasure? A spine-tingling thriller, whodunnit or a scandalous and unrequited romance? Perhaps you’re a sci-fi junkie or into autobiographies. Whatever your genre, you pick up a book and in immersing yourself, you enter that world; you picture in your mind the characters you meet, and if it’s a real good read, you care about the people in it and how the things they’ll face will affect them.

Your book is their game. Not convinced though? Not the same? Let’s go further. A lot of people in 2019 are dealing with anxiety, stress and depression. Constant messages to get a job, be successful. There’s pressure to eat right, lose weight, be whatever you want to be, use the right deodorant, be financial independent, be in the know and honestly…some just can’t do all this. It’s too much. In a world that has so many expectations for how to live, some are doing their best to cope and in ways that make sense to them.

The Gamer who doesn’t feel connected and valued in our 2019 world is much more at ease engaging in their gaming world. In that environment, they set goals, make progress, overcome challenges, show tenacity and resolve, receive recognition and rewards, help others and are helped themselves. It’s judgement-free. Sure there’s pressure to fight battles, strategize when initial and subsequent plans don’t result in advancement, but they enjoy the mental challenge of figuring out puzzles, going on quests, multi-tasking several objectives and all the while the time goes by.

It’s not wasting their lives as much as coping with the passage of time. I’m not saying one can’t have a job or career if they live the life of a Gamer. Some very productive people in the world love to pass their leisure time playing. All I’m saying is that I understand the appeal of the gaming itself and those that do it.

The conflict if there is some, comes when we want real-life productivity from those we view as wasting away their precious time. This is really projecting our own values onto others, and if we see no or little value in playing a, “silly video game”, then we simultaneously devalue the people themselves playing them. That’s a danger. When we project our values onto others, that’s not fair of course. Our values are not universal, although in heated arguments around a household we may talk as if they were as we attempt to coerce others into adopting our own values, beliefs and thinking.

There’s a place for such leisure activities and I suppose like all things it’s really a question of a balance. Before knocking something you don’t understand, best to attempt to see the appeal for the person. Knitting, reading, gardening, cooking, golfing, board games and computer games; all hobbies that may peak pleasure in those doing them. Fun? Absolutely.

Even when one person’s interests aren’t shared by another, it’s a good thing to at least comprehend the appeal. Coming at things from another vantage point with an open mind is a good place to start.


Job Application Rejection

There was a time in my life when I was fortunate enough to get an interview for every job I applied to. Okay, being entirely honest, I actually got selected and hired for all those jobs I applied to and was interviewed for. Hey, I thought applying for work was pretty straight forward. In retrospect, it’s a good thing that pattern didn’t last very long, because had things continued that way, I’d have made a very poor Employment Counsellor.

Over the course of my working life, I’ve applied to many jobs and not been successful. I’ve applied and heard nothing, received letters telling me the organizations have moved in different directions, been told in person and over the phone that I didn’t get jobs too. In my experience, the more I wanted a job I didn’t eventually get, the more it stung. The loss of an opportunity I was only somewhat motivated to get didn’t hurt near as much. Perhaps you’ve noticed something similar yourself?

Being rejected by an employer does damage to your self-image. It’s called your psyche; your self-perception. It’s not surprising that we should feel badly after being passed over for jobs we really want. Seeing a job ad for a position we could see ourselves doing is one thing, but once we get down to actually applying, we go from casual observer to active applicant. The more we invest in the application by conducting research, targeting our resume, writing a cover letter, having conversations with people – all in an effort to obtain the position, the more it stings when all that effort doesn’t produce the results we’d hoped for.

The solution is not what some would think; to only put in minimal effort when applying in order to minimize your losses. This is the logic I’ve heard some people use over the years. To avoid getting their hopes up and being extremely disappointed, they jus don’t get too excited or invest too much of themselves in any potential job application. Ironically, when these people do get rejected, while you think they’d be less affected than the person who goes all in on applying, they actually feel a similar level of frustration. Not only is this frustration similar in it’s impact, they are often left wondering if they’d have had a different result with some more effort on their part.

Now there’s been times in my life when I’ve been unemployed and had to go through the process of finding jobs to apply to, submitting my application, not getting hired and continuing my search with other opportunities. I have to say, I’ve never lost touch with that feeling of joyful relief that comes when you have an employer select you from the many applicants they’ve had. The degree of relief experienced seems very much related to the length of time away from employment. I have also felt immense gratitude for the jobs I’ve been hired to do after going without one for longer than I’d have liked. It’s the memory of these success following roller coaster periods of hopes and frustrations which now help me immensely in my role as an empathetic Employment Counsellor.

This is the way life goes for many people though isn’t it? The Employment Counsellor is better for having experienced the personal ups and downs of job searching, experiencing the blues personally often helps a songwriter make a connection with their music, etc.

Now, I wouldn’t want anyone to experience a prolonged job search, fraught with it’s financial, psychological and emotional hardships just so they could get a better understanding and appreciation for the process. Besides, there’s no guarantee that just going through a lengthy period of unemployment makes one more appreciative of the job they eventually land in. I’ve seen some extremely bitter people; changed negatively and intensely so because of their unemployment. Let me assure you I’ve no wish to see anyone come close to that experience.

Having this personal appreciation for being unemployed and through the course of my daily work seeing the potentially spirit crushing affect of the job search process on others, I urge you to get support. Believe me, there’s no sign of weakness in reaching out to a Job Coach, Mental Health Counsellor, Employment Specialist or Employment Counsellor. It’s not an exaggeration to say that partnering up with one or more of the above as you navigate your career exploration and job search might just save yourself. Unemployment has destroyed marriages, destroyed families, financially ruined people of their livelihoods, and broken many people’s spirits of optimism. Some have lost jobs and ended their lives too. Job loss is a serious business.

You see being isolated at a time when you’re experiencing the emotional ups and downs of being hopeful and then rejected, time and time again can stretch a person’s patience and is a genuine test of fortitude, character and emotional well-being. This isn’t a time to draw further into yourself as your normally sound judgement may become skewed. In short, you might not make good decisions when your under prolonged stress and desperate.

It doesn’t have to be me, but get yourself some support. This is a running theme of mine because I know first-hand just how important being supported is when you’re job searching. There’s so much at stake; and you my reader; yes you – the one reading this – you’re so worth it!

Must A Short-Term Job Be In Your Career Field?

I had the opportunity yesterday to listen as a 22 year-old woman explained to her fellow classmates what job or career she was after. She cited her long-term objective in Policy Development and went on to say that in the short-term she would do just about anything but it absolutely had to be related to her long-term objective or she’d feel it was a waste of her time.

So how do you feel about that statement? Would you agree that short-term jobs should be related to your own long-term goals in order to be a valuable use of your time?

It’s commendable of course that she’s got a long-term career objective. While it’s not mandatory in order to have a rewarding career, having a vision of what you want and knowing how you’re going to achieve it is one way to successfully move forward. It is, and I say with personal experience, not the only recipe for success.

This I hope comes as good news if you feel anxious about what your future holds. If you should be undecided about what you want to do on a long-term basis, it can feel paralyzing as well in the short-term should you feel you can’t apply for jobs not knowing if they’ll help you or not in the long run.

Allow me to share a little of my own experience in the hopes you might find it comforting. It wasn’t until 13 years ago, back in 2006 that I became an Employment Counsellor. That would put me at 46 years old as I embarked on what has been a rewarding, successful and fulfilling career. Prior to this I’d held a variety of different positions; some of them careers and others I’d call jobs. Whichever they were at the time didn’t really concern me as much as enjoying each I had, finding the pros and cons of each once in them and moving on when the cons outweighed the pros.

I didn’t have a long-term goal to work towards. I didn’t in my early twenties, even know that Employment Counsellors existed, so it was impossible therefore for me to have aspired to be one. Further, I suspect that had I graduated out of University and immediately had the fortune to be hired as an Employment Counsellor, my effectiveness would be very different without my life experiences to draw on.

Looking back in no particular order, I ran my own New and Cooperative Games business for 16 years after a year-long position working for the Province of Ontario; sold shoes and clothes; worked at a bowling alley; a video store; worked as a Programme Manger for a Boys and Girls Club; have been an Executive Director for a Social Services agency; worked for two municipalities as a Social Services Caseworker, and another for years in the field of Recreation. I have also worked in the private sector as an Area Supervisor, leading those who provided care in schools before, between and after classes. I’ve sold photography equipment in a mall, worked in a toy department of a major retailer, even spent one day filling in for a friend in a hot plastics factory. I’ve got summer residential camp experience, sat on volunteer boards and committees too. One year I was asked to lead an International Drug Awareness team in St. Lucia.

Whew! All over the map and one of the best examples I can think of where there sure doesn’t appear to be a linear history of progressive experience in the same field. I’ve worked for a province, two municipalities, the private and non-profit sectors as well as having been self-employed. My work has been in Retail, Recreation, Social Services and the Education sectors. I’ve also been on the front-line, middle management and senior management. I’ve had employment ended, quit, been promoted, been on strike, had to reinvent myself, and build up skills I didn’t know I had, use transferable skills and learn job-specific skills. In short, I’ve become resilient.

Now, here’s the best part. If you can believe it, all of these experiences have shaped who I am, how I think and act, given me empathy and understanding for a wide diversity of people with whom I partner. In short, I’m a decent Employment Counsellor today at 59 years-old BECAUSE of the path I took to get here.

My 22 year-old woman will likely change careers and jobs over the course of her lifetime. Jobs she eventually holds and loves might not even exist in 2019; maybe they’ll appear in 2032. Who knows?

Advice I believe to be sound is to gain experiences; paid and unpaid. Learn from what you do not just about the work, but how you feel as you do it. Always do your best to reward those who hired you and best serve those you call customers, clients, etc. You never know where life will take you; which job you may return to having left once (as I did). Treat employees and your Supervisors well for these are your future references.

All of the combined experiences I’ve had – just as you are collecting your own – are the things that are going to uniquely position us for jobs moving forward. “Why should I hire you?” is my favourite interview question. I can draw on all my past experiences; both the pros and the cons. Nobody out there has the same path as me. Or you for that matter!

Abused? In A Shelter? Trying To Work?

Here’s your situation…

You’re unemployed, the car needs $450 of work to even get back on the road. You’ve know a few people but none well enough to really call close friends, and certainly no one to really confide in and tell how you feel. You’ve had three failed relationships with men who’ve abused you verbally, emotionally and occasionally physically, but they were always smart enough to never leave evidence. Now you find yourself living in the shelter system, safe but removed from most of your belongings. Your family blames you for the choices you’ve made and your not even notified or invited to family functions; weddings, funerals and holidays included.

On top of the above, you’ve got no job, your references are weak at best, you’ve got little experience or it’s in a field you no longer want to work in because the jobs you have had in the past only put you in vulnerable situations, attracting the kind of people who only brought you trouble.

Now you find yourself receiving social assistance, a nice name for welfare. As your housed temporarily in a safe house for abused women, you’re only getting some funds for food and transportation. You’re safe for the time being but the stay isn’t indefinite, and you’ve got to find a place to move to within a looming deadline. Where you’re staying you’re surrounded by other women with similar stories, and while the humanity in you makes you open to feeling their pain, in another way you don’t feel it’s doing you good to be constantly hearing others talk about their situations. It’s all still kind of raw and open.

There’s the courts to deal with too, and that means you’re dealing with law offices and lawyers; yours and his. It’s not a world you ever thought you’d have to deal with and your out of your depths. So much paperwork, so many things to send by email and post, other things to record and organize, meetings to be kept and names and contact numbers to store.

Personally, you’re worried. Your decision-making skills seem pretty poor, your more confused than you remember ever being, little things seem like major problems, your self-esteem is fragile and no matter how much you try you just can’t seem to turn off your brain. Even reading a book or a magazine isn’t possible. After 20 minutes you find you’re still on the same page of a book and you suddenly realize you can’t recall what you’ve read anyhow. You’d go out for a walk to clear your head except it’s the evening and you feel more vulnerable as night descends and the house gets locked down for security reasons anyhow.

On top of all of this, you want to get a job. A job after all will bring you some immediate income. You worry though if you can handle it. After all, how many balls can you juggle at once?

For those of you that think I’m laying it on rather thick; that this might be an extremely rare situation for a woman to be in – maybe one in a million, I wish you were right. Unfortunately you’re not right and I’m not laying it on rather thick. This is reality for far too many women.

Having visited just such a residence and being a man, I’m a bit of a rarity. Men as a pretty hard rule aren’t allowed in women’s shelters. Even the nicest and best of men can trigger fear in those in residence there – being the one place they are assured they are completely safe. Having been in one on a professional basis, it’s given me some experiential insights I wouldn’t have otherwise. But even having made a visit to the inside, I’m not naïve enough to think I understand what it’s like to stay in residence there. I would never presume to feel that.

Can you understand perhaps even a little how difficult it must be to then go about rebuilding your life and trying to get a job? Whether you’re a Job Coach, Employment Counsellor, Temp Agency, Recruiter or Employer, you can’t ever know the story behind the woman who appears totally employable but for some odd reason is having problems moving ahead.

On the outside, this woman before you might seem pretty together. Perhaps she’s well-groomed, dressed appropriately, arrived on time for the interview and even interviewed well. Sure there’s the issue of very few references or little job experience but she seems to have the right personality and attitude for the work. Yet, why when you offered them the job did they decline? Or if they did take the job, why did they have to go and quit on you after just two days on the job?

It’s what you don’t know, and what they just can’t share with you that’s behind their apparent lack of respect for the trust you placed in them. At the moment their emotionally messed up to put it bluntly. There’s a gulf between what they want to do and what they are capable of doing. They know it, and now they feel guilt for having to decline a job offer they thought they could do.

If you knew their story, you’d get it. You might even Champion their efforts. Something to bear in mind if you find yourself puzzled with some woman’s behaviour.

So Desperate To Work You’ll Do Anything?

Have you ever told someone that when it comes to work you’re so desperate you’ll do anything? Okay so you and I both know that this isn’t actually the case. There are jobs you won’t take because they don’t pay enough, the location is too far away or the job itself is too dangerous or menial. Still, there are people who everyday say to somebody in a position to help them find a job, “I’ll do anything.”

The very key to why this approach almost never gets the person the result they want lies in one word that’s contained in the opening sentence of this blog; ‘desperate’. Here’s the thought process that I as an Employment Counsellor go through each time I hear someone make the statement, “I’ll do anything.”:

  1. You’re saying this because you’re desperate.
  2. If you get this job, you’ll no longer be as desperate.
  3. As you’ll no longer be desperate, you’ll want something better.
  4. Because you’ll want something better, you’ll quit.
  5. Because you’ll quit, you’ll be right back here repeating history.

Employers know this as well. People who are desperate to work don’t usually make good employees. You can make the argument of course that someone who is truly desperate will do whatever it takes to hang onto the job they get; they’ll be dependable, work hard not to mess up and be as productive as they can because they need the money. That’s one point of view, but it’s not the reality that the employer and employee experience the majority of the time.

Look at two employers; a good one and a bad one. The bad employer hires an unemployed, desperate person and decides to exploit that desperation. They may pay them under the table or worse promise to pay them and then string them along with excuses like money is tight and that they’ll get paid next week. The money never comes of course but the employer knows the worker is desperate and so they squeeze every hour they can out of the person until they quit. Then the bad employer looks for another desperate applicant and repeats the process; essentially getting free labour in the end much of the time.

The good employer on the other hand has no such intentions of treating the employee badly. They take on the desperate worker, invest time and money into training them with the expectation that the person will get better on the job over time, and eventually come to truly be 100% productive – usually after a five or six months or more depending on the job. However, what they experience is that despite their willingness to invest in training the new employee, the employee often quits after only a short time. As the job was never really wanted in the first place, they never stopped looking for other jobs. They hate themselves when they wake up in the morning and hate their present reality going to this terrible job, and not being quite as desperate as they once were when they had no job, they just don’t show up and quit.

Therefore, it is highly likely that the good employers don’t want to repeat the mistake of hiring desperate people who are wrong for the job in the first place. They’d rather hire people who are cut out for the work and really want to do a certain job as evidenced by their past work history. They think, “If I hire this Accountant to pick mushrooms, they’ll probably quit soon because they’re really going to keep looking for a job as an Accountant. When that happens, I’ll be looking for another Mushroom Picker in 3 weeks or less.”

Look, I understand that what you mean when you say, “I’m desperate; I’ll do anything”. You’re really saying, “I’m open to considering many kinds of work that I haven’t before, until I can lock down the kind of work that would ideally suit me.” When you’re feeling desperate, it isn’t the best time to make a big decision; such as finding employment. Little decisions like whether to have cereal or a bagel for breakfast? Sure; go ahead. Making a decision to apply for work you find on a job board, that up until you read it you’ve never seriously considered or even thought of before; no! This is a bad decision. Even if you get the job you’ll immediately feel bad; you never thought you’d sink this low, you hope no one you know ever sees you at work, you didn’t go to school for this, they money isn’t worth the hard labour etc.

It’s important to understand then that good employers aren’t likely to hire desperate workers while bad employers are more likely to do so. Therefore saying you’ll do anything increases the odds of landing with a poor employer and the job will be a poor personal fit. It’s now a lose-lose proposition for both you and a good employer.

A better decision when you’re desperate is to seek out the help of an Employment Coach, Employment Counsellor or Career Counsellor. I don’t mean to self-promote here, but things aren’t working out doing things the way you’ve been doing them. What’s to risk by getting some objective help from a trained professional who can help you get more than just a job; they can help you get the right job.

The #1 Mistake Employment Coaches Make

You don’t have to be a rookie on the Employment Counselling team to make this error in judgement, but it does tend to happen to those new to the field more often. However, even the most seasoned worker will have the occasional encounter with a client go wrong and only after some reflection immediately zero in on the problem.

So what is the number 1 mistake Employment Coaches and Counsellors make? For my money, it’s listening to a client tell their story and suddenly – almost unconsciously – begin to solve their problem for them. We fail to remain actively engaged in the listening process; we remember all the other people with similar challenges we have encountered in our work and mentally start plotting out the steps required for this person to move forward based on what has worked in the past for others.

Sounds logical doesn’t it? We’ve encountered people just like this person before. So the solution will be the same solution we’ve shared with others. The problem however is that we may fail to accurately gauge both where this client in front of us is at the moment and also fail to discern the skills they have to effectively implement any plan created. We may assume that what we would do in their situation is what they will see as the appropriate course to take as well.

However, isn’t it true that what clients actually do after we give them the divine plan differs from what we agreed they would do? When we speak with them the next time and they haven’t moved on the plan we say something like, “I thought we agreed you would…” The truth of the situation is that the client never really bought into the plan in the first place. They may have signed some paperwork with OUR plan all neatly laid out, nodded their head at the right moments, even perhaps voiced their agreement. Really what occurred is that they didn’t buy in, and they didn’t have the assertiveness to challenge the plan we were so enthusiastic about. After all, if we are the experts it must be a good plan, but it was never, ‘owned’ by the client as their plan.

Now when we assess that same client in the future and gauge their commitment to put a plan into action, we may further compound our relationship by branding this person as problematic. After all, they say they want to work or move forward, but they are clearly not acting on the advice we have so cleverly shared with them. This can create mistrust in the relationship for both client and Employment Coach.

To avoid this pitfall, it’s absolutely critical to tune in to the clients words and hear them as if you were hearing this tale for the very first time. You may have heard others voice similar barriers and challenges to getting hired, but you’ve clearly never heard this client tell their story. Not only is the client entitled to tell their own story, but in the listening, we as Employment Counsellors and Coaches have to assess their capacity to put any plan into action. How do we make that assessment? We ask open-ended questions that help us gauge their comprehension, literacy, attitudes and their ability to articulate their needs and current situations.

The plan we want to eventually devise not only has to have an end-goal that both parties buy into completely, but the plan has to have steps which this client in front of us is capable of achieving based on their existing skills. Bottom line? We mean well and want the best possible outcome for our client, but they may not be able to move at the pace we’d like, they may need smaller goals, greater supports in place to reach those goals and ultimately more time to realize their end goal.

I believe it is significant to remind ourselves that a client who is unemployed but wants to work is experiencing a heightened degree of stress. When they are in front of us, we should never forget that the outcome of our meeting may either ease their burdens and give them hope of success, or may compound their anxiety. If they leave with a plan they don’t own, it’s only going to result in coming up short. This leads only to a lower self-image, because they have one more person who had higher expectations of them they’ve disappointed. Ironically, we’ve set them up to fail.

Sometimes – in fact most of the time – a client isn’t able to articulate what they really need. They may say, “I need a job”. However, really talk with them and really listen to them and what you get is, “I feel like a failure, I don’t value myself, I don’t have anything to offer.” Small achievable goals which they can tangibly realize build their self-confidence and they experience a positive change in their self-perception. This is a precursor to their ability to actually get and keep a job.

You may also find a client initially wants, ‘anything’ as a job. ‘Anything’ is one clue that may suggest you are listening to someone who not only lacks career direction, but the necessary self-confidence to get what they perceive as a meaningful job. Help them build their self-esteem, and soon they’ll name a position that would make them happy.


Mental Health And Your Job Search

When looking for a job, it’s  important to give it all you’ve got. Complicating your job search however are all the things you’re worried and stressed about in addition to being out of work. It would be wonderful if all you had to concentrate on was getting a job, given all the things you’re dealing with. And that’s exactly the problem of course; you’re not dealing with all those things very well and you’re problems are growing.

If you wrote down on a piece of paper all the things you are currently burdened by, it might be quite the list. Of course there’s the lack of a job for starters. Without a job, there’s the money problem and the dwindling bank account. The shrinking bank account is a cause for concern, as is the rent that’s due monthly. Your grocery shopping is being affected; unable to purchase healthier items which are costlier. Without fresh fruits or meats and eating less than three meals a day, your physical health is impacted too.

The unemployment means more idle time which is messing with your weight; either putting on pounds through eating more as a way to cope with stress or eating far less and dropping too many pounds because you can’t eat. Without stable income, your social calendar is vastly restricted too. You’re called less by friends to do things because money is tight, so movie nights are rarer, shopping trips go on without you. The calls you used to get from friends are replaced by debt collectors, and even keeping your phone active is becoming increasingly difficult.

New issues start to surface; you find yourself so desperate to escape the constant stress you’re under, you’re substituting what little healthy foods you can buy for alcohol, which you’re drinking more often as I requires more to get that buzz and escape your problems. Another new annoyance is the tooth that’s aching either from a cavity or being chipped but you can’t afford the trip to the dentist. The cheaper but less healthy food that’s taken over your regular diet is affecting your dental work too.

Added to the above, your behaviour has family worried more about you than you find comfortable. So as a way to cope with all their never-ending questions you stop seeing them, stop answering their calls, and that just increases your guilt so you convince yourself you’re better off without them. Without friends and family or the co-workers you used to speak with, suddenly you realize you’re isolated and cut-off from society. You go out less, shut the curtains to block out the happiness you see outside your window; not wanting to see people scurrying around who all seem to have somewhere to go, something to do. More and more you find yourself just sleeping, retreating into the darkness and warmth of your bed. Anxiety and depression are creeping in.

With all this going on, looking for a job not only becomes harder, it becomes less and less of a priority. The focus moves from employment to just getting through the morning; just the afternoon and ultimately just through the day. As the money dries up, as the necessity of finding cheaper accommodation elsewhere rises and the thought of being kicked on to the street and homeless starts in your head, it may be that you resort to things you never imagined yourself doing – applying for social assistance, using food banks and accepting charity. Funny thing about charity is you were once the person donating money, and you always thought to yourself, “It’s so sad, why don’t they just get a job?”

So now we see how unemployment is layered and complicated. Getting a job would be wonderful of course, but there are a lot of other issues to deal with first. People who say finding a job is a full-time job mean well, but with all these things on your mind, how possible is that? And of course you’ve got additional factors complicating things.

You might have a criminal record (stealing items you couldn’t afford due to the above), a messed up family where you’re labeled the black sheep (why can’t you get a job like your big sister?), being a victim of abuse (taken advantage of by someone you trusted who controlled and used you or uses you still).

So where to begin to deal with all your problems? If I may make a suggestion, you might find talking to someone who will listen with an empathetic ear helpful. A Mental Health professional can help by hearing you out and sorting things out with some confidential advice and suggestions. Seeing how things are related, determining where to make a start, where you can find help and acknowledge your progress can really help you feel better about yourself.

If all the above is unknown to you personally, count yourself fortunate. People such as I’ve described here are all around us; all around you. They don’t wear labels identifying their issues but they are the people you meet who are doing the best they can to blend in and hide all their problems with fleeting smiles they put on to fit in. When you innocently ask, “How’s it going?” they say things are okay but really want to scream, “If you only knew! Help!”

If you know someone like this, or see yourself, reach out and take advantage of help in your community.

Hey Mom, Want To Help The Kids Find Work?

How are you doing mom? Well I hope. So you’d like to see your son or daughter get a job and as a result feel better about themselves. The worry and concern you have for their well-being must be hard at times I imagine. You know  you’d feel so much better and be so proud of them if they could just catch a break and be hired.

Well what is the current situation? Let’s look at a few – just between you and me. We’ll start with young teens looking for their first job, move to adult children in your home without work, then look at adult children living outside your home. 3 situations all with their unique challenges.

So to your teenager. Presumably they are in school so the first thing you and I know is that finishing school and graduating is the most important thing they can do right now in order to help them get a decent job in the future. So can they actually handle both school and a part-time job? If their organized, can prioritize their work, plan ahead and their getting good marks and have the time to work, then work is a good idea. On the other hand, if they are struggling as it is, have to study a lot just to pass and can’t do more than one thing at a time, maybe a job isn’t a good idea and you should turn down the pressure to get a job right now.

Either way, start giving your son or daughter genuine but positive support. When they do something good, name the skill. If they put away their clean clothes they are tidy, if they plan their homework around favourite t.v. shows, they are good at time management, planning and organization. If they are always home at curfew, they are respectful, responsible and dependable. You see mom, naming the skills for them helps them when they look for jobs and read what employers want in the job ads. When they get to the interview and the interviewer asks them to name their strengths and give examples, they’ll be better prepared to answer the questions in part because of you!

Okay so let’s look at that adult child of yours living in the basement. Now mom, ask yourself if maybe you haven’t unintentionally made it too comfortable. Why would they move out if you’re doing the laundry, buying the groceries, doing the cooking and…oh no….you’re not still making their bed I hope? This is called enabling. You’re encouraging the very behaviour you don’t want by continuing to do it. Give them a deadline to start paying rent, insist they make their own bed, do their own laundry and contribute to the groceries. Get them out shoveling snow, cutting the grass, dusting the furniture. You’ve started late but you’ve got to get them doing things on their own now so they can do things when living on their own.

Now that son or daughter is going to need a resume and be shown how to really job search. They also need to see the financial benefits of work, its value and depending on how long they’ve been getting a free ride in the basement, they may need to unlearn some poor habits. Sleeping in until 11:00 a.m. and partying 4 nights a week isn’t on in the real world. Don’t make the mistake of doing things for them and perhaps given them bad advice. Get them down to a job assistance agency and insist they sign up. Be encouraging but be firm. You’ve done your part.

As for the adult children who are without work but living outside your home on their own, well you can help them too. When you are talking to them on the phone, try not to let your words and the tone of your voice sound overly dramatic. “Oh dear! How EVER are you surviving? Oh, you poor thing! I just feel so bad for you.” Yes, no more of that. All you’re doing is reinforcing their growing belief that they are really in a bad way. If they are wanting to please you mom and care about your opinion of them, you’re just adding to their stress. So ask every now and then but sound positive. “How’s it going? You’ll find work I’m sure that will a good fit. Someone is going to be lucky to hire you.”

Mom we all have skills and strengths, and you’ve certainly got your share. We all have limitations too. You may be well-meaning, but sometimes you’re out of your league in the advice or suggestions you give. You can help best by getting these kids of yours in front of other people; people who make their living helping the unemployed find jobs.

Find your local employment office and get the contact information. Be subtle but share it with them. Give them the chance to act on that information on their own. If they do, great – relax. If they don’t, don’t be surprised. You’ll have to raise the stakes a little.

Remember mom, if you’re cooking their favourite meals and spoiling them, they may see you as not only mom, but cook, cleaner, maid and chauffeur. If you want them to get working, be a landlord first and foremost. Life outside the home has to start looking more attractive than life in it.

What Do You REALLY Want To Do?

Okay so I’m referring to you occupation, your job, your career. What do you really want to do? That’s question 1. It kind of has to be don’t you think? I mean if you don’t know what you want, it’s difficult to obtain it unless it falls into your lap by chance. Even then you have to be clever enough to realize it when it comes to you that this is what you wanted all along if you couldn’t verbalize it.

Going after something without knowing what you’re going after is like packing up the whole family for the vacation of a lifetime and then getting annoyed with the kids for not being excited. How could they possibly feel your passion, excitement and anticipation when all they know for sure is the roll of the car to the end of the driveway. Unless you tell the family where you are headed beyond that, they can’t possibly feel the anticipation of the destination nor the excitement as you get closer to it.

Now deciding what you really want to do is what often stops people from moving forward at all. “I don’t know what I want”, is often a barrier to moving forward. Depending on where you are in your life, you might get different counsel from others if you seek it. If you are young, you might be told to try all kinds of things, take risks, learn and don’t fret about planning out the next 40 or 50 years. In your 50’s or 60’s you might only have one job left and feel the pressure to re-invent yourself and massive pressure to get it right for a change!

No matter where you are in life or whatever goal you settle on, my question for you next would be, “What’s holding you back?”

Most of the time, what holds people back from reaching their goals is….well…what do YOU think it is first? Go ahead and guess. Education? Experience? A criminal record? Skills? Communication or interpersonal skills? No! The single thing in every single person I speak with that keeps a person from realizing their goals is….the person themselves. Yep, a lack of confidence, a lack of courage to risk, fear of failure, bound to their family commitments, responsibilities etc. You can insert whatever words you find convenient, but it’s the person themselves.

And it’s so easy isn’t it to blame others or the situations that we find ourselves in? Sure it is. “The reason I can’t be a (fill in the blank) is because I had to take care of so-and-so; I have a mortgage or debts to pay, that ship has sailed, I’m too old, my family wouldn’t approve.” Those are all great conveniences that mask the truth which is that for some reason you aren’t taking control of your life and going for it – whatever ‘it’ represents for you personally.

You see if you want something bad enough, you find a way to make it happen. You push aside excuses and do whatever it takes to eliminate barriers. If the career requires education you don’t have, go to school and get it. Need a car? Find a job for now that brings in some cash and the whole time you are working at this job you don’t really love, you’re really just earning the cash you need for the car.

But here’s what most of us do; we procrastinate and fail to act. Sure we have a goal – eventually that is. We are usually smart enough to figure out the plan we would need to make it happen and if we aren’t, we know where we could get some guidance on planning the steps. But the present situation we find ourselves in is just comfortable enough that we fail to really get motivated enough to do something to get ourselves moving.

Now this doesn’t mean we love the present circumstances in which we find ourselves. No, we may feel the pull; the desire to do something different. So if we fail to act, we have every reason to be bitter about things – maybe about ourselves. And so yet again it comes down to us having a choice each and every day; will this be the day I finally do something to act? Will this be the day I take some action so that what I REALLY want to do will come about sooner rather than later?

You can fool anyone with your dreams, visions, plans, hopes etc. The one person you really can’t pull the wool over the eyes however is you. You’ll know when your deceiving yourself and not walking the walk.

If you are looking for some kind of sign that you need to get going and act on what you really want to do, consider this your sign. Your time on this planet is fixed. Take away the first 20 years and your last 20 and your left with the years between 20 years old and 65 let’s say. So you’ve got 45 years of useful, productive career or work time. Wouldn’t you rather spend those 45 years doing things you LOVE and feeling alive; making a difference, being happy with your work, feeling productive? Hey it’s your life.

Don’t feel pity for yourself. Get going now – today. Putting off action is another day of regret and stress. Decide, act, realize, achieve.

So, what do you want to do career or job-wise?

How To Build Job Search Momentum

Looking for employment is often a frustrating experience. Now I’m pretty sure that comes as no revelation to most readers. While there are still a fortunate minority who find work with a single job application and interview, for the vast majority, it is a time-consuming process of raised expectations and frustrating disappointments.

I recently heard it expressed that for every $10,000.00 you expect to earn, plan on a month of job searching. That equation may or may not be your personal reality, but you’ll be making a mistake to think that without a plan you’ll have no problem finding a job. There’s another saying, “Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.” Unfortunately for many, the only planning they do is to say they plan to get a job!

Momentum is vital in a job search because it can sustain you through periods of disappointment and frustration. Without a plan, any job seeker might just succumb to the recurring lows, not being able to really see viable progress being made. Build momentum however, and you can see movement from where you were to where you want to be at times when you otherwise might doubt you are making any progress.

First it’s necessary to know what your specific goal is. “Get a job – any job”, is not a goal I would typically recommend. On the other hand if you know you want a job such as an Investment Commodities Broker, Industrial Welder or Cemetery Groundskeeper, you can develop a plan of action for whichever of the above is your job of choice. The plan to go from where you are to each of the above three jobs however, would be very distinct from the other two. Hence just saying you are looking for a job is too vague and impossible to plan for.

For the job you do settle on, know the qualification requirements, objectively determine how you currently stack up against the skill, education and experience needs the position demands. Wherever you find yourself lacking, instead of counting on your charm to worm your way into the job, look at those key areas you’ve identified where you are weak and then investigate or research what your options are to gain what you lack.

Missing a degree or diploma? Look up the potential schools that offer the education required, and then get registered, take out a student loan to pay for the course and you’ll be taking the necessary steps to build the momentum you need. If it’s a licence you need and not years of school, research the cost, the providers, what books are available to train with and book the licencing test after preparing yourself.

A workable plan will make you feel good about yourself. You may be sitting down for three days on the couch reading up on your licencing needs, taking pre-tests in preparation for the exam to get that licence. While observers would say, “Why aren’t you out getting a job?”, you’ll know the truth of the matter, and you’ll confidently know the movement you are creating toward your goal of licence first, fully qualified to apply second.

There are resumes to make, cover letters to write, research into companies and people to undertake, mock interviews to arrange, conversations to plan and engage in, questions to plan answers for. And these are just the obvious things you need to do. You might have to also arrange childcare, ensure you’ve got minutes on your phone, update your interview clothing and do some shopping, maybe invest in some repairs on the car you own, set aside money for transportation etc.

Without proper planning, there are too many things that can go wrong and you then run the risk of raising your stress level by having to scramble and divert your focus. So the day before an interview, instead of reassuring yourself, you might find the car won’t turn over, you realize you never did get around to replacing your pants with the stain on them that won’t come out, and so you scramble.

Another good idea is to create a, ‘to-do’ list built around what you need to do in order to eliminate the barriers you have at present keeping you from your end goal. Put this list in writing and put it where you’ll see it every day – out in the open not in a folder. That list will both remind you what needs doing, and as you check off the actions you’ve taken, you can reassure yourself in the low moments that you’re further ahead then you once were and the gap is narrowing to your desired goal.

Self-doubt and beating yourself up for making no progress is harder to do if you are looking right at a piece of paper that has some boxes with a check mark in each for the things you have completed. Working a plan also helps you make a logical order of the things to do. No point really writing the cover letter if you are in a 9 month training program and have no specific job to apply to just yet for example. And if you’re planning on dropping 20 pounds, don’t go interview clothes shopping today only to find when the time comes those new clothes slide right off your waist!

Developing a plan is a skill you can get help with. Employment Counsellors, Job Coaches, Mentors and Career Advisors are well-trained to assist with. All the best out there!