Do You See College/University As More Debt?


A problem familiar to many people has to do with taking on more financial debt in order to return to College or University. Has this got you or someone you know so stressed and anxious that they’ve made the decision to pass on further education and look for work with their existing experience and skills? If so, think again.

There are a number of reasons you might not be willing to take on extra debt. Perhaps you’ve already got a loan hanging over your head and the idea of taking on more is scary. After all, if your existing debt has you this stressed, you don’t even want to think about increasing it now do you? You might even have an existing student loan such as the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) here in Ontario where I live, and is it possible you’ve just been ignoring paying off what you already owe, not because you don’t want to pay it off but because you’ve no income to do so with?

This extra debt you’re closed to increasing is worrying because you didn’t complete the program at school that the first loans were for. There’s that nagging feeling that maybe you’d make the same mistake of taking on debt and not finishing a second time; what a waste of unfinished education and more money to owe hanging like a dark cloud everywhere you go.

I’m no fan of debt myself, so I get it. It’s stressful to think about.

I wonder though if, putting money aside for a paragraph or two, we could just focus on the education you might be wanting. You know, it could be that the reason you didn’t complete that other program is because it just wasn’t right for you in the first place. Maybe you weren’t ready for College or University at that time, needed to mature a bit or it wasn’t school at all but something else going on in your life at the time which made focusing on school and putting in the effort impossible. The consequence? You failed or were failing – maybe academic probation and you dropped everything…except of course the looming repayments.

Back in the present however, now you’ve grown. Maybe those, ‘things’ that kept you from succeeding are taken care of and behind you. Or, perhaps you’ve got a better idea of what it is that you’re passionate about and if you could only have the education needed to get going, you’re sure you’d flourish and succeed. That thought is pretty exciting; to know what turns you on and what you’d love to do!

It’s a shame that earlier failed experience and unpaid debt is keeping you from taking on more debt right?

First things first, let’s shift that viewpoint and stop looking at the education fees as debt. Debt is such a negative word. What you are in fact doing is making an investment in yourself. Consider the money needed to buy a house or a car – relatively big and important purchases. Neither of those two investments maintain their value over time with any guarantee – especially the car. Eventually both get replaced too. Education however, wakes up with you every morning and you carry it with you every day of your life. It shapes the way you think and how you experience the world. That investment is a lifelong investment in yourself.

I sense a second problem that has you reluctant to make such an investment; what if you’re wrong? Again. You know, what if you just think you’d like a certain program but then it turns out to be something you don’t? Hey, come on. Instead of assuming something you haven’t even started is going to be a huge mistake, imagine it turns out to be the best thing you’ve ever done for yourself and you do well in school precisely because you took something you really are interested in!

Some people will tell you that even after they finished school they ended up in some minimum wage, entry level job they could have got without having gone to College or University. There will always be these negative views, and they are basing those views on their own experience so you can’t blame them. On the other hand, there are many more people who will tell you that the degree they hold or the diploma they graduated with were needed to get hired doing what they do now and without it, they wouldn’t have been hired. They love their job, they are making use of that education and their income is considerably better than it would have been without it.

Suppose you owe $10,000. You’re thinking, “Yikes!” Okay, so you spend another $8,000. or even double your original amount – you now owe $20,000. Scary right? Of course. But now you have that diploma or degree in your hand and you’re pumped. You’re self-esteem is high, you’re proud of your accomplishment. The resume is stronger, you’re outlook better, and you compete stronger because for the first time, you’re really invested and qualified to get a job you’ll love. So you get a job making $23.00 an hour.

$23.00 p/hr x 7 hours per day x 5 days per week x 4.33 weeks in a month = $3,485.65 x 12 months = $41,827.8 a year. This is the formula you can use yourself to figure out what you’d make a year.

$23 an hour is just a number, but you can see that the $20,000 it total you’d ow can be paid back soon. That’s $41,827.8 a year. Multiply it just over 5 years and you’ll have earned $209,139.00!

Having your current $8,000 debt suddenly seems small when you think of your potential income. Bazinga!!!!!!!

 

Fully Investing Yourself


I’ve changed my answer to the question people ask me regarding my strengths. In the past I shared my enthusiasm for innovation and creativity; pushing myself to always look for new ways of presenting material. I love morphing what exists into better versions and by better I mean bringing content into a fuller understanding and buy-in for and by those receiving the content.

I like to believe that my peers still see me as innovative and creative so it’s not that I’ve plateaued and stopped innovating, it’s just that I’ve found something I’d rather share as a personal strength. What I offer in response to this question now is an unwavering, complete commitment when it comes to investing in others. Honestly, I don’t think I personally could choose anything more rewarding to do, and I’d hope that participants of my workshops, coworkers and supervisors would back up my words if/when called upon to attest to my actions.

As an Employment Counsellor, my role brings me into contact with the unemployed and the underemployed every single day. As I work during the day with a population exclusively in receipt of social assistance, I also have the great privilege of coming into contact with people when they are most vulnerable; a low point if you will in their lives. Their lack of financial independence is far from being the only problem they have when their lives and mine intersect. Believe me, those in this population would love to believe that finding a job was their only problem.

By the time I meet them, many are dealing with homelessness, abusive relationships, dysfunctional families, marital and custody battles, poor landlords, interaction with several other social service agencies, loss of self-esteem, self-confidence and rising debt. Some have poor education, under-developed social skills, poor self-awareness, weak problem-solving skills, poor role models, questionable decision-making abilities, limited vocabularies, and others have legal issues to contend with. The lack of a job is just one problem, and not often is it the number one concern.

My coworkers and I understand that to be effective, we have to address more than just the lack of employment to give those we serve the best opportunity to move forward and keep the jobs they land. I suppose this is one of the key factors that defines us, (and others who work in similar roles with this population) from organizations which exclusively address unemployment as a stand alone issue.

Not all people understand this; nor do all people in decision-making levels of government. The mantra of “Just get them a job and move on to the next person”, is short-sighted and doomed to fail more than succeed. Those fortunate to get employment will often lose it quickly and return to the safety net provided by social services if they don’t have the multiple barriers to employment addressed and the required skills learned to work through these other presenting barriers.

So herein comes the need to invest in others; completely. I don’t believe you can be effective if you only invest partially in people. Well I for one can’t at any rate. To be truly effective, it takes a complete investment. I’ve also learned over time that this investment is simultaneously both energizing and draining. For it’s not just investing in one or two people here and there. Fully investing in my work environment means there are only seconds between people asking for and needing aid.

When someone comes to see you as trustworthy and helpful, you move in their estimation into a place where you’re the go-to person when problems arise; which they do with regularity with this fragile population. Some folks are very considerate of our capacity to hear their stories and help with arriving at potential solutions, while others dump all their problems out expecting us to own them and fix them because it’s what we’re paid to do. “It’s your job to solve my problems.”

I love this role. I embrace all that being an Employment Counsellor means and it continues to be a privilege and honour to hold this position. I’m not always successful in connecting and forging a deep connection; no one of us is for that matter. This is one key thing new staff in the field must come to appreciate; you’ll not succeed, not connect, fail to help and you’ll be questioned openly about your suitability in the role from time-to-time; the volume of people we see daily, weekly, monthly and yearly guarantees we won’t always be successful. Investing nonetheless and doing so fully to the extent we are able is still to be strived for.

Yesterday a woman dropped by unannounced and I was called to reception. She literally ran to me, wrapped her arms around me and jumped up and down with the excitement of sharing her news of landing a full-time job with her employer of choice. It’s taken her about 5 month’s and two jobs to get to her landing this plum job. In that embrace, I soaked up all the energy, gratitude, joy, exhilaration and emotional relief I could. That hug and her smile was her simple way of expressing her sincere appreciation for my small help along her journey.

I implore you to consider upping your own investment in the people you serve. Whether those are customers, junior staff, volunteers or the vulnerable; invest without reservation. It. Makes. All. The. Difference.

Self-Investment Comes At A Cost


When you’re completely invested in doing your best for the people you serve, you’re going to be tremendously effective. You’ll feel it each and every day too, because those who receive your help will know your assistance is coming from the heart. They’ll express their gratitude for your help, and you’ll begin to interact with each other in more meaningful ways.

But there’s a cost.

Pouring yourself into your work with such intensity means at the end of the day you’ll empty your tank. You’ll find yourself mentally exhausted because you were mentally engaged. Sometimes, you’ll be emotionally exhausted too, because working with people isn’t only a cerebral workout. Yes, when you’re dialed in, you’re emotionally, mentally and physically engaged. When you end each day asking yourself, “Is there anything else I could have done today to be of more help?”, you can’t help but get better at whatever it is you do.

Now if you look around you, you’ll see people who aren’t invested in the people they deal with. The signs are clearly evident. When the phone rings they hesitate before answering and decide whether they want to pick it up. 10 minutes before quitting time, they are packed up, coat on, computer shut down, and ready to head out the door. I’m betting you’re thinking of someone now who fits this description, because frankly, these types are everywhere, and they are often long-term employees too. Ironically, they aren’t in the same kind of danger as the best of the best, because they aren’t as emotionally and mentally engaged. Hence, they are protected from the emotional, physical and mental toll I’m talking about.

But there’s great news.

When you really get invested in doing your best for those you interact with and serve, something amazing happens to the size of your ‘tank’. The more you give, the bigger it gets! When you give of yourself, listening attentively to someone pour out their troubles, demonstrate compassion, empathy and provide supportive counsel, you not only benefit them, you benefit yourself. It’s like a hug quite frankly, you can’t give one without getting one.

So it follows then that the ones who are truly invested emotionally, physically and mentally in providing superior customer service are the ones that seemingly have this tremendous capacity which carries them well beyond what others see as their limits. If you’ve ever witnessed one of these people, you’ve likely thought, “Where does she get the energy?!”

The energy comes in the reciprocal emotional and mental investment the people being served return. They express their gratitude with sincerity and the small or great changes they make in their thoughts and actions provide evidence that they found your intervention meaningful and impactful. You’ve found a way to connect with them that others haven’t; you’ve touched them in ways that sent the message, “I genuinely care about you and the goals you’re working towards. I will help.”

And make no mistake it’s not, “I want to help”, it’s “I will help.” Oh it’s such a subtle change in words with a completely impactful and different message. Wanting to do something is not the same as doing something. Wanting to help isn’t the same as helping. And you know what? These people you serve and interact with are smart enough to hear the difference in your words from the words of others.

Now many who don’t do the work you do will often wonder if working with people all day long doesn’t actually bring you down. Hearing all these sad stories; all these problems they present with. It’s got to be troubling. Ah but you and I know differently. It’s precisely because people in dire circumstances turn to you first when they need an understanding and supportive ear that you are humbled by that trust. It is a privilege to do what you do and do it to the best of your ability.

This knowledge, this investment in the people we work with feeds our energy, allowing us to work with enthusiasm. And there are amazing people doing outstanding work everywhere. They’re in my workplace and in yours and right now you’re already calling people to mind who fit this description. There’s a cost of course, and it’s a fee the invested pay as they go about their day and are glad to have the opportunity.

There isn’t a job on the planet that doesn’t directly or indirectly impact on customers, clients, residents, end-users; call them what you will. When you ask someone who they work for, the best of the best never name an employer; that’s who they are employed by. The real invested ones work for those they serve. They recognize that their ‘customers’ are not just their end-users or consumers, but include their co-workers, their support staff, the people who benefit from the work that they do either lower or higher on the organizational chart.

The thing about the really good folks is that they do their work, they go about their day often in full knowledge that their peers don’t see all the extensive good work they do – and their okay with that. Their reward doesn’t come from formal recognition – although that’s always welcomed – the vitally important rewards come in small but sincere expressions of thanks and gratitude.

So carry on good people out there. You know who you are. And Dave, Mike, Vikki, Stephen, Dale, Gayle and Martin…well done.