About That Big Gap On Your Resume


One of the most common worries many come to me with is a lengthy gap on their resume. You might find my thoughts on this matter helpful whether you too are in this situation or like me, you’re in the business of providing help and support to those seeking employment. Let me just say here and now that I’d absolutely love to hear your own thoughts in the comments section; perhaps the advice you’d give yourself or what your personal experience has been – the good and the bad.

To begin then. When I first hear someone tell me they are worried about a lengthy gap on their resume I ask them why; not why there’s a gap but rather why they are worried about the gap. What I’m listening for are a couple of things. The first is hearing what they believe an employer’s possible objections are in order to hear if they accurately understand just what the gap implies. The second thing I’m listening for is actually the tone of their voice. It’s in the tone of the voice that I will detect anything and everything from utter despair and hopelessness through to defiance and bitterness. Most are somewhere in the middle actually;  does it SOUND like they really want to work and do they FEEL they need to overcome this barrier in order to get a job offer.  The tone is perhaps as important or in some case more so than what they say.

Now of course I want to also hear the truth when it comes to what they’ve been doing with their time during the gap, as it is often unexplained on their resumes. My direction to them is to tell me the blunt honest truth so that in that knowledge, I can determine the way to craft a few potential strategies in responding to the problem.

For a problem it is. Anything that undermines a person’s self-confidence and stands between themselves and their goal – in this case an employment offer at the conclusion of a successful interview – is a problem. One thing I’ve found over and over by the way is that when you hang on to your problems, you don’t often resolve them as quickly as when you share them with someone who has the knowledge and experience to provide you with options for reaching a resolution. Be selective with whom you share your problems of course, for telling anyone and everyone about your problems is seldom a good idea.

So, exactly how lengthy a period or gap are we talking about? For someone used to working their whole life, a 1 year gap can be their big worry. In the case of another, it could be 8 – 10 years. The length of time we’re talking about here is critical to know because there’s your perspective and the perspective of a potential employer, and they may not be the same shared view.

One positive thing about a gap in the present day is that it’s far less uncommon that in years past. Today more people transition from job to job, companies relocate, others downsize and reduce their workforce. More people find themselves as primary caregivers for aging parents because quite frankly medical advancements mean longer life spans than in years past. Sheer numbers alone play a factor too; with more people than ever working or looking for work, the odds of many of those people being out of work (after all there’s just so many jobs to go around) is up.Then there’s the people who were off due to physical or mental health issues.

One thing good to know is whether you’re unemployment was due to an issue which no longer exists. Caring for an aging parent that has passed away, or raising children who are now school age are two examples.

When I listen to a person tell me about the reason why they have this unemployment period, I always ask them what they DID do during that time, rather than what they didn’t do. Did they do any self-improvement activities such as volunteering, take a course of any kind, address some personal health issue such as losing weight, having a surgery, etc. All this information is what I’m after before I can offer up a few potential strategies on how to respond to the issue when it comes up in an interview.

My goal in responding to the person asking me for help is to provide them with three potential angles to choose from in addressing their gap. From these, they can best pick one that they feel most confident and comfortable with owning for themselves. It is remarkable to see first hand how having a good response can shift a person from dreading the question about their gap to hoping it actually comes up in the interview.

Once a strategy is selected, I’ll ask that person 3 questions which are:

  1.  Explain this gap on your resume.
  2.  What did you do between (date) and (date)?
  3.  I want to talk about this gap…

Yep, any version of the same issue asked 3 times. This gives you the chance to hear what the person actually says and gives them the chance to practice until they feel they own it and can confidently reply. With confidence, not only does the answer given satisfy the gap, the body language, facial expression and tone of voice come across as assertive.

Pressure, Stress And Mental Health


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

23 And Expecting It All


“You can be anything you put your mind to.”

Have you ever had someone tell you that, and did you believe them? If you were fortunate, you did have people put that belief in your ear, and they were likely people in positions of authority or respect whom you trusted. Maybe it was mom and dad, a relative or a teacher. I say fortunate in the sense that they believed enough in your potential that they opened up an entire world of possibilities.

This notion of being anything you want to be, of having everything you want to have, is nothing new. People have been encouraging their children to aspire to realize their dreams for thousands of years. However, there’s a specific generation, the one we termed the, “Me Generation” that got this message in ways no generation before them did. Not only was it a parent or a relative encouraging their child, it was a broader society urging an entire population on.

That message of being anything you wanted to be was supported by having the resources like no previous time in history either. Post secondary schools offered courses responding to this demand, and while the costs for some were prohibitive, student loans, bursaries, grants, and for many the financial support of affluent families opened up the reality of higher education. In our parents generation, you may have been limited to a few career options; many choosing to follow in their parents careers. Then in a very short period of time, the floodgates opened and all kinds of jobs came into being at the same time which had previously never existed.

These days, the options for courses at Community Colleges and Universities are extensive. There are additional options too; self-employment, private colleges, training institutes, online learning, etc. While our high schools here have dropped from 5 to 4 years over time, this has had the affect of having young people make career decisions at an even younger age than before; ironically in an age when all these new careers and employment possibilities haven’t even entered their awareness.

So many 13 and 14 year olds are feeling the pressure to make major decisions they are actually incapable of making with sound reasoning.; they just haven’t experienced enough of life yet. Once in high school, they have to decide on University or College level classes; the choice of which determines the education path they will experience. And all the while, the message they keep hearing is, “you can be anything and do anything you put your mind to.”

So what’s the problem with telling an entire generation they can have it all? Something was left out. We, as the generation before them neglected to mention they wouldn’t have it all immediately. So now we’ve got 23 year old adults who bought into that belief of having it all and they want it all now. They want to own homes or a condo; they want unrelenting love, trips abroad, careers and what they consider to be decent wages. This generation is pretty sure they know their worth; after all, they’ve had it drilled into they for half their young lives that they are special; the world is theirs for the taking.

One consequence they are experiencing is stress in ways no generation before them ever did. The distance between the reality of their current situations and the expectations of where they’d be at 23 is further apart then ever. So now, they wonder aloud, “I thought my career would be rolling along, I’d be paid well for my talents and education. I’ve got a job, but that job isn’t what I want to do really, I want a career and I’m not getting it as fast as they led me to believe. I’m not getting interviews for jobs I apply to. It’s so hard.”

The gold is flaking off the treasured picture of success. Wanting it all – expecting it all at 23 – that just hasn’t panned out. The consequence is young adults are feeling not just stressed but disillusioned, let down, questioning themselves, wondering if they should take more courses, a second degree, seeing themselves as underachievers and wondering suddenly why this world that is theirs for the taking isn’t giving them everything they’ve had as it did up until now.

A lot of people in the previous generation – my generation felt this too. The thing is we didn’t feel what they feel until we were older, in our late 30’s or early 40’s. At 23 we didn’t expect it all but we were working towards getting it. At 23, what hasn’t developed is the very thing that would help with the stress they are experiencing; problem-solving skills built on real life experiences. We developed patience and worked towards getting our dreams fulfilled.

I’d suggest we understand young adults in their early twenties in this light and using this context. They aren’t greedy, self-centered or immature. They are bright, hopeful, well-educated academically and exactly what we hoped they’d be; aspiring. That they want and expect it all now is good, and the struggle they are just realizing they have to undergo to get it comes as surprising news. What we can do is what we have always done, encourage and support them as they grow.

Life is all about learning and it never stops. For if we had it all at 23, what would the next 50 – 70 years be for?

3 Problems To Resolve


In my role as an Employment Counsellor, I’ve looked over job postings for literally thousands of various careers and jobs over the years; thousands that is, with no exaggeration.

One thing that I’ve noticed when looking at the qualifications required to be successful in the majority of these postings is the need to bring problem solving skills. While some postings leave it at that, others give clues as to how they want them handled. With key words such as, ‘tactfully’, ‘quickly resolve’ and, ‘troubleshoot’ included in the job description, they provide us with key words to use when constructing the application resume and during interviews.

And so it is that I introduce those in my job search classes to three problems, which I share with you here today. My goal in doing so, is to observe how the participants address each one as they work in small groups. I pay close attention to not just the resolution, but listen carefully as they discuss and share with each other their own thoughts. It’s these thoughts and possible courses of action that help me best understand what a person is thinking and how that thinking stands up with the others, is dismissed or accepted, built on or ignored.

So, while I can’t do the same with you my reader, I present them nonetheless. You might find the problems here mundane, easily resolved or tricky. Let me tell you that each one here is a real life situation for someone I partnered with. For each, what would you do?

Problem 1

You wake up and realize you slept through the alarm. You’re 45 minutes later than usual, the car doesn’t have enough gas to get you to work and you’ve got $3.75 in change. The top you’ve put on has a mustard stain, the dog needs to be fed and just threw up on the kitchen floor. Oh and yes, that is a cold sore next to your lip. Welcome to day 3 on your new job.

Problem 2

It’s like the person next to you in your new job hates you and wants you to fail. They ignore you at best, give you incorrect information and tell you flat out that you aren’t wanted there. For this problem, consider not only what you would do, but what might be going on with that coworker which is causing the hostility.

Problem 3

After accepting a position and working for 4 days, you get a new job offer from one of the positions you previously interviewed for. This new offer is slightly more money, has no benefits, is 20 minutes further to commute to one way, and could provide more advancement. Your first 4 days have gone really well by the way.  For this problem, what are the factors you weigh and if you decide to stay, what do you tell the employer with the new offer? If you decide to take the new offer, what do you say to the employer you’re working for now?

Okay, so how did you do?

Problem 1

If you rely on a device to wake you on time, always set a second one. In this situation, that will help going forward but not at the moment. You’re late. First thing is to know the policy and practice of your employer. In some, you have to speak in person with your boss or another supervisor. In others, an absent line will do. Immediately report in when you arrive, explain yourself, apologize and offer to make up the time. Change the top or add a light sweater/jacket. Get the dog out while doing the above and while some have cleaned up after the dog, others have said they’d let it sit there until they came home. No comment! As for getting to work, when you have no gas, bus fare one way might work if transit is available. Can you call on family, a friend, a neighbour? Can you take a cab, share a ride, carpool?

Problem 2

If things start off this badly, it’s more about them than anything you’ve said or done. “Can we talk?” might be a good approach and then gently tell the person how you feel and ask what’s going on as you want this to work. If you get a resolution, good. If not, and only now, escalate your concerns. In this case, what was really happening was the long-term employee had hoped a personal friend of hers would get the job and they didn’t. Talking it out was healthy, the person apologized for their behaviour and they actually became great co-workers.

Problem 3

There’s incomplete information in this problem. Are you getting benefits now? What are the two jobs and are either of them a dream job? How much money are we talking about? Still, you’ve got a decision. The key is to preserve the relationship with the employer you turn down. Don’t for example, just stop going into work and refuse to answer their phone calls. If you do leave, make it clear you stopped actively applying once accepting their offer, thank them for their confidence in hiring you and hope they understand. After only 4 days, you’re not indispensable. Going from the stress of no job to the stress of multiple offers happens when you apply with a strong resume/cover letter and improved interview skills.

While not major perhaps, resolving any problem prepares you for the big ones by honing your problem solving skills.

Mental Health Issues At Work


A lot of people don’t get it do they? They may be sympathetic alright, but their sympathy doesn’t translate into fully appreciating or understanding why you falter. When they see you running late, having to leave early, missing days entirely, they wonder how much you really want it in the first place. To be fair, they only see you when you’re experiencing days that are good enough for you to get out in public. If they could see you on your worst days; the ones where you can’t even get out of bed, they’d have a different point of view – perhaps – and maybe their sympathy would turn to empathy.

These mental health issues aren’t what you want in life. It’s not like you go out of your way to take time off. When the anxiety and panic sends you running for the security of your home surroundings; one of the few places you can actually breathe and feel somewhat safe and protected against what assails you, you’re not bolting because you want to, you’re leaving because you have to. When you do get home and shut that door with your back leaning against it out of sheer relief, you don’t always feel happiness at being home but rather, sometimes great frustration that once again, you couldn’t finish what you’d hope would be putting in a full day.

Being normal; it’s not too much to ask for is it? Just getting up, feeling good, having a shower and washing away all the remnants of bad dreams and thoughts along with the water. Dressing, looking at yourself in the mirror and liking what you see as you lock the door and head to work with confidence, looking forward to meeting people, being productive, getting things done. Normal. Sigh… “Why can’t that be me?”, you wonder. Just a normal, average person living free of these constant mental health challenges. Oh to have a day free of meds, free of worry and fear, no anxiety – “do I remember a time when I didn’t have these things?”

Now we all have times in our lives when we experience anxiety and worry. We’ve had moments of panic, a few days or maybe a couple of weeks when something has caused us to feel added pressure and stress. Some major project at work, year-end inventories, staff shortages, some invasive dental work etc. The pressure and anxiety we feel in these moments gives us a small glimpse into what others with mental health issues feel; a good thing of course. However the downside of these moments is that we might feel we know exactly what someone with constant anxiety and depression feels. This can cause us to expect them to snap out of it eventually, put in the effort to pull themselves past the panic attacks and be stronger than their mental illness. After all, if ours passed, theirs should too.

Like I said, this is the downside of having moments here and there where we all experience stress, anxiety and sadness. Oh it’s completely understandable that we evaluate others behaviours based on what we’ve experienced ourselves. As humans, we all do this. We try and understand the behaviours and actions of others using whatever we’ve experienced that comes closest to what we see and hear. The problem in this case is when we see our own short-term challenge; one we’ve overcome, and we compare it to someone with an ongoing mental health challenge and expect them to put it behind them as we’ve done. That’s just not realistic. If these are the expectations we hold, we’re really not being empathetic.

It just may not be possible to fully appreciate and truly understand what we ourselves have not experienced. And many a person with anxiety, depression, panic attacks and constant pressure has told me they wouldn’t wish on anyone what they struggle with every day. I for one can only imagine the strength of character, determination and immense mental and physical effort it must take just to show up some days and then on top of that, work with a smile, look like you want others to see you as. What I can’t imagine is how hurtful it must feel if you were present on the job, thinking you were blending in (finally!) and then someone said, “You know, it wouldn’t hurt you to smile.” It would have to feel like a dagger bursting what you believed to be a pretty impressive rebuilding of your self-esteem.

This blog today is therefore meant to be for both you who struggle with mental health and those of us who work alongside you and are fortunate enough to live free of. Show some compassion; what you can’t understand do your best not to criticize or judge harshly. When your workload goes up because someone is absent again, be mindful that they aren’t, ‘goofing off’, or ‘having a good time lazing about’. Keep them in your thoughts and welcome them back with words of encouragement.

And you who have mental health challenges, problems, struggles – choose what you will – all you can do is your best and your best is all that can be asked of you. May you be surrounded by considerate, compassionate people who lend support, have your back and excuse/forgive us if every so often we fail to act at our best with words that may hurt unintended.

What Job Lies In Your Future? Relax!


Remember being asked, “What are you going to be?” or, “What do you want to do?” when you were in your teens? Most people who ask that question are really looking to open a conversation; get you talking. Whatever you said in reply directed them in their response. So if you named a career, they’d say that was an interesting or good choice. Maybe they’d say that was exciting, dangerous, paid well, etc.

Sometimes you’d name a job that they didn’t know much about and they were interested in learning what that job was and why you were interested in it. Of course if you said you hadn’t made up your mind or didn’t know, you got a sympathetic response as they told you that you had a lot of time to figure things out. That they hoped, was meant to be comforting.

Having an idea of what you want to do is helpful of course because that gives you something to plan around; the courses you’ll need, the school that teaches the program, where to start your job search, the people you should start interacting with. When you’re in your teens, you’ve got your whole life in front of you and yet, it can feel like you have to decide now. You have to start taking classes in high school that will prepare you for College, a trade, or University. Choosing where to go to post-secondary school can be hard to know if all you read are brochures, or go online; even a one day trip to a campus doesn’t really tell you all you want to know, although it sure helps.

Let me tell you one thing that will both help and confuse you though. For some, the job you’ll settle into 5 or 10 years down the road may not have even been created yet, and if it already exists, it hasn’t even entered your conscious thought. In other words, you can’t go to school to learn how to do a future job if you aren’t even aware of it.

The problem now is obvious isn’t it? If the job doesn’t exist, there are no College or University programs that are going to teach you all you need to know to compete for it. If it does exist but you just haven’t the awareness of it yet, how can you expect to move forward in the hopes of preparing for that job?

This is a dilemma for anyone. The answer however isn’t to do nothing and just wait. No, in the interim you’d be wise to increase your work experience and/or get an education. I know, I know, you’re thinking that it might be expensive and a waste of time in your view if you have to go back to school and pay out more money to take some course in the future on top of whatever you graduate with in 3 to 4 years.

You’ve heard no doubt of taking a year off after high school to work or travel; giving yourself the benefit of one year to better determine whatever it is you want to do. For some, that year works wonders. Travelling and working bring you into contact with jobs and the people who work in them that might open your eyes to some possibilities. The conversations you have over the next year might lead you to consider doing something that you’d be really good at and interested in.

But here’s a fact that may also confuse or help you too; most people change their career 2 or 3 times in their lifetime and certainly change their job even more. You knew this though didn’t you? I mean, you don’t think the job you go to school for in your teens and start in your early 20’s is really going to be the job you retire from at 65 do you? Hardly likely.

This is actually a good thing. You my friend, will evolve. You’ll find new things to peak your interest; new jobs that pay more, stretch your thinking in new ways, ones that open new opportunities and some that have greater rewards. What you do in the early and mid point in your working life will largely set you up for those future opportunities. So getting experience now, going to school to get a Diploma or Degree just might keep those doors open so you can take advantage of things down the road.

Relax in other words. Don’t put enormous pressure on yourself when your in high school to choose all the right courses; the College or University that will be perfect for you. By all means get all the information you can from talking to people and visiting schools you might consider. Yes, do your homework and then decide. Remember you can always change a course load in school to another field or even change schools. After you graduate, you might extend your school to get a Master’s, or add a second degree or diploma.

The wonderful thing about life is it’s yours. You get to make it what it will become. There’s no blueprint, no template, no pre-set determined path you have to follow. It’s exciting and stressful and it should be. So you’re normal if you’re unsure. If a job you’ll have in the future hasn’t come into your awareness yet, you can hardly be expected to answer the question, “What do you want to be?”

What Don’t You Like About Your Job?


The majority of people, I believe, would say there are pros and cons to the job they hold. While we all want jobs that bring us fulfillment, happiness and positives, here today, I want to explore the not-so-good things about the work we do.

First off, I think it’s fair to say that when the negatives in a job build up to the point where they outnumber the good, it’s definitely time to strongly consider looking for a change. Well, honestly, if it were me, I’d have started to look for a change long before I let the negatives grow to such a point where they outweighed the negative. But that’s me.

Now the negatives in a job generally fall into two categories; things we can change and things over which we have no control. Take a job where you’re working outside in all weather conditions and you have no control over the rise or drop in temperatures, you can’t control hail, rain, sleet or blazing sun, but you can of course control what you wear in such conditions to mitigate the impact of the weather on you., Then there’s the length of time you may be exposed to such conditions, and in some situations and depending on the importance of the work or whether there are deadlines to be met or not, you might not even be compelled to work until conditions improve.

For many, it’s the people that we come into contact with each day that either make or break our jobs. Work for a supportive and encouraging supervisor and you might express your thanks by willingly putting in extra effort as you go about things. On the other hand, when there’s friction between you and the boss, that heightened negative stress may be so severe you get to the point where you realize your mental and physical health aren’t worth risking any further, and you walk away.

Here’s something to think about which you may or may not have already realized; the things that you find frustrating as you go about your day may actually be the things that keep you growing, improving and keep you stimulated. Huh? How can that be? And if this is how you grow and improve yourself, maybe you’d rather not!

Ah but it’s true. Sometimes we can coast along in our jobs, doing what we’ve always done and doing them well. We don’t stretch ourselves, we’re stable and reliable. What we do is what we’ve always done and others around us have come to see us as trustworthy, capable, competent and someone they can rely on. That sounds good right? Yes, of course it does.

But then adversity hits. Something or rather some things, come along and cause a wrinkle in how we go about our job. New technology, a new policy, some additional training we’re required to undergo, some personal health concern that impacts on our stamina, or anything which puts our performance in jeopardy. Yes, it could also be a change in your supervisor, new expectations, a shake up to the team, relocation or a move by your competition that changes how you’ll go about things moving forward if you’re to survive and thrive.

It is these things with which we can become frustrated. It begins to feel like we have to invest energy coping with whatever this new annoyance is; energy that we’d rather pour into the work we’ve done, doing it the way it’s been successful for us in the past. If and when whatever is causing this frustration is confined to us alone, we might also start to worry what others might think of us; will they question our abilities to adapt and succeed? It’s different for sure when frustrations are shared by others; as in an entire organization having to overhaul and redefine their place in the market.

The key is to identify correctly what your source of frustration is and secondly identify what you might do as options to work through things and get past these frustrating days. When you’ve identified possible solutions to implement, you move to action; actually putting into place one or more of the ideas you’ve brainstormed. If your actions reduce or eliminate what you find frustrating, you carry on. If on the other hand, the frustration remains or has escalated, you go back to the ideas you brainstormed and implement another. And don’t underestimate the value of sharing what your source of frustration is with others. You might find your solution is one that has worked for others and they are only too happy to share it with you.

You may end up stronger and have added a new skill to your repertoire as you look back on the frustration of the past when it’s behind you. And if there’s truly nothing you can do to eliminate this frustration that’s affecting your health and happiness, walking away is often not a sign of your failure, but rather your intelligence in preserving your dignity, self-respect, future happiness and good health. The wisdom in knowing how much to invest as you combat your work frustrations, and when it’s time to remove yourself from the situation altogether is what it’s all about.

Go ahead then. It’s good to share! What are you finding frustrating at the moment? Or if you’d rather, what did you use to find frustrating and how did you move past it?

 

 

Carrying Too Much? Headed For A Crisis?


Let’s suppose three conditions exist:

  1.  You’ve got problems.
  2.  Your employer tells you to leave your personal problems at home.
  3.  Your other half tells you to leave your work problems at work.

So you’re not to unburden yourself at home or the workplace. But the message society is broadcasting in 2019 is that talking about your problems, stresses and general mental health challenges is highly encouraged. So who will listen to you if the people in your daily life with whom you have the most contact apparently won’t?

This is the situation many people find themselves in, and with no one they know prepared to listen to them – really listen to them – most people end up carrying an increasingly large load each and every day. Every so often, that load becomes unbearable and then something happens where you shut down completely and take an extended medical leave of absence after experiencing a mental health crisis.

If you saw someone carrying a heavy load, you’d offer to help. The same person carrying too many problems on the other hand is harder for us to see.

If and when you do break down the Management team where you work might say they saw it coming. Well, if they saw this coming, what did they do to reach out and try to head it off before it developed into a full-blown crisis? Was there any offer of counselling? Did they sit down and try to get at your work-related or personal concerns as they impacted on your work production?

Now some employers do have Employee Assistance Programs (EAP). These provide employees with access to confidential counselling services. For those that access this help, it’s a good opportunity to talk openly about the pressure you’re under in both your personal and professional life. You’re given a number of sessions to participate in; and you set the frequency of those talks. It’s just the two of you; you and your Counsellor.

WHAT you talk about is pretty open. Don’t expect however that this Counsellor will hear you out and then tell you what to do to fix your life. That might be nice to envision for some, but in reality, they listen, offer support and yes do make some suggestions on various strategies you might find helpful. They will share community resources if and when appropriate for you to take advantage of, but what they won’t do is lay out a plan for you to follow that solves all your issues. That after all, would be their plan for you, not your plan for you.

Okay so this sounds good if you work for an employer with this counselling service to access. But, for the many who don’t have such services paid for to access as part of their benefit plan, what’s a person to do?

Well, you can opt to pay for counselling services out of your wages. While you might feel this is money you can’t afford, consider that your own mental health is at stake and perhaps you can’t afford NOT to get the help you’re after. If you have a complete break down and have to quit or get fired, you still have all your issues to deal with – plus loss of income and loss of employment.

I think it’s fair to say there are a lot of people these days who are carrying worry, grief, anxiety, depression, bitterness, fear, hopelessness, low self-worth, phobias and pressure with them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Some have learned to hide it so well, you and I would be completely shocked if they ever shared what they carry. We’d likely say, “What?! You? No way. I don’t believe it. I’d never have guessed. But you don’t show any signs of that!”

Now we all experience stress and worry; it’s not confined to a few. For the majority of us, these worries and pressures are things we can work through using the skills we’ve acquired and practiced while resolving other challenges and similar situations in our past. As we work through problems and worries, we gain confidence in our ability to work things out, we might have learned to see the bigger picture; to know with great confidence that these problems will eventually pass and life will go on. This perspective and these growing skills help us manage the problems as they arise.

However, equally true is the fact that many people don’t have the knowledge of resources to draw on, they don’t have good role models in their lives helping them learn the skills to resolve problems. They may therefore fail to resolve their problems on a regular basis and all these failures just compound their problems because they repeat the same behaviours which result in the same problems arising. Tragic, sad and a vicious circle.

You may opt to talk things out with a trusted friend. Good for you if you have a friend you can in fact trust, and if that friend listens without jumping to the temptation to tell you what to do. Saying, “here’s what I’d do if I were you…” isn’t really helpful but it sure sounds like what you want to hear.

So how do you access counselling? Ask your employer if there’s help. Ask anyone who works in a community agency for a phone number of such services or use the internet to look up counselling services in your area.

To your good mental health.

Think You May Lose Your Job?


There are several reasons you might find yourself thinking more often about losing your job. Has your company been downsizing and your seniority eroding so quickly your long-held belief that it couldn’t happen to you is eroding right along with it?

Maybe it’s restructuring, poor performance on your part, a change in Supervisor and it’s pretty clear they want to clear house and hire their own people or for some reason, the boss you knew and liked has changed and their new behaviours and actions have given you reason for concern. There are many reasons you see, for being worried about your employment. So what’s a person supposed to do?

For starters, and this is nothing really new, find your resume and start updating it with all the training, additional education and employment you’ve had since you last looked at it. Open up that drawer of certificates you’ve earned at work, or that computer file with the courses you’ve taken. Now is the time to get those things on your resume; and take these certificates home!

Why now? Okay let’s get to the worst case scenario. Suppose some people come to your work area today about 15 minutes before your lunch and tell you that you’re being let go. Suppose too they tell you they are here to walk you out, that your things will be boxed up and ready for you to pick up in a couple of days. You’re to take nothing but your coat, your lunch and they’ve brought backup just in case by the looks of it.

Not very nice I admit, but my point is to make it clear that you may not have the time to get things before the axe falls. Oh and by the way, employer’s walk you out not because they feed off the power of humiliating you, but rather they want to protect their assets, and emotional employees (and you will be) sometimes don’t act fully rationally, nor do employers and employees always agree on who owns what. While your personal photos and knick-knacks are clearly yours, other things that aren’t so clear might be materials you created on behalf of the employer, USB sticks, cell phones, personal computers, keys, access cards, etc. Yes, the escorted walk out off the property might be embarrassing but it could have you later wishing you’d taken the time to gather your things personally.

So it comes down to two things; is your looming departure beyond or within your control? If you feel your performance is the cause for your worry, then you must ask yourself if you’re interested and motivated enough to change your ways and up your performance. If you don’t care whether they fire you or not and you plan on behaving exactly the way you have been, that’s your call.

Now, another thing to consider is whether you’re up for a personal, closed door chat with the boss. Knowing where you stand is important for many people; even when the news is bad, a lot of people actually feel better knowing the situation they are truly in rather than stressing over the situation they think they might be in. You might not be called on to use your imagination much at work, but it will be working overtime creating all kinds of possible scenario’s in your mind until you know the truth of where things are.

Why does imminent loss of employment worry people so? Well it’s more than just the loss of a job. It’s the loss of a reputation, the loss of an identity as an employee and whatever your job title is at the moment. It’s financial worry too, and depending on your age and job prospects, it could have you fearing your days of having an ongoing income are done if you lose this job. When you fear this, you fear the future and however you imagined it is now in jeopardy.  There’s also the stigmatism of telling family and friends or doing what some do; leaving for work as usual but having no job to go to while they job search so they can avoid upsetting others in the hopes they’ll get another job immediately.

When you really feel the axe could fall any day now, best to start taking home whatever personal possessions you’ve got in the workplace. The last thing you want is to suddenly recall 4 weeks after being let go, some item you believe you left at work and having to contact the employer in the hopes of getting it. If they tell you it’s not there, you may be convinced they threw it out or possibly even kept it and this will just result in more anxiety, more bitterness and this isn’t healthy.

Start getting your references together too. You know, the phone numbers, job titles and emails of the people you trust at work will speak well of you if/when you’re gone. It’s so much easier now rather than later.

Whatever you do, don’t start stealing company property. This is one way to get fired for sure. Do check into your financial situation. Cut back on your spending now to buffer the possibility of a loss of income. If you have benefits, think about a dental or optical visit now too.

Start looking for other employment; put out feelers and network. Wouldn’t you rather leave on your own terms?

 

 

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!