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.


No Applications? No Interviews. No Job. Simple.

The best way to get a 100% guarantee that employers will continue to reject and decline to offer you interviews is to stop applying for jobs altogether. Do this and you’ll be done with frustration, stress and the cycle of applying with hope only to taste the acrid bitterness of rejection; then to reapply again with optimism etc. Yes, give it up now and escape from voluntarily setting yourself up for ongoing disappointment.

Of course if you follow that opening advice, you’ll have a lot of time on your hands. Time that initially will seem like a wave of relief washing over you. After all, no more scouring the internet and job boards for minimum wage, entry-level jobs. No more fruitless networking meetings, resumes to tailor to specific jobs, no more need for LinkedIn; the freedom to post online whoever you are, whatever you want without a thought or care about who sees what. No more emails to send, nor the need to be checking your phone for possible invitations that never come. What a relief indeed!

The downside of course is that all this free time doesn’t exactly stop your brain from wandering back to thoughts of employment. Without a job or even looking for one, you’ve got about 7 hours a day, 35 hours a week, 140 hours a month etc. that you wouldn’t have if you were working. How many of those hours are you going to fill productively doing other things? Reading, traveling, exercising, watching television, fixing things around the home; all good in their own way, but for how long are these things going to keep bringing you the happiness they do now?

The most obvious stress for many is where does the money materialize from to allow you to keep living where you do now? There’s the rent or mortgage, food, utilities, repairs, transit, clothing, your morning jolt of caffeine. What about entertainment, unexpected expenses, illnesses, new glasses, dental visits, prescriptions, the virus protection on the laptop that needs renewing? Just a small list… So you start getting frugal if you haven’t already; thinking strategically about what you can do without; what you’re willing to sacrifice. That gets stressful after awhile doesn’t it? I mean, saying you’ll do without item B because you won’t give up item A only to find that in two month’s time your ‘must have’ item A is something you have to part with to keep item C. This is living?

Sometimes all these decisions just seem overwhelming right? Sure they do. This is when some people turn to self-medication which never really seems to have much of a lasting affect. Oh for a while they shift your thinking and provide short-term relief. In the long-run however the medications wear off and you’re back dealing with the original thoughts and you’ve added the lower self-worth and need for self-medication to your list of things to be disappointed with in yourself.

The thing about stressing while in a job search is that you’ve got one thing to hold on to that makes the frustration of a job search worth the effort; there’s the hope of success. Get into the interview stage when you’ve had a rough time even having your applications acknowledged and you’re making progress. Have a good interview or two and you feel the momentum building. Build on the momentum and you find your making the short-list; getting down to the last cuts. Get the job and all that frustration leading up to this moment suddenly becomes worthwhile. You appreciate the job more when you get it, you experience a moment of gratitude and appreciation for what it took to get you there.

All those expressions about putting in the hard work to get what you want, keeping your eyes focused on the destination or anything worth having is worth working for etc. suddenly have real meaning. You earned this one.

Gone are the days when many people got the first job they applied to or jobs just dropped into their laps without really even looking. Gone are the times when your good looks, natural charm, sexy clothing or mom could get you the job just for the asking. Well for most of us; there are still some regressive employers who still hire sexy, but think about it; do you really want to work for a person who hired you based on that? What are you setting yourself up for in the future? Get hired based on merit, job-specific and transferable skills, experience and you’re better off.

Don’t give up, give in, lose hope, listen to pessimism and grind your job search to a halt. Stick with your quest for employment and apply for jobs. Do your best to keep that positive outlook but allow yourself to be human and acknowledge the disappointment and frustration that a prolonged job search can bring. You can simultaneously be disappointed with progress but optimistic that you’ll eventually succeed.

Athletes have trainers, coaches and rely heavily on those who have previously achieved success to mentor them. Why not follow the same formula when you’re after something you ultimately want too? Seeking support while job searching, having a professional coach instruct you in how to be most effective and then having the discipline and intelligence to actually follow the advice you’re given with a commitment to your own improvement is exactly what successful people do.

Of course there’s always the alternative…


It’s Time For A New Job When…

These days the likelihood that you’re going to get a job at 19 and retire in that same job at 67 are almost nil. So it stands to reason that in your lifetime you’ll be transitioning from one job to another, or from one career to another. When’s the best time to go? How do you know when it’s time to go? Here’s a list of some indicators that your expiry date is almost up.

The first thing you do at work when you fire up the computer is to search internal job postings. If you’ve got into the routine of looking at what else you could be doing, it’s fair to assume you like the organization you’re in but have an interest in seeing what other opportunities there are. Sure you could just be checking out what’s opening up out of casual interest, but EVERY DAY? Don’t kid yourself; recognize the lustre has worn off what you’re currently doing.

Your boss suggests moves rather than promotions. Oh oh… If you had the skills your organization needs for those at the next level you’d be sitting down with the boss and they’d be encouraging you to put your name forward for upcoming openings at their level. However, if the boss is suggesting you look elsewhere so you can grow in other ways, that could be a sign you’ve reached a plateau. Are you a bad worker? No, not necessarily. In fact, they might just have your own best interests at heart when they suggest you look elsewhere for opportunities. Maybe they see potential in you in fact but know there aren’t going to be those kind of openings where you work now for years. The boss isn’t always bad y’know.

You wake up, realize it’s a, ‘go to work day’ and start thinking of reasons you could call in and skip out on showing up. Oh sure I suppose everybody does this once in a blue moon; especially on a sunny warm day when you’d rather be out in the sunshine. But if you’re finding these kind of thoughts are among the first to enter your consciousness on a regular basis,  you’d be smart to pay heed and address why you’re automatically looking to get out of going in to work instead of looking forward to the day.

You look around at work and see conspirators, not co-workers. While it’s true your co-workers need not be your friends, you do spend a lot of time with the folks you work with and so it’s reasonable to expect you’d at least communicate and support one another in your common organizational targets and goals. That being said, if you feel your co-workers are plotting against you, setting you up as the fall guy for projects that fail and you’re left holding the bag for things you feel you aren’t solely responsible for, ask yourself why no one has your back. Is it worth it to stay in what is being a toxic environment?

You’re counting down the days to retirement. First off let me acknowledge that if you’ve got less than a year to go, I can see the reasoning and the behaviour, so I’m not talking about you. However, I once worked with a person who had 7 years to go and kept checking off the days on their calendar on a daily basis. There focus was pinned on getting out as if they were serving a life sentence and had weekend visitations with their family. Is that any way to live? It certainly isn’t living in the present but rather pinning all ones thoughts and hopes on what will be in 7 years. Think of what you’re missing.

Anxiety, Stress and Uncertainty are your new best friends. If you find yourself anxious on a regular basis, you’re not sure why and can’t put your finger on it but you seem to have lost your focus that could be more than concerning it could be downright lethal. Exaggeration? Not if you work around heavy equipment, power tools or at heights etc. When you’re not thinking straight you put yourself and those around you in danger.

Anonymous hands put job postings on your desk; external job postings. When someone or worse yet, some people put external job postings on your desk it might signal you’re no longer tight with the in-crowd. While it might not matter to you at all, being excluded from simple things like joining others for a walk at break time or drinks at the pub after work could work against you and grow feelings of social isolation. If this is something you value, being excluded and essentially having it suggested to you that you should resign and move on could really sting.

The thrill is gone. What a great line from that oldies classic. But there is a reason that line endures over time; everybody who has ever lost the fire and passion gets it. If your job has become a chore and nothing more; if you find yourself watching the minutes drag by until quitting time….

Stay or go of course, it’s your choice. If you opt to stay at least make some kind of an adjustment in your thinking, looking at what you could do to make it better. If you opt to go, you could be giving yourself a tremendous gift. And who deserves it more than you?

Unemployment And The Christmas Parties

If you are like a lot of people, you’re not feel particularly festive when you’re out of work. The idea of putting on your best clothes, hosting a party that will set you back more than a few bucks and smiling all through it all while you’re financially stretched and emotionally turbulent isn’t exactly enticing.

Well, I’m here to tell you friend that a Christmas party, a Winter gathering or if you are of another faith; well, whatever you’d normally get together and celebrate is just what you need professionally and personally. No don’t click the ‘close’ button and read something more in line with your brooding temperament; read on and take heart.

First let’s make the argument for those around you if you’ve got a significant other and/or children. Yes YOU are unemployed and yes what happens to one person in the family affects everyone and no I’m not expecting you or anyone else to fake sincerity the entire time you are hosting; pretending to be 100% joyful when you’re concerned about how long this unemployment will last. You owe it to others though to do your best to keep some things as normal as you can, and if celebrating with friends and extended family is something you normally do, keep your plans.

Christmas parties can be done on a budget much like many other things in life. It’s the people gathered, not necessarily what they are eating or drinking that is important; the socializing, the camaraderie, the friendships. I’m guessing you don’t want to feel guilty about cancelling things; something new to feel bad about in addition to being out of work. Of course not.

Now for you personally, this party you are hosting, (or perhaps one you are going to at someone else’s home) is a really good time for you to take one of two approaches. You may decide that this is just a really good opportunity to forget as much as you can about being unemployed and have some laughs, enjoy time with those around you and relax. On the other hand, you might decide to add to the mix some conversation regarding your search; put out some feelers without too much pressure and see if anything productive comes out of this in the days to come.

The one nice thing about sharing a little bit about your job search is that you can get some really supportive feedback from those people you open up to. These aren’t strangers after all but people who care about you and want you to be successful. If they can help you out they will; you know that instinctively. If they can’t do anything to actually help you track down a job, they sure can support you with positive and encouraging words.

Get over the feeling that you don’t want anyone to know about your lack of employment; you could have a lot worse things happening in your life and I refuse to give you examples; let your mind run silly. Now I know being out of work is a time of anxiety, added stress and pressure. I’ve been out of work over the course of my lifetime on multiple occasions myself and know of what I speak. Yes it was hard and at times I didn’t live up to the message I’m passing on to you. That doesn’t mean the message itself is wrong.

Look, staying home shut in with more than just your doors and walls keeping out the cold and wind isn’t healthy. It sounds entirely counter to what you might be tempted to do but talk with people. Get chatting and communicating. Work your interpersonal skills and there’s no better place to start than a gathering of people in good moods with good food and beverages. Go easy on the alcohol so you don’t start running on at the mouth; especially if you’re not so positive when you’ve had more than you normally do.

You might find of course that someone at a party or gathering over the Christmas period can and does help your job search and if so that’s wonderful. More often however, you won’t get hired at a Christmas party nor will there be a phone call at 9:30a.m. the next day passing on a job lead. However, you might get help and support in other ways that show those around you care. You might find your driveway cleared one morning of the snow that fell overnight. Maybe it’s an invitation to join a friend at the gym, tickets to take the kids to a local hockey game, a call to fill in for a missing player in the mixed volleyball league. These are small but real ways friends help friends stay involved, connected and ways to say, “I’m thinking about you.”

You will feel better more often than not if you give yourself a chance. If you go places or host parties and make up your mind ahead of time to be miserable you will unfortunately predict your own demise and have a miserable time; not to mention those around you. Okay so you’re not at your best, so what? If it was a friend of yours you’d hope to see them at a gathering and you’d go out of your way to be supportive and empathize with them.

Give it a shot; or rather give yourself one.

Convictions And Unemployment

I bet you know someone who has a criminal record. I’m not saying they’ve told you about it mind; I’m just betting you know someone who happens to have a criminal record. Given all the people you know as family, friends acquaintances and all the people you interact with in a given day, I’m betting it’s inevitable that at least one if not a few have been convicted of some offence.

What you may not know is how difficult it is these days to get a job when you have a conviction; even a conviction that happened 20 or 30 years ago, perhaps when the person made a serious error in judgement and did something stupid. Maybe it was a group of young adults joyriding in a stolen car, maybe drinking excessively and getting a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) conviction. I’m not excusing or defending the behaviour, but that behaviour might have been a one-time occurrence and it was ages ago. Since that time, the person hasn’t re-offended; not even a speeding or parking ticket.

So fast-forward to the present and you’ve got this person who has gone on to get an education, but then can’t find a job in the field they were trained for because at the conclusion of every job interview, the interviewer says some version of, “Congratulations. We’d like to extend an offer of employment to you – pending a clean criminal reference check of course.” It’s at this moment that the sinking feeling in the pit of the applicants stomach hits, and despite anything they say to admit and explain their behaviour way back in time, the next thing they hear almost all the time is, “Gee, I’m really sorry but that’s a condition of employment. If you can clear your record with a pardon, get back to us because otherwise you’re exactly what we are looking for.”

Two things you should know at this point: 1) this single person will repeat this experience all the time and 2) this isn’t a unique situation because there are thousands of people in this predicament. Essentially, these people are unemployable. Do they want to work in meaningful jobs? Yes. Are they willing to start with entry-level jobs where they can prove their worth, earn their way up the ladder and justify your faith in them by working responsibly? Yes. Does that seem to matter? No.

Here’s some irony for you to think about. In listening to employers talk on the radio, I hear them say from time to time, “We can’t find qualified workers locally, so we have to look off-shore and Canadians don’t want to do the work so we have to bring in immigrants.” Their words by the way, not mine. Seems to me that there are some very well qualified unemployed people who are out there, but by qualified, I mean they meet the job requirements in every way except one; a clean criminal record.

If these people with convictions were hired, what would immediately happen is that the number of unemployed would be reduced. That would mean taxpayers would have less of their money given out to people trapped on social assistance who can’t get a job. Governments would win because these same people would transition from social assistance recipients to taxpaying employed people. With more people working, the unemployment numbers would drop, the economy would pick up too as more people would have money to spend on discretionary items.

Now I don’t mean we should sponge away every person’s record and that every person with a conviction should have that information denied to potential employers. It makes sense to me that we don’t want someone convicted of sexual abuse working in a childcare centre, nor a thief exposed to temptation by working at a cash register. There are exceptions.

However, take a 25 year-old male who had a few too many and succumbed to peer pressure and went along for a joyride in a beat up car with his friends at 18 years of age. Now say for the 7 years since, he learned his lesson, stopped drinking, made a new and better circle of friends, completed University and has a degree. By now he’s also paid for his crime with community service or a short stay in detention. That sentence is over as is the probation. The criminal conviction that he carries with him every day seems unusual punishment that just goes on and on without end. Aside from your ethical beliefs, is he employable as a Printer, Researcher, Psychologist?

Would you be surprised to learn that many employers wouldn’t even hire such a person to wash dishes, sell clothes or wait on tables? None of these six jobs involve cars or alcohol; so is it saying that the conviction reveals a character flaw?

Some employers say it’s an insurance thing; and that if the person should ever re-offend, customers or clients could sue the company and win bigger awards because they knowingly hired a ‘high-risk’ applicant. High-risk? We’ve got people out there in their 50’s with a conviction they got at 19! Hardly high-risk.

It’s about time we used some common sense and pardoned people once the punishment assigned by our courts is served in full. What we have now is cruel and unusual punishment, sentencing people to years of unemployment, making their ability to provide for themselves near impossible. And it’s cheap; pass some legislation, and keep that past conviction in some cases from coming up in a criminal record check.