Archive for January, 2012

Employment And Your Mental Health

Mental health… now that is a loaded term that may have already sparked colourful images in your mind, or maybe you may have some opinions about it. Some see it as a warning of impending madness tied to an environmental or genetic cause; others might see it as a problem for “those weak-minded people”. No matter what you think of mental health, it’s an important part of finding and keeping a job. More importantly, mental health problems can affect anyone. If employment is the CEO of a company, then mental health would be the executive assistant. It doesn’t matter how great of a CEO you are, if you have a mediocre or toxic assistant, you won’t be as effective as you can be.

Let’s start with a simple definition of the term “mental health” to make clear what I’m about to touch on. Mental health is like your physical health, but it has to do with your state of mind. What is your headspace like? Your ability to think, relate to concepts and ideas, problem solve and manage your emotions is what mental health is about. Mental health and physical health are inseparable. The above is just my simplified take on mental health. According the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), mental health is no longer focused just on mental illness and disorders, nor is there an absolute criterion as to what is “healthy”.

So how do you measure your mental health? According to the CMHA, the following factors help paint the full portrait; Ability to enjoy life, resilience, balance, self-actualization and flexibility. So what do they mean?

“Ability to enjoy life – Can you live in the moment and appreciate the “now”? Are you able to learn from the past and plan for the future without dwelling on things you can’t change or predict?”

“Resilience – Are you able to bounce back from hard times? Can you manage the stress of a serious life event without losing your optimism and a sense of perspective?”

“Balance – Are you able to juggle the many aspects of your life? Can you recognize when you might be devoting too much time to one aspect, at the expense of others? Are you able to make changes to restore balance when necessary?”

“Self-actualization – Do you recognize and develop your strengths so that you can reach your full potential?”

“Flexibility – Do you feel, and express, a range of emotions? When problems arise, can you change your expectations (of life, others, yourself) to solve the problem and feel better?”

Since the average full time employee works 35 hours or more a week, a large slice of life is spent at work. It only makes sense to keep your physical and mental health in check to be the best you can be. How can such a large part of your life not affect your mental health? Needless to say, those who love what they do enjoy better mental and physical health than those who dread going to work everyday. Unfortunately, 80% of people dislike, or even hate what they do. One in three Canadians suffer from mental illness. Mental health can pose as a formidable barrier and work against you and your performance at work if you choose to ignore and brush off signs and symptoms. The unemployment rate for persons with mental health disabilities is a staggering 70% to 90%. Take care of your mental health everyday; prevention is key. My next article will wrap up on the important tie between mental health and employment. I will also shed light on silly and harmful myths about mental illnesses. Stay glued to your screen!  We also have other resources listed on our website at: http://www.myerc.ca/Content/Independence/Health.asp.

This article was written by career development practitioner Andrew Lim.

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4 Things Job Seekers Could Learn From Super Villains

Super villains are not usually looked to as good role models. But when it comes to job search job seekers could learn a lot from the persistence and focus that super villains bring to the implementation of their schemes.

1. You’ve Got to Have A Plan

Super villains know that they need to have an action plan to achieve success. Whether it be capturing a pesky do-gooder or landing a job, a plan is needed. Unlike super villains that carefully plan their next scheme, job seekers often go about their job search in very unimaginative ways. One of the more popular methods is sitting in front of a computer and applying for everything that’s available online. This is not a plan. Planning involves setting goals and time lines to achieve them.

Do you think that the Joker just said he was going to capture Batman? He used S.M.A.R.T. planning to define specific, measurable, attainable, and realistic timely goals. A job seeker can improve their chance of success by targeting their goals. An example of this would be determining a specific amount of resumes and cover letters that are going to be submitted to employers in a specific industry. A big part of the success of employment programs is that they help job seekers devise and implement a job search plan.

2. Forget All The Bells And Whistles

Super villains often make the classic mistake of devising schemes that are overly complex. For instance, surely there exists a simpler way to determine Batman’s true identity that doesn’t involve dangling him over a shark pit. Job seekers make this same mistake with their resume. Using more than three fonts, brightly coloured paper or coloured ink can be a turn off for employers. Job seekers often become overly committed to the words in their highlight/summary section of their resumes. There is no list of words that are going to work magic on every employer. It is important to rework the highlight/summary section so the words used reflect the job posting or company’s profile.

3. Persistence

Super villains may be nasty, but there’s one good thing that we can say about their character—at least they’re consistent! Think of how dedicated Wile E. Coyote is in his pursuit of the Road Runner. Admittedly he does continue to fail, but sometimes he comes real close to achieving his goal. Persistence is key to success in job search because the more job searching you do the more you are able to promote yourself to employers.

Think about how many times Wile E. Coyote slammed into the side of a mountain because he tied himself to a giant stick of dynamite. Super villains seem incapable of learning, whereas job seekers are capable of learning from their mistakes. If a job seeker bombs an interview they can ask for feedback so that they can improve for the next interview. Perhaps their resume hasn’t led to interviews. An unconfident attitude often leads job seekers to attribute employers’ lack of interest to something that they are personally lacking. In contrast, a persistent attitude looks for solutions asking themselves questions about the quality of their application package and whether they need to do more networking.

4. Self-Promotion

Super villains know that if they want to be taken seriously they need to get their name out there. That’s why the Riddler leaves clues lying around everywhere. The same is true for job seekers; they need to get their names out there; this is often referred to as personal branding. When a job seeker applies for a job that has been publicly posted, it is possible that they are competing against 100 other people. With such a large quantity of resumes, there’s a pretty good chance that their resume is going to be just as good as a lot of other candidates. The good news is that there is one thing that can skyrocket a job seeker to the top of the call back list: networking.

Networking is the difference between whether or not an employer knows a job seeker’s name when they see it. If a job seeker has a friend, family member, or former co-worker put in a good word for them, there’s a pretty good chance that they will be getting an interview. Social networks can be expanded through career groups on Facebook and LinkedIn. Another method for establishing a strong network with employers is to ask for an informational interview. This is a quick interview with employers to learn more about a prospective industry. In addition to learning a lot about the industry, job seekers establish personal connections with employers before they have even applied to work with them.

Why Super Villains?

Super villains are bold and aren’t afraid to go for what they want. Often job seekers spend a lot of their time thinking and planning but not a lot of time implementing a plan. In contrast, super villains delight in both the planning and the implementation of their schemes. The super villain is a symbol of all that is dastardly in our society. One of the character traits of a villain is to be overly boastful or prideful, often to the super villains own down fall. However, job seekers could learn from the super villains wiliness to promote themselves. As a job seeker where do you draw the line between clever self-promotion or villainous pride?

This article was written by career development practitioner Mike Bourke.

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5 Steps To Becoming SUPERmom!

1. Get a job

2. Add children

3. Hold on for dear life!

When you make the decision to be a working mom (whether it is for necessity or by choice), you know that your life will not be easy and rarely straightforward. When you have children, all of the predictability in life goes away with your two-seater sports car. Ironic really, when families with their minivans and their soccer practices are the ones with the reputation for being scheduled and boooring! But let’s face it, how many of you parents out there have been stopped in your tracks because a teddy bear went flying out the car window, someone got sick, or the dog got out? Add a job to the equation and it becomes far from boring!

Trying to accommodate children, a boss, and a husband (or lack of one) is exhausting. Even the most organized SUPERmom can get overwhelmed. Trust me, we’ve all been in that place where we feel like if that kid makes that noise one more time our head might actually explode this time. So how do you avoid being the screaming mom in the supermarket, the mom who never shows up to appointments, or the mom who no longer enjoys her kids? Here are some of the tricks I use to stay sane:

1. Figure Out Your Family’s Needs

It is near impossible to balance everyone’s educational, vocational, community, recreational, physical, and social needs (not to mention finding time in there to feed everyone and do the housework!) We try to pick activities that will meet more than just one of these goals and for more than one member of the family at a time. I won’t lie, part of last year we spent almost five evenings a week on the softball field, but as a family we chose that as our priority activity and it meant other activities had to go on hold during that season. If there is a school activity that conflicts with a sport activity, we had to figure out which need (educational or recreational) was more important and which value (work vs. fun) was our priority as well. When you have decided what values and priorities you wish to encourage in your children, it makes these decisions easier. Don’t forget to give them a choice, but only if you can live with the decision they are going to make. Just remember that you can’t do everything!

2. Take Care of Your Family’s Health – Even Yours!

You know how grumpy your kids get when they don’t get enough sleep or don’t eat properly? That happens to everyone, even you. Make sleep a priority, but remember to get up in time to eat something for breakfast. It doesn’t have to be a huge meal (us busy moms so frequently are not morning eaters), but even just grabbing a piece of fruit or a yogurt gives you more energy to start your day. Making sure your kids have enough to eat in the morning and at school will go a long way towards avoiding meltdowns in the car on the way home from daycare. Try packing an afterschool snack like an apple and a cheese string to keep them busy on the way home. This is good for their physical health and your mental health if it avoids the “MOOOOOOMM, she’s looking out my window” fight.

3. Invest in a good calendar – and check it!

Honestly, I don’t know how I would survive without my Blackberry. It is always with me, and whenever I make a commitment I immediately save the appointment on my calendar. This keeps me from double booking myself and it also makes a noise to remind me of things. I used to have a calendar on the wall, but I find I have trouble remembering to check it in the morning. Do whatever works best for you, as long as you remember to use it! All that aside, there will be time that you just need to go with the flow and not punish yourself for leaving work early because little Suzie is throwing up all over the daycare floor, and the calendar will just have to wait for another day.

4. Remember that nobody’s perfect

The person we tend to expect perfection from the most is ourselves, but it is so hard not to when other people walk around making life look so easy! Don’t forget that people show their best face to the public. Ever been arguing with your husband and the phone rings and you switch over to that perfectly pleasant “Hello?” It doesn’t mean that we are like that all the time, nor is the “perfect person” in your life always the way they present to the public. We all do the best we can, and you can’t expect any more than that from yourself.

5. Take time for yourself

As important as it is to make sure your children’s needs are met, you also have your own needs as a parent for quiet time or socialization with friends. Try to take that time, even if it means leaving your kids at their lessons for an hour and going for a walk when you would normally stay and watch, or dropping them off at daycare anyway on one of the days you have off from work. Sure you may feel a bit guilty, so pick them up earlier than you normally would and take them to the park. Trust me, they’ll be thrilled!

So in conclusion…how do you be a SUPERmom? You do it by doing all the things that you have been doing all along. Moms are the magic behind family vacations and Sunday breakfast, the hug goodbye at daycare, and the kiss goodnight. They are the alarm clock in the morning and the person the kids turn to when they are angry, sad, frustrated, happy, hyper, and exhausted. Moms are also cashiers, nurses, carpenters, politicians, lawyers, and police officers. We represent a significant percentage of the labour force, and are becoming increasingly SUPER every day with the support and encouragement from other moms like us.

For more parenting tips visit our website at http://www.myerc.ca/Content/Independence/Childcare.asp.

This article was written by career development practitioner Kirsty Peterson.

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3 Questions That Lead To LinkedIn And Social Networking Success

There is a lot of info out there to increase your efficiency with social networking. A Google search turns up several results—I simply looked up “how to network with people” and a book by Harvey McKay, titled “Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty” came up. As the title indicates, it does make sense to have a well ready by the time you need to drink from it. Likewise, active social networking turns up the most results when created before you need the benefits of the network itself. It is best to use a simple strategy developed by answering the three simple questions outlined below.

Social networking is a free, easy way to meet other professionals and develop relationships that can propel your career in the future. When you are starting out there are several mentors that will try to help with advice for your career and job search, such as teachers, parents, career counselors, or others. Instead of advice though, I am going to give you a few tips on how to begin social networking through LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is a fantastic platform to meet other professionals that is growing at a meteoric pace. It took almost five years for LinkedIn to reach 100 million users, and less than a year after that to get to 130 million users. You can use it to reach out globally to find trends, share ideas, and become known as a subject matter expert. For that to happen though, you have to begin by looking to the future and taking some small steps. Before you decide to jump right in, you need to ask yourself three questions in order to have a strategic, successful, and bountiful social networking journey.

1. How much time will I spend per week?

This is a HUGE question to decide on. Decide on it, and then stick to it. There is so much information that it is easy to get lost going from link to post to group. I recommend you get an egg timer, set it for a certain amount of time, and log off when the timer goes off. The best memories in life are when life happens—and that does not happen in front of a computer monitor! I suggest starting with two to three times per week, ten to fifteen minutes per time, and then you can increase your time while your network grows.

2. What do I want to be seen as, and what do I want to be known for?

On your journey through your career and even life itself, it pays to remember one single truth—others will constantly evaluate your communications and performance. It pays to consider what you want people to think of you; think about what you want your reputation to be. The first step is to create a list of adjectives and attitudes you feel are important, not only for you to live by, but for the role you want to be hired for. Post it where you can see it while you’re actively social networking. By keeping a consistent attitude within your writing and communications, new people coming into your network can see your potential value. As they network with others, they will talk about your expertise; creating your online reputation.

Writing a personal vision statement related to your career will focus your communications even further. These adjectives and skills are the raw materials. My personal vision statement is “To provide clients with a holistic approach to career choice and development by using tools that generate positive momentum towards their personal goals. To ensure clients experience a counselor who is empathetic, sincere, and knowledgeable. To affect positive change by delivering information centered on the individual client. To share ideas, communicate trends, and develop current and effective career development models for clients.” When I focus and live through my personal vision statement, every day is a joy and my network reflects back to me how obvious it is that I am passionate, dedicated, and energetic. You can experience the same results through this process while you grow your network.

3. What is success for me?

Without a specific goal, you will only wander through social networking channels like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Defining a goal that is specific and time bound is necessary if you are going to achieve success.

For example, let’s say we are going to Toronto. Notice we left out important details with only that statement, such as when,why, for how long, who is driving, and more. If our goal was simply, “go to Toronto”, that is not enough to measure success. Instead, we could plan to to see the play “Les Miserables” in Toronto this Saturday. I will drive, we can share the gas costs of about 100$., and we will leave by 3:00 p.m. and arrive at 5:30 p.m. for the 7:00 p.m. event. We each will buy our own tickets when we arrive. We will arrive back home at 1:30 a.m. that night…

Focus on what you want to achieve, and then take steps to complete those goals. Make your goals, specific, measurable, action oriented, realistic, and scheduled to happen by a specific time. This is S.M.A.R.T. goal setting, and for direct examples, templates, and more free information you can use this link to get those tools. Some activities that may help you achieve your social networking goals are: posting an update or comment in a LinkedIn group and asking others to give feedback, sharing an experience where you solved a problem and asking if anyone has had the same experience, commenting on the updates of others as well.

Social networking is a currency of conversation, and the old saying that you have to spend money to make money applies. The more you communicate with others, the larger your network can grow, create future opportunities, and achieve your goals.

LinkedIn has several options, some of them are free, and some of them are paid/premium services. There is very little need to pay for any services at the beginning. If you are confused ask your network for help. The benefit of social networking is that many that use it are helpful, as others have helped them. There are several guides, tips, a blog, and more that LinkedIn provides on their page about their services – they call it “Learn LinkedIn”. Take a moment, go through some guides, and you can begin to construct your profile.

Take the time to build your network before you need it, or dig your well before you need a drink and it will be ready for you when you’re thirsty. Not only that, but using a strategic approach to LinkedIn will ensure your network knows you and your strengths, and you know them and their strengths. This makes it easier to figure out whom to turn to for expertise and help. With this in mind, consider networking with people you will eventually need, not just the ones you need right now. For example, if you are in school for a specific career, then network with people who can lead you to inside information later on. If you were making a career change, it would make sense to include networking with people that can give good information about that sector.

Social networking at any time in your career journey is not only a good idea; it is a crucial ingredient for long-term success in your life, both at work and at home. When you are able to have a career that fits your values, goals, and beliefs it simply feels good to go to work. Work is like air—we need it to survive. Using social networking lets you explore, share, teach and learn—all for free and at a time that is convenient for you. Your career is a long and dynamic process, social networking is not any different. The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, so I would suggest taking the first step and answer these three questions that lead to LinkedIn and social networking success.

This article was written by Career Development Practitioner and social media fanatic Chirs Kulbaba of www.LinkedIn Heavyweight.com.

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