Friday, January 30, 2009


Something that's been on my mind this past week has been the notion of resilience. It is probably no surprise that this concept is rattling around in my head with headlines of job losses worldwide and close to home; with many giant industries falling like dominos.

Resilience is an important quality in times of difficulty; resilience draws on flexibility and creativity of an individual (and even a society); a capacity to sway in the winds of change, or even to re-invent oneself in some way.

There are many things to do to help foster resilience:

a) Make connections with others - families, friends, networking, communities...feeling part of something makes for feeling supported and less alone.

b) Try to not view a crisis as everlasting and insurmountable - things eventually change; in crisis can sometimes emerge new possibilities. The Serenity Prayer, for example, offers some helpful advice towards discerning the difference between that which one can control/change and that which one can't, and the ability to something about the former.

c) Set goals and sub-goals - this provides a focus and action; a sense of ability/accomplishment, no matter how small.

d) Reflection - During challenging times, one can learn alot about themselves. Sometimes it is through self-reflection, sometimes through tests/assessments, sometimes through talking with others. Keeping an open mind will help with creative problem solving, and improve resilience.

e) Self-care - Staying positive, do something you enjoy each day, eat well, exercise, try something new each day ... all of these are good ways to bolster resilience and get through challenging times...

This is a website from the Mayo Clinic that has some helpful information about resilience and health:

Friday, January 23, 2009

Resumes and letters

I am coming across alot of ads and news articles suggesting that it is a good time to update that ol' resume. Maybe this is in part inspired by the new year, perhaps also in reaction to the economic downturn. Updating resumes often is always a good idea -- maybe you've taken a course that upgrades your skills; maybe a workshop; maybe completed some volunteering or contract work.... it is all worthwhile keeping track of on a general, all-purpose resume. From that resume, you can tease out the important stuff (that can fit on 2 pages!) that relates directly to a job being applied for (if that is what it comes to).

General resume
This is a great place to store all of  your accomplishments -- education, work history, volunteering, awards, workshops/conferences, publications, trades, skills development. Over time, it is hard to recall these things, so keeping them all in one place, in chronological order (grouped in to headings), becomes incredibly handy -- and an interesting walk down vocational memory lane when you need to pull out items relevant to a job being applied for. You, or a client, may recall skills and talents long disappeared years back, once again handy. Update this often to capture everything you've done. Make sure to write up the skills used and accomplishments in an active voice that speaks to facts and achievements -- self-promote in a factual way.

Over time, this general resume will become really long... pages and pages. When sculpting your specific resume for a particular job, you will have to use fine judgement and editing skills to pull out the right information that tells the right story about how you are fit for the job, and how your background has led you to that application. This becomes the process of creating job, company, and/or industry specific resumes.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

New Year, New Goals

With a new year come new goals and fresh starts.

Goals & Fresh Starts
Part of being involved in career development involves helping people clarify their goals, and find ways to realize them, if possible. Some people are facing changes brought on by the global economic downturn -- they might have to search for more work, or do a complete career change depending on the market and their training. Revisiting with a client their goals, interests, and skills can help provide direction and possibilities. Perhaps some long lost interest or aspect of self will be cultivated.

Reviewing interests with a client will provide a narrowing of fields to explore. It may also prove illuminating for a client to take time to answer questions (e.g. from A level or B level interest surveys and assessment tools) which then gives them feed back about themselves and potential careers that could be fulfilling, least of all relevant to moving forward. It is also a great way to screen for definite non-interests. The key, as that graffiti found on a wall in ancient Greece once stated, is to "know one's self"... and also to know one's options (considering all realistic possibilities at first) ... and then make a decision with awareness. This process is greatly empowering! 

Skills & Education
Interests are wonderful -- but what if those interests exceed available skills? Part of re-assessing skills and career possibilities can include the consideration of new training and/or education. It can also serve to exclude possibilities, and again, this process is done with awareness and realism (which should help to reduce unrealistic dreams, disappointments, and regrets). It can also make things much more possible than before. Perhaps specific training is all that is needed to pursue an ideal job; perhaps financing options come to light to make that training happen. In times of recession, many people choose to or are faced to re-train. Doing this well and with choice and awareness (as much as possible) can prove to be quite empowering. 

Identifying values and priorities will help in many respects -- it will help sort through the interests, skills, and options in a meaningful way. It will also help position the job or training within an individual's life context (family, finances, ability to move, social connections, etc.). Identifying values can also help an individual choose appropriate compromises in order to better meet the goals of their larger life scenario. If staying in a particular town is priority 1, then job choice is reduced substantially. If moving is a possibility, then broader options can be considered. 

A key in all of this is awareness -- of self, of situation, of possibilities, of realistic options, of dreams. With awareness come choices - sometimes not ideal ones, but better than blind guessing and frustrated non-awareness. Being able to take a moment to step back and get a better, more objective view of things can help an individual immensely when they are faced with unknowns and fearful uncertainty of job loss. This is part of sustainability and the reinvention sometimes required therein.