Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Surviving Your New Job: Tips for Older Workers

Older workers often face many myths and unique struggles while finding a new job. Upon arrival to their new workplace they may not see peers that resemble themselves age wise immediately. Working with their new team they may not feel the fit right away. Their peers may have some interesting pre-conceived notions about older workers that include lack of new skills or any “hip factor”. The fact of the matter is your new employer has hired you for a reason. Your employer believed in your ability to deliver on your skills, your experience as well as knowledge for this job.
Photo by Kyle Bondeson

Myths about Older Workers

We may have heard some interesting ideas about older workers. Things like “they are not technology savvy” or “older workers are not flexible”. The truth is older workers can be very up to date with technology; they are reliable, and bring a wealth of experience to the workplace. Older workers tend to have less sick days and tend to be more flexible with work schedules.

Team Fit

Some of the first things an older worker can do to fit into their team right away is to fully understand their role, the responsibilities, as well as expectations. Meet with your new manager and let them know about your strengths and discover what challenges may be present, as well as any initial priorities you will be required to deliver on. This is your roadmap to your success in this new career. When meeting with your peers or team, ask them what they feel the challenges have been for them working together on tasks. Initially you may want to avoid sharing too many stories of your past and overcoming similar issues. Instead work as a team to find the solutions together but do offer ideas or suggestions.

Culture Fit

Working in a diverse workplace means many things. This can be age diversity, cultural diversity, sexual orientation diversity, working with people who have disabilities, and single parents. There is a whole new workforce waiting to meet and work together so understanding the different groups that have come together in your new work environment is important. While it is natural to want to associate with peers that most closely resemble you, it is a good idea to also meet with different people at work. Get to know your younger colleagues and other people from diverse groups.

Life Long Learning

It is very important for everyone, not just older workers to maintain a philosophy and practice of life long learning. With our constantly changing workplaces, we need to keep up. Older workers need to stay current with computer skills and any other business skills they may use at work. Invest in yourself and take courses through work when possible as well as through resources you can find outside of work.

Surviving your first few weeks on the job can be challenging but the important fact to remember is that your employer has faith in you to deliver a job well done, regardless of age.

If you’re an older worker, what have been some of your greatest challenges when starting a new job?

Michele Matheson is a Career Coach and Corporate Recruiter who has spent the past 20 years connecting people to careers. Her passion is working with older workers and helping them navigate their job searches and find meaningful careers. She brings many years of experience from the staffing and recruiting industry as well as working as a case manager supporting clients with multiple barriers return to the workforce.  You can connect with Michele through LinkedIn at

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Exploring Career Engagement

Career engagement is defined as the emotional and cognitive connection to one’s career; it is a state where one is focused, energized, and able to derive pleasure from life’s activities. Career engagement focuses on the dynamic interaction between challenge (i.e., level of difficulty; stimulating, fascinating, and invigorating activities) and capacity (i.e., skills, resources, relationships, conflicts). Too much challenge for the available capacity and individuals move out of the zone of engagement towards overwhelmed. Conversely, too little challenge moves individuals towards underutilized. Without these two dimensions being in re-balanced individuals can become completely disengaged.

Within the career engagement model, the use of career, as opposed to work, employee, or even life engagement is intentional. The goal is to encourage you to consider your level of engagement across the broad meaning of career (i.e., “the interaction of work roles and other life roles over a person’s lifespan including both paid and unpaid work”; European Lifelong Guidance Partnership Network, 2012).

In my recent explorations into career engagement, work was having the biggest impact on whether or not individuals were able to be engaged. Take time to reflect on your work role. Do you feel engaged? Overwhelmed? Underutilized? Using the career engagement model, you can explore your level of engagement from the challenge component by reflecting on whether your current role is too difficult, or too easy; also consider whether you have opportunities to be stimulated and fascinated by the work you are doing.

In exploring your level of career engagement from the capacity component, reflect on whether you have the resources necessary to meet the challenges your job presents. Consider skills, knowledge/education, access to equipment, sufficient budget, supportive colleagues and supervisors, as well as supportive friends and family. Remember to look at your whole life, even when focusing on your work role – sometimes your energy is being consumed by challenges at home making work seem more difficult when, in reality, it is personal challenges that are reducing your overall capacity.

Your goal should be to balance challenge and capacity in order to stay within the zone of engagement. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, strive to either increase your level of capacity or reduce the level of challenge. If you’re feeling underutilized, look for opportunities to increase your level of challenge . . . reducing level of capacity is also an option but likely much harder to do; after all, you can’t suddenly become less-skilled at your job.

If you are interested, I’m currently collecting data for my doctoral dissertation where the career engagement model is a focus of my research. Click here to review the official invitation to participate in the research study and access the link to the survey.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Recognizing the Multifaceted Nature of Diversity – Tips for CDPs

Career development practitioners (CDPs) regularly work within a fixed program/service mandate, typically stipulated by the funding source. For many, such a mandate often defines a very specific client group (e.g., immigrants). This approach tends to lump all clients from a particular group into one category, forgetting that diversity is far more complex.
At Life Strategies, we strive to take a broad definition of diversity, looking beyond visual clues (e.g., age, gender, ethnicity) to include a multitude of other factors (e.g., sexual orientation, religion, educational background, level of ability, communication style, speed of learning and comprehension). Although we recognize that focusing on one element of diversity can provide targeted initiatives to support the needs of specific groups, it is equally important to ensure assumptions about individuals aren’t made due to their inclusion in the broader group. 
For example, a client who is Aboriginal may be impacted by challenges related to that group; however, perhaps the client is also a woman, perhaps an older woman. In that instance, she can likely also identify with challenges related to sexism and ageism. To further complicate the matter, perhaps this particular client doesn’t identify with her Aboriginal culture – perhaps she’s worked outside of Canada for the past 10 years and is just returning to the Canadian workforce. Consequently, a program focussed on supporting Aboriginal clients may not fit her particular circumstances. Perhaps something targeted to repatriates would be a better fit.
As the case above illustrates, individuals are multifaceted; it would be easy to make assumptions about this client if she was only considered as Aboriginal. CDPs can better serve their clients if they recognize and appreciate a broader definition of diversity. We recommend taking a culturally-curious approach; don’t assume what you know about a specific group applies to an individual member of that group. Get to know your client; take time to listen to his/her story.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Interviewing the Interviewer

Katharine Hepburn once said, “Death will be a great relief. No more interviews.” As an actress Hepburn was probably referring to interviews about her work and life but, for many, this quote fits for the dreaded job interview.

Any Internet search will result in millions of hits offering advice on how to be successful in job interviews, explaining the types of interviews, and even the meaning of some of the strange questions interviewees may encounter such as “How would you get an elephant into a refrigerator?” asked by Horizon Group Properties or “If you could be a superhero, what power would you possess?” asked by Rain and Hail Insurance.

In any interview it is important to be yourself; there’s a saying in HR – “hire for skill and fire for fit.” Regardless of the question or the format, the interviewer is trying to get a sense of whether or not you’ll “fit” with the organization as well as whether or not you have the skills/expertise to do the job. However, job interviews are also a perfect time for you to interview the employer. It’s your chance to determine whether the job and organization is a good fit for you.

Do your research to learn as much about the organization and its culture before sending your resume. As you arrive to the interview, continue your research paying attention to the environment and the people. As your interview begins, strive to make it a two-way conversation. Be prepared for when it is your turn to ask questions. Strive to ask questions that will help you assess whether or not the job is a good fit for you. This is your chance to learn whether it is really the job you want.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Snapshot Of Diversity In The Workplace [Infographic]

The folks at Career Builder have put together this snapshot of diversity in the workforce.  Find the full infographic by clicking on the picture below.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Targeting Your Resume to Stand Out

To make your resume stand out from the crowd, don’t waste your time on fancy paper or fonts. Instead, take the time to target your resume to the specific job and organization you’re applying to. With only 20-30 seconds to impress the employer, you’ve got to demonstrate your fit fast. A targeted resume presents employers with content that clearly showcases your skills, knowledge, and experience in relation to the position; employers aren’t left “guessing.”

To target your resume, first carefully review the job ad for clues as to what knowledge, skills, and abilities the organization is looking for. Identify any key words and, whenever possible, use those same terms in your resume. Keywords play an important role in the pre-screening process. Often only those resumes that successfully get past pre-screeners are reviewed by the HR department and/or managers. If you have some gaps in qualifications, don’t panic; gaps can be addressed in your targeted cover letter. Carefully consider how you’ll overcome these gaps and highlight what other value you bring to the position.

Don’t stop with qualifications. Investigate corporate culture and target your resume here as well. A company’s website can give your clues on the corporate culture. Take a look for a corporate mission statement or articles on the organization’s charitable endeavours. If you can make a link between your own values and the organization’s, you’ll be able to demonstrate a good corporate fit.
Ultimately, you want to make it as easy as possible for the organization to see your relevant qualifications and fit within the organization. And always remember, a clean, concise, and error-free resume is a must. For more tips on resume writing, see 10 Tips for Crafting a Compelling Resume.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Logistics Of e-Coaching

Mention you're thinking about e-counselling or coaching, whether as a client or as a professional, and you'll almost certainly get mixed reactions. Some people embrace the idea; others will tell you it can’t be done. Most fall somewhere between those extremes. We've chosen to co-author this article from a middle ground perspective; having experienced e-counselling/coaching as clients, professionals, students, and instructors, we see this in multiple shades of grey.

Naysayers express concerns that effective counselling/coaching requires access to body language and tone of voice; however, working online doesn't preclude that. Effective e-counselling/coaching can happen via email, phone, Skype, e-chat, and even texting. Contextual cues can be provided through emoticons (e.g., “smileys”) or bracketed statements (e.g., [huge sigh . . . wow, that's so hard to think about]); this, of course, requires effective modelling and teaching/coaching your clients how to communicate in this medium. Professionals can explore missing details through questioning (e.g., “You’re writing hints that this may be a difficult subject to discuss; what are you feeling when you write about this?”)

Even easier and more natural is to use technologies that effectively transmit video and voice (e.g., Skype with webcams). For example, once Roberta was using Skype to counsel a Canadian client working abroad in a remote community. At one point in their conversation, Roberta noticed her client reach for a Kleenex and wipe her eyes. Although Roberta had missed the emotion in her voice - she didn't sound particularly upset at that point - because of the webcam, she was able to observe and comment on the client’s body language, resulting in a very powerful counselling moment that helped the client turn a significant corner.

Identifying the most appropriate technology for each client, and equipping the client to use it effectively, is another logistical challenge; in our experience, employing a mix of platforms works best. Being comfortable with the technology you choose is essential; you’ll need to troubleshoot when problems arise. For example, Miranda was working through Skype with someone overseas but the connection continually dropped the calls. They then moved to a Skype text chat to continue the momentum of the session. After a few calls they realized that the call connection was stronger at certain times of day and adjusted their schedules accordingly. Technology is simply the channel to reaching goals; if it isn’t working, try another channel.

To become a competent e-counsellor or coach, we encourage you to access relevant professional development. When Roberta first began teaching online, she chose to take one online course to experience it from the students' perspective – she went on to complete three full certificate programs in e-teaching, e-course development, and e-coaching. When Miranda began to teach e-coaching, she volunteered as a client for several coaches - learning much in the process.

Working online can expand your practice, offer a convenient alternative to some of your current clients, and help you and your clients balance complex life roles and demands. We encourage you to explore the potential for e-counselling and e-coaching and, if you decide to proceed, to engage in the research, professional development, and technologies that will ensure your new services are effective.

Also visit our article about e-Coaching Ethics on the Contact Point wesite:

Roberta Neault, president of Life Strategies Ltd., is an award-winning career counsellor, published author, and international speaker, serving as consulting editor of the Journal of Employment Counseling and past president of CCPA's Career Counsellors Chapter.

Miranda Vande Kuyt is an associate with Life Strategies and an experienced e-coach and consultant.  You can join Miranda in an upcoming e-coaching course

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Parents Building Multilingualism In A Multicultural Economy

Photo by James Wilkinson
Another September rolls around and the stories about a need for increased French Immersion in communities begins to hit the media. At the end of August I was asked for an interview with La Source, a French newspaper that focuses on diversity. The reporter had a passionate interest in French as a Second Language opportunities for young immigrants. We spoke about how the face of French Immersion in schools has changed over the past 25 years to reflect the ethnic diversity of the districts.

As an outreach officer with Canadian Parents for French and a graduate of Immersion myself, occasionally I come across people with the belief that French Immersion is an “elitist” program, designed for “white, middle-class, English speaking children”. Dropping my elementary aged daughters off at their school, I am always happy to see just how much the face of French Immersion has changed since I was in school. Parents of all different backgrounds and ethnicities are enrolling their children in French Immersion. No longer do low income, learning challenged, or ESL student’s parents feel they have to self-select out of the benefits of second-language programming. As districts across Canada work to promote inclusiveness and accessibility to French as a Second (or subsequent) language, more and more immigrant families have the opportunity to take advantage of this education.

Contrary to what some people imagine, learning a second or third language does not hinder the development of your mother tongue. Learning a second language has proven to have major academic benefits, and recent research has proven that it can actually have physical benefits as well on the development of the brain, greater learning ability especially with regards to language learning, and even delays the onset of dementia. [1] Many new immigrants whose children are also learning English are finding that enrolling them in French Immersion actually helps their learning in both languages. This is largely due to the fact that all of the children in the class are learning a second language. The teacher relies heavily on visual cues, repetition, rephrasing, and hand gestures. [2] All of the children are learning a new language, even the ones who were born here. Many immigrant families are reaping the benefits of learning a second language already, as they study to learn English, and yet increased amounts of new Canadians are also choosing to have their children learn French.

People choose to move to Canada for a variety of reasons, but one common theme amongst people who have chosen Canada as their place to live, is a sense of pride in being Canadian. In fact 12% more new immigrants have a desire to learn French than Canadian born Anglophones, and when surveyed many feel that learning French is a part of being Canadian. [3] When they put their children in Immersion it is a way for them to learn about Canadian culture and participate in another of Canada’s official languages.

Many immigrant parents in Canada view multilingualism as a regular part of life and understand that knowing many languages is an important part in accessing today’s job market. Currently 60% of parents who enroll their children in second language programs do so for increased job opportunities in the future. [4] Just having a second language may not be enough -- 84% of employers view English/French specific bilingualism as an advantage to job seekers. [5] In an increasingly diverse country, having English, French, and an additional language is a significant advantage to access government and crown corporation jobs where French is considered an asset. In Canada's multicultural environment, many communities have strong representation from languages other than English and French. In an increasingly competitive job market, immigrant families are giving their children an advantage by teaching them the value of true multiculturalism through the gift of multilingualism.

End Notes:






This article was written by Kirsty Peterson.  She is a longtime advocate for children, youth and families with many years experience working to support access to educational, social, recreational, employment & cultural programming for people of all ages, backgrounds, ethnicities and income groups. She believes that every person, great or small, can have an impact on a community and sometimes it’s the smallest voices with the greatest ideas.

Contact Kirsty by:

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Getting Started With Virtual Facilitation Technologies

With so many virtual technologies available, it’s no wonder many academic institutions, corporations, and associations are turning to online methods for connecting with dispersed learners, staff, colleagues, peers, and clients. However, not all technology is created equal and not everyone can effectively select and integrate virtual technologies with everyday tasks. Furthermore, not everyone has the technical knowledge and skill to navigate online collaboration tools or the motivation to learn about new ways of connecting.

So how do you successfully integrate new virtual facilitation technologies within in your group? How can you account for varying levels of knowledge, skill, and comfort using technology? Here are some quick tips to keep in mind.
  • Find the Right Technology for You. Your virtual solution(s) should be tied to a specific identified problem or need and also to your audience’s technology comfort and skill level. Although you might be really excited by the prospect of setting up a fully functional interactive site (e.g., Moodle, Blackboard) for staying connected and sharing resources, this may not be the best fit if staff can’t get online or would rather quickly send an instance message (e.g., MSN messenger) or make a Skype call. Not sure what’s available or how to decide what you need? Check out the Web Conferencing Store’s decisiontree.
  • Determine Feasibility. Your tech department will be a vital resource to assessing the feasibility of integrating your new technology. They may have thoughts about the options you’ve identified or recommendations about other technologies you may not have considered. Ensure you ask about virus protection and firewall blockages; nothing will frustrate your team more than their local computer “refusing” to download a client software needed to attend a meeting. 
  • Test it Out. Consider integrating a simple, relatively inexpensive solution with a small team or division first and then evaluating impact. Many technologies have 30-day free trials allowing you to test features.
  • Have an Implementation Plan. Once you find the right technology for your group, ensure you have a plan for smooth integration. Provide an orientation or video resource demonstrating how to download any necessary client software, open an account / log into the system, and use the basic features. To help ensure success, find an onsite “champion” for each division or sub-group who can help individuals who might be struggling.
  • Remember: Avoid Complicating Things. Adhere to the old adage, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” If your team is connecting effectively through traditional means, investing in technology solutions, simply for technology’s sake may not be the best strategy; it can waste of resources and cause unnecessary frustration. .

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Learning to Learn – Again

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. ~Alvin Toffler

As summer 2012 comes to an end, we are bombarded with back to school messages. This year, Canadian shoppers are expected to spend 13%more than they did last year on everything from pencils and erasers to laptop computers and sneakers. It isn’t just our youth, however, that are returning to school. Adults are also headed back to the classroom; an upward trend expected to continue over the next several years.

For some adults, a return to school – whether to earn a certificate, diploma, or degree – can be as stressful as that first day of Kindergarten. A lot may have changed since the last time they were in a classroom and learning while juggling work and family responsibilities can add to already busy and stress-filled lives. 10Tips to Fit Professional Development Into a Busy Life offers some easy-to-implement solutions when adding the role of student.

As you think about your learning goals for this fall, an important first step may be learning about how you learn. Your learning style may impact the type of educational choices you make (e.g., as a solitary learner a busy classroom may not be the best choice). Uncertain of your learning style? Learning Styles Online offers a great, and brief, summary of the 7 learning styles and a learning styles questionnaire.

Keep in mind that learning doesn’t have to involve a return to formal education or the completion of a degree program. Reading a book, listening to a recorded lecture, or attending a webinar are great ways to start, or re-start, your professional development journey.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Differences Create Strength

Whether you’re about to go into an interview, start a new class, or travel to a new place in the world you’ve never been before, stepping into a different, unknown environment can be challenging. We do everything we can to prepare.

Most people will read up on questions they might be asked in the interview, research the company, find out who will be interviewing and maybe even talk to their network and see who knows who within the company to get the “real” scoop.

When we travel, most of us will do some research, buy a Lonely Planet, book our hotel rooms, maybe even learn some of the language and local customs.

We are always preparing ourselves to enter into a new situation to feel more ease and safety. After all, we hate to stick out like a sore thumb right? But what might happen if you didn’t prepare so much. What might happen if you walked into those situations with a completely open mind, no real context other than what you know already and the eagerness to observe, learn, question, being ready to participate, and be of service?

Now depending on the circumstance it might not be the best thing in the world, but walking into a new situation with some vulnerability might surprise you, and the diversity it might bring into your life might change your world. After all some of the most fascinating experiences in life aren’t when we are prepared. It’s when we enter into a situation or circumstance that brings other views, ideas, and ways of life together enhancing our own beliefs and values.

In 2008 I brought together a group of 12 young women from various geographical locations within the area, socioeconomic backgrounds, cultures, sexual orientations, and lifestyles. It was completely unintended that we would get such a diverse group.

I did not give them context of who would be coming or what all the workshops would be. When they joined the group they only new that I would be instructing a leadership program that would help them be more confident and they would be giving back to community.

The 9 young women who completed the program will tell you that it was challenging sitting in a room with each other at times. They will tell you that had the group been in school or out in the community they would not have even talked to each other.

As we worked through the series of workshops, they judged each other, questioned each other’s life choices, and at times were offended by one another.

Yet with the concept of open mindedness, vulnerability, an eagerness to learn, teaching the idea of open questioning in a respectful fashion, and a willingness to participate, they will now tell you that they are friends. They will tell you that they changed for the better, are far stronger, and have more confidence than before. And they will tell you, that not knowing exactly what they were walking into and being open to possibilities has greatly added to their vision for the future.

I challenge people constantly not to go into every situation thinking about what they know because they lose the possibility of building something within themselves that they may have never thought about before.

Loretta Cella is an International Facilitator, Advocate, and Life Enhancement Coach who has spent the last 11 years dedicated to the empowerment of individuals, families, and communities. Having worked with diverse individuals and groups in Canada, New Delhi, Kenya and Uganda, Loretta has developed a deep appreciation and passion for diversity and connecting the human spirit to purposeful action. Loretta holds her Child and Youth Care Counselling certificate, CCDP, and is currently working toward her Masters at Royal Roads University. You can connect with her at and 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Olympians Are The Ideal E-Coaching Clients

Photo by Dave Catchpole
I love the Olympics! I’ve been watching the tv broadcasts for two days now. I find watching the Olympics inspiring. I am moved when I hear about and watch people with such determination and incredible motivation to overcome adversity, injuries, and pain, pressing on to reach towards their goals.

As I think about the Olympians, I can’t help but think of the coaches that train, encourage, and motivate them on towards their goal. When it comes to e-coaching I find the coach’s role is quite similar - to encourage and provide the tools/techniques needed for clients to succeed in reaching their goals.

E-coaching is an effective way to coach many people. With current technology coaches can connect with people in real time via video calling, text messaging, email, social media, and more. It works well for executive coaching, career coaching, and life coaching. Last year I was even e-coached by a personal trainer who set up an entire workout and meal plan for me. But, unlike the Olympians I like to watch on TV, I was unmotivated with no clear goals in mind, and my success fell short of inspiring.

When considering who would make ideal e-coaching clients, think about the Olympians. Clients with high motivation and clear goals are more likely to hear what their coach is saying, and incorporate the tools/techniques needed to reach their goals. And, like the Olympics, when the athlete succeeds, the coach does as well.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Top 3 Benefits Of Diversity

Currently I am the Manager of the Abbotsford Works Employment Service Centre.  Our program has over four locations offering employment focused programming to the community of Abbotsford, British Columbia. Throughout my management career I’ve met many different people from many different backgrounds. From my experience I’ve noticed three top benefits of having a diverse workplace: perspective, performance, and community.

Perspective: Working with individuals from a diverse cross-section of society can lend your company a unique perspective on community and values. Perspective will give your company an advantage in a number of areas: creativity, experience working with other populations, insight and access into communities that would traditionally be closed.

Companies with a diverse workforce attract many talented individuals who enjoy working for diverse organizations. They find them more inviting and may have more opportunity to showcase talents / skills.

A diverse workplace offers an employer value in way of cultural education. Staff share cultural experiences and sometimes leads to office events that build team relationships (e.g., potlucks, celebrations days that provide coworkers with cultural learning.)

Performance: Work values of diverse workplace cultures can enhance the performance of a company. Work ethic demonstrated by a diverse staff can set a positive standard that drives success. When we talk about diversity we include people from different nationalities, many Canadians from immigrant descent have instilled in them an excellent work ethic. They value their jobs and will do their utmost best to make their company successful. They view hard work as a means to achieving better wages and which in turn will help them provide a better future for their family. Overall approach and pride in their jobs make immigrant workers very attractive to organizations.

Community: A diverse workplace can have many beneficial effects on its surrounding community. Diverse companies are more aware of the needs of their community. They tend to give more monetarily and engage in cultural events in their communities. Communities that feel they have a connection with local businesses will be more incline to support those companies.

Today it is very important for companies to think globally when assembling a workforce. The potential for doing business with partners from overseas or in various populations is growing and is becoming the norm. People like to do business with companies that employ people that look like them, are from a part in the world that is familiar, or share similar values and philosophies.

My prediction is that companies that encourage diversity will be the sector leaders of the future.

Garrison Duke has worked in Employment Services for over 10 years; he has assisted hundreds of participants to gain long- term employment. In his many years of management Garrison has mentored countless staff, helping individuals to maximize their potential and reach peak performance. You can connect with Garrison on LinkedIn, Facebook, or on his website at

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Consider Your Career Engagement When Feeling Stressed

In our recent survey on stress management, nearly 61% of respondents reported they were at least somewhat stressed; however, 81% reported they managed their stress either effectively or somewhat effectively. Respondents shared several tips that we compiled into our latest tip sheet – 10 Strategies for Managing Your Stress.   

Any research into stress management is likely to surface similar strategies in addition to ones we didn’t mention in our tip sheet. There is an abundance of literature on reducing and/or minimizing the chance of stressful events as well as coping with and/or surviving through stressful times that are likely to surface, despite our best efforts. If our survey results are any indication, we can all likely do a better job of reducing some of the stress in our lives.

Work, or rather dissatisfaction with work, can be a key stressor for many people. There are many reasons why work can increase the level of stress we experience: from a poor career “fit” (i.e., a job that doesn’t make effective use of our skills and talents / doesn't fit with our personality and/or values) or uncertainty around whether work will exist in the future, to a toxic workplace or difficulty integrating work and family/life responsibilities.

If work is causing you stress, perhaps reflect on your level of Career Engagement. In this model, developed by Life Strategies’ own Roberta Neault and Deirdre Pickerell, lack of engagement with your career can be the result of too much challenge for the level of capacity, which puts you in the overwhelmed category. In opposition, too little challenge puts you in the underutilized category. Although it may seem like underutilized may be a relaxing place to be, both areas can cause stress as work becomes a daily grind – something to suffer through rather than get excited about.

As you reflect on whether you’re more likely to feel overwhelmed or underutilized, ask yourself if this is a temporary situation and, therefore, something you can tolerate for now, or if this is permanent which may result in a need for you to rethink your career – either in terms of the specific role or position or the organization you’re working for. Remember – managing your career, and therefore your career engagement, is like managing your health, finances, or vehicle. It needs time and attention, the occasional check-up and tune-up.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

How Diversity Drives Success

Have you ever wondered how diversity plays a part in the success of companies?  Socialcast put together a visual look at how CEOs view the importance of diversity and inclusion.  They believe that diversity drives innovation, which is the key to success.  Do you agree?  Click on the image below to see the infographic that Socialcast created.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Aquifers of Understanding

The rain that falls on the earth’s surface takes several different journeys.  Some of it is collected by streams, rivers and lakes, and returned relatively quickly to the sea.  Some of it stays near the surface of the ground to be absorbed by plant life, and some of it takes a decades-long journey, down through dozens – sometimes hundreds – of feet of rock, arriving eventually at vast underground storage areas known as aquifers.  Freshwater aquifers charge extremely slowly and can take thousands of years to form.  We tap into them for industry and agriculture and they are critical to the prosperity of civilization as we know it.

Similar aquifers exist deep within the psyche of every human being. These aquifers contain not water, but a true understanding of one’s self.  This understanding is the product of events and experiences that have spent years working to penetrate layers of resistance before arriving into full consciousness.  The result of this slow, necessary distillation is a vast, silent reservoir of self-knowledge that is just as critical for human life as water.  It is a deep wellspring we can tap into when we have lost our bearings in the world, and urgently need to find our way.

There is one important thing to remember, though:  As rainfall may take decades to reach underground aquifers, so can it take a lifetime for deeper, fuller understanding to arrive in our own lives.   Nothing we do will hasten this process.  All we can do is try to be as patient, and as permeable, as possible.

Adrian Juric is Canadian Certified Counsellor.  He leads wilderness retreats for adults that use poetry and hiking to help individuals make sense of the transitions occurring in their lives.   See for more info.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Identity and the Curve of Transformation

“The unfolding saga of life on all levels is one of constant transformation, constant changing of form,” says author, artist and playwright Julia Cameron.

Nature illustrates this principle in countless ways. The chambered Nautilus, for example, is a deep-water mollusk that builds a spiral-shaped shell for a home. Growing constantly, it can never remain for long in the chamber it lives in. Nor can it return to previous ones; they no longer fit. Instead, the Nautilus is constantly obliged to build a new chamber for itself to live in. And in so doing, it is, in a way, constantly arranging for its own disappearance in the world.

Whether we like it or not, our personal and career identities obey the same growth impulse. Some part of us is constantly disappearing around what poet David Whyte calls an ‘invisible curve of transformation’. Some part of us is constantly pushing ahead, in search of a meaning horizon that is broad enough to accommodate the expanded self that is asking to be born.

The form of disappearance in the world is met with deep existential dread by the ego, says Jungian analyst Murray Stein (Stein, Murray. In Midlife: A Jungian Perspective. Conn.: Spring Publications, 1983. p.86.). Not only does it spell the death of a secure way of being:

“…a person’s sense of direction forward is beclouded and obscured during liminality; life’s pathways to the future appear to be unmarked and even uncharted, and the future itself seems unimaginable in every conceivable direction.”

Still, this is a journey we must all make if a more robust form of identity is to emerge. It is a departure that must occur if a new Self is to be born. If we do not, says poet John O’Donohue, a person may “linger for years in spaces that are too small and shabby for the grandeur of their spirit.”
(O’Donohue, J. To Bless the Space Between Us:A Book of Blessings.New York: Doubleday, 2008.p.192)

Where are you on the curve of your career transformation? What has already happened in your life that you need to catch up with?”

Post contributed by Adrian Juric

Adrian Juric is Canadian Certified Counsellor. He leads wilderness retreats for adults that use poetry and hiking to help individuals make sense of the transitions occurring in their lives. See for more info.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

How Optimistic Are You?

Those of us who favour looking at the bright side of life and seeing opportunities in less than ideal circumstances are prototypical optimists. Technically, optimism is the systematic tendency to expect the best possible outcomes. Some argue it’s merely a bias we’re hardwired to experience (see the Optimism Bias by Tali Sharot). Regardless of its’ roots, optimism has been associated with many benefits including healthand happiness, and even career success and job satisfaction.

So how optimistic are you? In a recent Life Strategies’ survey, 65% of respondents considered themselves optimists whereas only 2% of respondents considered themselves pessimists (i.e., having a systematic tendency to expect the worst possible outcomes). The remaining 33% saw themselves as realists (i.e., having a systematic tendency to expect the most likely outcome).

Those who identified as optimists preferred to see the positive in life, embracing change and uncertainty. Many noted positive expectations have lead to positive outcomes – consider the self-fulfilling prophecy where individuals will succeed because they believe they can.

Although only a few respondents identified as pessimists, reasons included focusing on the negative side, overanalyzing situations, and self-protection. Some of our pessimistic respondents realized this viewpoint was problematic; however, felt it was hard to change.

Some reasons why respondents identified as “realists” were a preference for logic and objectiveness, as well as a distaste for concepts such as destiny and luck. Realists saw this as a safer, middle-of-the-road choice; it’s a bit of both (i.e., not overly pessimistic or blindly optimistic). They also reflected on past experiences that have tainted their views of optimism, seeing realism as necessary to mediate both the good and the bad that life throws at them.

Respondents also highlighted strategies they use to stay optimistic in difficult times. Responses included:
  • Connecting with friends and family
  • Avoiding negative people
  • Engaging in positive self-talk
  • Adopting a more solution-focused mind frame
  • Setting priorities and goals
  • Maintaining a balanced and healthy lifestyle (e.g., getting enough sleep, eating well, enjoying hobbies/activities)
  • Getting outside and being active
  • Using relaxation meditation techniques
  • Appreciating what you’ve got
  • Recognizing things could be worse
  • Relying on one’s faith
  • Reframing negative experiences
  • Focussing on the learning
  • Reaching out for help when necessary
Luckily optimism can be learned; to strengthen your own optimism or adopt a more optimistic viewpoint on life, check out our tip sheet  on the topic.