February 17, 2014

A Stranger in the Same Land

 Many of us are familiar with the story of the new immigrant to a new land who speaks little of the language, is unfamiliar with the customs and rules of the new society. How this individual overcomes all the obstacles and finds success in this new world is a popular subject for entertainment and education.
For those of us born and raised in the society we currently inhabit, this story can be diverting or inspiring but does not seem particularly relevant to our lives.
But here is the deal - one day you wake up and you have BECOME that person. Through misfortune or circumstance you are suddenly inhabiting an entirely different world where you speak little of the language, do not understand the rules or culture, and must figure out how to make a new life.
You have to figure out how you are going to make your way in this new place.
The frameworks and strategies that worked in your old world are no longer effective, and you need help figuring out how this new world works.
So the first thing you do is go and find a community of people who are also from your same world, and now inhabit this new country. This will be your base of operations in navigating this new world.
Your new community may even have some familiar faces in it, and keeping ties with those still in the old world is important as well. But having people who can help you learn the ropes is vitally important.

So you have thrown away all the old parameters that constrained you in the old world and can now focus on how you can make your way using your talents in this new world. The next thing you do is look at the new world through the eyes of an immigrant.
How can I make a living, how can I get the needs of myself and my family met in this new place? How can feed my spirit here? What opportunities exist and how can I access them? What new things can I bring that do not exist here yet?

For many of us, the journey from the old world to the new was a long one. We spent a lot of time with one foot in the old world trying to get back before realizing that the new world was going to be our permanent new home. And not trying to negotiate this new world alone is vital. This world is vicious for new immigrants. You are scapegoated, isolated and dehumanized by those who seek an easy target. The rules you must follow are often arbitrary and illogical, and those who are nominally in charge of ensuring your needs are met are usually overwhelmed and underresourced.
In this setting, community and social support is vital to your physical and mental well-being.

Whether it was physical, emotional, or economic factors that landed you in this new place, find a supportive community where you can safely anchor. Then you can start to look around with immigrant eyes and find new ways to survive and thrive in this new world.

We live in a wonderful age, where support and community are not limited by geography.

Here are some examples, try searching for terms specific to your needs.

National Organization of Nurses with Disabilities

Professionals with Disabilities group on Linkedin

Canadian Association of Professionals with Disabilities

National Alliance on Mental Illness

Parents without Partners

Virtual Ability

Canadian Anti-Poverty advocacy group

Try searching for disease or profession specific groups, local legal advocacy groups, local religious or secular advocacy groups, etc.
See my previous post on the issues around support for unemployment. It is infuriating and the only suggestion I have right now is networking within your profession and form support groups on your own. We need a national advocacy group for the unemployed...
In any case -
Knowing you are NOT alone in a strange place is the first step to making your new life.

February 11, 2014

The 7 ways the top 10 tips from HR professionals don't help 1 damn bit.

I was looking for help and support resources for the HUGE number of unemployed and underemployed people in this country who are probably going to need to find new ways to make a living.
What I found was terabytes of the same old HR pointers and tips regurgitated in multiple different dimensions and folds. With colorful charts, handy bullet points, short lists, you name it.
And not a damn thing that provided the support that they all were instructing you to go find!!
This country, its politics and culture, promote the mythology that hard work and a desire to succeed will result in financial success.
And the reverse of that is that if you are NOT successful, NOT employed, struggling...then you obviously just don't want to work hard enough or don't want success enough. You just aren't trying hard enough. And it is your fault that you are in this situation. You should be ashamed.
The end result? You feel isolated and ashamed. All the benefits you apply for are designed to "weed out" those deemed to be "not trying hard enough", and make you question again and again your own failure.
When you need support and assistance the most, you are dehumanized and isolated. And if your benefits run out? You don't even count anymore. You are no longer numbered among the unemployed by the US government. Which means that the dropping unemployment rate has less to do with more jobs and a lot more to do with less people getting benefits.
Washington Post 9/6/2013

The truth? You are legion.
US statistics from January of 2014 shows 10.2 million officially unemployed. 7.3 million are "involuntarily part-time employed" - hours cut or only job available.
And this last bit is a quote from the report: 
In January, 2.6 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force, little changed from a year earlier. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.) These individuals were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. 
They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey.
Among the marginally attached, there were 837,000 discouraged workers in January, about unchanged from a year earlier. Discouraged workers are persons not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them. The remaining 1.8 million persons marginally attached to the labor force in January had not searched for work for reasons such as school attendance or family responsibilities. (See table A-16.)

So the math looks like around 11 million people who have no jobs and need one. And another 7.3 million who are getting less work than they need. 13 million people in the US had cancer in 2010
(http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancerbasics/cancer-prevalence). So where are the support groups for the unemployed? The National organizations advocating for them?
Where is that ribbon?
Unemployment Awareness?
We fought like hell to make people unashamed to admit that they have mental illness, breast cancer, erectile dysfunction for heaven's sake.

Why do we still shame those who don't have a job? Those whose jobs have been shipped to other countries, whose industries have vanished, whose skills are no longer valued?
Who does it benefit to marginalize and shame people who need basic healthcare, food, a place to live - because there are no jobs for them?
The scandal is not that people are poor, that people need work, that people need help. The scandal is that they are being shamed for it.
So take your "7 mistakes of job hunters", fold it until it is all corners and shove it up your arse.