Last week I stood before 13 people on the final day of a career exploration workshop. It was the culmination of a process where those attending had been first assessing who they are as individuals and then looking at potential jobs and careers that might be appropriate matches based on what they learned of themselves.
One of the last exercises I had them work on was to list barriers each of them faced that stood between where they are today and where they want to be in the future. This by the way is an excellent exercise for anyone – possibly yourself – and as they discovered, having an experienced Employment Counsellor lead that discussion can be extremely helpful in clarifying exactly what barriers could be.
Now once you have identified the things which impede your progress towards the attainment of your employment goal, you might imagine coming up with the solutions would be relatively easy. For example, if you lack grade 12 the solution would appear to be go back to school and get it. If you don’t have a resume the solution would appear to be to make one.
The fallacy with the above solutions however is that each involves a number of steps before the person is given their diploma or walks away with a new resume. So while the end result is known, the process itself is still unclear; and not all those in attendance would have the knowledge or ability as to how to get into school, or where to go to get help making that resume. So the solutions are still too big for them and likely they will go without being acted on.
Let’s take the first example of identifying a lack of grade 12 as a barrier and wanting to obtain the diploma. “Where do I start?” is a logical and common question people ask. As an adult, you may have to first contact an adult education school in your community and check on their admission requirements. In the neighbourhood I work in, such schools have a mandatory information session of an hour in length, so getting the date and time to attend is a first step. You also need to bring proof of your identity and citizenship.
At the conclusion of the information session, each person meets individually with a school official who goes about the process of enrolling them in classes. After enrollment, it’s a matter of paying school registration fees, student fees and getting a schedule of when you start. The next step is actually attending school courses you’ve selected and if needed, enrolling for additional classes once you complete the first ones you signed up for until you have the required credits to graduate.
You’ll notice if you look at those steps that some are extremely short and can be completed in a matter of moments such as the phone call to find out when the next information session is being held. Attending that information session might take an hour out of your day, while attending school itself could take weeks, months or I suppose more than a year depending on several factors.
My point is that “getting my grade 12” isn’t a single step; its several steps of varying lengths when you break it down. The act of breaking down your goal into smaller, manageable pieces may make the goal seem like a lot of little things to do, but each step is clearer, and with that clarity comes the realization that yes, you can do this, you are then empowered to do so.
It’s the same with saying, “I’m out of work so my goal is to get a job”. Getting a job isn’t as easy as just deciding to get one. While the overall statement is commendable, the steps required to get one need clarifying. Just ask someone what they have to do in order to get a job and you’ll quickly discover their comprehension of what it will take to gain employment. While some have a very good idea of all the things they need to do, others might say, “Just apply.”
As most of us know, getting a job means much more. I believe that while most people have the best of intentions when they set out to eliminate their barriers, they break down most often in their ability to do so because of the planning required. Now, an Employment Counsellor or Coach can be most helpful in asking the right questions of you which will allow you to determine together what to do.
So getting your grade 12 could mean 5 or 6 smaller, individual steps. Getting a job might mean fixing up the resume, targeting it to a specific job, knowing yourself well enough to know what you want in the first place, practicing your interviewing skills by attending an interview workshop, sending the application, following up on the application, writing the cover letters, thank you letters, etc. Lots of steps and every one of them necessary and vital.
If you have the skills to break down your tasks into smaller, manageable pieces, you’ll also find building on completing each step will increase your confidence and build momentum. When you eventually cross off all the steps, you’ll find you’ve eliminated one of your barriers. Some folks can do these things simultaneously, working on reducing several barriers at once. If you can, great! However, even if you work on one thing and one thing only, that’s progress!
Written By Kelly Mitchell