Finding the Right-Fit Job or Career

It’s a myth that you can do what love and always be paid what you’re worth.

The solution is to have what’s commonly called a “side hustle”–a second job or income stream. In addition to your “day job.”

The fact is that when you work for a business or for anyone else you have no control over the trajectory of your work history.

How to gain control?

To be proactive in choosing a career that is the right fit with your personality.

In this blog I wrote about a year ago about taking a detour.

In my own life I spent 9 years in corporate and legal jobs. The first 7 years in insurance offices. The second 2 years in a law firm library.

Figuring out quick that though the new job was in the library field I wouldn’t get ahead playing by a supervisor’s rules. I was passed over for a promotion there. This turned out to be a good thing.

Today I’m a professional librarian in a public library. For close to 9 years I had a second job as the Health Guide at a mental health website.

The point is I didn’t recover until I found this job that was the right fit with my personality.

Wherever you work whenever you are subject to having a supervisor give you a performance review your career path is in someone else’s hand.

Thus my enduring urge to tell readers and audience members to have a second job or income stream in addition to our day jobs.

The yearly evaluation your supervisor gives you can seem capricious.

Though I favor acting true to yourself I remain skeptical about always disclosing your mental health issue to your boss and coworkers in the workplace.

This is because it can influence how your supervisor rates you and how much money you get in a raise.

Is this universally true? No it is not. Yet it is a distinct possibility.

Coming up in the next blog entry how to navigate what happens when you receive a performance review.

The better you like your job and what you do for 7 hours 5 days a week the easier it will be to take your yearly rating in stride.

My experience has been that different supervisors have different personalities. Their worldview and their own quirks in how they perceive other people factor into how they rate your performance.

I will use a “case study” approach from my own files to demonstrate why working at a job you love and having a side hustle could be the way to go.

Illness and Identity and Career

This is going to be a carnival of three related blog entries on the topic of illness and identity and career.

In conversation with a peer friend I asked him to clarify something I had been thinking about on the topic of illness and identity and career.

The friend understood: There are different pieces of ourselves. We’re not just one thing. We can talk and write about life outside of mental health.

For months now I’ve been interested in the Venn diagram intersection between illness and identity and career.

About how people choose to identify themselves to others. Some of us right off will tell people: “I’m disabled.” Some of us will say: “I have a disability.”

In my life I prefer to be identified by my name or by my personality traits or by what I’m passionate about.

This extends to labels outside of illness that people commonly use to identify themselves. Why should we have to label ourselves at all?

Years ago a workshop leader told everyone in her course: “If you name it, you can claim it.” I understand that this is the underlying dynamic in using a “hook” to describe yourself.

In work emails I would rather write after my name: Christina Bruni (Author/Advocate).

What I would ideally like to use is: Christina Bruni (Chris/Christina) to identify myself apart from a preferred personal pronoun.

It’s a matter of a person’s individual preference whether they want to talk about their illness in ordinary conversation. Or whether they choose not to disclose as a matter of course.

The choice is yours whether you disclose, how you disclose, who you tell, and when.

In the next blog entry I’ll talk about advertising yourself as a whole person instead of dwelling on symptoms and illness.

Making a You Turn

The book in the photo above is the number-one career book I’ve checked out of the library so far. I recommend you buy the book instead. Read it from the start to end straight through.

You Turn: Get Unstuck, Discover Your Direction, and Design Your Dream Career is great for all job-seekers. Not just those of us who are changing careers after being stuck in a dismal career we hate.

Author Ashley Stahl’s uncommon advice in reality is common sense wisdom for everyone. Even individuals happily ensconced in a job or career would benefit from her stories and approaches on financing, networking, and hitting rock bottom and coming up again.

The book sells for $17 on Amazon.com. You can special order it at your local independent bookseller too. Or go to Barnes & Noble.

The Dignity of an Honest Job

I wanted to write about the dignity of working at an honest job.

Two opposite myths exist:

One–that people with schizophrenia and other mental illnesses can’t hold “competitive” employment.

Two–that there’s a shame attached to a person when they don’t hold “competitive” employment.

These are bold-faced lies not just myths.

In an earlier incarnation of my first blog I gave kudos to Rite Aid cashiers.

Most of them have been staffing the cash register for years and they do it with a smile.

Anyone who is rude to a cashier in a store or thinks that a cashier is below them should be set straight.

My Working Assets blog has celebrated it’s one-year anniversary this January 2021.

My work on the job of keeping this blog has only just begun.

Moving forward into the coming year and beyond I will expand the scope of jobs and careers in here.

I will also take on lifestyle issues for people living in recovery.

In the next blog entry I will talk about what constitutes a “career.”

What a person does for love is as equally valid as an occupation as what a person does for money.

Working from Home Part Two

You can make a salad or heat up soup for lunch. I’m a big salad freak and coworkers have always remarked on the job about my favorite lunch greens. In the afternoon I have fruit or a container of plain full-fat Greek yogurt with berries mixed in.

Again, at home like at work you can use time management apps like Time Doctor, Toggi, Rescue Time, Focus Booster, Hours, and Vericlock. The monthly fee to use one of these apps ranges from $5 and up.

Try to schedule non-work interruptions during the time of the morning and afternoon that you take a regular work break..

At home you should be in command of your desktop just like at the office. On my desk I placed a magnet with this quote: Art is a Guaranty of Sanity. Plus, a Michael Jordan quote magnet that reads: Don’t Be Afraid to Fail. Be Afraid Not to Try.

Keep active and in touch with your supervisor and coworkers. While I worked remotely in my apartment on some days during the COVID-19 outbreak I telephoned my supervisor to talk about pressing issues. It’s more imperative to talk to your boss in a WFH scenario.

At the end of the day to transition into home life I recommend changing your clothes into your preferred casual lounge outfit to delineate night from day and household management from business protocol. Store your work clothes in your closet or drawers instead of tossing them on your bed or a chair.

Working from Home – Part One

The rise of work-from-home or WFH has become a reality in the post-COVID world. Being successful on the job working remotely comes down to time and project management tactics that will give you an edge.

Not having a long commute to the office has its advantages in terms of setting yourself up for a successful day. All you must do is shower, get dressed, have breakfast. Then walk to your desk or dining table to use your computer or laptop.

This gives you benefits you don’t ordinarily have. How to reap these rewards?

Schedule your work and life routine into five parts: getting ready/self-care; morning work; lunch; afternoon work; ending of day/transition back into home life.

Not having to commute to work with a bus, train, or car gives you extra time to devote to self-care in the morning. Why not apply makeup to feel good even though no one else will see you? Or write down five things you’re grateful for in a grateful journal. Meditate for ten minutes if you’re able.

Or simply compose yourself with a breathing exercise I do anytime anywhere when I’m under stress: breathe in for a count of three, hold the breath for a count of four, breathe out for a count of five.

Dress in the business attire you ordinarily would on the job. For breakfast, I recommend scrambling eggs and veggies if you’re not a vegan. Some people cook oatmeal. I don’t advise that you have any kind of boxed cereal.

Without having a long commute to the office this is where having a leisurely healthful breakfast can make your day by fueling you up for the tasks at hand.

 Like at the office, schedule your work in one-hour blocks. Get up from your desk every half hour to rest your eyes from the computer screen. Take one short break in the morning and one short break in the afternoon.

To be continued with Part Two

Failing Boldly

In 1990 when it was unheard of for someone with schizophrenia to hold a job I obtained my first position as the administrative assistant to the director of an insurance business.

From 1990 to June 1997 I was laid off–that is terminated–from 4 out of the first 5 jobs I held in that time.

One office manager told me over the telephone not to show up the next day.

I was in my twenties and early thirties when I thought that having a corporate insurance office job was what I wanted in life.

I was 25 when I started my first job in that field.

Decades later I shake my head wondering what possessed me to to want to do that.

Here is what I can tell you:

You might have wanted to work at a job or career and it turns out not to thrill you years later.

You might have been convinced you wanted that job or career and it goes up in flames because it’s not the right one for you after all.

Failing boldly is nothing to be ashamed of. I don’t like to use the word failure because it’s a loaded word.

There’s a negative connotation to failing in American society.

It’s doubly hard to allow yourself to switch gears when you live with a mental illness.

The average Joe or Josephine on the street doesn’t get their behavior scrutinized half as much as we peers do.

Only when an option you chose didn’t work out it’s not that you failed–it’s that the strategy simply wasn’t the right one for you to pursue long-term.

I’m 55 years old today. Thirty years after failing boldly in my first career I’m a different person than I was at 25 years old.

So much of what we peers could do starting out in recovery might be done in reaction against our diagnosis–in the quest to be “normal.”

I would tell readers to choose from different alternatives the option that resonates with you today.

For any number of reasons–and for those not having to do with having an illness–your first choice might not work out.

What you learn along the way in life–either picked up on a job or in a relationship or with a hobby–is hard-won wisdom.

This wisdom will serve you well throughout your life.

I’ll end here by saying that sometimes the best of us can be in denial. We ignore the subconscious dreams we have at night that are red flags telling us not to continue down the road we’re on.

Or we’re afraid to risk doing the thing that is our wildest desire in life.

Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of rejection, and fear of other people’s judgment among other hurdles must be overcome if you and I are to have a life of our own design.

In the coming blog entry I’ll talk more the way I see things. I’ve been living in recovery for 33 years so far.

The more I live my life the more impressed I am with peers who have the courage to stand in their truth and tell their stories without feeling guilty or ashamed.

Be proud of yourself for risking doing something, for trying and possibly failing, and for continuing in the face of this setback.

Coming up what I’ve learned from living in recovery 33 years.

Finding a Job with a Purpose

One of the benefits of collecting SSI or SSDI is that you can do volunteer work or get an internship in the field you want to work in. You don’t have to get paid on an internship because you have the government check coming in.

This is the counterpoint when others claim that individuals on a low income can’t afford to do an internship.

It’s also the counterpoint to the idea that you should take whatever job you can get. And be happy to have that job even if it turns out you hate the job.

The remedy as I see it is to use the internet and the resources available to you to narrow down your job leads to 2 or 3 careers.

Then you can choose the one that resonates with you right now as the goal to make happen.

Seek out others who have gone down this road before you or who are going down this road along with you today.

Get feedback encouragement and advice from them and give your own feedback and encouragement and advice to others.

You will need reinforcement when things take longer or don’t go as planned or don’t pan out.

Doing things that give you joy as you embark on your job search will boost your mental health.

I think that it helps to not expect yourself to do the impossible. Give yourself a realistic and attainable lifeline for achieving a goal not a restrictive deadline.

Enjoying the process counts more than obtaining the goal. Research indicates that it’s in the striving to achieve a goal that we feel the happiest.

In the coming blog entry I will talk about what failing at my first career taught me.

It was the job I thought I wanted.

Sometimes a dead-end is the exact detour you need to go down to find out what your purpose in life is.

Recovery as an Act of Bravery

In my Queens Library presentation which I gave from memory without reading notes (!) I talked about the 3 factors that enabled me to recover fully: having family support, adhering to treatment by taking medication every day, and using the creative process on and off my librarian job.

To wit I said:

Only by expressing your identity will you thrive in recovery. Your diagnosis does not define you. You define you.

I identify as an Artist. My 5 great joys in life are art, music, fashion, books and writing, and exercise. I’m happiest performing on stage at poetry readings.

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Recovery is an act of bravery.

It takes courage to be yourself in a society where there’s a lot of hate and judgment going on.

Yet the only way to live is Your Way.

My failed first career in corporate insurance offices is a testament to how I became ill by squelching my true Self.

Like Pat Deegan expressed peers should have “the dignity of risk and the right to fail” in any arena in our life–even in our careers and our relationships.

I took the risk to have a career that I thought I wanted to have. All along I ignored the subconscious warning signs that I was going down the wrong path.

It took me 7 years followed by 2 years in a law firm office library before I realized I wouldn’t ever be happy and healthy working in a business where I had to button-up my Artist self.

Expressing yourself is an act of bravery too.

I relate to LGBT individuals who were asked to submit to conversion therapy to straighten themselves out.

Early on in my recovery I tried to conform to what was deemed “normal” in society. And I failed miserably in my attempt to be someone else.

I would ask readers: “Why have you been afraid to express yourself?”

Here I am telling you as one peer to another:

You are worthy. You are beautiful.

Show yourself to others. Live out loud. Shine on.

There is no other way to live.

Queens Library Talk

Drs. Costakis and McKelvey of Zucker-Hillside Hospital Northwell Health talked about schizophrenia using a PowerPoint slide show listing symptoms medication and other facets of treatment.

At the end there was a Q&A. One question was directed at me re: what I wrote in Left of the Dial to the effect: I strive to be creative and express myself yet want to blend in.

The person’s question was about how to set that boundary.

I want to go into more detail here to expound on what I told the listeners on Tuesday.

The boundary lies in how you interact with others in an appropriate way and with respect. Not sharing private information about your life indiscriminately. Being able to discern what is fair game to reveal and what should be kept to yourself.

To the people listening to the talk I had said:

I think you cannot act false to yourself. You must act true to yourself. Early in my recovery I had jobs in corporate insurance offices and I had an apartment. So it appeared that I had recovered because I had a “normal” life.

Only I don’t consider myself to have recovered until I started my librarian job when I was 35 years old. The library was a different environment.

Working in the corporate offices I wasn’t able to thrive. Not only that it failed to give me economic opportunity.

I would say that you should show up as yourself in every interaction you have with other people.

That is the answer I gave to the question. At the end of the event I think I could’ve said more along the lines of:

Today I have no desire to blend in. Certain things I wrote in my memoir when it was published I see differently today.

For one–how I was impressed with women I called “living museums” with the perfect hair impeccable pocketbook and smashing clothes.

The idea of wanting to blend in no longer holds an allure either.

This is because for years after the book was published I’ve thought that you cannot repress your soul and expect to be well.

I would go further to say that that you should choose your job carefully when it comes to the type of work environment you will thrive in.

In the next blog entry I’ll talk in more detail about my own career trajectory to illustrate this point.

It comes down to what pioneer Advocate Pat Deegan called having “the dignity of risk and the right to fail.”

Sometimes you don’t know until you try on a job or career for size that it’s not the right one for you.

I was 24 when I expressed that sentiment about wanting to blend in.

I’m 55 years old today and things are different.

When you’re first starting out making a compromise might be necessary to get your foot in the door of having work experience.

Only I still think it’s a slippery slope in terms of finances and self-actualization to hide yourself and your light from view at any time in your life.