Getting in Gear with a “Career”

Once I read from my memoir Left of the Dial at an event for peers and family members.

The host was raffling off 10 copies of my book for audience members to win.

To my delight one peer who won a free copy of the memoir had told me they liked reading inspirational stories. They had told me this at the start of the event even though they didn’t have a job.

At the end the peer won a copy of Left of the Dial.

I talk about this because the idea of what constitutes a “career” is open for interpretation.

Decades ago in the now-defunct SZ magazine that I wrote a column for there was an article on what you could do when you have negative symptoms of schizophrenia and couldn’t hold a job.

To wit:

You could bake cakes. You could play guitar in a band. You could go to a coffee shop for breakfast and have a latte and read the newspaper.

Having worked with a person who didn’t have a mental illness [and who was rude and hostile] I can tell you that it’s possible for anyone with a pulse to get a job.

Having a job or not having a job is NO indicator of a person’s worth.

It’s why in my original Flourish blog I sang the praises of Rite Aid cashiers.

Those cashiers bust themselves standing up every day for hours ringing up orders.

I refuse to use the automatic payment machine to check out items on my own at Rite Aid.

I don’t want the cashiers to lose their jobs to a machine.

Every day for years and years Rite Aid cashiers have been ringing people up with a smile. For years and years it’s the same cashiers.

For some of us our recovery is a full-time job. Managing our mental health should be the prime focus.

My contention has always been from the very start of my advocacy efforts that I recovered because I had first found the job I love.

I didn’t find this job after I had recovered. It was the other way around–I make this distinction–finding the job I love enabled me to recover.

This is why we need to expand the definition of a “career” for the purposes of recovery.

A multitude of career options exist in the world for everyone living here.

Should my rude and hostile coworker have been exalted because he has a job? While a mental health peer who is compassionate is looked down on because they don’t have a job?

Exactly.

In coming blog entries I”m going to talk more about goal-setting.

About how engaging in goal-seeking behavior–regardless of whether your goal is to get a job publish a book or go on vacation–can make all the difference in how good you feel.

In Praise of Union Jobs

Anyone who is leery of those of us who work in union jobs I dare say has bought into the divide-and-conquer tactics of the government.

I make the case for getting a union job as opposed to a job with a private employer.

My experience sheltering in place in the time of the COVID-19 outbreak in New York City gave me the idea to write in detail about the benefits of having a union job.

Not a lot of union jobs exist anymore because of the union-busting tactics of the government as well.

My job is a union job for city employees. While the library has shut down we are getting paychecks every two weeks.

Having a union job that offers a perk like automatic paychecks in a crisis can make the difference between affording to pay your rent or mortgage and going into debt just to be able to live.

In 2000 when I graduated library school I chose not to pursue a job in a library in a legal or corporate office.

Decades later I’m glad I choose to get a union library job.

With a union job your chance for a promotion isn’t linked to the whim of whether your supervisor is willing to give you that chance.

With a union job you often have a pension when you retire which is now rare for private business jobs.

With a union job you could have the benefit of signing up for a 403(b)–a retirement plan for nonprofit agencies that is like a 401(k) for private employers.

With a union job you might have the benefit of an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to get counseling services and financial help information.

With a union job you could possibly be able to use free legal services to hire a real estate attorney or a lawyer who can help you create a will for free.

What’s not to like about a union job?

In New York City you can go on NYC.gov to find civil service and other government jobs.

The number-one benefit of having a union job is that you cannot summarily or capriciously be fired or laid off.

You have protections in place as a union worker.

In a coming blog entry I’m going to talk about the benefit of an Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

Managing in the Time of CO-VID19 Outbreak

I want to talk about real matters that impact those of us who choose to get a job instead of solely collecting SSI or SSDI.

We should have cash on hand readily able to be taken out for an emergency. This “peace of mind” fund should be in an FDIC-insured account at a bank. This way you won’t lose your money if the financial institution falls on hard times.

Getting paid while we’re out of work might not be possible in the time of the CO-VID19 outbreak.

This is where I champion getting a union job like that at a public library. Chances are you will get paid even when the library shuts down because of a crisis like this one.

This might not be possible. This is where the peace of mind fund gives you the cash to weather the financial storm.

Pay yourself first to build up this money. Direct deposit into a savings or money-market account at your bank a set amount out of each paycheck. Do this before you debit money for anything else.

It’s called “paying yourself first.” Some experts and I do too recommend saving eight months of living expenses in an emergency fund. The more you have squirreled away the more peace of mind you’ll have.

Going to a bank when you’re told to shelter in place might not be a good idea. This is where having $100 cash in your wallet can help.

I think having $10 in singles, $20 in five-dollar bills, and the rest in twenties can be good to have on hand.

Using your credit card judiciously [paying the statement invoice off in full every month] you can order in restaurant food to be delivered.

FreshDirect online in New York City delivers groceries and household supplies to your front door.

The PeaPod delivery service is available elsewhere.

The FreshDirect website has had glitches. Yet so far I’ve been able to schedule a delivery once a week. You can tip the delivery person in cash. Or use the drop-down button to pay for the tip inside of your payment for the food.

In the time of CO-VID19 I specify a $9 tip online. The person arrives with gloves and a mask on. The boxes are left outside your front door.

You can order from FreshDirect in New York City. See PeaPod for others.

In the coming blog entry I will talk about mental hygiene which is so critical in a time of crisis like the one we’re living through today.

Qualifying Your Job Leads

Brand You is the product you’re selling to your prospective boss. You need to qualify your job leads to narrow your choices to the employers whose workplace culture and environment mirror you own values and needs.

Qualifying your job leads is a way to act strategic instead of blitzing scores of companies blindly with your resume simply because you want a job.

Target your job search to the firms where you will fit in. Kate Wendleton published the book Packaging Yourself: The Targeted Resume.

I figured out quickly when I took a job in a law firm while going to school that transferring from one office job to another office job (even in a different field) was a mistake.

What the company needs and what you need in terms of goals (their bottom line and your professional goals) should be in synch.

You will ensnare your future boss when you’re able to cogently tell that person why you want to work for that company. This is critical when you’re going on a job interview.

Remember these sales dictums: Don’t try to sell the customer a blue shirt if all they want is a white one. Sell the benefit not the feature.

If you’re wearing a “blue shirt” to a company that needs a white one in effect the interview is a waste of time.

Power listing your skills, abilities, strengths, and experience gives you the features of your product. What is the benefit of the company in hiring a person like you who has these qualifications?

What you bring to the table should demonstrate that you will fit into that particular workplace.

More on promoting The Business of You in the next blog entry.

Coming up after that: a list of job search websites specifically for individuals with disabilities.

Will You Fit into the Company Culture?

Here’s where it pays to take a rigorous accounting of your prior job environments.

At one ill-fated interview I went on in the 1990s the woman asked me what I liked best about my last job.

“I loved the interaction among coworkers,” doomed me as soon as I told her.

Apparently, for that woman at that job this wasn’t the right answer. Luckily, I wasn’t hired.

This is because the building would’ve been a 10-minute walk from the subway.  In that time, it took me at least two hours on the subway to get into Manhattan. Factor in a 10-minute walk in addition to the subway ride.

Having an isolated job at a desk away from coworkers would’ve sealed the deal that it wasn’t worth it to walk 10 minutes to get to an isolated building.

Today it’s imperative to research the business environment.

There’s been the opposite trend of “open offices” where everyone is working in one big room without dividers like in the traditional cubicle format.

Would you thrive in this workplace where you’re on display while going about your business?

As you can see, fitting into the company culture is imperative.

In my career handbook Working Assets I talk about qualifying your job leads like a salesperson qualifies their prospective clients to pitch a product or service to.

More on this in the next blog entry.

Will You Love the Job?

This is something you should ideally figure out in the interview process not after you’ve started the job. Once you’re on the job, you shouldn’t want to jump ship as soon as you start it.

Again, this is where researching the company comes in handy.

If you don’t think climate change is man-made, you wouldn’t interview for a Green Alternatives Think Tank.

If you’re an eco-conscious soul, your values would tie in at Banana Republic where the water is returned to the environment clean and dye-free after garment creation.

The answer you give to this question—in whatever guise it’s asked—should tie into the company’s mission and values.

A friend took a questionnaire when he wanted to get a job as a pharmaceutical sales rep. He was coached on how to respond to the question: How important is money to you? The candidate was supposed to clearly state that money is the most important thing.

So, for you maybe earning a high salary is your goal.

Showing the interviewer that your values align with the company’s mission is a way to stand out.

Can You Do the Job?

A Workopolis.com internet article referred to a Forbes article that listed the 3 Most Important Interview Questions: Can you do the job? Will you love the job? Will you fit into the company culture?

I’ll tackle each question in a separate blog entry.

The category of question that the first one falls under is often termed behavioral. What would you do on the job in a certain situation?

This is where having a CAR statement handy benefits you. Talk about a Challenge you faced on a job or in a related position like volunteer work. Tell the interviewer the Action you took to resolve the situation. Then end with the Result of your Action.

Before any of this goes down on the job interview you will have researched the company to figure out what its pressing need is. On the interview you can then sell yourself as the only person qualified to fill this need.

I understand that you might have self-doubt. Or not perform well under pressure like in an interview. Remember that this is a two-way process. You’re interviewing the interviewer too. You want to try to assess the person inside their persona.

Will you love the job? We’ll talk in the coming blog entry about what you can tell the interviewer when they ask you this question. It can be framed in different ways.

Finding the Ideal Work Environment

Today with the rise of people embracing multiple gender identities it begs the question: what is the ideal environment to work in for those of us who identify as non-binary or transgender?

The Human Rights Commission (HRC) in the United States has tracked workplace policies since 2002. The HRC has seen an uptick in benefits like providing employee health insurance that covers gender-confirmation operations.

Should a person like me or a non-binary or other person be forced to work outside of an office? It comes down to investigating diligently in your job search the company culture at different firms you’d like to send resumes to.

The fact is a person who dresses differently or has piercings or tattoos could otherwise be quiet and reserved or have a more traditional method to executing their tasks on a job.

While networking with staff at companies on LinkedIn everyone can be cordial, and it might be hard to glean their real-life MO. Yet sleuthing around before you’re made a job offer should be standard operating procedure.

The internet literature tells businesses to execute “diversity training” to familiarize employees with how to engage with transgender coworkers in a non-biased way. This extends beyond the dress code. It can only be a great stride that companies encourage individuality in the modern workplace.

The more often that people who express unique identities get hired at different workplaces I’m hoping that things get better in society in terms of treating everyone with dignity and compassion.

More in the next blog entry on the 3 most important questions you’ll be asked on an interview. The reason they’re asked is to gauge how well you’ll fit in at the company.

Dress Code Diversity

An innovative tactic for promoting Brand You is through how you dress. As I wrote in a blog entry innovative thinking should be prized as a tool to generate solutions that achieve profits for businesses. Visionaries are in the vanguard in how we dress as well. Restricting the type of clothes, a person wears on their job can backfire.

A more relaxed dress code can promote gender equality. A lot of women prefer to wear pants not skirts or dresses. Allowing staff to dress in their own style within the bounds of what’s appropriate can boost morale. Forty-five percent of firms that instituted a casual dress code saw increased productivity.

Adhering to a strict dress code rules out hiring a diverse talent pool. Individuals who don’t dress in a traditional style are shut out of the workplace at classic companies.

For those of us loathe to wear a suit on the job I recommend getting a job in a public library or other non-corporate environment. I can remember all those suits I wore in the 1990s to my insurance office jobs. Good riddance to the 1990s—and to dressing in boring, bland outfits with no pizzazz.

In the coming blog entry, I’ll talk about a real issue in the workplace for people who don’t conform. Though it begs the question as to whether there can be a “norm” from which others deviate.

I say: hold on. Not so fast with the norms.

Individuality in the Workplace

I want to talk about honoring individuality in the workplace. Michelle T. Johnson in her book The Diversity Code thinks “honoring individuality is the highest form of achieving diversity.” Read her book for the inside scoop.

Tactics abound that enable companies to increase profits and foster the health and happiness of employees. In the modern workplace savvy businesses have gotten hip to these habits:

Today in e-mail correspondence some firms allow their employees to list their preferred personal pronouns after their signature as in: Robin Smith (they/them). It’s thought that when cisgender individuals do this it helps non-binary and transgender people feel comfortable in sharing their identities. There’s a real safety risk that transgender people face in society.

To be candid I don’t want to be identified by my gender and prefer to use my given name as in: Christina Bruni (Chris/Christina).  A woman I talked with thought this was a great idea. I haven’t gone so far as to sign my e-mails this way yet.

An image consultant I contacted stated that a person should feel free to tell coworkers whether they identify as masculine or feminine. You can identify as non-binary as well as transmasculine or transfeminine

A good place to start is with your e-mail signature as in: Sheila Jones (she/her) or however you identify. You can list the pronouns on your name badge at a conference too.

An aside:

In New York State it’s become easier to get issued a gender-neutral birth certificate. You don’t have to file an affidavit to do so.