And now for something a little different

Very rarely do I post a blog related to my work, because that is SO NOT what this blog is about and could be considered a conflict of interest, but I have been thinking lately about volunteering and how so many people (of all ages) do not do it and yet complain like crazy when they can’t get work because they have no relevant or recent experience. 

Now I am not talking about my client’s because that would be a huge breach of trust, I am talking more about the young people I know personally – outside of work who are required to get volunteer hours in to complete high school and who don’t put any kind of thought into it – or worse yet expect their parents to tell them where to volunteer and get them to arrange everything.  How in the world are these children supposed to take care of themselves and fend for themselves, if they can’t possibly think outside the box and volunteer to build skills for change?  

Surprisingly THIS makes my blood boil.  As an employment case worker I am well aware of the stats of high school grads getting jobs (it sucks – big time) and those that have put in an effort to volunteer regularly, not just the required 40 hours have a MUCH higher percentage of finding stable, lasting work. 

Who should be at blame here?  The kids?  The parents?  The school?  Everyone wants to blame the schools – it’s always the government’s fault, parents have no responsibility right?  WRONG!  A parent’s only job in life is to prepare their children to survive on their own, if they fail at that – they have failed as parents, at least in my humble opinion.  Schools, play their role – believe me!  However, they only have your kids for 5-8 hours a day and usually they are running around trying to make sure the kids have been successful with the education piece they will require to get a job in the future. 

Why would a company care about someone who volunteers????

There are no dumb questions here (well maybe), but I’ll answer anyway…

Volunteering gives you skills you just can’t get from sitting at home playing video games, swimming at the beach or chilling with your friends!  Skills such as leadership, problem solving, conflict resolution, communication, punctuality, adaptability, time-management and team work.  These are just a few of the skills and qualifications MANY high-quality employers are not only looking for on the resume, but desire in an ideal candidate. And they want demonstrated experience here people, not just a statement on the resume. 

I was on LinkedIn the other day looking through different people s LinkedIn pages (always creeping) and almost all of the PROFESSIONALS had one things in common on their page – they had volunteering listed.  They may not volunteer now, many of these people, like me, are in their 30’s and 40’s and have full-time jobs, families and other responsibilities, but they did volunteer for hundreds of hours, many years and for countless non-profit organizations.  

I am asking, begging, pleading with you to not forget those that need our help.  Volunteer, get involved, and help out where it’s needed.  Your resume and your career will thank you – trust me!

XOXO Nikilee

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Do you choose your choice??

Growing up I knew beyond any doubt that I would be a famous actress an elementary school teacher.  I used to line up my stuffed animals and teach them to read and to do math.  I was an excellent teacher to Mr Bear, my barbies, my little ponies and Frisky my pound puppy. 

Growing up I never waivered from that dream.  I went to University, I got a degree, I went to teachers college in the States which allowed me be practical and keep my part time job while volunteering with different classes and the Girl Guides of Canada and I successfully got my B.Ed.  I assumed with my degree, my volunteer experience and my love for children and education, that all my dreams would come true the minute I graduated from Medaille. 

Not all dreams are meant to come true though – even when it’s all you have ever wanted.  Sometimes plans have to change.  

When I graduated I ended up being one in a million who applied for the same few spots available for the September 2008 school year.  Applying to the Toronto Board was a whole other story.  I never even was called for an interview.  I was so disappointed. I had options though – I could stay in Ontario, continue volunteering and hope for the best for next year or I could move – teach overseas (I had achieved my TESL certificate in 2004).  With my dad being ill and in a serious relationship with GBF at the time, I opted to stay at home and continue volunteering.  I worked for the City of Toronto as a Support Assistant so I wasn’t hurting for money at least – compared to approximately 90% of my graduating class who also did not find immediate work upon graduating.  

Two years later – just as I was about to get put on the supply list with the Durham board of education, an opportunity came for me to be a Caseworker with Social Services.  This position came with a huge pay hike and some certainty.  My seniority was caring with me and I would be eligible for benefits, vacation and sick days. 

I could have easily at this point said screw it and took the supply list and given up my city job – but who does that?  Risk-takers, brave people who leap without a safety net thats who. 

I am not that person.  I have always gone where it was responsibly correct for me to go.  Having something solid and sturdy to land on has been how I have lived my life and I didn’t feel ready to change that – I can’t say I regret it, even though those who supported and encouraged my teaching dream sure whish I had. 

I gave up my dreams of teaching to move into Social Work.  I loved it from the moment I started (not that it’s always been perfect) and when I moved into employment and helping others find stable, reliable employment I felt I could talk honestly to them about choosing stability over dreams – but if dreams are what they wanted, I knew I could and would do everything in my power to make those dreams come true.  I wish mine had. 

I wish I was closing up my classroom right now, struggling to finish report cards while my students prepare for summer break.  The truth is – it’s not a good time to be a teacher.  With political uproars happening and schools closing, violence in the classrooms erupting, there is a part of me that enjoys the comfort of being in a full time permenant position with the City I love.  I’m grateful I don’t worry about being surplussed.  

Then there is the other part of me that sees friends and aquaintences throw caution to the wind to reach their dreams – they travel globally teaching wherever a classroom is available, whether that be China, Korea or Istanbul.  They pack up their bags and they get on a plane and say ciao to loved ones, leaving family members behind and creating new lives.  A part of me – is jealous.  I wish so badly that I had gone to Korea when I graduated from Trent in 04, but I chose stability.  I see people now – regularly who quit their jobs to make their dreams come true.  People who quit high paying, stable jobs that they no longer love in order to be satisfied at work.  I want to scream at them “what will you do for money?  What will you do all day?” But I don’t.  I smile at them and secretly marvel at the courage it took them to leave their comfort for the unknown.  

Sometimes I secretly imagine I am that girl.  I imagine I surprise everyone by quitting my job and moving somewhere exotic like Australia to teach.  I fall in love with an Aussie and I become a world traveler…But when I wake up, when my 7:00 alarm wakes me up and I get dressed for work, I smile because I know I chose my choice.  I enjoy my job and I have many people in my life who were not at lucky as I was.  Who work part time or full time jobs, not in teaching that they don’t enjoy.  That they don’t smile at when their alarm wakes them up in the morning.  I am blessed. 

What happens to the herd of students graduating from teachers college this year.  I mean hop on any facebook page or website dedicated to Ontario Teachers and you will hear more often then not, people complaining about the lack of positions available.  Many people stay in Long Term Occassional (LTO) positions or on the Supply list for years before something comes up – only to be surplussed the following year.  

It’s so unfortunate and until the College stands up to protect the unemployed teachers who are amazing, educated, qualified, passionate individuals, we all swim for the same boat – a boat I chose to get off a long time ago and a boat I have missed everyday since.  

XOXO Nikilee