WHAT’S AN UNEMPLOYED EMPLOYMENT COUNSELLOR?


Eleven years ago, everyone in my office received a termination notice. Community Fisheries Development Centre is closed its doors forever. We expected it. In fact, we signed a contract saying the project would end June 27. As denial changed to acceptance of reality, my co-workers dusted off their resumes and practiced making good eye contact and giving good firm handshakes.  Worse, we also gleaned  Internet web sites to find updated information concerning interviews, and we practiced on each other.

You could hear us arguing robustly about the pros and cons of those ‘behavioural interview’ questions so popular with human resource department  these days. They don’t ask questions that make sense any more, such as, “What position do you play in softball?” Instead, they ask, “Tell me a little about yourself,” and, “Tell me about a time when you had a real doozer of a problem, how you solved it, and how you saved the  company seven million dollars in the meantime.”

Trust me. When I get a problem at work, nobody wants to hear about it.

Over the past three years, our small staff helped almost a thousand people make a transition from the fishing industry. Some found other work, while some trained to develop their skills before finding work. Some started working for themselves after attending self-employment programs.

Our job was done. It was our turn to make the transition – and I was worried. I don’t want to be an unemployed employment counsellor.

On one hand, I think any employment counsellor worth their salt should spend some time being unemployed. They need this time to practice what they’ve been preaching to their clients. To test the logic about networking and resume writing, and to have realistic view of the labour market, they need some recent firsthand experience at the job hunt. In short, unemployment gives employment counsellors an opportunity to grow professionally by devising new strategies.

On the other hand, nothing is as pathetic as an unemployed employment counsellor. An unemployed employment counsellor is one that obviously knows nothing about the art of job searching. Of course, there is no such thing as an unemployed employment counsellor. There are employment counsellors who are, “between positions,” or better yet, “between assignments.” These euphemisms take some pressure off, but they don’t pay the mortgage. 

But it was my turn, and I had a mortgage. The pressure was on. I have only a few weeks to find an economic niche in this society, so I’d better start treating myself as a client.

Many people don’t know this, but there is really no such animal as an employment counsellor – employed or otherwise. There are counsellors, there are people certified to run job clubs, and there are people certified to administer a career program called “True Colours.”

While I am a counsellor with  dozens of  years’ experience, I don’t believe in the job club idea. For a job club, a successful placement could be a minimum wage job dishwashing job at MacDonald’s. As for True Colours, I’m colour blind. I believe in dealing with each client individually, and doing what it takes to help that client become successful.

Coming to an employment assistance program where the counsellors are looking for work is good news for our clients – not because we’re leaving, but  because clients looking for work can capitalize on that extra enthusiasm for job search.

Readers of this column can also capitalize on these reports from the trenches. Next week: I’ll report on how I put myself through a Needs Assessment and Researching the Labour Market. This means I’m going to tell everyone what I need and where I’m going to go to get it. On week three, I’ll write about the Truth About Resumes, and after that, The Interview.

Damn. I was unemployed for a week, and I’ve been working steadily without a whiff of an unemployment cheque.

Mike Broderick is an Employment Specialist for the Neil Squire Society in Burnaby where he finds employment for people with physical disabilities. Part of this work means affiliation with the Vancouver Board of Trade where he is a member of the Ambassador Club, the Burnaby Board of Trade where he is a member of the Labour Task Force, the Tri Cities Chamber of Commerce where he is an active member of the 10X10 initiative, and the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce. He does some work as a field Archaeologist and is a fitness instructor and frequent contributor of fitness humour articles to alive magazine in Port Coquitlam. You can reach him at home at michael_broderick@telus.net or at michaelb@neilsquire.ca. If you’re looking for a career change, he is the Spin Doctor and can give you a resume makeover at competitive rates When he is not doing all this he lives in Port Coquitlam with his partner Cecelia.

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One Response to “WHAT’S AN UNEMPLOYED EMPLOYMENT COUNSELLOR?”

  1. Sharon Says:

    Great job as always, Mike. Good ideas laced with humor. Did the unemployment check get there in time?

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