I needed to change careers several times in my life. At each juncture, there was an expression that entered the jargon of whatever discipline I was struggling with at the time, At each juncture, there was a popular expression that triggered a personal epiphany causing a drastic career change.

About 25 years ago, I was a practicing field archaeologist. I was in graduate school at the time working on a method of identifying traces of blood, fat, pitch, starch and amino acids off stone tools. I was using chemical reagents and spot testing to do the dirty work. I thought I could give good indications of not only how particular tools were used, but also some of the activities carried out at different sites in prehistory.

If anyone would ask, I would tell them I was “Squeezing blood from stones.”  My committee didn’t like the idea –not because it was too biblical, but because they wanted to know what animals the blood came from, what plants or animals the fat and amino acids came from, and what plants the starch came from. That would involve immunochemistry, and immunochemistry would involve killing billions of rabbits.

That wasn’t for me. I would have been,  “… Stuck between a rock and a hard place” if |I went any further. Then I went back to being a social worker.

I worked with street teenagers in those days. I was hired by an agency to use recreation to work with them. I became a softball coach, a ball hockey coach, and because I worked with a pile of young ladies who were teenaged mothers, a fitness instructor.

But I couldn’t type. I still can’t type. These were the dot com bubble days when all the computer companies like Yahoo had big crashes and layoffs and those who were left behind had to do all the work by multi-tasking. Someone noticed that I was having too much fun, and said, Mike can’t type, and therefore can’t multi-task. We have to get rid of him.”

I went from social work to employment work. I did well at that until someone brought up the phrase “Elephant in the Room” It turned out that I was the elephant in the room because I had the wrong degree and therefore the wrong set of skills to be an employment guy. I got the ax from that.

But I wasn’t completely thrown out of the door. I concentrated on job development rather than counselling. “That can come later,”  I thought.

Then something happened last night, and I hope it doesn’t lead to yet another epiphany. I was recertifying myself in First Aid so I could continue teaching fitness. In First Aid, there are several mantras to help one remember what to do in situations.  Thus we have:

Left for life, right for death

Lefty loosey, righty tighty, etc.

One of these is R.I.C.E. which stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. That’s how you treat just about everything. But hold on. Nowadays there is “Evidence Based.” Apparently the elevation part is in question. While it makes sense to hold a bleeding limp higher than your heart to slow the bleeding, nobody ever studied bleeding and elevation, and therefor it’s not Evidence Based. I have heard the term before. The way I’m supposed to work at developing jobs for people is supposed to work well because it’s evidence based.  

It makes me nervous. I sense another epiphany – especially since my first annual performance review is next  month, and I’ve only been there for four months. I hope I don’t find myself caught between another rock  and a hard place again as the elephant in the room.

I may have to retire to plumbing. There are only 3 rules to learn:

  1. The hot is always on the left
  2. Water always goes downhill, and
  3. Don’t chew your nails

Mike Broderick , a one- time archaeologist, is a Vocational Rehabilitation Counsellor with the Fraser Health Authority in Port Coquitlam where he helps people with mental health disabilities find and keep full or part time employment .
He WAS the Employment Specialist for the Neil Squire Society in Burnaby where he found employment for people with physical disabilities, A Supported Employment Coordinator at THEO BC (now the Open Door Group), and a case manager at Community Fisheries Development Centre where he helped people move from the fishing industry to something else because there “aint no fish.” This means he is VERY familiar with how a modern day resume should look like.
He is an active ambassador with the Vancouver Board of Trade and a member of the Labour Task Force of the Burnaby Board of Trade He does some work as a field Archaeologist, is a fitness instructor and frequent contributor of fitness humour articles to Alive Magazine. He is always saying, “If you can’t be fit, you can at least be funny.”
He lives in Port Coquitlam with his spouse Cecelia. You can reach him at home at michael_broderick@telus.net or at 604-464-4105. If you’re looking for a career change, he is the Spin Doctor and can give you a resume makeover at competitive rates.




  1. Sharon Says:

    You forgot the #1 rule for plumbers – butt crack pants.
    Great story, good philosophy. This explains my career, I’ve always been the elephant in the room. During your “annual” review if your supervisor starts talking about elephants you can turn on your ipod and make him start doing jumping jacks.

  2. Mary Belcher Says:

    I think the elephant in the room is unemployment for young adults with a mental illness, do you think a national employment strategy is needed for Canada. this mentioned in a CBC documentary called the ‘jobless generation’. They mentioned Switzerland as a country that has a national employment strategy.so that when kids graduate from high school, they have acquired work based skills in different industries and get jobs , where industry and government and education have worked together.

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