A few millennia ago, while I was in my senior year at high school, I was asked by the once Homecoming Queen to dig a ditch to raise money for the grad party. I was I suppose I was thinking that if I dug the ditch well I might ask her on a date to recount all the excitement of ditch digging. After all she was once the Homecoming Queen. I agreed.

“Then it’s agreed,” she said. “You and five other suckers will spend Saturday digging an access ditch that 100 feet long and 18 inches deep. You will dig for free, and the school will get er  …   let’s see. … A fair bit of money.

I showed up on Saturday at 8:00 with my shovel and chalk line. Nobody else showed up. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “Sucker!””

Not really. Three things happened that day. First, the digging was easy once I broke through the sod. The property was actually an archaeological site. In fact, it was a shell midden so I was digging through loose shell. I was also finding artifacts. I was so interested in this, that I eventually got a degree in archaeology and spent 13 years as a field archaeologist.

Secondly, people saw me working, and they kept calling me. I suppose they thought that if I could dig a ditch, I could build a fence, or mow a lawn, or scythe a field, or bail some hay, or wash some windows. I worked every day that summer, and I found there was other fish to catch that the former Homecoming Queen. There was no time. She had no math skills.

Third, I learned the power of networking. I have often heard the old mantra amongst job seekers that “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know that counts.” You can have all the skills and book learning in the universe, but if you don’t know people, your chances of finding employment are bleak.

I didn’t know anyone while I was ditch digging, and I got a whole pile of work that I didn’t expect. I also got to meet some anthropologists and archaeologists in the process that I also didn’t expect, and after getting a degree or two, I began to make some theoretical contributions to the science. I think this is networking, and I can now change the mantra to, “It’s not who you know, it’s who THEY know that counts.

I often attend networking sessions at boards of trade and chambers of commerce. I tell some success stories about what I did that month to give people the impression that I find jobs for people with mental health disabilities – all the while telling prospective employers that I have people who really want to work as part of their rehabilitation. If they have a job, they can attend all those summer barbecues and say with pride that they dig ditches or work in a warehouse or work on a farm or work as a lawyer rather than saying they are on disability.

Do I get these jobs from people who attend these meetings? No. I get them from the people they know.

 As a last note, these meetings usually have a few people looking for work. They couldn’t come to a better place. They often put the people they meet on their Linked In list of contacts. That way they can contact individuals and companies who may not yet be advertising.

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.

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 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.


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