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Volunteering = Paid Work  

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“Never underestimate the value of volunteering”. I hear myself saying that over and over again. To clients in disability employment services, to the youth that I mentor and to the public in general who tell me how hard it is to get a job.

It is hard to find meaningful work because the job market is just so competitive and getting more and more so as technology replaces the repetitive work we all seem to loathe in the past but now remonstrate about how much less opportunity there is because machines have taken over replaced much of our labour force. Competing for work now is more than just having a qualification and an impressive resume, it is also about our ability to be a ‘good citizen’ and becoming more focused on being the innovators of our own future.

Volunteering allows you, between jobs, to continue to build your skill base. Creating new skills that can be transferred to paid work. Just because you only volunteer to help landscape a community garden and you did not get paid for your work, does not make you less of a landscaper. In fact, your dedication to creating a space enjoyed by many for nothing more than the pleasure of doing so, speaks volumes about what an employer could expect of you if they offered you a job. And what of your social conscious? Clearly you are a person who enjoys and appreciate the beauty of the outdoors. You are hard working because rather than sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring you are out in society demonstrating your abilities for everyone to see. You are obviously a social person because you work well as part of a team and you interact daily with the general public as they continually stop to ask, ‘what are you doing’? Your resume now includes, hard working, friendly, team player, enjoys a challenge.  All great qualities that employers are looking for, on top of your qualifications and impressive employment history.

Volunteering also helps you with those sticky career choices we all make at some point in our lives. ‘I just don’t know what I want to do with my life’. Volunteering gives you a unique opportunity to get out and about and try something new, discover a hidden talent or maybe, turn your talent into a whole new career. Imagine being paid to do something you love doing – isn’t that what we all aspire toward?

Being a volunteer takes a lot of courage. Putting yourself out there, using up energy and taking a chance, it is all a lot to ask and not everyone can do it. But to those of us who make the sacrifice, the rewards can be endless, and will almost certainly lead you toward a fulfilling career. Perhaps not the one you were seeking but what is life if it does not surprise us.

So you didn’t get the OP Score you wanted – So What!  

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If only we could achieve our career objectives early in life, wouldn’t the employment world be so much easier to navigate and our lives could run according to ours and society’s great plan. If only we could rise above our averageness and score that series of A’s that will get us the OP  we need to get into the university of our choice and gain the degree of our choice and live the life of our choice. If only life were that easy … and boring!

Roads are never straight. They rise over mountains, dip into valleys, they bend around curves and sometimes they take us miles away from our destination before we finally arrive. But along the way we got to see so much more than we expected. We see the unexpected, we encounter people we would never have met and who often speak to us in a way that we never thought possible. The same applies to our careers.

Not all of us are lucky enough to have such a clearly defined career pathway from the beginning of our lives and to be honest, those that do, don’t always follow that pathway. Our careers, like our lives are a journey and an exploration of what could be, rather than just what is.

I am a great advocate of seeking alternative pathways, if only to allow me the time to explore all the alternatives before I launch into something completely strange and a little terrifying. It is often during this time of exploration that I discover hidden abilities and talents that can be useful in ways that I had never thought of. Taking the longer road can make us more resilient, can improve our capabilities and empower us to do better than even we expected of ourselves.

We live in a fast paced world where the idea of lagging behind the rest of the race is to come last, but we all have the same life spans and I ask you … what’s the rush. I have often found that by allowing others to race ahead of me gives me a clearer view of the road ahead and all its obstacles. It has enabled me to not only learn by own mistakes but by avoiding those on the road ahead of me.

Don’t give up. Don’t race down the road ahead of everyone just to win the race. Take time to learn from the journey. Your pathway might not reveal itself immediately, but at least it will only have temporary glitches, not permanent barriers.

Indecision keeps Possibilities Open

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Making a career change in mid-life is daunting and often fails because we are too set in our own ideas about what we are and are not capable of. It is this focus on self-esteem that career counsellors are interested in when they are attempting to help you to plot your destiny. How you arrive at your destination is only a very small part of the journey and this only happens when you are nearing the end. Only when the breakdown of our pre-conceived concepts about ourselves occurs and we re-evaluate what motivates us, can the doors to the future be opened up and there we can explore all that we thought impossible.

If making a career choice is as easy as renewing our own faith in our own abilities, then why don’t we do it more often? Because procrastination keeps all of our options open. When we are in those early stages of exploring the future, we are often overwhelmed by the myriad of opportunities and that is exciting. We can spend countless years dreaming about what we wish we could be instead of taking that step toward a definitive decision and choosing the one pathway that will fit perfectly with who we are and where we want to go in life.

Career counselling seeks to take the job seeker through three elements or phases of career development:

The Exploring Phase: The phase in which you spend the most time, exploring what motivates you to make this change, why you chose the paths you do and how, most importantly, will this fulfill your career expectations.

The Integration Phase: This is where it all starts to come together. Out of the first phase will emerge a new you, one who has a much clearer picture of where they want to go and what they want to do. This is an exciting time and also the time when all that self-doubt will come back to haunt you. Now, more than ever, you need to stay focused.

Change Phase: The final phase in which you seek out the necessary tools that you will need to orchestrate change. From here, the journey begins.

It is impossible to move straight into the Change Phase without first engaging in the exploring and integration phase because these are where you will understand what motivates you and ultimately, if we are not motivated to sustain change, then change will not happen.

Write that successful grant application

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Tackling a grant proposal for the first time can be a daunting prospect and many believe that it is a highly developed skill available to only a select few. Not true! The trick to writing successful grant proposals are relatively simple as long as you adhere to a few strict guidelines.

The first and possibly the most crucial element of any grant proposal are the guidelines set out by the funding body. In order to ensure that the limited amount of resources available in terms of financial assistance goes to the right recipients and are used for purposes that meet the objectives of the grant, funding bodies need to set strict guidelines and criteria. The selection criteria and presentation of the grant proposals may seem mundane with requirements such as proposal length and layout but adhering to these guidelines shows the grant assessor that you have read the criteria thoroughly and are willing to follow simple rules. It’s not about power, it’s about ensuring that the money given will be used for the purpose in which it was intended and not be squandered which will inevitably affect the reputation of the funding body as much as it will the organisation receiving the funds.

Following on from this, you need to ensure that the purpose for which the money will be used is in line with what the funding body is offering it for. If for example the funding body is offering grants for the purchase of sporting equipment for children in remote communities, applying for the same funding when you live in an urban region is not going to be accepted. There are a multitude of grants available every year, it is important that you pick the ones that are specific to your needs or you are simply wasting your time. Most local councils will keep a list of what grants are available specific to their regions needs and are readily available through council websites.

Make sure when structuring your grant proposal that you use clear and concise language which explains what it is you are hoping to achieve with your application. How you will use the money and importantly, how you will report this back to the funding body. All grants come with a request for grant recipients to show that the money they received has been used in line with the original application and a well formulated plan on how you intend to report this will be well received.

Always get a second opinion prior to submission. As well as meeting the criteria of the funding body you will need to have a very clear understanding of the objectives of your own organisation.

Lastly, don’t give up. Failing to obtain funds in your first attempt at a grant proposal is all part of the learning curve. The more you hone your skills, the more chance you have of being successful next time.

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