Careers Versus Jobs

From 2004 to 2012 (nine years) I was the Living Life column for SZ magazine’s print edition. Now the magazine is readable on the Internet. I write now their My Voice column focused on getting and succeeding at a job when you have schizophrenia.

The winter 2016 column was published. The spring 2016 column will arrive soon.

The first step if you ask me is to get in tune with what makes you tick. Oprah Winfrey wrote about “using your personality to do your soul’s work.” Finding what your soul’s work is and going and doing that will enable you to have a healthy, prosperous life living in recovery.

It first starts with career assessment. Do the research to figure out what careers you might like and would be good at. Try PersonalityType and Archetypes and the CareerMatchmaker quiz I talked about in an earlier blog entry.

It’s possible to earn a livable salary doing what you love. I wouldn’t shy away from having two jobs if that will enable you to have the kind of life you want. Read the Kimberly Palmer book The Economy of You about how you can turn a passion into a profitable side gig while you work at a day job.

There are jobs. And then there are careers. Taking any old job just to pay the rent is not the way to go if you ask me. Doing what you love even if you don’t become rich is the way to go.

In today’s world the goal often is to live debt-free because not a lot of us are going to become rich. Living debt-free is a noble goal. If you ask me it’s the goal to strive for above all other financial goals.

In the coming blog entries I will talk more about employment when you have a diagnosis. I will give the information about where you can sign on to subscribe to SZ magazine and read my column online.


The Triangle of Mental Health-Part Three

I wrote about the Triangle of Mental Health originally as the Health Guide at HealthCentral.

The third corner is practical career counseling. I have tried to understand why things happened the way they did. I see now that it’s so that I can talk with authority about my experience with the community mental health system I was involved in circa 1988 to 1991.

Years later I think I succeeded despite my time in the CMHS not because of it. I had to fight to be taken seriously in my goal of getting a full-time job and living independently. These are two things that ordinary Americans take for granted that they can have.

So why did a person like me have to fight to get these things? Why was a person diagnosed with schizophrenia in the late 1980s relegated to a CMHS where her diagnosis and symptoms were the proxy for her personality? Instead of having staff use the Asset Model to treat her that would’ve focused on her natural traits and gifts she could use to succeed?

In the 2000s it wasn’t any better for a lot of people diagnosed with a mental illness like schizophrenia. So-called job coaches at FastTrack and other agencies tasked with finding people jobs created terrible resumes for their clients. I’ve had to re-do a resume that was created for a guy I know. The job coaches sent his resume out from their own e-mails not this guy’s own e-mail. He was 50 years old and didn’t know how to submit a resume on his own.

I didn’t get practical career counseling until a fortuitous meeting with a therapist. He did career counseling because Oxford Insurance authorized only five visits because I had a pre-existing condition. Imagine that: a woman with a so-called emotional illness was denied therapy because she had an emotional illness.

I’ve written in here before about the Career MatchMaker quiz that is a great free starting point for discovering the careers you might like and be good at.

Also: you can often find resume writing help and job search help at your local public library now. In 1990 I was willing to get a job as an administrative assistant as the first step to full-time employment. Yet even then there was no true career counseling given to me. At that time my OVR counselor thought I should get a job as an elementary school teacher. I quickly nixed that option and told her I wanted to work in an office.

I’ve given talks to clients at an IPRT about going to school and finding work. At the IPRT the clients set a 12 to 24 month life goal they want to achieve.

Practical career counseling can start with motivational interviewing to see what interests the client as a life goal and how the client sees themselves as responsible for achieving it. From experience with a guy I know I see firsthand that he wasn’t given the tools to conduct a job search on his own.

How does someone who’s looking for a job not even have his own e-mail to send resume attachments from? How does he spend a whole year having his job coach at FastTrack send and monitor his job applications.

The UCLA Psych Rehab program that Dr. Robert Liberman, M.D. leads is first in its class in providing social skills training and cognitive remediation for clients who have gone on to become  a teacher, a film score compose, a mental health advocate, and a driver of a truck for a business, among other careers. Dr. Liberman easily boasts of 36 clients who have returned to having a so-called normative life in terms of a job and a home.

Now that’s practical training and counseling that works to get people diagnosed with schizophrenia back into the mainstream.

I will continue to talk about using your interests and skills as the springboard for finding a suitable career. In the coming blog entries I’ll again talk about things that no one else in the mental health field is talking about. Stay tuned.



Disclosure on the Job

Every so often I’m going to write blog entries geared to information in Flourish.

Upwards of 70 percent of individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia want to work and think they’re capable of holding a job.  Thus I’m going to present secrets to succeeding in the work marketplace.

A woman who wrote an article for Huffington Post claimed she doesn’t want to have to be twice as good as a person without a disability. She used a wheelchair.

“Honey,” I wanted to say, “You’d better be twice as good. Do it for yourself not for other people.”

There’s a lot of crap out there. That is people with a crappy work ethic. Do you really want to join the ranks of crap?

You might have to work with a guy who is not in his right head. Knowing that a rude co-worker without a mental illness who doesn’t do any work is celebrated and allowed to slack off, do you really want to disclose your mental illness in the workplace? Not so fast.

I’m a realist. I dream a world where more people can disclose without any repercussion. Yet I don’t live in this world. We’re not there yet in society. You have to prove yourself.

It’s true: that a co-worker with a defect will be allowed to be rude, to not do any work. Yet as soon as you try to be a slacker at work, don’t be so quick to think you’ll get the royal treatment like Mr. so-called normal does.

You won’t. It’s a double standard. I have been employed at jobs since 1990–going on over 25 years. It’s still dice-y to disclose in the workplace.

What can we do when we have to interact with people like this? I advocate for having a sense of humor.

Think about something positive about yourself that shines more brightly than the other person. Find something humorous about them. Whatever you have to do to feel better, try having a sense of humor about what’s going on.

Having a sense of humor will help you realize that “at the end of the day” you’re hot shit in your own way.

On the job, on the street, in real life, we’re all going to have to interact with slackers, with rude people, with people who live to twist our buttons.

Take the high road. Refuse to be pulled down onto another person’s level. Refuse to think you should be able to perform in the gutter too. It doesn’t work this way in the real world. You have to be twice as good.

You do it for yourself.You find humor in the situation.

The moral of this story is: Act like you’re hot shit–because you are. Like Queen Latifah urged: “Put on your crown.”

If you think you’re hot shit, it doesn’t matter what other people think of you and it doesn’t matter what other people do.

Act like royalty. Wear your crown with pride.

Risking Change

I talked in the Left of the Dial blog–or was it here–about having a sustainable life.

Eating everything in sight–the see food–diet wasn’t sustainable for me. Buttoning up my individuality by working in office jobs at insurance firms wasn’t sustainable.

It takes courage to admit failure and take off in a new direction. A person can live in denial only so long before the lid pops off and we’re forced to confront things.

Denial is a coping mechanism we use when the truth is too painful to deal with. Yet make no mistake: we’re aware of the truth about what’s going on. We just keep stuffing it down. Then one day the lid pops off.

I met Lori Schiller at a book talk she gave at the Learning Annex circa 1994 when her schizophrenia memoir The Quiet Room was first published. Lori was the first person who told the audience that we can’t keep stuffing things down.

Stuffing things down causes ill health. I’m convinced it can cause illness.

I’m merely taking what Lori said and running with it because it’s so true.

We need to have the courage to risk doing something new. We need to have the courage to back up and take another route when the road we’re on is a dead end.

In the end and at the end of the day living true to ourselves is the only via option for having a full and robust life.

I might be the oddball in this regard because I choose to see the humor in life. I know that working at a buttoned-up job turned out to be a mistake. It’s better to figure this out later than not ever.

IMHO a job shouldn’t make you ill. And if you have schizophrenia, you shouldn’t be shunted into a job with narrowly defined duties and no chance of breaking out of that blind responsibility.

That’s precisely why I prefer working in a creative field: I like the customers and treat them with dignity. The library is a third place in the community that opens its doors to everyone.

Once a guy came up and I asked: “How can I help you?” “I need a psychiatrist,” he deadpanned. “Do you want a natural treatment or medication?” I followed along.

“I’ll have what  you’re having,” he continued the joke. And he was joking because in no way did he come to me for help finding a shrink. After this quirky banter he did tell me what he was there for.

A numbers cruncher I’m not. And I still can’t do long division. I got a 66 in my trigonometry Regents so I barely squeaked by. How you could rightly ask could someone like me think working in business was the ticket out for her? Wearing suits and having a steel demeanor. With no opportunity to joke around or banter with customers.

It took me seven years to figure out that the road I was on was a dead-end.

The moral of this story is that risking change is better than continuing to be in denial that you’ve gone down the wrong path. It’s better to risk change later in life than not to risk change at all.

With nutrition, with fitness, with a career: it’s better later than not ever to make positive changes.

Having a Sustainable Life

I’ve co-opted the term sustainable to describe a person’s lifestyle as well as in terms of climate change and agriculture.

I’m not a fan of our elected officials.

A true New York City moment: I was in a restroom and on the door inside the stall a person had spray painted Vote Bernie Saunders Bitches.

People are aghast that he’s a socialist however that might just be what our country needs: a president who puts the people before the profits of big businesses.

I do not trust our government to do the right things for ordinary citizens. Elected officials prohibited states from labeling GMO foods. They prohibited independent scientists from talking to politicians about climate change. It’s also no secret that private foundations draft the legislation that our politicians then frame into the wording of the bills they want to enact.

We no longer have a government “for the people and by the people.” This is why I’ll always maintain that ordinary people have to take action to change the world. We have to take our recovery and our life into our own hands. The kind of change the world needs in my estimation will best happen person-to-person and one-on-one. By each of us lending a hand to each other when our government won’t.

Thus my contention that having a sustainable life is the only way to live. It’s absolutely reckless to carry credit card debt and doing this isn’t necessary to have a good life. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to live well. And you don’t have to buy a lot of things to be happy.

I’m aware that CEOs diagnosed with schizophrenia are not commonplace right now. Thus in the coming weeks I want to write about topics geared to ordinary people (who might want to become a CEO–or not).

Either way I’m going to talk about hot topics that often no one else is talking about.

I’ll end here by talking about having a sustainable life. In other words I have titled this living Left of the Dial where doing the things you love is way to live a full and robust life.

It’s about healing and harmony. And my contention is that to heal your life should be organic: comprised of elements that co-exist and come together in a natural way.

Hope. Harmony. Healing. These are within reach for most people living with schizophrenia and other mental illnesses.

Going over the edge over and over: financially or mentally or otherwise is not sustainable.

A better way exists. A better life is possible for a significant number of people.

Yet I do maintain that our jobs won’t be done until more people are able to recover and flourish.

I want that everyone has the same equal opportunity to succeed.

I’ve read in the book Altruism that countries with the biggest income inequality (like the U.S.) fare worse economically.

Another reason why I don’t see our government as it exists now as being able to do much to elevate the quality of life of ordinary Americans any time soon.

Having a sustainable life in this political environment is the way to go if you ask me.

Becoming self-reliant and having independence is the way to go and I’ll talk about this in future blog entries.

Love and Money

I’m reading a book that talks about how college students invariably choose careers based on income potential. The author stated he tells everyone to choose a career for love not money and that no one listens to him.

The author gets one thing right: happiness leads to success. It’s not that when a person becomes successful they’re happy.

The secret to life is that you can be happy doing what you love earning a livable salary. You might have to work two jobs yet in my estimation that’s better than sitting home watching TV for two or three hours every day.

My view on this is as strong as the other author’s: do what you love. Do what you love. Do what you love.

Selling your soul is not the answer. In another book the author talks about how people who chase money and the things it can buy often have poorer health and smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol more than other people. They’re not any happier and I would say I doubt they’re truly successful in terms of what matters most.

The clothes on your back don’t love you back. An iPhone won’t cheer you when you’re depressed.

This goes into a second book I’m writing. I help people all the time with career searches. I helped a college student take the CareerMatchmaker quiz that I talked about in an early blog entry here. One of the careers he was interested in showed up in his Top 40 careers list.

As a practical matter selling your soul to earn money will only leave you in an emotional poorhouse.

I advocate for choosing wisely what you want to do with your life. I advocate as I have now going on nine years for doing what you love and seeing how you can earn income from this.

I could sound like a broken record claiming that buying into the myth of having status in society as a JD or MD is not the way to go. Not for creatives. Not for a lot of people whose parents push them into being super-achievers.

I don’t view any person as low-lying fruit. In my view everyone has gifts and everyone has something positive to contribute to society. Regardless of whether they earn a ton of money doing this. And regardless of whether they have an actual job or not.

Thus my famous position about valuing the services of a cashier at Rite Aid.

I’m going to sign off now. In coming blog entries I’m going to return to a focus on health and nutrition.

HealthCentral Update

This month at HealthCentral I will publish a news article titled “Finding and Succeeding at Employment with Schizophrenia.”

Yesterday I published there 5 Ways Schizophrenia Changes You. Last week I wrote Depression and Schizophrenia

This is for information of course. It’s possible that the interview I did about depression and schizophrenia might have been my best writing for HealthCentral when it was published at their depression website.

At HealthCentral I simply wanted to give information that could be practical. I will always advocate that a person seeks help from a professional before things get out of hand not after they’re in dire straits.

This October is Disability Employment Awareness Month. In a Boston University Survey I of Sustained Employment Among Individuals with Psychiatric Conditions: 95 percent of the participants were taking psychotropic medication at the time of entering the study.

I will tell others: get help before things get out of hand. Do what you can to get yourself up and out of a hole. Rock bottom is when there’s no lower you can go. Yet dancing on the edge of an abyss is no way to go either.

I don’t recommend settling for living in hell when a person doesn’t have to.

If you want to work at a job, it just might make a difference if you stay in treatment.