What Goes On At Work

My goal is that more and more peers are able to obtain jobs where we can then hire other peers to come on board at our companies.

You have to be aware of something that happens in the workplace even to the best workers among us.

This scenario makes disclosure on the job tricky for me to recommend in most work environments.

Employers will hire people with disabilities for temporary or transitional employment. This covers their ass and makes them look good.

As to whether those employers will hire mental health peers for full-time positions with paid health insurance and other benefits that remains to be seen.

I had attended a small business hiring practices event. It was suggested that for mental health peers seeking employment “the door slams in their faces.”

Sometimes it’s still an Old Boys’ (or Girls’) Network. Which is why I make the case for those of us who are peers to hire other peers. Getting in the door is what’s important.

As someone who is set to publish a career guide titled You Are Not Your Diagnosis I’m interested in hearing from peers ourselves what you perceive as the reason why the door is slammed.

I would like to add new information to my career guide that can be like the key that helps peers open the doors.

I’m simply interested in hearing from peers what their experiences have been in this regard.

My experience has been that employers love to interview people with disabilities for promotions. This shows they made a good-faith effort at being receptive.

In reality the position might go to another person.

In one interview for a supervisor job I was asked this very question (I kid you not): What single event in your life has made you who you are today?”

OK–I flubbed everything I said in the interview and didn’t get the position. It wasn’t a great interview so I understand not being chosen.

Years later I interviewed for another promotion. I was totally on and totally confident and thought I was the most qualified. Most of all because I had years of supervisor experience and that’s what the job called for.

They gave the job to someone else because they already knew they were going to choose this person. They went through the charade of interviewing other people they weren’t going to offer the job.

Folks: this happens all the time. It’s a dirty little secret.

Knowing this I think you can see that you have to be judicious in deciding whether or not to disclose your diagnosis on the job.

In the next blog entry I’m going to talk about something central to mental health peers’ success on the job: having autonomy versus having a job with narrowly defined duties and a rigid power hierarchy.

Playing the Fool to Get Ahead

I’ve fooled people into thinking I’m an ordinary person.

I’ve been a librarian for over 17 years so far. I was the victim of an accidental disclosure of my illness in 2005.

As that news was out of the bag I told certain co-workers that I published my memoir Left of the Dial. Three of them showed up to the launch party for my book.

When people find out I have a diagnosis of SZ they’re shocked. One co-worker had no idea until he found out.

I still maintain that disclosure on most jobs is too risky (even in the face of how I survived and thrived on my job after people found out).

In the next blog entry I’m going to devote time to a dirty little secret in the workplace.

You need to know this information to be able to make the right choice in your situation about whether to disclose or not.

I have the luxury of having the diagnosis out in the open. Nobody cares and nobody thinks any differently of me.

If you asked me what I came into this world to do in this lifetime it would be to a make difference.

No one with a mental health condition who wants to go to school or work at a job should remain sidelined from doing these things.

It’s 2018. The future is here today. It’s possible for peers to succeed in finding a career we love and would be good at.

The Time is Now

The second book I’ve written is geared to readers in the target market of neglected peers who have been traditionally told there was no hope for what you can do.

I’ve been a career services person for over nine years so far. In this time I’ve created resumes that enabled numerous people to get job interviews that led to job offers.

That’s how I know real positive change is possible. That’s how I know success is within reach.

The point is that mental health staff  are first seeing you at that moment in time when you’re young. Thus if they have no frame of reference where other people are successful, they will see you and your illness as fixed, immutable over time.

When in fact the point is you’re young, you most likely have a limited view of the world and your place in it, especially with any “self-stigma.”

At 22, at whatever age you’re diagnosed, that’s the time that your goals and dreams should be accepted and reinforced, not shut down.

Mental health staff should not use your illness and its symptoms as the proxy for your personality.

A female therapist when I was 27 told me I was too low-functioning for therapy. A female therapist when I was 46 told me I was too high-functioning for therapy.

Thus you have to beware of any mental health staff person who tells you that you’re either not capable of much or too ambitious to be a candidate for any further self- improvement.

As if there’s an end point to stop bettering yourself. There isn’t.

The point is too that if you’re not growing and changing as your life changes you’re going to remain stuck.

Your own frame of reference–about yourself, the world, and your place and others’ in it–should be changing to become more hopeful and compassionate.

Your life doesn’t end when you get a diagnosis of SZ or BP or DP or whatever you’re handed.

The people who treat you should accept and understand that positive change is possible for you at any time in your life. If not now when you’re in a plateau, this change can be possible at a later date.

Getting to where you want to be might not be quick or easy.

Yet without breaking confidentiality I can tell you in a general way that numerous peers I’ve met and helped have been severely ill and gone on to change their lives for the better.

One guy I know who’s gone global with his story heard voices for 10 years. He went on to get an MBA and become the CEO of corporations.

I’ll end here and come back with news of interest for New York residents.

Weird in a World That’s Not

I want to give readers hope for choosing the road(s) you want to go down in life.

I’m reading a book: Weird in a World That’s Not: A Career Guide for Misfits, F*ckups, and Failures by Jennifer Romolini.

The author is Italian like I am.

It’s a get-ahead book for left-of-the-dial folk.

This guide is for you if like me you felt you didn’t fit in. I was miserable working in insurance office jobs in the 1990s.

Possibly you can relate: I thought that to prove I was normal I had to get a job in a corporation like other people did to make buckets of money.

That particular bucket had a hole in it–so I didn’t make any money nor did I rise up to become a corner-office superstar.

I was forced to change course–to abandon that failed career and do something else. I chose to go back to school to get a Masters In Library and Information Science.

The graduate school coursework was not hard at all (at least not for me). It was simply labor-intensive–not hard work only a lot of work.

I recommend readers consider becoming a librarian in a public library or else working in another job at a public library.

This is because it’s the perfect career for those of us who are Weird in a World That’s Not.

I simply go left when everyone else goes right. (Though I’m not a Liberal party or Democrat or Conservative or Republican party member.)

I align with the Green Party. I listen to alternative music.

I use the word “operate” to describe how a person functions.

I operate differently from how so-called normal people operate. I’m not “in it” in this lifetime for tons of money or tons of fame.

Thus I recommend you read the book Weird in a World That’s Not.

I’m proudly as left-of-the-dial as you can get. So I think I know of what I speak in recommending this Jennifer Romolini career guide.

Lastly: A librarian job has the potential to be bulletproof. Automation is taking over. Audio Engineers for TV with 4-year degrees are being replaced by machines that do the audio engineering without the need of  a human’s skill.

In this climate, work as a librarian in a public library is sweet because no robot will ever take my job away.

So this is the ideal job if like me you are hopelessly different in how you operate.

I say: be weird if you are weird.

Be proud to be yourself in a world of people who covet being normal. Others might value looking, acting, and living like everyone else on the planet.

I do not. And if you don’t relish the homogeneous  nature of how you’re supposed to live in society, I say: rebel.

Be yourself. You’ll be better off.

Librarians of Tomorrow Teen Internship

Librarians of Tomorrow Teen Internship Program details:

Want to make a difference in your community? Brooklyn Public Library is now recruiting motivated high school students from diverse backgrounds with an interest in library services to apply for an innovative, hands-on internship program!

New York City teens in grades 10-12 are welcome to apply for a chance to build academic, college, and career readiness skills with support from a mentor.

Choose from a variety of program tracks, including Digital Media, Humanities, and Youth and Family Services, while earning a stipend and volunteer service hours.

JOIN US!

For further information on how to apply, please visit us online at bklynlibrary.org/LoT, or contact us at 718.230.2406 or LoT@bklynlibrary.org.

This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services RE-95-17-00-16-17.

According to a news article in the Washington Post:

“If President Trump gets his way, the institute, along with 18 other agencies, will be eliminated. It finances programs at 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums.”

Yes, Mr. Toupee is giving the ax to the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

This means no more funding for programs like Librarians of Tomorrow Teen Internship.

Now that Mr. Toupee’s Tax Plan gives Steep Tax Cuts to Corporations he has to make up for the Loss in Tax Revenues by Robbing Money from Other Budget Sources: notably anything dealing with HUMAN-ities.

Need I say more? If you are in grades 10-12 and live in Brooklyn, NY or know of a teen to tell who qualifies for this program, you’d better apply soon or have the teen apply soon.

Your tax dollars are going to be diverted from these kinds of opportunities and put into–where exactly will the funding money be going now?

Something to think about.

Mr. Toupee: you don’t have to give me a $12,000 standard deduction on my income tax form. I for one don’t want any money that could be spent on funding the humanities.

Mr. Toupee’s Tax Plan will REPEAL:

The ability to deduct Student Loan Interest on your Tax Return.

The ability to deduct Medical Expenses on your Tax Return.

The ability to deduct Mortgage Interest on your Tax Return

You will no longer be able to deduct these expenses on your tax form.

I urge you to apply right away if you fit the criteria for this Librarians of Tomorrow internship and live in Brooklyn, NY.

In a coming blog entry I will detail Mr. Toupee’s plan to repeal the ADA Act provision that requires businesses to be wheelchair accessible.

You betcha, pretty soon businesses will no longer have to be wheelchair accessible.

 

 

Rude Coworkers

I want to talk about the topic of rude coworkers. I might have talked about it before.

The November issue of Elle women’s magazine has an interesting feature about workplace dynamics between men and women.

The bottom line is: I’ve found from real life experience that there’s very little you can do about rude coworkers.

In effect management turns a blind eye to how people treat each other in the workplace.

You can’t tattle on your coworker like you’re a kid ratting out another kid to your teacher. It doesn’t work that way in the world of work.

The November issue of Elle reported on male coworkers who reported to a female boss. Yet instead of giving her their work directly they went above her head to the male supervisor.

I just don’t get this: how a lot of people in America seem to be only in it for themselves in how they interact with other people.

I used to say that you should limit your involvement with rude coworkers.

Yet unfortunately this particular coworker might call the shots where you work.

It also comes down not only to gender in terms of how a woman might be treated on the job.

It comes down to whether your mental health diagnosis is out in the open where you work.

For this alone I don’t recommend disclosure on the job.

I would say: be professional. Stand your ground. Be polite. If you show you can’t be rattled, the rude coworker just might give up. They might give up when they see it’s not worth their effort to be rude because it’s not getting a rise out of you.

Often, people act that way to get a rise out of another person. Yet when they see they can’t get a rise out of you that might just deflate their efforts.

My experience is that I’ve been the victim of verbal abuse in the workplace.

The manager wouldn’t do anything about it. That’s been my experience: you’re left on your own to bear the brunt of a coworker’s rudeness.

Perhaps some of what I’ve said in here will make sense.

I recommend female readers buy a copy of the November issue of Elle to read about various types of workplace dynamics.

The magazine also had an interesting article about mentoring.

Doing Lunch with a Coworker

I’d like to talk about doing lunch with a coworker.

It’s a social exercise that can be awkward when you’re starting out after getting your first job.

The drawback is having to be “on” even when you feel like you’re not up to conversing fluently.

Some observations might help:

Simply observing manners will buy you time.

It benefits us to take careful bites and place the fork down before taking another bite. Pausing between forkfuls or between bites of a sandwich will give you time to plan what you want to say.

Thinking through your response will help you choose your words carefully too.

It’s also a good segue because you have time to actively listen to what the other person is saying without interrupting. Waiting your turn to speak is a great social habit.

Years ago–too long ago to count–I bought the Kate Spade book Manners.

Checking out of the library a modern etiquette book could be a great strategy after you’ve been made a job offer and accepted it.

For us ladies I recommend the Michelle Phan book Makeup: Your Life Guide to Beauty, Style, and Success Online and Off.

In the next blog entry I’ll talk about another way to arm yourself for success on the job.

This could most of all benefit first-time job seekers.

 

Alternative Careers

librarian book cover

I recommend getting a library job as an alternative career to working in retail or working in a cubicle in an office.

Those of us without a library degree can get a job as a clerk in a library.

Or better yet those of us with great computer skills can get a tech position in a library.

This is because a lot of libraries aren’t hiring clerks anymore. Libraries today are creating tech support positions.

As the book cover attests, libraries attract a diverse crowd.

I started my new career when I was 35. It’s not ever too late to change gears.

This is a good thing to do when you’re having a hard time in your first career.

Mid life gives us the opportunity to change our lives for the better.

Like I’ve always championed:

It’s a kind of mental health treatment to have a job you love.

The book is interesting. You can check it out of the library if you can’t afford to buy it.

Commuting To and From Work

The idea of having to commute to and from your job is something to consider when choosing where to work.

Tales from my Career Crypt:

At my first job as an administrative assistant I had a 2 1/2 hour commute each way.

I took the bus from the starting point across the street from the public housing complex to the end point at the Staten Island Ferry. Then I took the ferry to Manhattan. From there I took a train to midtown.

That’s 22 1/2 hours every week traveling to and from an office job.

To top it off, the insurance firm’s management decided all employees had to work an extra half hour every day. So I had to be at the office from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

This involved leaving my apartment at six o’clock in the morning.

I don’t recommend this for mental health peers. This would give you barely any free time at night to enjoy yourself when you come home from work in the evening.

What I recommend: trying to find a job with a half hour commute. Or if you need to have a longer commute try to find a job where you’re only in transit an hour each way.

In the 1990s when I worked in insurance offices you were also supposed to work overtime nearly every single day of the week.

Along with finding a job with a shorter commute I recommend finding a job where overtime is rare and not required.

In the next blog entry I will talk further about my early office jobs.

Then I’ll seguein to what I think can be a better option than taking a corporate job.

My stance is: I would still work in a corporate job only if I had the kind of stone cold temperament required to be all business, all the time in how I interacted with clients and coworkers.

My Administrative Assistant Job

In 1990 I obtained my first full-time job as an administrative assistant to the director of an insurance firm. It was the first job I held after I got out of the hospital in October 1987. I was 25 years old then.

Today most professionals type their own correspondence so a secretary job is on its way out as a viable long-term career.

I want to devote a number of blog entries to this first job I held to segue into information about the second nonfiction book I hope to publish within two years.

My experience at that first job is illustrative of what not to do when you’re a mental health peer first starting out.

I don’t recommend telling your supervisor that you have a diagnosis of SZ or BP or whatever you have that you’ve been given.

My first job was in a corporate office. I would say in retrospect from my own office jobs: consider a corporate position only if you have the temperament to handle the pressure.

I told my first boss what my diagnosis was. I might have been in tears when I told her.

Listen–I’m a woman and this is my blog–so I’m going to reveal something that no one else will have the guts to tell you:

Getting your period and having SZ at the same time is a recipe for ongoing hell.

I’m 52 now and boy am I glad all that is over. Getting your period can worsen your SZ symptoms. So if you’re caught in a crying jag and otherwise experiencing the worst at that time of the month:

I urge you to weigh carefully taking any traditional job where you’re entitled to only 3 sick days per year. That’s the scenario in most office jobs.

At my first job in the office, I would have to go home sick as soon as this monthly shit hit the fan. I’m telling you this as a female mental health peer because you’re not alone in what happens.

I have one purpose in telling readers this: because of this type of scenario I urge you NOT to disclose your diagnosis to your supervisor or coworkers.

In the 1990s, I found out that I could take BuSpar–a non-addictive mild anti-anxiety pill–thought to help with the PMS. Ask your female doctor if this could help you. I can’t diagnosis any condition or prescribe or recommend any drug.

Yet I write about my experience in the early 1990s as an administrative assistant to make the case for not disclosing your diagnosis at any kind of office job.

In my memoir Left of the Dial I employed a sense of humor in detailing the functions of my administrative assistant job.

It was hell, hell, hell, and then some more hell.

I took the job so that I could kiss the SSI checks goodbye and afford to live in my own apartment apart from “the system.”

With so much of the moods a young person could have and the severity of symptoms at that stage of recovery I understand how hard it can be to just exist in recovery doing the best you can at that age.

In my second nonfiction book I’ll talk about this in more detail.

I’ll end here and in the coming blog entries give you a preview of the information contained in the second book.

No one else is going to tell you these things yet someone has to.

Up next I’ll talk about one of the most awful words in the dictionary: commute.

The commute you have to and from work can also be hell when you’re just starting out.

I have ideas about how to manage that too.