Time to catch up…

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It’s been a while. Sometimes the words just don’t come. Sometimes you just have to sit down and start writing. A friend told me that recently. He said, “If you think you have to have the whole piece ready in your head before starting, it’ll never happen.” or something to that effect.

I think he’s on to something there. Too often I think about adding something, but don’t because I don’t think I have a whole picture in my head. So here goes.

As stated from the last post, I had just started a job working at a Telus store in Winkler. Pembina Valley Cellular has or had stores in Morden, Winkler and Altona. It’s an interesting industry. Two main players are Apple and Android. Apple is Apple, Android can be found in a variety of phones ie Samsung, LG, Google and so on. I’ve used both. Like both. But, I already had mostly Apple products in my home so having an Android phone wasn’t quite as convenient in that environment. Android is a little more customizable, but you have to be willing to dig into the various menus. Apple is a little more user friendly for folks that don’t want to mess with that area. However, they too, have their settings you have to dig for that can change how your phone handles pictures, storage and battery life. Although sales is always the vehicle that drives things, trouble shooting was a big part of the job. That and dealing with customers with data overages. Because I’d always had it, I just assumed everyone had wifi coverage at home. Not the case in our area. It became quite apparent that anything rural had next to nothing for internet service. Customers relied on data from their phone. If that isn’t managed properly, it can get pricey.

It was apparent early that consumers shopped for deals. Most contracts were two years. Manitoba used to have some pretty sweet deals which could add family members and allow shareable data at reasonable rates. There was a major shift in the summer of 2019. All three major carriers, Telus, Bell and Rogers switched to a system that separated the phone from the contract. Data plans were all mostly unlimited now, which wasn’t a bad thing. However, the least expensive pkg, jumped approximately $30-$40/month to $65-$75/month. You add the monthly cost of a $1000 phone and we were suddenly offering plans over $100 month from the $45-$75/month. We were told it was to bring things in line with the rest of Canada. Needless to say those sales I referred to earlier tanked. Being the last one hired I was the first to go.

A little sorry to leave. The job had it’s frustrations, but I loved working with the 20 somethings we had in Winkler. They were hard working and humble. Not the typical picture my generation frames for young people today. Which only goes to prove you can’t paint everyone with the same brush.

So I did something I hadn’t ever done before other than for a training program, I went on EI. Not a terrible process. Easy enough to do online. Luckily, Arlene was working at RRC and we had some pension money coming. It just meant pulling back a bit. But we’d learned to live on less given our experience in Nicaragua.

It’s an interesting thing going on EI. Given the area we live in and comments I read and hear about people leeching off the back of others. For a Bible Belt community, my experience is that we can do a better job of showing empathy for folks that need assistance to fill a gap. You learn pretty quick to keep your mouth shut or learn how to answer the inevitable, “What are you doing these days?”. I found most people were ok with a “semi retired” answer.

So the job search resumed. It’s not as easy as it looks for a guy in his mid 60s. You’re either too old or the assumption is that you’re unaffordable. Some look at the grey/white hair and decide the tech will be too much. Regardless, I decided to look for something that would include helping people in some way.

This led me to a chance meeting with a friend of mine that worked at Segue Career Options. Shane Dubyk is someone I’ve come to know through the local music scene. Talented bass player. We met one day on the street and I asked about him about helping me find work. Because at the time I assumed that’s what they did. He in turn said I should come work for them! They just happened to have a term position open up. The job was helping their participants find work. How ironic. In looking for work, an offer came up to help others find work.

Long story short, I was fortunate enough to be hired. It was part time, but better than nothing. I cancelled my EI claim even though they do allow for part time hours, the last thing I needed was a claw back of EI funds. It’s not huge money. But it’s rewarding.

Segue used to be the Trainex program. Helping people transition from intellectual/physical barriers back into the work world. That’s still a big part of what we do, however, we have a couple of extra programs, JUMP and STEP, which take in participants for a 12 week session. The first 4 weeks are in classroom. Our program co-ordinators, Shane and Fallon Tanguay give instruction on resume writing, cover letters, first aid, CPR and Workplace Health and Safety. The goal is to bring unemployed, underemployed or new to Canada participants levelled up to be work ready. My job is then to connect with employers in the area for a work experience placement of 8 weeks. The JUMP program deals with folks 18-60 and if a job offers 30 hours/week, they are eligible for an unpaid session of 8 weeks. The STEP program differs in that it’s a younger group, 15-30 and they can’t be on any kind of assistance. The work experience is 100% subsidized to minimum wage if the same condition applies of at least a 30 hour work week.

The program has opened my eyes to the type of work Segue, Regional Connections and other similar agencies do in our community for folks trying to get off assistance, battling through barriers or just simply need a hand up. A recent John C Maxwell course I took with Al Ruttan spoke of this often. As leaders, that is what we are to do. Not lord over others, but help them up.

I am grateful for the employers in our area that step up to that task, make allowances and help our participants get a fresh start. I am grateful for the relationships I’ve been lucky enough to establish with co workers and participants alike. Are there frustrations? Absolutely. But the feeling you get when a participant lands a position washes that all away.

I am at the end of my current term. Actually it ended March 31. Now we wait to see if it’s renewed. My take is the current pandemic has slowed things in that regard. Hopefully, we get some positive news. If not, I guess it’s back to EI, for a little while anyway.

This recent journey has been a test for my own mental health. Dealing with the unknown. Testing my faith. Relying on others. Bit of an eye opener to say the least. Dealing with rejection can be debilitating. The fear of failure can freeze you into inaction. My manager at work suggested a book by Jia Jiang called Rejection Proof. In it the author documents a project in which he purposely created scenarios in which he would for sure get a rejection. 100 of them. He’d record them and post them to Youtube. Through this exercise he was able to fight through the fear and develop the tools needed to handle rejection when it happens. I highly recommend it if you’re in sales and deal with the same thing.

So there you have it, I guess Shane was right, you need to sit down and start writing and the words will come.

Cheers.

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