Friday, October 18, 2013

Crunchy wholesome career biscuits

A satisfying career is like a good biscuit recipe! 
(An imperfect but potentially useful analogy)

There's something to get your teeth into.

It's nourishing.

There are occasional interesting bits, to provide variety.

You can adapt it to suit you better as your tastes change over time.

You'll occasionally botch it up, but you can always learn from experience.

Sometimes it's worth trying something completely different to see what happens.

What at first appears perfectly acceptable can, on closer inspection, contain faults.

A small tweak can have a huge impact.

A huge change may have no impact.

They can both go stale if they're not looked after well.

Most biscuits and many careers have a use-by date.

Sticking to the recipe rigidly can lead to problems when ingredients aren't available.

Being flexible and open to uncertainty can be empowering.

Sometimes you need the services of someone more experienced to see how to make improvements.

Overindulgence can lead to illness and possibly require the services of a doctor.

There is no perfect biscuit. Many varieties can be enjoyed at different times in your life.

Inspired by this article by Jim Bright, Professor of Career Education and Development ACU, and the following recipe from the Family Circle Biscuits and Slices recipe book.

Cocoa Sesame Biscuits aka Crunchy Wholesome Career Biscuits
3/4 c plain flour
1/4 c cocoa powder
3/4 c rolled oats
1 c sesame seeds
3/4 c caster sugar
100g unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons golden syrup
1 Tablespoon boiling water
1 teaspoon bicarb soda
185 g melted chocolate bits

Oven @ 160C

Flour, cocoa, oats, seeds and sugar go into a bowl.
Melt butter and golden syrup. Add soda to boiling water - dissolve. Add to the butter mix.
Add the wet to the dry ingredients. Stir.
Put teaspoons of mixture onto baking sheet. (The original recipe called for 3 Tablespoons of mixture per biscuit there was only space for one on the tray, and it became the side of a dinner plate - there was clearly something wrong.)
After 6 minutes spin the tray around or they burn. Leave another 6 mins. Ladle melted chocolate on top when they're cool!

Of course I didn't stick to the recipe the first time did I. The sesame seeds only came in mingy bags and I got the last one at the store so I added a few more oats and some chocolate buds. I cooked one giant sized one as per instructions which spread hugely and was unmanageable. Because it lacked pizzaz I chopped up some crystalized ginger and added that to the mixture and adjusted the size to 1 teaspoon per biscuit. As for the chocolate topping, it was ho hum ... so I added bit of chilli chocolate for interest!

As for the second time I made them, experience told me that further small changes could be made to improve the outcome! (A large change of different oats or flour really wouldn't change the taste a lot). A gentle shake of black pepper found its way into the batter along with more generous amounts of crystalized ginger. The topping oozed chilli this time, and the book has been duly marked with the additions.

Next time I might try some rum soaked raisins instead of the ginger!
Whoever would have thought that careers and cooking biscuits could have so much in common!


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Suddenly my job seems pointless.

People sometimes say about their workplace: "I'm thinking of chucking it all in. I can't stand this place any longer."

Others come to see me with stories along the lines of "I'd just bought a morning coffee and realised I couldn't face going back to work. I phoned my boss from the car to say I wouldn't return. Ever."

While the latter is more extreme, it's not uncommon and often leaves the employer as stunned as the former employee.

People who've walked out of their workplace never to return, usually say they weren't conscious of being particularly unhappy. It was as if something surfaced from deep within resulting in a sense of physical revulsion. They talk of a feeling of bewilderment; of having been as surprised as everyone else by this unprovoked and out of character action.

Often they'll sit at home for a week or more trying to make sense of what's happened to them, but this doesn't always lead to particularly useful insights.

To result in this dramatic reaction, something has been deeply out of kilter, and after discussion it generally becomes clear that personal values haven't been acknowledged by the employee or have been trampled on by a manager. However, because values aren't usually discussed in any meaningful way in western culture, it's likely that they haven't been acknowledged or clarified in the person's private life.

What can you do (right now) if you have a sudden overwhelming feeling of revulsion about work and are feeling caught in a web that you can't seem to escape from?

  • Stop.
  • If possible find somewhere quiet to sit. (To answer the unspoken question: Yes, some people can only find peace in the washroom. It usually provides privacy and you hopefully won't be interrupted!) 
  • Breathe slowly and regularly. Take in 3 deep breaths and let them out in a controlled  s l o w  manner. It's harder to panic when you're focused on filling your lungs with air!
  • Do a body scan: Mentally audit your limbs, organs, torso and head to get a sense of where the tension has settled - you'll notice a tightness, lump, sense of suffocation or queasiness somewhere when you pause quietly and take time to systematically check in. A body scan can sometimes be a quick process or can take a half hour or more. Don't shortchange yourself by rushing!
  • Now, most importantly, when you sense where the discomfort is, stay settled. It's perfectly normal and tempting to avoid mental discomfort and metaphorically run - by turning on the radio or TV, picking up a book, checking social media or deciding you need a cup of coffee ..... Stick with it, you'll thank yourself later on.
  • Some people report mentally "seeing" a writhing lump of spaghetti-like substance, others use dreary colours to describe an immovable mass. The description is as individual as you are and there are no right or wrong descriptions.
  • Acknowledge and make room for the discomfort. As I mentioned, some people report the feeling of a golf ball in the throat, difficulty breathing or nausea.  Don't try to push the sensation down, belittle the feelings, pretend they don't exist or be scornful and call yourself weak (see Do you bully yourself?) It can be hard to believe, but these feelings are perfectly normal amongst regular everyday people, mums, dads, aunties and uncles, whether they're high flying executives in powerful positions, TV presenters or comedians, artists or doctors. They're part of the human condition and most of us experience them from time to time. 
  • As Russ Harris says; now observe the sensation as a curious scientist would. Not with heavy ham-fisted aggression, but gently and with interest. Some people look at the shape, colour and form of the discomfort and find it changes as they take time and allow it to be. (This sounds a bit weird and hippy, but isn't when you do it.)
  • And the part which I personally find most powerful is this bit: instead of squashing down the unpleasant sensation, and metaphorically stomping on it to try to make it go away because it hurts and isn't nice, give it a bit of room. Make space for it. Let it stretch. Again, this sounds weird until you do it. What happens then is that it's not quite so horribly uncomfortable. It doesn't go away, it hasn't vanished, but you're not fighting it. 
  • Instead of spending time and energy persistently battering uncomfortable feelings down, you give them their own space and whilst you mightn't be great mates you can co-exist with tolerance and acceptance
  • Next think about your values. If you've completed a formal values clarification exercise, review it, starting with the ones that are not negotiable. Is there something out of kilter there? Something which surfaces when you give it time and space? Work gently through your list one at a time. 
  • If you haven't completed a values clarification exercise, the following might be helpful: 
a) from The Confidence Gap by Russ Harris
b) a worksheet from Kelly Wilson adapted by Russ Harris
  • It could be that it's not an unethical workplace which is the issue, but that your home life (which you value deeply) is being swamped by work demands leaving you depleted and feeling that something important is passing you by.
And while it may be that nothing will change immediately, by spending time quietly thinking about what's important in your life, you'll gain clarity and understanding and this knowledge will empower you to take appropriate committed action

Appropriate action could be to make deliberate changes in relation to conflicting demands on your time: To make space for, and prioritise family, exercise, wholesome food and to give yourself time to enjoy these things. 

Appropriate action could be more confronting too. Once you've become aware of what is disturbing you, how will you respond? If for instance, a colleague is being harassed, which conflicts with your deeply held value of social justice, you'll need to choose how to respond. Will you speak up and be supportive or not? If you don't speak up, you'll experience further conflict - if you do there are costs (and advantages) to that decision as well. When you choose to live in line with your values, it makes some decisions obvious - but that doesn't necessarily make the resulting action easy. 

Without knowledge of what has unsettled you, you'll be making decisions in reaction to something and not proactively from a base of knowledge

If doing this alone doesn't work for you, find a coach or trainer who works from a base of values and contact them. The ACBS website is a good place to start and has members throughout the world.


Sunday, October 13, 2013

On being lectured - a grumble

Please don't lecture that I'm doing something wrong when I admit my blog posts can take a day to write. Don't tell me they should be shorter when you've never read one. It’s unhelpful insisting "the experts say" they should only take twenty minutes.

You don't have a blog, have never read one and don't "do" social media. One day you'll realise it’s challenging to find the right words for your particular audience, to share a serious message which can be readily understood.

It’s not easy.

"Experts" aren't always right and it’s worth taking time to share complex ideas thoughtfully.
Stop and think before you speak - is criticism helpful?

A drabble is a story written in 100 words. No more. No less.

Monday, October 7, 2013

The environment minister receives a massive petition from GetUp to "Save the reef"

"Look mummy, there's a shark!"
A young child squeaks in delight as a shark, turtle, crab, assorted fish and a man in a wet-suit complete with spear gun, walk past the Fred Smith Reserve playground in Hastings Vic, with the express purpose of delivering a petition, recently signed by 243,236 people (and still coming in!), to the Environment Minister's office. 

Small groups of people formed, chatted for a while, then reformed as they either met up with acquaintances or used the opportunity to expand their network of friendly, local, like minded people. 
The atmosphere was warm and welcoming. I'd been unsure what to expect as I hadn't attended a GetUp function before, but the email I received had been positive and explained what to expect when I arrived. What they hadn't mentioned was to expect dozens and dozens of cheerful, local people, many decked out in orange, all with the purpose of standing up for what is important. Some people clearly knew each other but there was a welcoming air and above the general hubbub of chatter you could hear words like 'dugongs', 'turtles', 'mangroves' and 'our children's future'. It was great! 
I chatted with someone who had taken time off work to attend. She'd told her boss that she had an important appointment that she couldn't miss and which couldn't be changed. She also hadn't been to a Get Up event before but felt this was too important not to support. It was local, and she wanted to be there in person to show solidarity for our natural heritage.

Young mums had picked their children up from kinder and come down, a couple of tradies seemed to have downed tools for a while to make time to come along. All age ranges were represented from children in prams to the elderly with walking sticks and everyone in between. 

After a short briefing we set off like a long undulating, orange reef-worm past the playground and shops towards Mr Hunt's office.  Enthusiastically waving drivers were tooting and cheering - that was unexpected and fun!
I remember hearing once that each person who shows up at something like this represents hundreds of people who are unable to attend. I wonder how many people are represented by tooting?!

There was no guarantee that Mr Hunt would be there in person to receive the masses of signatures and see the large group of people from the electorate who had made the effort to show support. But Sam, a GetUp organiser checked; it seems that Mr Hunt was expecting us!  Sam escorted Mr Hunt out to meet the enthusiastic throng.

Sam spoke to Mr Hunt, the media and the crowd about why we were all there - in short to protect the Reef. He was professional, respectful, assured ... and very tall!
Fiona Maxwell, another Get Up organiser also spoke and gave Mr Hunt the placard stating that "243,236 Australians say SAVE OUR REEF". She was thoroughly professional and spoke courteously, yet strongly about how the reef needs to be protected for future generations. 

People who speak disparagingly about Gen Y, about the cult of the self, of selfishness and self-centredness, could get out and spend time with the young activists who will be impacted dramatically by climate change. Many of them are not only aware of the damage climate events will have on their lives, but are committed to doing whatever they can to avert the worst of the impacts. They are truly wonderful and worthy of our respect and commendation.

Mr Hunt appeared to listen and was gracious in his reply. He acknowledged the organisers and crowd and accepted the petitions with respect. I was quite relieved as a friend had been involved in presenting a petition to a state minister who had received them with a smirk, then with her watching, had put them straight in the bin. Hardly the response worthy of an elected representative. Mr Hunt, in contrast, appeared to acknowledge the concerns and gave the impression that he'd listen. He then invited a small group into his office to discuss the matter. If/when I hear the outcome of that meeting, I'll add a link.

I've written a bit about the Great Barrier Reef in the past, the first post was in 2011. It's incredibly disheartening to realise that it still has no real security and even though Mr Hunt spoke soothingly, and appeared to acknowledge and understand the concerns expressed, I don't feel entirely reassured that he fully realises the enormous implications from continuing and increasing the use of fossil fuels. However, that's a much bigger issue that what was being specifically addressed today. 

The Great Barrier Reef has been described as one of the 7 wonders of the natural world, as a treasure, as a gift. Surely we should be responsible stewards for this magnificent area and not continue to treat it as a temporary and irrelevant inconvenience. How about we stop treating the fossil fuel industry with kid gloves and kow-towing to their every whim? 

How about we factor in the cost of health care, pollution and environmental damage for those people and areas impacted by fossil fuel mining? My grumpy post about that is at: The vital topic that's not being discussed this election.

Whether the Great Barrier Reef will be adequately and appropriately protected - who knows. However, for myself, and for many others, we can say "we did our best". I know there are many, many other groups both in Australia and around the world trying to get assurance that the reef shouldn't be lined with ports to transport fossil fuels and that dredging shouldn't be allowed. Let's hope that once and for all, sound action is taken to preserve what's left of this incredible wonder!

I grumbled here after seeing the excellent 4 corners programme: The Great Barrier Grief. 
A year later, in 2012, not much had changed, the threats to the reef continued and I wondered if it was to become an open sewer. 

Why the Great Barrier Reef is worth preserving from GetUp!

  • The Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef in the world and is recognised as a global treasure, due to the amazing biodiversity which it sustains and it's unparalleled beauty.
  • The Great Barrier Reef is one of the 7 Wonders of the Natural World.
  • The reef brings in billions of dollars of economic activity every year and supports tens of thousands of jobs in tourism and the fishing industry.
  • The largest dredging project ever undertaken in Australia was approved to occur within the Great Barrier Reef WHA, at Gladstone Harbour, and is slated to remove a total of around 50 million cubic metres of soil.
  • The ecosystem of the GBR is already very fragile and is facing total collapse with the added pressure of the dredging, which releases toxic chemicals into the sea.
  • In the past 6 months (the first stage of dredging) there has been a steep increase in deaths of endangered marine wildlife - 6 dolphins, 10 dugongs and 231 turtles have washed up dead near Gladstone on the Great Barrier Reef.
  • Fishermen and their families have been getting sick and have noticed that many of the fish have washed up with a strange flesh disease.
  • The Australian government failed to inform UNESCO of the approval of the gas facilities in the Great Barrier Reef WHA.

And if you would like to email Mr Hunt and ask him to say no to all mega-ports and shipping superhighways along the Great Barrier Reef coastline: 


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Snake catching; a niche career

A friend and I were discussing the challenge of job hunting for young people. Part time, casualised employment with no security, short term rolling contracts, no interest from many employers in ongoing training or career progression. This leaves a sour taste in the mouth when the employee is clearly unvalued and dispensable - and is told that they can be "walked" (ie their employment terminated) on whim because there are plenty of people waiting for any job at all.

We then got to discussing self employment - not everyone is cut out for doing their own promotion, advertising in an attention grabbing way and finding clients. However, here's a self employed man providing a service which is clearly in demand - clients seek him out at all hours of the day and night.

Certainly it's got its challenges and isn't for everyone, however the snake man is providing an important niche service. His customers are no doubt delighted to see him arrive - and leave!

Interestingly, within 24 hours of discussing the snake man, I received this text from my friend:
I've just met the snake catcher in person. I was having a cuppa with a friend on the back deck and a tiger snake dropped out of a tree right next to our dog in the backyard. Dog saved. Snake under the house somewhere. Can't be found at present. 
I suspect the conversation changed direction quickly!

And with Spring well and truly here, no doubt there'll be many more callouts from citizens not comfortable with sharing their backyard with venomous snakes.

He's got some great stories on his facebook site, and his youtube videos give a real insight into the expertise needed in this line of work. It's definitely not a career change I'll be making!