Finding Her Voice; Finding happiness.

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‘Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts – Winston Churchill

I just love this season, the pre-Christmas/New Year season, don’t you? It is characterized by a kind of gaiety and joy that no other season dares beat. I know in some parts, it is snowy and cold, but here in Naija, it is windy, cloudy and cold, a season we refer to as harmattan. The shops, streets, offices, and even humans display array of Christmas regalia and decorations.

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It seems fleeting and unreal and you feel like you need to grab it, immerse yourself in it before it flies away. People complain of insufficient funds, yet they spend like there is no next year. There is frenzy in spending and shopping that you just cannot not participate in. Offices and urban centers begin to empty while markets and villages begin to fill up with people and activities. I believe most roads and airports witness the greatest traffic this period, especially roads out of town to the villages. Before long, the frenzy, the hustle, the movement, all begin to die down as the year rushes to an end. Things begin to get back to normal as the New Year strolls in with its austerity and hunger. Back to normalcy with a thud!

Now, how far have you gone with the goals and resolutions you set for yourself at the beginning of 2014? Were you able to accomplish any? Are the yet to be accomplished goals greater than the accomplished ones? Or were you able to accomplish all? If you belong to the middle class like me, I think we can toast to ourselves that we at least tried to achieve some. We cannot afford to let yesterday take up too much of today, the way forward is to press on for as John Di Lemme said, ‘The key of persistence opens all doors closed by resistance’. To those who achieved all the goals and resolutions they set for themselves, I say BRAVO! Do not forget that success is a continuous thing, it lives in a continuum, and otherwise, it ceases to be success. To the ones that are still struggling to achieve one, there is always room for improvement. Tobias Wolff said that, ‘We are made to persist. That is how we find who we are’.

My people say that if one does not know where the rain started beating one from, such a person will not know where the rain will stop. That is why we need to look back, not to lament and regret, but to learn from our past mistakes and then forge ahead from there. Cameron Crowe said that ‘Every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around‘. So you see, there is no room for giving up. If you are like me that set few goals for myself and still could not achieve half of that, do not give up. If you did not achieve any at all, keep at it, modify the goals, delete some if you want, add some if you desire to, but, throwing in the towel? Not an option. I think this is the first year I am actually following my resolutions and goals, yet, I could not achieve all. But I am happy that I made an effort, I succeeded at something and so, I encouraged myself by giving me a special gift! Why not?

There is another group where those who have no goals, no resolutions belong. Many of us were in this group one time or the other, sometimes, we relapse again. That is being human too. However, is it not time you made a switch? Goals are like markers on our road to success. They tell us where to go, while plans towards achieving those goals tell us how to get there. It is goal setting that propels you into action and without it, one floats around like a leaf blown anywhere and everywhere by the wind. Goal setting saves you time and money, keeps you focused. I realized that writing down these goals helps a lot because then, I can always go back to take a look from time to time. It also gives it a feeling of permanence and importance. You may want to break them into small bits that you can easily tackle so that it does not overwhelm you. Take it step by step and you will see yourself achieving them and when you do, do not forget to reward yourself.

However, a goal without a plan is just a wish; you must have a plan as to how to arrive at your destination. Then this should be followed by definite and positive action. Beware of that thief of time, PROCRASTINATION.

It is not too early to commence the goal setting process for 2015. A stitch in time saves nine they say.

Despite whatever we passed through in 2014, there is always a reason to be thankful. On this note, I quote Maltbie D. Babcock – “Better to loose count while naming your blessings than to lose your blessings to counting your troubles”

Keep up the fight, things can only get better, look at the brighter side of things, be ready for the opportunities that are bound to come knocking.

See you at the top!


“A great man shows his greatness by the way he treats little men” – Carlyle.

This is my experience in a previous office I worked in. We had this boss who was easily approachable and willing to listen to you even though he might not help you out. He was a ‘devout’ church goer, humble enough to share jokes and smiles with the staff when the mood strikes him. The greatest thing you can learn from him is his dedication to his job, he does not joke with his office because that was his primary source of income. He will often tell you that he does not advertise his business but rely solely on jobs done perfectly to speak for him. So he cannot afford to do his job sloppily.

However, the boss was, not just a stingy boss, but was forever complaining about this and that. He cannot appreciate a good job when it is done and at the slightest mistake you will receive his wrath. Most times, he will criticise the staff in question mildly but carry that same staff to discus, dissect and butcher with his friends, colleagues and any other staff who he feels is closer to him at the time. He will cuss and swear at such employee behind his/her back but would not say all that in his/her presence. Aside that, he dates any female staff he fancies who agrees to date him.
As for the staff, each of us had our shortcomings and the attitude of the boss began to take its toll on us and thus the organization as well. The zeal to work which most of us had initially began to diminish considerably, resentment began to mount. We lost the commitment to deliver, we just could not wait to get better job offers and quit that job. Coming to work was to apply for other jobs and opportunities as the boss’ work began to take second place. He was killing our spirit and we were allowing him to do so. We would all complain about his attitude and condemn him behind his back too. This cycle continued for months until it got so bad that the boss had to call meetings. It was at these meetings that he berated us and we ceased that opportunity to pour out our grievances. I am sure he was surprised at the outbursts and maybe hurt too, but he needed to hear it from us. It was as if the employees planned it, but we did not, not directly anyway.

There was marked improvement after that but not as much as it would have been had we talked calmly and in a matured way with each other, employer and employee. Importance of effective communication, especially face to face communication, not just in our corporate but individual lives too cannot be neglected. Imagine what would have happened had there been no communication at all between the management and staff.

We are wont to complain, criticize, condemn, and judge others when things are not moving as we wish. These are like swords, they tear people, relationships and organisations down, they inflict pains and demoralize, especially when the person is trying hard at what he/she does. They do absolutely no good because they suck as correctional measures, in fact, they may achieve the opposite result, breeding insecurity and making us resistant to the needed change. This is because we rationalize when criticized, we find reasons to justify our actions, and we make excuses. Sometimes, we hurt the other person with our admonishment and criticism so much so that they begin to doubt themselves and lose their self-confidence. The people may react positively to your criticism when you are present so as to please you or avoid your trouble, but that is as long as it lasts. Once you turn your back, they get right back to their usual way, sneering at you behind your back.

It is easier to complain and criticize but it is more effective to suggest or show by example. They say that doing same thing same way all the time and expecting different results is a mark of insanity. We have been doing this criticizing, condemning and complaining for years and I know it has not been too effective for you just as it had not been for me. Why don’t we try doing it another way? Dale Carnegie wrote in his book, How to Win Friends & Influence People –

“Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain – and most fools do. But it takes self-control to be understanding and forgiving”.

That is what great leaders like Abe Lincoln did that made them stand out, understanding and forgiving others. You may want to blow off steam and play the blame game when someone misbehaves or makes costly mistakes. However, before you criticize, pause for a while and put yourself in their shoes, they may be battling with some inner demons, fear, lack of understanding or some major crisis at that time. It would be more effective to reign in your temper, plant ideas, insinuate positive suggestions and encourage such a person to do better next time. Crying over spilt milk has never caused the milk to scoop itself back into the container. Communicate with them, do not just talk at them like they are robots, look at them and understand that like you, they have feelings and imperfections. Do not forget to appreciate people for their efforts no matter how little. It encourages them to do better next time.
Read through this letter, Father forgets written by W. Livingston Larned before you criticize.

Father Forgets by W. Livingston Larned

Listen, son: I am saying this as you lie asleep, one little paw crumpled under your cheek and the blond curls stickily wet on your damp forehead. I have stolen into your room alone. Just a few minutes ago, as I sat reading my paper in the library, a stifling wave of remorse swept over me. Guilty I came to your bedside.

These are the things I was thinking, son: I had been cross to you. I scolded you as you were dressing for school because you gave your face merely a dab with a towel. I took you to task for not cleaning your shoes. I called out angrily when you threw some of your things on the floor.

At breakfast I found fault, too. You spilled things. You gulped down your food. You put your elbows on the table. You spread butter too thick on your bread. And as you started off to play and I made for my train, you turned and waved a hand and called, “Goodbye, Daddy!” and I frowned, and said in reply, “Hold your shoulders back!”

Then it began all over again in the late afternoon. As I came up the road I spied you, down on your knees, playing marbles. There were holes in your stockings. I humiliated you before your boyfriends by marching you ahead of me to the house. Stockings were expensive – and if you had to buy them you would be more careful! Imagine that, son, from a father!

Do you remember, later, when I was reading in the library, how you came in timidly, with a sort of hurt look in your eyes? When I glanced up over my paper, impatient at the interruption, you hesitated at the door. “What is it you want?” I snapped.

You said nothing, but ran across in one tempestuous plunge, and threw your arms around my neck and kissed me, and your small arms tightened with an affection that God had set blooming in your heart and which even neglect could not wither. And then you were gone, pattering up the stairs.

Well, son, it was shortly afterwards that my paper slipped from my hands and a terrible sickening fear came over me. What has habit been doing to me? The habit of finding fault, of reprimanding – this was my reward to you for being a boy. It was not that I did not love you; it was that I expected too much of youth. I was measuring you by the yardstick of my own years.

And there was so much that was good and fine and true in your character. The little heart of you was as big as the dawn itself over the wide hills. This was shown by your spontaneous impulse to rush in and kiss me good night. Nothing else matters tonight, son. I have come to your bed side in the darkness, and I have knelt there, ashamed!

It is a feeble atonement; I know you would not understand these things if I told them to you during your waking hours. But tomorrow I will be a real daddy! I will chum with you, and suffer when you suffer, and laugh when you laugh. I will bite my tongue when impatient words come. I will keep saying as if it were a ritual: “He is nothing but a boy – a little boy!”

I am afraid I have visualized you as a man. Yet as I see you now, son, crumpled and weary in your cot, I see that you are still a baby. Yesterday you were in your mother’s arms, your head on her shoulder. I have asked too much, too much.


 

Have you ever experienced sexual harassment, directly or indirectly? I bet you have at one point or the other.

I used to think that it was mostly women that suffer sexual harassment but these days, it seems the men are getting it hot too. Many employees have experienced sexual harassment from their bosses and sometimes, their colleagues even, at one point or the other. You see male boss harassing and threatening the female employee, sometimes, forcing her to sleep with her or lose her job. Or the female boss asking the male employee out, threatening him if he refuses to succumb. In the banking sector for instance, the beautiful, young ladies are used as bait to attract rich customers. May be it took subtle forms with hints and innuendos, verbally and physically, touching and such or it was more brazen in approach, communicated explicitly without mincing words, all are forms of harassment. Whichever method is employed, sexual harassment is often a challenge to manage and overcome.

Sexual harassment is more rampant in private organisations than in public/government establishments. In the private sector, the boss has powers, especially if he is the owner of the establishment. It is easy for them to sack that employee and employ another if he/she does not submit. In some cases, the harassment might even get too much for the harassed that he/she will decide to just quit the job. In a government owned establishment, it is harder for the boss to sack and fire as he/she pleases, the power does not lie solely with the boss.

Sexual harassment can have ripple effects. It is not just the direct individual that suffers but also others around him or her. My colleague narrated his experience in his former office. His boss was interested in his secretary but the girl in question refused but rather seemed to like my colleague who was already aware of the situation between his boss and the lady. He therefore distanced himself from the girl and discouraged any close relationship with her knowing that he might be the one to bear the brunt. The boss believing that the duo was dating would come around encouraging my colleague to go ahead with the lady if he was interested. But the guy would always assure him that he had no interest in the secretary. At a point, the boss began to harass the guy at every opportunity he gets without reason until it became too much for the guy and he quit the job. Imagine losing your job because your boss is interested in someone you are not even dating.

Now, why does sexual harassment occur? It will be easy for the self-righteous to sit back and blame it on the victim, especially if the victim is a female. The way they dress, walk, talk and all that. Granted that some ladies dress anyhow to work, but that is a minute percentage of the people being harassed and we can hardly say that of the men, yet they are harassed too. It is natural for a man to like a lady and vice versa but it becomes an issue when one harasses the other because the person refused. There are many fishes in the ocean I believe, why insist on that particular one? It could be pride, lack of self-control or some other reason which is no reason at all.

The consequences of sexual harassment are numerous, for the victim, the employer, the organization and even the person doing the harassment. The victim can lose certain benefits if not the job itself. He/she might suffer psychological trauma too. The output of such a staff could reduce which is not in the best interest of the organization. It can also bring friction and animosity among the staff and between the staff and the organization. Such a boss or superior loses not just the respect of the person he/she is harassing, but also that of the other staff.

DEALING WITH SEXUAL HARASSMENT AT WORK

There is no cut and dry method of dealing with this issue, in fact, in a private setting, there is very little you can do to stop the harassment because you are working for the individual. But if it is not the employer that is doing the harassing, the victim can take it up with the appropriate authorities, the management, unions, and in the worst case scenario, the court of law. This can also be employed in a situation where the perpetrator is the owner of the establishment though it might not be very effective, but at least, you would have tried your best.

Aside that, you as an employee can work efficiently, be the best in what you do so that it would be hard to sack you on such flimsy reason. The boss or organization would have no option than to retain you against all odds.

Silence is never a solution to sexual harassment because it will probably continue and even get worse as time goes on unless of course you are willing to compromise. Talk to the person harassing you too. Sometimes you would be pleasantly surprised at how effective and powerful words can be. In a calm and mature manner, discuss the issue with the person involved.

If all fails, you can try enduring the situation as best you can until you are able to get another job although there is no guarantee that there won’t be a repetition of same experience especially if you are young, sharp, and beautiful/handsome. Employ wisdom, use delay tactics, feminine/male wiles or whatever trick at your disposal to thwart the unwanted advances.

Another approach is to begin on time to forestall such advances. As an adult, you know your history and past experiences, you also know when someone of the opposite sex is interested in you. Do not encourage it and keep to that stand always, if being friendly with that person will encourage him/her, then desist. Avoid being in a compromising situation with him/her.

If you are the one doing the harassment, I pray you have a change of heart and attitude before nemesis catches up with you. If the person does not want you, go seek the so many other willing and available fishes in the oceans please.


‘It is never too late to be what you might have been’. – George Elliot

I was inspired to write this piece just a few pages into reading Deborah Reber’sIn Their Shoes. It is not a book I would have bought to read ordinarily, but the title captured my interest and as I read the blurb standing at the bookseller’s on top of the pedestrian bridge on my way to work, I was piqued.

IN THEIR SHOES

IN THEIR SHOES

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Obviously, it was a career guide but written in a very interesting and engaging way that it did not sound like a career guide at all. As I flipped through it, I wondered why I was bothering with the book;I already knew what I wanted with my life even though I am still a traveller to that ultimate destination. On second thoughts however, I was like, ‘no harm in peepinginto the lives of theseglamorous great women written about here’. I bought the book eventually and from the little I have read so far, no regrets whatsoever.

The book was targeted at youngsters yet to make career choices, but I found it essential for everyone. In my course of interactions with people, I have come to realize that many people do not have passion for their jobs, they are stuck at a job they dislike. Some do not know how to earn a living at what they love, some do not have what it takes to get to the career of their choice, most think that with their age and education, there is nothing they can do to change the careers. Therefore, many of us desire career switch but do not know how. We ended up where we are because of parents/peer pressure, we joined the bandwagon while in school. People like me attended special science schools because it was the in thing for the intelligent as at that time and hated every science class attended. Some were not fortunate enough to choose a course in the discipline they loved as they went on to higher institutions. They then got stuck at jobs they would rather not do. For some, good paying job in a sphere they dislike or lack of job in their desired discipline landed them where they’d rather not be.

Is it feasible to switch to your dream career at this point? Absolutely, thank God. You just need to make some basic changes and alterations to achieve your dream. I have wanted to be a journalist/writer for a long time, I read a course in that field, graduated, but no media house would have me. What do I do to live my dreams? I began freelancing, writing short stories to online publishers and blogging. Where does your passion dwell? Pursue it. Julia Cameron said that ‘when your dreams turn to dust, then vacuum them’. It could be that you read a course in the opposite direction of your dream career, you could start the change by enrolling for a part time course in your desired field, online or physical or find a mentor in that field to mentor you and show you the ropes. If you read your dream course but found no employment there, you may think of volunteering or striking out on your own in that field. If what you need are the skills to become who you want to be, nothing stops you from learning those skills you know? You might need to do odd jobs you do not really love in the meantime if that is what it will take to make your dreams come through.

In Deborah’s book, some lady had to carve a new name to encompass all her passions since there was no existing name for them. She calls herself an ‘Actionist’ which encompasses everything from motivating and speaking to writing and performing. That is the extent people can go to live their dreams.

I realized that it is fear that keeps us bound often times, fear of failing. But there is nothing wrong with failing, you can fall a thousand times, what makes you a winner is rising a thousand and one times. On the other hand, it is action that drives the fear away, action that catapults you to your promised land. Without positive action, we can remain in the same dungeon for ages. So why not make the move right now and act out your dreams, go on, stand up and make that switch you need.

I leave you with the words of B. Gita, ‘It is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody else’s life with perfection’



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