Mental Health Week 2016

Mental Health Week and Mental Health Day, two significant initiatives I had no prior knowledge of up until a few months ago.  I learned about Mental Health Week when I saw a post on a Facebook group asking for involvement in some way for a FIFO mental health week drive. Mental Health Day has been and gone, and we are in the middle of Mental Health Week, but I still find that I have to go searching for information. A very significant difference to when it’s World Donut Day or World Chocolate Chip Cookie Day wherein I am inundated by updates and postings across all social media platforms. Some of which even make it to news mediums!

It is disappointing that there isn’t the same amount of interest and attention being given to such an important topic. Having dedicated several years to studying psychology and human resources, mental health is a point of interest for me but it seems to still be a taboo topic for most. Some throw it around as a catch cry or a trendy term but majority are still too scared to delve deep into the mental health topic. Admittedly, it is a minefield. A lot of education and awareness still needs to happen before people (myself included) can comfortably discuss mental health across all forums. I feel that majority perceive discussions on mental health with the same trepidation as discussions on religion and political affinity.

Mental health has been a hot topic especially in FIFO for a few years now. I remember eagerly awaiting the report from the West Australian Parliament on FIFO mental health. I downloaded the document when it was made public. I remember eagerly reading it, armed with a highlighter and a pen, furiously writing my thoughts and comments on the margins! I was determined to formulate a reply and share my FIFO experience to the committee. At that stage they were encouraging public comment and I wanted to share my positive experience about FIFO. I couldn’t relate to most of the examples contained in the document.

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Thanks to the lovely Sandra of FIFO Focus for the opportunity to get involved, even if it’s just in the form of cookies.

At that point, my FIFO experience was mostly positive. I used to treat being on site like being on a holiday camp away from the evil KFC empire! I loved the flight up and back, especially if I got a window seat! I enjoyed seeing the changing landscape, didn’t enjoy it too much during cloudy days though. Once on site, I had a chance to take in Mother Nature at her best and worst! The alarms set at ungodly hours and the end of night shifts were often rewarded with magnificent sunrises. The sunsets were equally amazing too. Before working on site, I would have seen only a handful of sunrises as I was never awake that early. I liked the routine, it put some semblance of order into my otherwise organised chaos approach. I also liked that there was an option to socialise or stay in my room. Foxtel, air-con and heating – luxuries my room at home doesn’t have!

I am not saying it was all fun times, I am fairly certain my blog posts from those years would have covered the challenging times too. It wasn’t all fun times but it was more fun and positive than not. There were the usual challenges, some courtesy of Mother Nature, some can be attributed to “creative differences” and personality clashes, and of course, most can be attributed to the temperamental plant we were working with.

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One of the many gorgeous sunrise I got to enjoy whilst working FIFO.

My FIFO experience changed significantly after my injury. Those who had negative things to say about me prior to the injury got very vocal. The rumour mill went on overdrive and I was copping everything from milking it, to faking it, to what was I still doing there when word on the street was I had already been sacked. Some of the braver and more genuine souls would actually come and talk to me about what they heard to get my side of the story. Most of the recreational and professional gossipers just went with whatever was the most interesting angle.  In other words, the vibe changed significantly.

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I had no idea when I took this photo in Jan 2015 how much that split second slip up would change my career plan and impact my life so much. It has been a roller coaster ride!

I still believe that it is up to us to decide how the opinions and attitudes of others affect us. I am the only one who decides whether or not I have a bad day. I am the only one who can decide whether or not I will let their comments about milking it and faking it upset me. It is up to me to decide whether or not I let their insecurities, pettiness and negativity impact me. This works, to a certain point. When you are constantly faced with negativity, it is hard to keep your head above ground. It is hard to keep swimming against the tide for extended periods. Ultimately, you get tired and end up getting carried by the current. Stressors like these can lead to the decline in our physical and mental health.

We all need thick skin to survive certain situations, FIFO being one of those that require thick skin and a strong sense of self. I was lucky that I grew up with older brothers, male cousins and their circle of friends. These guys basically trained me for site life. I credit part of my stubbornness and drive to growing up with these characters who put my through my paces very early on.  What I wasn’t prepared for was Regina George and her minions, mine site edition!

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For those who may not be as into teen movies as I am, the Regina George reference is from the movie Mean Girls. If anyone wants to remake the movie into a FIFO or mine site edition, hit me up for story lines. I have heaps!

It became very challenging but as the saying goes, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I was lucky I had (and still have) a great support system – my partner and my friends, both on site and off.  I am also a talker, which was very unlucky for my support system! There was no holding me back especially during the more challenging days. Having this blog also helped a great deal. Stringing words together to make a story has always been therapeutic for me. For those situations, conversations and challenges not appropriate for discussions or blogs, I had a notebook. Lots of furious scribbling! Writing, talking to great people got me through the challenging times and enabled me to forge strong friendships with like minded people.

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I got this from the amazing Drewie (Hard Hat Mentor), check her out on LinkedIn. She is a ball of positivity and encouragement.

To those who are experiencing similar challenges, please find an outlet. It doesn’t necessarily have to be writing or talking. Maybe there’s a hobby out there, a sport, whatever it is, find something to help get the negativity out of your system.  There are lots of resources in relation to Mental Health Week and Mental Health Day which have information that may help. Trust me, you are not alone. I have found so many others who share the same experience, not necessarily exclusive to the same company or industry. Challenging people are out there in droves and challenging situations come in different forms, so regardless of what you do, find a release and put a premium on your mental health.

It is what we take out of all the challenges that make the experience worthwhile. I have those challenging situations and people to be thankful for. Without those experiences I may not have pushed myself as hard or realised just how driven, strong and capable I actually am. Everything is a learning experience after all!

 

For those who would like to know more about Mental Health Week and Mental Health Day:

 

The Dreaded L Word: Leads

No one plans to be in the position I am in now with the industry currently very un-boomy, but I still think there are some positives. I cannot recall the last time I had this much time to dedicate to me and whatever I wanted to do. These days, time is a luxury a lot of people wish for and dream off. So really, I should be thankful for all the time I have now. As with everything I have a couple of options on how to move forward with this. Do I use my time wisely or do I waste it?

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I am doing my best to get back into full time work. However, with the state of things, the job seeking venture does have its more challenging days. I think we have all read and heard a lot of the doom and gloom stories relating to unemployment. I do not want this entry to fall into that same category. It is too easy to get dragged into the negativity hole and even if I do have my more challenging days, I make a conscious effort to use the time I have now wisely. Be it reconnecting with people I have lost touch with; volunteering, attending workshops and events to enhance my skill set and network; exploring a sanity check Plan B of sorts; reading and learning as much as I can.

It is very important that I do not squander the time I have been gifted with, especially since I do not plan on this chapter of my life to be a long one. I need to ensure I am still being productive whilst I plot and plan my way back in. However, balance is the key to life right? So, I have to admit, there are days where it’s definitely nice to just Netflix and chill.

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During the productive days, I have been tapping into my skills and conducting industry research; looking at what organisations and roles I should be aiming for. I am also actively delving deeper into my motivations. I am so determined to get something out of this experience, to learn something, so I can look back on this not-so-delightful chapter fondly.

In the process of thinking about my motivations and what’s next career wise, I came up with the analogy of my current situation being like that of a Formula 1 driver. Before you scoff and close the page, just stick with me and remember we all deal with challenges in different ways. This is how I am coping with this curveball of mine. Okay so here goes. The way I think about it is I have the skills – I’m a quick learner, great at building relationships, I have operations and corporate experience, solid analytical and practical skills, and most importantly, I will step up to a challenge (and a whole lot more.) So in the F1 world I am like any of the drivers – I have the skills. I’ve worked my way through the training wheels, karting days and Formula Renault. I have done the study and the entry level roles, built my foundation. Now I am ready for the main stage!

Anyone who follows F1 or any sport for that matter knows that merely having skills isn’t enough. You can be highly skilled yet miss out on the highest accolades. I have the foundations to be a World Champion, possibly multiple times. But to get there, I need a damn good car and an excellent team. So far, I haven’t had the pleasure of having all the puzzle pieces at one time. I have had the pleasure of learning from some great bosses but all the puzzle pieces just hasn’t fall into place, yet. The resolve this time around is to locate all those elusive pieces in my next career move. I will welcome as many pole positions as I can get under my belt. The same goes for the fastest laps, podium finishes, and of course that spot on top of the dais. But in the long run, I am aiming for the ultimate prize – the World Champion!

Regardless of skill level, if the environment isn’t right then there isn’t much chance of great success. Without all the puzzle pieces, at the very best I will end up following in Mark Webber’s footsteps. Don’t get me wrong, he is a brilliant and well respected driver. He had a strong season a few years back but no championship. He had the skills, a decent car, a team of professionals but there was still something missing. He missed out on making the most out of several pole starts and there were other hurdles in his way. He was really close one year but never got the main prize. Yes, for those who just realised, I am a bit of an F1 nut.

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Anyway, back on my delusional career analysis. It’s not very original but wouldn’t it be nice to be like be Aryton Senna. He wasn’t just a world champion, he inspired a whole nation! Brazilians still speak fondly of how they would watch his races and they still speak with great sadness about his untimely demise. Not just that, he had the rivalry going on which pushed him to his limits. Barring reaching Senna levels, I would settle for Kimi Raikkonen or Jenson Button. Two very different personalities but both world champions. Why not Michael Schumacher or Sebastian Vettel? Well, it got boring there after the first few times. I do not think I would enjoy that sort of dominance but we can revisit this when I get my first championship trophy. I reserve the right to change my mind on this one.

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Now the biggest question is – what’s next for me? The sooner I have an answer for this the better! Because I am not an engineer, accountant, geologist, metallurgist, or any of those straightforward classifications, it is a bit harder to pigeon hole my skill set into a specific area of the business. I have recruitment and operations background, but my desire to gain more experience on the operations side of things makes it a bit more challenging to put me in a straightforward classification box. Unfortunately, due to the unforeseen speed bump there are some restrictions as to what I can do especially in the next 12 months. So a thorough reassessment and rerouting of my previous career master plan is the order of the day. Anyone who is shares my position and is currently looking for work knows that the opportunities that are available are fairly limited.

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So I have implemented several approaches. Relying on Seek and other job boards can definitely break ones spirit. It is important in this market to not just passively job search but to actively reach out as well. I am actively researching to understand what roles I can do, which organisations I would fit in and do my best in. I am delving deep to understand where I could make the most difference. The more I understand this, the better I can pitch myself and land that exciting next role. It is fairly slim pickings for job seekers at the moment but that definitely doesn’t mean give up. I have an idea in my head as to where I want to end up next. Unfortunately, all this introspection and determination isn’t enough to land me my next career adventure. It isn’t just up to me as market forces need to align for the next opportunity to become a reality.

 

To maintain the balance and keep myself sane, I am also slowly working on Plan B. To keep me occupied when the passive job search and targeted research gets a little demoralising, I am exploring a little start up business of sorts. One I can juggle with my Plan A when I land that next awesome gig (which I know is just around the corner.) It would be very easy to fall into a career black hole at this point in time but as the inspiring speakers at the WIMWA Summit touched on, its times like this that make us tougher and more resilient.

With all the research, workshops and events recently, one of the most enduring lessons I came across is that part of being resilient is acknowledging and accepting vulnerabilities. In line with this lesson, I ask those in my network for tips or leads. I realise that for some, any sentence with leads or tips is as appealing as when a partner approaches you with the dreaded “we need to talk.”  Yes, I find that the L and T words can at times seem as bad as the F or C words.

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Today it’s pressing the publish button for this post!

However, as part of this getting out of my comfort zone exercise, I am going to push it and will even use two dreaded L words in one go – Looking for Leads. Yes, I am asking those in my network for any leads for my next awesome career move.  Anyone out there who has some insights, can recommended courses, events, people I can approach and speak to, a potential role which aligns with my skill set, please let me know. I would thoroughly welcome the opportunity to pick someone’s brain so I can better plan my next steps. I do not expect anyone to hand me a contract for that next awesome role straight off the bat, but I would appreciate any leads as to what’s out there and not just what’s on Seek. Tips and words of wisdom are also very welcome. I love learning from everyone and will soak it all in like a sponge!