There once was a time when I visited a radio station and asked the program director what she looked for in new employees. The message she’d given to all the new employees was: “Congratulations on graduating from your program. Now, forget everything you learned in school. It’s time to start over.”
Learning all that encompasses the field of community support work in school is very, very different from being an actual Community Support Worker. For example, there is a substantial difference between taking a driver’s license written test and getting behind the wheel and driving for the first time; there’s no substitute for the real thing.
School can only prepare someone up to an extent; the real learning begins once you start working.
I was very fortunate to find employment right after school finished. I started sending out my resume in February in hopes of finding full-time employment by the time school was over.
Perhaps, that may have been too idealistic, too lofty of a goal. The reality is that many employers won’t give a full time job to someone with little to no real world experience. The employers may hire an applicant, but the applicant may be required to start off as a casual employee.
Casual employees are different from full or part time employees because they do not receive benefits. Casual employees do not accrue vacation time the longer they work either. Casual employees do not have a set schedule of working hours. Instead, they can be asked to work shifts with as little as a few hours notice.
I found out very quickly that being a casual employee is very challenging. It was difficult for me because I didn’t know if I would have a consistent amount of work hours, whether it’d be 40 hours of work that week or if I would have 10 hours of work.
That uncertainty drove me to accept almost all shifts that were offered to me because I could never be sure of how much I would work in the future. The goal for many casual employees is to make a good impression on their co-workers and supervisors with the hopes of applying for a full-time position when it arises in the future.
I made it my goal to obtaining a full-time position when I initially began working. I believed that casting my net wide and applying to different organizations would be the best way to find full-time employment. I was pretty fortunate to find more job opportunities and even a few full-time opportunities by sending out many job applications.
One thing that I realized about myself throughout this process is that I say yes too much. Saying yes a lot will mean I will always be able to find employment but there is a downside to it as well. There are aspects of community support work that I am comfortable with and some aspects that I am not comfortable with. I made the mistake of agreeing to work a task when I should have politely declined. The promise of full-time employment and job security was too enticing for me to ignore at the time. Though, looking back on it, I should have exercised patience instead.
The first two and a half months as a Community Support Worker have been very exciting and humbling and a great learning experience. I am learning what I am comfortable with in the workplace and what I am not comfortable with. I have learned to decline an opportunity when I don’t feel comfortable carrying out certain tasks and to exercise patience when making important decisions because one of the most important aspects of working is to not solely find work for myself but also to find work that is fitting for me.