Using Three Good Things technique can increase happiness, decrease depression and improve job search

three good thingsIf everything you have to do in life is overwhelming you and making you depressed, there’s a simple technique that you can employ. This technique has the power to increase your happiness and decrease depression. It can also offer a sense of sanity when your life appears to be falling apart.

It’s called Three Good Things and was developed by Martin Seligman, professor  of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, and known as the father of positive psychology. He applied this technique to subjects in a research study in 2005, finding that using it had the same effect as Prozac in improving the subjects’ well being.

Basically at the end of the day you write down three good things that happened to you that day and reflect on those three things.

The reason why it works, according to Seligman, is that “it changes your focus from what goes wrong in your life to what goes well.” In his experiment Seligman showed that you can go from 15 on the happiness scale to 50, just from doing this exercise for a week. And even if you stop, the resulting improved attitude can last for weeks or even months.

According to J. Bryan Sexton, professor of psychology at Duke University, noticing the positive things short circuits our natural tendency to concentrate on the negative. We tend to focus on the negative as a sort of a biological survival method. When something bad happens that can endanger us, we want to remember it so it doesn’t happen again. Not so for the good things. They tend to get lost and forgotten.

One of the best things this exercise can do is improve your sleep. That’s why you should do it within two hours of bedtime, but the closer the better. Having positive thoughts about your day will help you sleep better and deeper, and if you wake up in the middle of the night, you will be able to go back to sleep faster and easier, according to Sexton.

Here’s how to do it:

Sit down with a notebook or just a pen and paper – or you could do it on the computer as well – and write down three good things that happened to you that day. You should give the event a title and write down as many details as possible. What happened, where it happened, how it made you feel, and most importantly, your role in making the good thing come about.

Here are a few examples:

I reached a hiring manager.

After calling 35 of the 50 companies on my list, I finally reached a hiring manager. I gave her my elevator pitch and asked if I could send her my resume. I was so happy after all of the negative replies I had received I finally had a conversation. She wanted my resume, which I also sent in.

I called an old friend.

I called an old friend who is working in a job similar to what I would like to do and invited him to meet me for coffee next week. It made me feel good, because I haven’t been calling many of my contacts lately, but I know that’s the way to network and ultimately find a job.

I chatted with my next door neighbor.

I saw my next door neighbor Rosa today and stopped to talk to her. She’s nearly 80, and I know she’s lonely, since she has no family nearby. I love to hear her stories, though, and talking to her always makes me happy.

Keep a Three Good Things journal for at least a week – two is better. Although it might be difficult at first, this exercise will train your mind to highlight the positive things that happen in your life. Remembering them might push some of the negative thoughts to the far corner of your brain.

It’s not only a good habit to develop, but you should be much happier as a result.

For other ways to increase your happiness and sense of well-being, check out:

How being kind can help you feel happier and healthier

Three simple tips to cultivate happiness

How to develop a positive attitude

How kindness can help you in your job search and your life

World Kindness Day reminds us how to behave benevolently

World Kindness DayNovember 13 is World Kindness Day, and it gives us an opportunity to reflect on how performing acts of kindness can not only improve the lives of others but your own as well.

Performing acts of kindness can help reduce stress, improve your sense of well being, increase self-esteem and, by focusing on the needs of others, help you forget your own problems. And, overall, it will just make you feel better.

Scientific evidence for “helper’s high”

In fact, there is scientific evidence that supports this. Psychologists call it the “helper’s high.” When you do good things for others, your brain releases endorphins, the same chemicals released during exercising. These endorphins make you feel good and can improve your outlook on life – something that those in reentry can use as they face the challenges of a job search or getting their lives back together again after incarceration.

Some acts of kindness you can perform

Acts of kindness can come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They can be so-called random acts of kindness, like:

  • Giving up your seat on a bus to an elderly or pregnant passenger.
  • Shoveling snow for a neighbor who can’t do it themself.
  • Cooking a meal for someone who is going through difficult times.
  • Preparing a sandwich or other snack to give to a homeless person.
  • Calling a friend or relative you haven’t talked to for a while.
  • Taking some cookies or other treats to a new neighbor.
  • Picking up trash in your neighborhood.

Beyond random acts, you can do good on a regular basis by becoming a volunteer. Volunteering will not only widen your circle of contacts as you search for a job, but it can also teach you new skills and provide experience you may be able to include on your resume.

In addition, it can make you feel better and more energetic, traits that will boost your well being as you search for a job. In a Harris Interactive national survey of 3,351 adults, conducted from February 9-18, 2013 on behalf of United HealthGroup:

  • 76% of people who had volunteered within the previous 12 months reported that the experience of volunteering made them feel healthier.
  • 94% of those who had volunteered within the previous 12 months reported that the experience of volunteering improved their minds.

Whether you’re interested in walking dogs at an animal shelter, organizing donations at a food bank or recruiting volunteers for a fundraising event, sign up to volunteer. It may put you one step closer towards finding a job.

 

InnerCity Weightlifting offers at-risk young people new life

ICWLpics-14

Jon Feinman, second from left, Elexson Hercules third from left, and other InnerCity Weightlifting students.

Jon Feinman is determined to keep young Boston area at-risk young people alive and out of prison. And he’s doing it by teaching them weightlifting.

Through discipline, training and the relationship between student and coach, weightlifting strengthens the bodies and minds of these young men to resist the negative influence of the street and to leave their gangs. And for some, it may lead to a job as a personal trainer.

A young student who Feinman met when he was an AmeriCorps volunteer at a K-8 school in east Boston set him on the path he now pursues. That student was Elexson Hercules, and his story epitomized what Feinman is trying to achieve. But it’s a story that ended way too soon.

Feinman had taken up weight training to be able to effectively compete in soccer as a 5’2”, 118-pound college student and later used weightlifting as a way to relate to Elexson and his friends. “I realized that weightlifting could get them off the streets. It could accomplish a greater social goal,” he says.

After AmeriCorps Feinman became a personal trainer earning six figures but couldn’t get Elexson out of his head. He enrolled in the Babson College MBA program to gain the knowledge and skills to create a nonprofit, and during his last semester put together a startup version of InnerCity Weightlifting, the organization he founded in 2010 and now runs

Elexson Hercules was his first student. Although stabbed to death in June 2012, the victim of the sort of violence that Feinman wants to end, Elexson still serves as the inspiration for InnerCity Weightlifting, just as he did from the start.

InnerCity Weightlifting now has 119 enrolled students. They generally range in age from 16 to 24 years old, but one student was a 12-year-old who’s been involved in three armed robberies and others are older. Most of them have been in prison and roughly 30 percent end up back there.

“It is because we are so focused on young people who are the most difficult to reach and are most likely to go back to jail. Just because we’re working with someone today doesn’t mean it will change what they will do tomorrow. It’ s a long process,” Feinman says. It takes an average of six months to convince a prospective student to join the program.

And because of their gang or former gang affiliation, everything the students do can be dangerous. In order to make sure that they can make it safely to the gym, Feinman and his staff pick them up. And the location of the gym is only known to people associated with the organization.

Every minute in the gym is a good minute, according to Feinman. The weight-training program is structured around each individual. Volunteer tutors help those who would like to finish their GEDs.

The staff and volunteers work with them on various needs like getting a driver permits or license, and, if they desperately need money, help them find a job. But personal training is the career track that it owns as an organization.

Eighteen students are in that career track. They meet twice a week to go over the National Academy of Sports Medicine personal training certification material. InnerCity Weightlifting finds clients who come to be trained at the gym, some traveling as much as an hour and a half to get there. The students are supervised by a coach and are paid $20 per hour.

“As we get more and more people into our gym, they leave not just with a workout but with a story as well. The clients end up learning how extreme the barriers are that our students are facing. It leads to increased understanding as to why their situation is happening, and there’s a chance for a change in attitude,” says Feinman.

The lessons are not lost on those clients. Many of them show up for students’ court appearances, write them letters and visit them in prison. Some have even offered internships.

In order to give the students even more experience as trainers, InnerCity Weightlifting takes them to Microsoft and other companies, where they train employees onsite. This not only offers students a way to make money but also pays the coaches and provides the organization an income stream which supplements the government grants and donations it receives.

Feinman hopes to replicate his organization nationwide with the end goal of ending coordinated youth violence wherever possible.

“What’s made the gym so special is it brings people together from different ways of life. And they start to understand our students for who they are not what they’ve done,” he says.

 

Three simple tips job seekers can use to cultivate ways to be happy

MP900387284Learning how to be happy can not only improve your general state of well being, but it can result in a better attitude for conducting a job search.

Many people believe that happiness is a mental state that results when they achieve certain things that may be outside of their control. They think that if they have a lot of money, a good relationship with their significant other or a job then they will be happy. While that may be true, everyone isn’t lucky enough to have what they think is necessary to be happy. But they can be happy anyway.

Just ask the folks at The Happiness Initiative, an organization that promotes happiness as a way of life. Not only can they tell you how you can foster a sense of happiness, but they’ve created a Happiness Index Survey that takes about 12 minutes to complete and will indicate exactly where you stand in comparison to the average U.S. citizen in terms of various areas of happiness and well being, as well as your overall satisfaction with life.

After taking the survey and finding out where you stand – or even if you don’t want to take it – you can explore the organization’s website to find various ways to improve your happiness and well being through doing such things as balancing your time, establishing new friendships, getting better nutrition, sharing with friends and neighbors or learning new skills.

In the meantime, here are three things you can do every day to improve your happiness:

  • Sit silently for five minutes.  Sit in true silence with no radio or television noise in the background and cell phone turned off. Close your eyes and observe your thoughts in a nonjudgmental manner. When your mind ventures to memories of the past or thoughts about the future, gently escort it back to the present. Concentrating on your breathing can help you accomplish this.
  • Practice gratitude. At least once or preferably twice – morning and evening – list five things that you are thankful for. It might be the delicious cup of coffee you just drank, the good night’s sleep you had, the wonderful dinner your friend made for you or the fact that you made 20 cold calls to potential employers that day.
  • Practice random acts of kindness. Every day give something to someone in their presence so they know that it was you who gave it. This can be something small like a smile or saying thank you to a cashier or something that takes more effort like delivering a meal to an elderly neighbor who is sick. Once every month or two – try to make a conscious effort to schedule it – volunteer with a local organization to do something to improve your community.

These ideas and many more like it can be found on the website of the Happiness Initiative, which was originally launched by nonprofit Sustainable Seattle to measure well being as an alternative to gross domestic product (GDP). It is now a national organization doing work inspired by the efforts of the nation of Bhutan to create gross national happiness (GNH), a measurement used instead of GDP to measure progress, and an approach that is gaining interest among communities, countries and organizations around the world.

For more information, visit The Happiness Initiative.

The Happiness Initiative sponsors webinars on how people and cities can create a sense of happiness and conducts leadership training to teach people how to conduct a happiness initiative in their city, community, business or other organization.

 

Resilience training can help improve well being, job search

Healthy concept, Spirit, Body and MindThrough recent research on the brain and how it functions, scientists have discovered many things that were unknown even a decade ago, information that can help heal those, like many ex-offenders, who have gone through traumatic experiences.

Although many people associate PTSD or post traumatic stress disorder with soldiers returning from places like Iraq or Afghanistan, this condition plagues many ex-offenders trying to deal with a terrible experience in prison or jail or haunted by actions that put them there in the first place.

One form of healing, the Community Resilience Model, has helped many individuals who suffered through the Haitian earthquake or were victims of the tsunami that hit Southeast Asia. And it can help anyone who has been through trauma, stress or distress of just about any type.

When someone goes through a traumatic experience, their nervous system is thrown off balance, and learning CRM techniques can help those people bring their body, mind and spirit back into balance.

Basically, everyone has a Resilient Zone where we are emotionally balanced and can think clearly and manage things well. Stressful or traumatic experiences tend to force us out of that zone, and the ability to deal with even minor stressful events may become very difficult.

Through applying CRM skills you can learn what resilience feels like, and work to restore the natural balance that was lost and feel better. CRM teaches people how to understand their nervous system and track sensations that are signs of resiliency.

Scientific research has proven that the brain can be trained to respond in ways that you would like it to, but it takes work and practice. This research has uncovered solid evidence that the birth of brain cells, a process known as neurogenesis, occurs in adults as well as children, and these changes can continue into old age. This process creates opportunities for applying CRM to rewire the brain to deepen one’s Resilient Zone, offering higher tolerance for a wide range of stressors.

Here are some of the skills that are taught by practitioners of the CRM model:

Tracking — This means becoming aware of the sensations in your body. You learn to distinguish amongst pleasant, neutral and unpleasant sensations, concentrating on the pleasant ones, so you can use them to strengthen your Resilient Zone. As you learn to describe and notice these sensations, you will have a better understanding of what your Resilient Zone is all about.

Grounding – This is another CRM skill that helps you focus on being in the present moment, when you are in contact with the ground or something that supports you, like a chair, bed or sofa. While grounded, pay attention to the pleasant or neutral sensations you are feeling, so that when there are unpleasant or uncomfortable sensations you can refocus your attention on parts of your body that feel better.

Resourcing – There are two types of resources you can rely on to help your nervous system get back in balance. External resources are positive things in your life – friends, places, pets, hobbies or whatever. Internal resources could be things you like about yourself, such as friendliness, consideration and intelligence, or beliefs and experiences that are important to you. Once you decide what your resources are, you can begin to track the sensations you feel when you think about any of them.

These wellness skills will give you a better idea of what social resilience is all about. You can learn how to apply some of them on you own by using iChill, a free app available for iPhone and Android smartphones and computers using Windows and Mac operating systems. This app can be downloaded by visiting www.traumaresourceinstitute.com

For self-help skills in both English and Spanish check out:

www.communityresiliencymodel.com

For referrals to practitioners and training programs visit:

www.traumaresourceinstitute.com

www.thresholdglobalworks.com

www.traumahealing.com

Use improv theater tactics to boost confidence and job search skills

MP900321212You might think that acting is only for movie stars or people performing on stage. But think again. Learning a few acting skills, at least of the improvisational style, can help increase your confidence and improve the way you communicate with others, both of which can help to ensure a more effective job search.

The inspiration for this idea comes from Daniel Pink, who writes about it in his latest best–selling book, “To Sell is Human, The Surprising Truth About Moving Others.

Pink studied improv in a workshop for executives presented by Cathy Salit, CEO of Performance of a Lifetime, in New York City. He wanted to see what he could learn from its performance techniques that would help people be better at selling both products and themselves.

Those familiar with improvisational theater, or improv as it is usually called, know that it is performed spontaneously without the use of scripts. Often the audience supplies the ideas. Improv actors work together in a collaborative style building scenes and stories back and forth, with one taking on where another left off.

Although improv may seem unstructured, beneath it all is a structure that makes it work, says Pink. And understanding that structure and how it works can benefit job seekers by teaching them how to present themselves more effectively and be better negotiators.

One of the basic tenants of improv is known as hearing offers. In hearing offers, actors truly listen to what the other person has to say, so they can build on it and carry the scene forward. Rather than listening “for” something with a predetermined expectation of what will be said, they’re actively listening to the other person.

Most of us are not particularly good listeners. While another person is talking, we’re just waiting for our turn to speak or planning in our minds what we will say next.

Amazing Silence, one of the exercises Pink practiced in the workshop, teaches people how to slow down and really listen to what other people are saying. Two people pair up, with one of them telling the other something that’s important to them, making eye contact throughout the exercise. The other person is expected to respond, but not until pausing for 15 seconds after the first person finishes what he has to say.

In this type of listening, participants are active and engaged, and create a sense of intimacy by the way they respond and the eye contact they make. They work together to carry the scene or situation forward, a skill that job seekers can develop, so they can really listen to what the interviewer has to say and work together with them to respond in a way that will move the discussion in a mutually positive direction.

Another improv technique, known as “yes and,” provides a new way of dealing with rejection. Instead of saying or thinking in terms of “no’s,” think in terms of “yes and’s” instead. Many people qualify their yeses with “yes but,” putting obstacles in their way.

For example, during the course of an interview for a job in sales, you might say, “Yes I can do the job, but I haven’t done anything like it for more than five years.”  Instead, using the “yes and” approach, you could say, “Yes I can do the job, and I worked for three years in the paint department of Home Depot, helping people decide what they needed to refurbish and upgrade their homes.”

Instead of limiting your options, “yes and” expands opportunities. It’s a different mindset, and one that is worth learning how to create. You might be surprised at the results.

For more information about improv, visit http://performanceofalifetime.com

To learn more about Daniel Pink and the books he’s written, check out www.danpink.com

 

How to handle rejection in your job search: A unique approach

Writing a LetterLet’s face it. Rejection is part of the job search game. They say if you get every job you apply for – and who in this economy possibly could – you’re not aiming high enough.

Being able to handle rejection is crucial if you’re going to make it through what may be an extended search for employment. First of all, remember that it’s just a numbers game. At one point the No’s you hear will turn into a Yes. It’s only a matter of sticking to your game plan and keeping going.

But then there’s that stumbling block known as rejection. It can get you down, slow your search or even make you want to quit. Instead of succumbing to rejection depression, try something recommended by author Daniel Pink in his new book “To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others.”

Among many good pieces of advice in this book – which was released late last year and rocketed to #1 on the Business Bestseller lists of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post – is a rather unique and unorthodox means of dealing with rejection.

Pink recommends writing yourself a rejection letter.  You can’t do this every time you make a cold call, but if you’re actually sending in your resume for an open position, write a rejection letter first.

Spend about an hour thinking of all the reasons that the hiring manager might not want to hire you. Make a list of the reasons why they might turn you down. And, writes Pink, may sure you include such phrases, as “after careful consideration,” and “we had many qualified applicants.”

When you read what you’ve written it might seem a bit funny, but it will also show you where your weak points might be, so you can work to correct them. And reading the rejection letter that you so carefully targeted to yourself may make you more resilient and help harden you to the pain of any real rejection letters you receive in the future.

The self-discovery process that this exercise promotes might even help you avoid your next rejection letter altogether.

Give it a try, and let us know what happens.

For more information about Daniel Pink, his ideas and his books, check out his website at www.danpink.com

 

How to develop a positive attitude that will improve your job search

Portrait of young woman.Few things are more important to your job search than having – and maintaining – a positive attitude. It’s not easy to keep going at times, especially when you have to get psyched up to make those cold calls or when you have to face rejection. Your daily struggle may drive you to negativity.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, you can train yourself in the ways of positivity, which will make you better able to handle a job search of any length. And there’s scientific evidence to prove that positivity is possible to achieve, if you set your mind to it.

Just listen to what Barbara Fredrickson has to say. She is a professor of psychology and the principal investigator at the Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology Laboratory (a.k.a. PEP Lab) at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

In a YouTube presentation, Fredrickson explains what her research on positivity has discovered. Positivity, according to her, refers to a wide range of emotions, including joy, gratitude, love, interest and hope, and these emotions can change our mindsets and even our biochemistry. In other words, they can improve our lives if we incorporate more of them into it. “Positive people function at a different level,” she says.

Fredrickson has created the concept of a “positivity ratio.” This ratio measures the ratio of positivity to negativity. “The tipping point ratio is 3 to 1. We need three positive emotions to lift us up for every negative emotion that drags us down,” she says. “My research shows that most people clock in at ratios of about two to one, and many people are worse off still.” A 3 to 1 ratio, however, divides those who just squeak by in life to those who flourish.

You can find out your positivity ratio is by taking a two-minute, 20-question test on Fredrickson’s website at www.positivityratio.com/single.php

The good news is that this ratio is not static. In fact, it can change from day to day. And if yours does not measure 3 to 1, that’s exactly what you may want to make sure happens.  But you can’t force it.

“It’s not helpful to pressure yourself to be positive. What’s better is to lightly create the mindset of positivity. Be open, be appreciative, be curious, be kind, but above all be real,” Fredrickson says. We need to be open to the sources of goodness that we’re surrounded by at all times, whether it’s human kindness or natural beauty.

It’s impossible to totally eliminate negativity, but we can control it by, as she says, “questioning mental habits that may fan the flames, like jumping to conclusions or ruminating.”

Our positive emotions are what compel us to flourish, and we should work at cultivating them.

“We could all probably name three things right now that would bring us more joy, more sense of peace and more deep curiosity, whether it’s dancing or taking a hike in the woods or doing our new favorite hobby,” Fredrickson says. “But we so rarely give ourselves permission to do those things. We think of them as frivolous. When we invest in things that give us positive emotions, we’re investing in our future.”

One method you can use to work on improving your positivity ratio is to take Fredrickson’s test every evening for two weeks and see how it changes. A check up every few weeks wouldn’t be a bad idea either. You can open a free account that will record your data and keep track of your progress.

The test results aren’t the only indication that things may be getting better for you on the positivity front, however. Just by being mindful of your thought patterns, you are setting the framework to increase your positive outlook. It’s really all about taking action. The monitoring part is just a checkup to see if what you’re doing is working.

We all have rough spots – times when we’re down – but that shouldn’t discourage you. And if you’re not achieving the recommended 3 to 1 ratio, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed. Just keep working at it, and eventually your attitude will change, and your increased positivity will translate into a more effective job search.

For more information, visit www.positivityratio.com

 

Comedy fosters confidence, helps inmates deal with stress

It may not be the sound one would expect to hear in a correctional facility. But on a September weekend the Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla, Calif. was filled with laughter, as the inmates learned the art of performing improv and comedy routines.

That weekend was the first workshop produced by Laughing on the Inside, an organization founded by Teresa Bacigalupi, a student of standup comedy. Friends who had taught art in prisons inspired her to use her performance skills to help female inmates develop self-confidence and a sense of community, while at the same time learning to handle stress – all things that will be useful to them when they begin to search for employment upon release.

And comedy is a great way for these women to develop skills to deal with their current situation and better understand what they are going through. “The connection between comedy and tragedy is so strong, and what better place to find people experiencing that than in prison,” she says.

Bacigalupi enlisted the help of Kurtis Matthews, owner of the San Francisco Comedy College, where Bacigalupi studies. Two other comics also taught classes at Chowchilla as part of the workshop.

The weekend began with 28 women in an improv class on Friday night. “It’s sort of an icebreaker, but it also gets them into learning a bit about how to work off each other’s energy and your own (the teacher’s) energy,” she says. “It’s hard to believe, but within the first five minutes we all – students, staff and us – forgot where we were. We were laughing.”

On Saturday morning, Matthews started teaching the basics of stand-up to about 30 women, just as he would at his comedy school. He introduced the concepts, and then the women would one by one get up on stage and talk about themselves. That went on for the rest of the day. At the same time, 40 other inmates were taking 90-minute improv classes.

The next day, Sunday, the instructors helped some of the women fine-tune what they’d talked about the previous day, and some of the students tried a stand-up routine. The others worked on improv. In the afternoon, the women put on a performance to show what they had learned, whether stand-up or improv.

To say the least, the weekend was a success and a learning experience for all involved.

“This is powerful knowledge they’re getting. Not only how to make comedy but how to see things they’re experiencing and get away from their depression and use that knowledge to do something good. Maybe to make their cellmates laugh or avoid a potentially dangerous situation like a fight,” Bacigalupi says.

Bacigalupi learned how appreciative the inmates were to have them there. “I kind of expected to get attitude somewhere, but I got no attitude,” she says. “The biggest challenge of the weekend was not being able to be there longer and not having all the people who signed up for it be able to attend.”

Inspired by her experience at Chowchilla, Bacigalupi hopes to do workshops at the Central California Women’s Facility, also in Chowchilla, and at jails in the San Francisco Bay Area. “I just need to raise money to be able to do this again,” she says.

For more information and to help her in her fundraising efforts, visit www.laughingontheinside.org

To learn about a British comedy school that has been dong workshops in that country’s criminal justice system since 1998, visit thecomedyschool.com/prisons.shtml

 

Emphasizing strengths can help ex-offenders find employment

Ex-offenders are capable of a wide variety of jobs. You just have to give them the confidence to be able to find them.

As job developers, when you deal with ex-offenders it’s important to assess them using a strength-based process rather than beginning with the many barriers they face. Or so says Larry Robbin, a nationally known expert in the area of workforce development, who offered this and many other pieces of advice to a crowd of more than 125 people from six San Francisco Bay Area counties at a July 11 workshop sponsored by the San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development.

“You need to engage this population very quickly and deeply,” Robbin says. “The opening conversations with people are usually a lot about their problems. You should start with their strengths and then get to those other issues.”

To get them to think in a positive manner, ask them:

  • What do people compliment you about? When you find out what others appreciate about your ex-offender client, you can get an idea of what their strengths are and what makes them appealing to others.
  • What jobs would you be good at? This question lets them make their own self assessment and will show you what they feel they would be comfortable doing.
  • What are you doing when you lose track of time? Asking this question is a way to find out what they’re passionate about.
  • What can you teach someone else to do? This will tell you the skills they know really well.
  • What did you want to be when you were a little kid? Some people never give up on their childhood dreams.

Once you ask these and any other similar questions you come up with, you’re ready to take the knowledge you’ve gained and apply it to building up your ex-offender client’s self esteem.

Use the information the person gives you to paint a picture of them working. Do everything you can to help them see themselves in a job and a career.

Tell success stories of how people who were in reentry were able to find work. Use examples of other clients you’ve worked with, and if possible get those who found employment to call your current client and talk to them and tell them stories of how they did it.

At the same time you are encouraging the ex-offender to imagine that they are working, you also need to deal with the many barriers they face. This will take patience and time, so prioritize the barriers. Decide what has to be worked on first to get the person closer to employment. Don’t try to do too much with too many barriers all at the same time. Attack them one by one, and when you’ve successfully dealt with one of the barriers, move on to the next. You can keep a list for your own reference, but introduce them gradually to your client. Otherwise they might feel overwhelmed and give up.

It won’t be an easy process for you or your client, but using this strength-based assessment process, if done properly, is sure to provide positive results.