Dealing with the down time: Youth worker patience.

If you are in anyway like me you spend most of your working days going flat out. You run from meeting to meeting, to counselling session, to games, to report writing and at the end of the day you crash only to wake up again and do it over. But when those elusive moments of nothing pop up in our diary we find it boring and hard to stay awake. Here are a few things I do when I have nothing to do:

  1. Read. Keep up to date with the sector through journals, blogs etc. It is really important for us to stay abreast of all the goings on in our sector. Sign up to newsletters and blogs of your industry groups as well. Your inbox will always have something interesting to read.
  2. Network. When you have an empty lunch date then meet with a colleague. I try to have at least one lunch meeting or coffee with a colleaague per week and when I have a spare moment it makes it easy to catch up with a member of my network.
  3. Plan. Whether it is your self care or the next step in a project, use this time to make your goals clear. We all whinge when we don’t get planning time!
  4. Tidy up. Your desk, the games locker, your resources they all need a spruice up.
  5. Take the gravy. Take the moment to relish in the fact that the world has not ended and you have time to just sit. It is not every day you have time to do something out of the box. Perhaps you have a project you have been dying to pitch to your boss… use the time to reflect.
Above all remember that it is not going to last forever and you sometimes need to idle before racing down the track.

UltimateYouthWorker

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe and son Ezra.

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We need to measure everything: youth work is changing and so must we.

Over the past year we have attended a number of conferences and seminars throughout Australia on the awesome practice that is youth work. We have also had the privelege of speaking with a number of our international counterparts about where international practice is at. As we have reflected about these instances as a team we have become aware of a major concern in the sector. We lack good clear data for advocating about the great work we do.
In her address to the Australian Capital Territory Youth Workers Conference, Gabi Rosenstreich, CEO of the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition, reminded the gathered youth workers that anecdotes and innuendo have little sway with funding bodies, governments and communities. Professor Judith Bessant also stated the need for more research both quantitative and qualitative. This message has been one we have heard throughout this year from people in leadership positions throughout the sector.
Many organisations are gathering some great data in their day to day work, however the resounding discussion in the sector seems to be that we need to get more. To this end we would also state that the data needs to be shared. There is little point in having the data if it sits in your computer or on a shelf… it needs to get into the hands of people who can use it. Send your data to peaks, universities, advocacy groups and just about everyone you can think of.
Recently the publication Youth Studies Australia ceased its run as Australia’s foremost journal on young people and the youth sector after eighteen years in print. If we do not share the knowledge we have and the solid data that has been compiled then it will not just be our journal that goes the way of the dodo but our sector as a whole. We are at a very precarious point in Australia and throughout the world. We need to be able to prove our worth and not rely on the historical altruism which has got us through in the past.
What are you doing to build our research pool?

UltimateYouthWorker

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe and son Ezra.

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We need to develop the future potential of the youth work sector.

In a month I will be speaking at a conference in my nations capital city about the need for self care in our sector. This is the one thing I would do with the rest of my life if I was only able to do one thing. If I was able to do two things, then I would spend that time developing new talent. Mentoring, teaching, supervising and helping them develop networks. In the ACT there is going to be youth work awards, recognising the outstanding work of a few people within the sector. We should spend more time recognising the awesome young workers coming through the ranks.
 
 
How does your organisation develop and recognise the future potential in its youth workers? What are you doing to develop future talent?
 

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UltimateYouthWorker

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe and son Ezra.

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Do you suffer from “youth worker says yes” syndrome?

Two years ago almost to the day I joined the board of an organisation. In that time I have served faithfully have only missed one meeting and helped turn that little unincorporated society into a fully fledged $3million dollar a year not-for-profit with all the bureaucratic trimmings. I have enjoyed this time immensely, however tonight is my last meeting with the organisation and I cant wait to move on.
If I had have realised the amount of work which was required to support this organisation I would have seriously thought differently about joining. It wasn’t just the meetings, it was the staff development, the mountain of emails and the extra events and fundraisers I was expected to be at. Also the mentoring of new board members really took a toll on my time and energy.
The worst thing is that it is only one of more than a dozen committees and boards I am a part of! I suffer major “youth worker says yes” syndrome. When I was a youth work student my lecturers pounded into me the need to join everything and get to know everyone. We were told to build our skills by joining committees. We were told that to be the best we needed to be involved in EVERYTHING!!! 
As youth workers we love to be involved… but it can be detrimental. If you are a joiner you know how much it can destroy you. 
Whats one thing that you can let go or get rid of in the next month? What could you do for your own self care with that extra time? What do you need to say no too?

UltimateYouthWorker

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe and son Ezra.

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Calendar management for the youth work professional.

Here is a little something that doesn’t get taught in school but will change your way of working forever. I was listening to a podcast a while ago and this changed my life. There were a number of casts which speak about calendar management which we will summarise here.
 
 

Family first

The most important things should be on our calendar first. As such we agree with the guys at manager-tools.com that this should be family. There is no such thing as work life balance, family just comes first. If your kids have a doctors appointment or its your wedding anniversary these things should be first in your calendar.

Schedule time for email

Most of us are bombarded by email (Just today I had over one hundred emails). Many of us have the pop up toast enabled to tell us when a new mail arrives…get rid of it. Schedule two times a day to check email. I have 10:30-11:00 and 15:30-16:00 set on my calendar every workday to check email. If we don’t schedule our email it will take us over and take our focus off the things that really matter.

Strategic objectives (first thing in the morning)

Whether you are a case manager or a program worker you have a number of strategic objectives which need to be addressed each week. If you spend the most productive part of your day focusing on your strategic objectives then you know you will be getting the best out of your time.

Network building lunch

Once a week you want to be purposefully building your network. We all have to eat so why not combine eating lunch with developing your network. Just invite a potential network to lunch and Bob’s your uncle.
 
 

Get rid of free time.

In pretty much every calendar I have ever seen there are huge swathes of unassigned time. Everyone I come across tells me how busy they are but if you look at their calendar you would be very confused. We put our tasks on the calendar eg. meetings and client time but we do not put time for things such as travel, strategic objectives or checking emails. If your calendar has a heap of free time you should fill it with strategic priorities.
 
If you subscribe to these few ideas about your calendar you will find that your days seem less chaotic and your work time more productive. For more on these ideas we recommend “Getting things done” by David Allen and the “The Effective Executive” by Peter Drucker.
 

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UltimateYouthWorker

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe and son Ezra.

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The need to network: Collaboration for effective youthwork.

Its National Youth Week here in Australia and we are ramping things up at Ultimate Youth Worker. This week Our Director of Operations had the privilege of hosting a forum for The Youth Affairs Council of Victoria. The forum focused on how youth workers can best provide opportunities for engagement and participation for young people. During this session on of the gaps that was identified in the local area was the lack of communication and networking between service providers.
 
 
Youth participation and engagement is our core business as youth worker’s. However, to be most effective we need to know what is going on in our area and who is doing it! A dozen youth workers from eight youth service providers spoke about the need for there to be more opportunities for them to meet each other and speak about the things that are going on in their area. Many spoke of their networking with each other on an ad hoc basis. Most knew of each others organisation. No one knew everyone or the programs which they ran. The networks were pretty much in disarray.
 
As the session progressed the youth workers began to get to know each other. They worked out what each other did and what programs they ran. They began asking each other more pointed questions. In all they got to know each other better. As we were finishing up it was a great thing to see all the youth workers exchanging numbers and working out times to meet again. Networking is an extremely useful and enjoyable experience but one we as youth workers struggle to do.
 
 
Whatever situation you find yourself in currently, you can always build your network. It doesn’t take going to a seminar or a training session. All you need to do is stick out your hand and say hi to another person. In youth work we need to have great networks as it sets us up to collaborate with other organisations to provide the best service possible to our young people. In the current landscape of service cuts and funding constrictions it is the service providers with the best networks that are moving ahead in leaps and bounds where others are flailing.
 
The difference between a good youth worker and an Ultimate Youth Worker can often be their network and collaborations.
 

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UltimateYouthWorker

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe and son Ezra.

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Why youth worker’s need to embrace technology for professional development

Are we falling behind???
Are we becoming as obsolete as the home phone, the floppy disk or the hand held calculator???
Are we able to keep up with the rapid expansion of technology?
 
 
It used to be that if you needed your home stereo hooked up, your website developed or an email list for you group you could ask a youth worker and they would have an understanding of what to do…however rudimentary. However, over the past ten years I have seen an alarming trend towards a lack of technology use in youth work. Even worse, youth worker’s who do not have the skills to meet even the most basic of technological requirements.
 
 
 
A few years ago I was whimsically known in my organisation as ‘IT Support’. If any one in my team had an IT issue I was called in before we would call our organisations IT officer. How did I get this job you may be asking? Was it my years of study in IT? Perhaps because I was an avid gamer or computer nerd? conceivably, it was my years of university study where I used Microsoft Word on a daily basis. Actually, it was none of these! One day I helped my team leader to categorise and colour code her calendar. That is what made me the IT guru in my organisation.
 
Many of the ‘problems’ I was asked to fix in that team were pretty basic. As my wife says, it will ask you first if you really want to do something before you kill the machine. I fixed a few Word, Excel and PowerPoint issues and recovered a document or two, but nothing I would write home about. These skills were learnt by asking questions of people who knew more than me when I experienced those issues and then being able to remember what to do when it happened again. A small confession… I am the least tech savvy person in my friendship network.
 

With new technology coming onto the market every minute you would hope youth worker’s were at least keeping up, sadly if anything we are falling behind at an ever increasing speed.

 

Over the past few months I have read dozens of articles which lament the current situation and then implore people in the sector to embrace technology. Speaking of not-for-profit marketing Andy Lark, Chief Marketer for the Commonwealth Bank in Australia said Ten years ago, if someone had said there would one day be no more record stores or book stores, you wouldn’t have believed it. We will be the last generation to use a keyboard and a mouse. Technology is the force that changes everything.” Neelie Kroes, European Commission Vice President  said, Europeans are hungry for digital technologies and more digital choices, but governments and industry are not keeping up with them. Even former US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, believes technology is the way of the future and that if we do not take these innovations seriously we will be in trouble. So if some of the key thinkers in the world believe that we need to embrace technology then why are we as youth worker’s falling behind?
 
There are a few reasons we at Ultimate Youth Worker believe that as a sector we are falling behind:
  1. Our organisations. Organisational policies and procedures have become quite stringent as a knee-jerk reaction to possible legal and ethical issues which arise from the use of technology
  2. Technology is changing so fast it is hard to keep up. If you do not devote time to seeing what is out there you can not keep up to date.
  3. Technology costs money. I worked in an organisation two years ago that were still running windows ME on their computers which were ten years old!!!
  4. It is not seen as a priority compared to face to face interactions with young people. Every day in Australia young people aged 15 and over spend approximately two and a half hours on the Internet. That is more than they spend with me as their youth worker!

 

So if it is important to our interactions with young people we should learn a bit about it right???

 
I was recently given the unpublished results of a survey from the UK where youth workers were asked how they preferred to take on professional development. No surprises, we prefer face to face contact. The biggest surprise for me though was that using technology to gain professional development was ranked lowest of 18 possibile choices.  A cursory look at some of our social sector colleagues shows that their use of technology for professional development is expanding. The Australian Psychology Society and the National Association of Social Workers in the US provide great online training opportunities for their members however, the world across there is little for youth worker’s. This MUST change!!!
 

Here are a few reasons this can and should change.

  1. Web based training is cheaper than other forms available. If and average worker is on $20 and hour and they attend a half day seminar that goes for 4 hours it costs the organisation $80 before they even get there. lets say it is in a major city and your organisation is in the outer suburbs, roughly an hour each way by transport is another $40 in lost productivity. Train tickets or petrol =$$$. Then there is the cost of the training. Is it catered, add more money. The average half day seminar in Melbourne currently goes for around $120.
    • The equation looks a little like this:
      • Conference attendance/lost productivity = $80
      • Transport/lost productivity = $40
      • Transport costs = $???
      • Parking = $???
      • Seminar cost = $120
      • Catering = $???
        • Total cost =$240+transport
          • Same seminar done online =$200 (no transport costs, no catering etc.)
  2. It is easier to attend. If your seminar is from 10am-2pm you can get to work at 9am and spend an hour catching up on emails. at 2pm when the seminar finishes you grab a bit to eat and are back at your desk by 2:30pm (and you had a snack or two at your desk while you were at the seminar). All you need is a computer with Internet access and a headset with a mic. Also you can attend training on the otherside of the world with great trainers just by getting online…No need for a $1000 plane ticket.
  3. Online seminars provide handouts etc online. Whether you are at a webinar, listening to a podcast or watching a pre-recorded PowerPoint most providers also give you access so that you can go again and print/save documents for future reference.
  4. Your boss won’t think you are playing hooky. From our experience we have found that many bosses struggle with sending staff to PD because they have issues with trusting that you will be there the whole time and actually pay attention.  It is usually not because you have given them a reason but they are remembering what it was lie for them. If you are in your cube or office and you are visibly doing your training then there is no reason to doubt you.
  5.  
     
These are just a few of our thoughts, we know there are many more. Obviously we are biased. We write a blog for youth worker’s because of the lack of available professional development. We use social media including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Stumbleupon and Pintrest to further the networks and development opportunities for youth worker’s who want to become the best they can be. We believe that online is not only the best but the only way forward for us as a sector seeking excellent professional development.

To that end we wanted to let you know what we have been up to for the last couple of months and what it means for you our loyal readers. Recently we asked you to complete a survey for us (if you haven’t there is still time) this has cemented our ideas on professional development needs in the sector. We have been getting our heads around some technology to provide some opportunities for exceptional, inexpensive, online professional development for Ultimate Youth Worker’s (if you want to better yourself you are one!). We have also been writing up our training packages to support your needs.
 

So what does this mean for you as a youth worker?

 
In December we will be launching our first ever webinar to support youth worker’s to develop a self care plan. Stay tuned for a date closer to the event (hopefully first week in December).
 
 

In late January/early February we will be launching our podcast. We are currently recording and are getting some amazing guest hosts to provide inspirational and informative content to support you and your practice. Stay tuned for our official launch party!!! Its going to rock.
 
 

Of course we will also continue to provide our social network with challenges, inspiration and questions so please get on board and like, follow or pin us where you can, and PLEASE tell your friends and colleagues. This revolution in youth services support can only happen with your involvement and a swell of numbers.

Thank you for your support and encouragement so far. If there is anything we can do to support you please let us know.

Aaron

     
 
 
 





UltimateYouthWorker

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe and son Ezra.

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Observe the I in DISC for youth worker’s

Last Thursday we began a looking at the individual quadrants within the DISC behavioural profiling system with “Observe the D in DISC for youth worker’s“. We are half way through our overview series and hope that you have been able torecognise some DOMINANCE behavioural styles in those around you. In this blog we continue the series with an overview of the INFLUENCE behavioural style.
One of the most exciting behavioural style to be around (and it is my secondary behavioural style) is that of INFLUENCE. The social butterfly or life of the party, people with thisbehavioural type often have large networks and seem to draw people to themselves. They are talkative, they over communicate, are born performers, are style setters, in teams they are the idea generators and they are very quick-witted. They are the most enthusiastic and active people you will ever meet and develop relationships quickly. They are fast starters and begin project with gusto. All of these positive adjectives are often linked to a person who is exhibiting a INFLUENCEbehavioural trait. On the other hand you have probably seen their negative behaviours as well. They work off intuition without reason. They can be highly emotional. They are sporadic and scattered. They start fast but rarely finish. They have too many projects on the go. If they were a slogan they would be Nokia: Connecting People.
 

 

A person with a high level of INFLUENCE in their behaviour speaks in a way that about 75% of us struggle to keep up with. They sell ideas with an inspiring style. They talk a lot at the 50,000 foot view but struggle to get down in the grass. They avoid bringing up difficult subjects but give good constructive feedback. They enjoy interaction and focus on the feelings of their subject intently. They get enthusiastically involved in discussions and often talk too much. They may not assess what is being said and can loseconcentration and get sidetracked easily. They speak in stories and anecdotes often from personal experience. They are prone to exaggeration and when excited they speak really fast and approachyou closely using lots of facial expression.
 
Most of us struggle to get a word in edgeways with a High I and we are confronted at the speed and tangential thinking present in their conversation… but we do enjoy their conversation. They do respect a smile, a pat on the back and seven conversations at once. So how do we work with these people when their excitement is off the charts and you are not really sure which conversation you are having with them?
 

 

Here are our top six tips for working with people with INFLUENCE behaviour traits:

  1. Approach them informally. These guys and girls hate feeling constrained. A meeting in an office with suits and ties and a policy document may just make them explode. A brief chat on the way to lunch or even a confab at their desk is the best way to get them on side. Do not start with facts and stats or a policy document it will make them throw a toddler tantrum.  
  2. Be relaxed and sociable. Even if you need to pull them into line be chilled out. These guys take their reputation seriously and if you are not sociable they will take it as a sign that you hate them.
  3. Let them tell you how they feel and how awesome they are. Yes the sun doth shine from their backside and you would do well to acknowledge this with a hearty nod of the head. They are the centre of attention and you are a tool for propping up their ego. Whilst they care about people it is hard to notice them through their haze of awesomeness.
  4. Keep the conversation light. Remember, they are up there in the clouds in the land of big dreams. It is a place where balloons pop very easily. You want to be a fluffy cloud and sharp grass. Details are the enemy. There is no pressure here. It should be like a trip to Tahiti.
  5. Provide written details to focus their attention. As those with INFLUENCE behaviours can be flighty and forgetful write things down and get them to take notes. It also helps when they begin to go on a tangent if their KPI’s are written down as you can steer them back on course.
  6. Use humour. Everything has a funny side… even paperwork!!! Try to lighten the mood by making a joke or finding a humourous take on the situation. If all else fails steal a Robin Williams skit. It will diffuse any tension and let them see you have a pulse.
Here are just a few people you might have seen on a TV that have INFLUENCE in their behavioural style.
 

Bill Clinton

 
Oprah Winfrey
 
Richard Branson
 
Dolly Parton
 
Robin Williams
 
Shane Warne (Cricketer)
 
Hamish Blake (Australian TV and Radio Personality)
 
Han Solo
 
Ellen DeGeneres

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UltimateYouthWorker

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe and son Ezra.

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Behavioural observation is the key to best practice youth work.

A few weeks ago we stated that we would look at how to develop a behavioural lensto inform how you work with young people and colleagues. A lens that will help you understand peoples strengths and weaknesses, how to speak to them in a way that will help you develop your relationship with them and ultimately strengthen your work with everyone you come across. This week we show you the framework.

A while ago I interviewed for a managementposition. One of my interviewers was someone that if I got the role I would supervise. In the interview I was able to answer the questions and got along well with two of the three interviewers. The third interviewer was a blank slate. I couldn’t read him at all. The worst part was that he was going to be my direct. I was freaking out and needed a way to break through their blank persona.

A few years earlier I was managing a youth drug andalcohol rehab. I had a young person come to us straight from jail with a personality bigger than Ben Hur. Everyone thought he was great, the life of the party. He was a lot of fun to work with, but he was also really frustrating. He never followed through on anything!!!

These are just two people and a snapshot of their behaviour, but I am sure you can all imagine people like this that you have come across. Before I was shown this simple but most important framework people showing these behaviours were extremely difficult for me to understand or work with. Afterwards, with a little work, I have become a better judge of character and supportive youth worker.
 

DISC

 
DISC is a quadrant behavioral model based on the work of Dr. William Moulton Marston (1893–1947) to examine the behavior of individuals in their environment or within a specific situation (otherwise known as environment). It therefore focuses on the styles and preferences of such behaviour. For most, these types are seen in shades of grey rather than black or white, and within that, there is an interplay of behaviors, otherwise known as blends. The determination of such blends starts with the primary (or stronger) type, followed by the secondary (or lesser) type, although all contribute more than just purely the strength of that “signal”. Having understood the differences between these blends makes it possible to integrate individual team members with less troubleshooting. In a typical team, there are varying degrees of compatibility, not just toward tasks but interpersonal relationships as well. However, when they are identified, energy can be spent on refining the results.

 

The four behavioural types are Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Conscientiousness.

 
Those with Dominance and Influence behavioural types are more ASSERTIVE.
 
Those with Steadiness and Conscientiousness behavioural types are more RESERVED.
 
Those with Influence and Steadiness behavioural types are more PEOPLE focused.
 
Those with Dominance and Conscientiousness behavioural types are more TASK focused.
 

 

This graphic illustrates this more effectively.

 
Over the coming ‘Thursday Think Tanks’ we will delve more into these behavioural types and how they can help you to develop your emotional intelligence and practical wisdom.
 
In the meantime Stay Frosty!!!
 

UltimateYouthWorker

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe and son Ezra.

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Build your youth work network

One of the main differences between a good youth worker and a great youth worker is their ability to get things done in a timely manner for the young people they support. Whether it is helping them find work, get a medical check up, enter a rehab facility or any other thing we do being able to refer them on to other agencies and have the agency get to them is an art… or is it???

 

On the 21st of February 2012 I posted on Facebook, “How big is your network? a good youth worker has a wide and varied group that they can call upon in need.“. What I didn’t say was how a youth worker could do it. So many people I speak to think that building a network is something for the extraverts and party people. They say things like, “I wish I had a bigger network, but I don’t know who to ask” or “If only I knew someone at (insert service) it would make my life so much easier…but I don’t“. Most think that to build a network you have to have been born with an innate ability to attract people. The good news is that is a crock. Anyone can do it!
 
Build your network

 

The most difficult part is having the guts to do it. I know it is hard. PEOPLE ARE SCARY. Its why we like email more than a phone call and love it compared to going face to face. But if we can get past our fear of other people our network can grow daily!!! Think of all the people you meet every day. The people on your train to work. The Barrista who makes your coffee. The other service providers in your building. The school staff at your kids school. The doctors at your local clinic. HOW MANY PEOPLE DO YOU SEE EVERY DAY???
 
Once you realise that you meet people everywhere everyday the next part is easy. With the courage you have been plucking up you stick out your hand and say “Hi i’m …..”! I was in a cafe about a month ago waiting to meet a volunteer. The cafe is a regular haunt and I have gotten to know some of the staff but I was in during lunch which is a time I don’t usually go in. There was a waiter I had seen a couple of times in the evening who seemed to be running things during lunch. After I met with my volunteer the waiter mentioned that he had seen me in the cafe a bit over the last few months and asked what I did. After a brief chat I stuck out my hand and said “By the way i’m Aaron”. We chatted for a bit longer and it turned out the guy had just brought the cafe and was spending a couple of months learning the ropes. Since that time I have never paid for a coffee for a volunteer and we have found a new place to hold our volunteer get togethers.
 
 
Once you do this a dozen times you will have a pretty good idea of how to do it and what to say. From here the next part is a cake walk. If you are at a conference, stick out your hand. If you are at a multidisciplinary meeting, stick out your hand. If you are in a cafe, stick out your hand. Everywhere you go stick out your hand and introduce yourself. Remember the person’s name!!! Write it down if you have to. Get a business card if they have one. The main point is to do it everywhere. Yeah you will meet some people you will never meet again (I once met a professional telemarketer, I annoyed her during her dinner:)) but you will have a card book full of contacts that you will be able to develop into your network.
 
When I was working in a youth drug and alcohol rehab we expected that the young people coming into our centre had completed a detox for at least a week. A former colleague gave me a call to book her young person in but couldn’t get him a detox stay for at least 2 months. Knowing my colleague and her practice style I knew the young person was at a crucial stage and would bail on her before 2 months so I asked her to leave it with me. I rang a guy I had met a few weeks earlier at a conference who managed a youth detox service. We didn’t really know each other but I asked if we could catch up for a coffee. Two days later over coffee I mentioned how difficult my former colleague was finding a place for her young people to detox and before I finished my sentence he said that I should get her to call him. Three weeks later the young person came to my rehab after a week stay at my new friends detox.
 
 
Build your network!!! It can help you or someone you know as in the case above, but most of all it can help your young people. My network has mechanics, financial planners, allied health staff, a pilot and many others who I stay in contact with and get to know whenever I can. It doesn’t matter who you meet but in the words of Nike, JUST DO IT. To learn more about building your network you can listen to our friends Mike and Mark talk about it in more details on their podcast

If you have any questions drop us an email or chat to us on facebook and twitter.

UltimateYouthWorker

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe and son Ezra.

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