RESOURCES

Oxbow Bend, Snake River

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

A Better Work Experience Starts with Self-Advocacy

Matt Moore

We’ve been helping folks discover life-changing opportunities in great places for several decades now. We know from personal experience how daunting it can be to take the plunge, move across the country, travel to a place that you’ve never been to live and work among people you’ve never met. It’s a big deal!

We also know that sometimes, things don’t always go as planned. While we hope that most people go on to have amazing experiences that dramatically alter the course of their lives, we know that it’s still the real world out there, and all sorts of circumstances (one disgruntled or inappropriate coworker, a misleading job listing, a burned out manager, an obnoxious roommate, etc.) can lead to a disappointing experience. It’s difficult to foresee or prevent every possible outcome, but it is important to know how to advocate for yourself and plan in order to navigate to the best possible resolution.

This article will outline some simple steps you can take to help ensure a positive experience and to prepare you to be able to handle a wide range of circumstances.

So let’s talk about some steps you can take before accepting a job and traveling cross-country on a new adventure.

1. Do your homework! – It’s incredibly important to learn as much as you can about an organization before you commit to giving them your time. Thoroughly read over their recruiting materials and their website. Look them up on GlassDoor or ask questions about them in the Community forums to see if other people have shared their experiences from working there. Read online reviews and see what customers say about them (take these with a grain of salt – people can be overly picky, and a $7 cheeseburger that didn’t meet expectations doesn’t necessarily imply a bad workplace). Gather whatever information you can to help you make an informed decision about how a business conducts itself.

2. Ask lots of questions – Remember, in an interview process, you’re also allowed to ask questions. Do you want to know more about how they prioritize and address employee safety? Ask them if they have an incident reporting procedure, sexual harassment policy, an onsite contact who addresses reports of workplace conflicts (e.g. Human Resources, a Manager on Duty, etc.). Ask about the employee housing, confirm your wages (with an employment agreement, if possible), roommates, rules governing conduct in employee housing and who enforces those rules, etc.. The idea is to get a sense of how prepared they are to deal with any possible conflicts that can and inevitably do arise in every workplace.

3. Have a Plan – Before you head out on this big journey, give yourself some extra security and comfort by formulating a plan in your mind about what you’re going to do if things don’t pan out quite as expected. Make a list (mental or physical) of who you might need to contact, including:
– Your supervisor
– A Human Resources contact
– In some circumstances, the Department of Labor and/or Civil Rights / Human Rights Commission in the state you’ll be working to report inappropiate working conditions and/or issues of discrimination).

You may also want to plan for other needs that could arise, like a small backup fund for travel and accommodation expenses if you find yourself in a situation that just isn’t going to work out or that you need to remove yourself from.

As in all of life, things don’t always go as planned. All of us on the CoolWorks team have had experiences that didn’t meet expectations or didn’t go as planned, and it’s not fun. We want each of you to be empowered to handle situations as they arise so that you can confidently navigate, resolve, and move past them as best as possible. So be bold, be prepared, and most importantly, be excited! Hopefully you’re going to go off and have the best summer or winter of your life, but you’ll have a lot more confidence and peace of mind knowing that you’re equipped to advocate for yourself.