Author: Heather Maggs

Job Hunting Safely

Nowadays, nearly every one I know and their mama is looking for a job. Job searching used to mean scanning the classifieds in your local paper, but these days your job search probably means a lot of time spent on the Internet.  And the Internet is a fabulous place to find the latest job listings from companies right next door or all the way around the world.

If a good portion of your day is spent refreshing the pages on Craigslist, you have probably seen some listings that seem too good to be true.  Maybe your intuition has told you to be wary, but with more and more Americans running out of their unemployment benefits, you may just feel desperate enough to lower your guard and take the risk.  Unfortunately, you don’t have to look too hard to find stories of crimes that began with contact through websites like Craigslist.

A visit to the Craigslist safety page gives you the following safety tips & information:

The overwhelming majority of craigslist users are trustworthy and well-intentioned.

With billions of human interactions facilitated through craigslist, the incidence of violent crime has been extremely low.

Nevertheless, it’s very important to take the same common sense precautions online as you would offline.

When meeting someone for the first time, please remember to:

  • Insist on a public meeting place like a cafe
  • Tell a friend or family member where you’re going
  • Take your cell phone along if you have one
  • Consider having a friend accompany you
  • Trust your instincts

Taking these simple precautions helps make craigslist safer for everyone.

For more information about personal safety online, check out these resources:

These are good tips, especially for meeting someone off the personal ads, but how can we apply this information to job searching?

Since your first contact with someone posting a job listing online is probably through email, consider opening a free email account solely for the purpose of job searching.  You can create a professional looking email without using your last name for example: heatherm@gmail.com.  This way if the listing is an email phishing scam, you won’t have your regular email pounded with spam.  Likewise, you can use an answering service so that you don’t have to give out your actual phone number and a PO Box for a mailing address.  Maybe you have a few friends that could benefit from this as well?  Split the costs!  For more information about cyber-safe resumes check out: Job Hunt.org.

By the time you agree to a face-to-face interview with someone, you should have learned the name of the company and hopefully received a job description.  Be sure to check the Better Business Bureau for details about the company.  You can confirm the legitimacy of the business and find out a lot about how they run their business by the number and type of complaints issued against them.  You’ll want to find out as much as you can about the company before heading to the interview not only to assure your safety, but also to give the best and most knowledgeable interview that you can.

When you arrive for your interview, make sure the business appears legitmate and play close attention to your intuition.  Certainly, tell friends and family where you are going and take your cell phone along.  Just don’t forget to silence it for your interview.  There is nothing wrong with having a friend go with you on an interview as long as they stay out of sight (maybe in the car or at a nearby coffee shop).  Hopefully, by this point, you have done your research on the company and are ready to get that job!

Self Defense for Everyone

This past Wednesday, I had the honor of giving my very first ever Girls Fight Back presentation at the Industries for the Blind here in my hometown.  I worried so much before I got there.  I worried about offending the girls I would be speaking to, I worried about not being able to present the information in a way that would be effective for them,  I just worried… A LOT!

I presented to a small group of girls with varying degrees of vision capabilities who were a part of the IFB’s Summer Camp Experience.  When I arrived, they were chowing down on pizza and laughing about their morning adventure visiting a local farm.  I got set-up and started talking to the girls about the program.

Within 10 minutes of starting the presentation, I stopped worrying.  I stopped because these girls had already interjected a dozen or more personal stories and asked what felt like a hundred questions.  I realized that the desire to learn and the yearning to tell our own stories transcends our differences.

The gig was a huge hit with the girls and their teacher even asked if I would be willing to come back and teach the staff at IFB!

On Saturday, I presented two programs back to back.  One for teens at a local teen club and one for mommies at a local church.  Doing two gigs in a row like that was tough!  But once I got started, I found all this energy rushing into me.  Both were a great success and I couldn’t believe the amazing response I got from all the participants.

You would think that I couldn’t find three groups with greater differences than these.  I mean, high school girls, mommies, and teenagers with varying degrees of blindness, what do they have in common?  But after each presentation, at least one audience member approached me to express their fears.  One young girl at IFB said that she lived in fear of being out after dark.  One teen told me there was a certain street near her house that she didn’t dare walk down alone.  A couple of mommies talked about spending thousands of dollars on high tech alarm systems, but still being overwhelmed by the fear that someone might snatch their children away from them at the mall, grocery store or local park.

As women, we all live with these fears.  Fears that were passed down to us by our mothers and their mothers before them.  This week, in a brilliant article in the Huffington Post, writer Ellen Snortland (author of Beauty Bites Beast) suggests that we put an end to this legacy of fear by creating instead a legacy of safety.  Along with some awesome safety tips and a sweet shout-out to Girls Fight Back, she argues that self-defense training should be a mandatory part of getting a driver’s license.  What do you think?  Check out the article here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ellen-snortland/license-to-live-time-to-m_b_253316.html  and leave us your thoughts in the comments!

Having Faith

I loved Megan’s recent article on being Paranoid versus being Proactive. It reminded me that just about a week after I returned home from the Girls Fight Back Training Academy, my husband and I were lying in bed, just about to drift off to sleep when I suddenly had the thought that the door wasn’t locked. It was strange because I didn’t think “Hmmm..is the door locked?” or “I can’t remember if I locked the door or not.” I simply thought “the door isn’t locked.” So I got up and locked it. My husband asked what I was doing and I told him I was going to lock the door. When I returned to bed, he asked, “so now that you’ve had this training, are you going to be paranoid all the time?” I simply asked him, “What’s paranoid about locking a door that is unlocked?” (and for the record, it was unlocked) Our conversation continued and finally ended with a discussion over who empties the dishwasher more often, but that really isn’t the point.

The point is that it is hard to separate the idea of being careful about your safety from the idea that you are being paranoid and suspicious of everyone. Both my husband and I were raised in small towns where people don’t just leave their doors unlocked, they leave them wide open! I have one member of my family who still to this day doesn’t even have a key to their home. It is unlocked 24/7. In fact, recently someone accidentally locked the door as they were leaving the house and this relative had to call a locksmith to get them into their own house! Since I practice simple safety precautions (like actually locking my doors), I’m used to being called paranoid or (when it comes to my daughter’s safety) overprotective.

I won’t lie, when I’m out running errands with my daughter, I am a little hyperaware of our surroundings and our safety. People often offer to help me with things like putting up a grocery cart or carrying bags to my car. They usually offer this help because I am carrying too many bags and digging through my purse for my keys with my 15 month old wiggling around on my hip. And for the most part, I used to refuse the help 10 times out of 10. Why? Because I didn’t trust people. Or really because I didn’t trust myself.

You see, when you don’t trust your intuition, it is easiest to go to one extreme or the other. You simply choose to trust everyone or trust no one and accept whatever comes from that choice. For me, I trusted no one and that meant doing everything myself and having lots of headaches.

This week, I took my daughter to lunch at one of those fast food type Japanese places. You know, the ones that have those yummy rice bowls with chicken and zucchini.  While I was waiting for my food, I started the process of getting my daughter situated in a high chair.  Well, I got the chair and dragged it over to my table only to realize that it was sticky and gross.  I decided I needed to get out a wipe from my wipe case and clean it off.  Now my daughter is still in my arms and I’m digging through my bag to get the wipes.  I find them and that darn wipe won’t come out.  I’m just about to try and pull it out with my teeth when this man comes over and asks if I need any help.  I’m just about to say no, thank you when I stop for a moment.  I realize that I don’t have a creepy feeling about this person.  My intuition shoots me a quick message to say, “he’s OK.”  So I say yes and this nice man gets out the wipe for me and cleans the chair.  He even goes to get my food at the counter and brings it to me!

As my daughter and I are enjoying our lunch, I realize that by trusting my intuition, I have freed myself up to have faith in others.  I can count on my intuition to guide me towards helpful, honest people and away from those who mean me harm.  It feels great to believe in the goodness of people; to know that my instincts can guide me through any situation; and to know that the next time the guy who bags my groceries offers to cart them out to the car for me, my answer will be YES!

Protecting the Gift

blog2Come see any Fight Back Productions seminar (check out our Second Saturdays program starting in August!) and you’ll hear us mention a book called “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin DeBecker.  It is one of the leading books on intuition and safety in the world and an absolute must read!  I’ve read this book a few times in my life and it always leaves me feeling empowered and educated; like I can see through anyone’s bull.

Throughout the book, DeBecker highlights stories of men and women and their experiences with violent crimes.  While the gruesome tales sometimes make me uncomfortable, I’ve always been able to process them and understand the necessity of telling them.  In order for us to fight back against violence we must first stop living in denial and accept that violence has always been and will always be a part of the human existence.

Somehow, it is easy for me to accept that violence against women happens and that as a woman, I run the risk of being a target.  What I learned from the Gift of Fear, the training I received at the Girls Fight Back Academy, and the work I continue to do in self-defense classes reassures me that I can handle uncomfortable or even violent situations should I find myself in them.

This week I began reading a second book by Gavin DeBecker entitled Protecting the Gift: Keeping Children and Teenagers Safe (and Parents Sane).  I can’t recommend the book highly enough, but I also can’t express how difficult it has been for me to read.

You see, as the mother of a beautiful 14 month old daughter, I find the horrible tales of child adbuction, neglect, sexual assault, and physical abuse too hard to accept. It would feel so much nicer to pretend that they don’t happen.  When we live in denial, we can pretend that our children aren’t at risk or that we don’t have any real responsibility to ask tough questions in order to protect them.  We can ignore our intuition and say things like “he looks like such a nice guy” or “I’m sure she just fell down.  Children get bruises all the time.”

The downside to living in denial is that some children DO get abducted, some parents DO abuse their children, and sometimes bad things DO happen.  Being in denial means that not only do we ignore the existence of these bad things, but we also ignore any opportunity to prevent them.

Someone once said “with great knowledge, comes great responsibility.”  It has been a difficult and emotional experience to have my eyes opened to the violence that even the smallest beings of our species experience.  But I’m grateful, because now I have the knowledge necessary to protect my daughter and maybe other children.  I’m ready to accept that responsiblity.  Are you?

Pick up one of Gavin DeBecker’s books at your local library or bookstore, check out a Fight Back Productions seminar, and join us in this mission to make our world a safer place for every man, woman, and child.

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