By Alexia Evripidou
Personal responsibility, happiness and work: all are inter-related, and keeping the balance is crucial especially in today’s climate, according to professional life and careers coach Christina Demetriades.
“So many people are unhappy because they are unemployed. There are two factors here, the happiness factor and the job factor. I put both together, because they go together,” says Demetriades who’s helped hundreds of people since 2012.
Personal responsibility is a vital component to being happy. She explains that when she helps someone who’s been unemployed for a while and as a result has lost their confidence, part of her duty to help them get the career they want is to evaluate what kind of life they want to lead.
“It’s a decision that has to be made, which we individually get to choose from life’s menu. This is what I mean by personal responsibility,” she says. “When one makes their own choices by what’s right for them, then they get a magnificent gift called freedom. If I am responsible for my actions, it means I’m free to choose them. If I don’t take responsibility and I put my portion of responsibility on someone else, it means I’m never free to choose. Someone else will always be choosing for me and I’ll always be blaming them.”
Demetriades, who is on the board of the European Mentoring and Coaching Association, offers a combination of emotional and practical support via: individual and group sessions and internet coaching. Each session’s is created to fit an individual’s needs, and all offer practical tools to guide the person to achieving their personal goals.
In life coaching, she focuses on looking at practical life skills i.e. managing emotions and stress. In careers coaching, Demetriades helps students choose subjects or universities, the unemployed find work, people make career changes, write CVs and improve their interview skills. Often there’s an overlap; for example, she’s recently combining life with career coaching for retired workers.
Once a month, set in the bi-communal venue The Home for Cooperation at Ledra Palace, Nicosia, Demetriades alternates life coaching and careers workshops for groups. She also hosts a bi-monthly radio show ‘Emerging Voices’.
Demetriades is also among a pool of trainers of the Cyprus Youth Council who works with unemployed youths to help them identify suitable careers, get work, or go out and create employment opportunities for themselves.
Her credentials are impressive and include a master’s degree with distinction in Guidance, a master’s degree in International Relations from London School Economics and a distinction in her PostGraduate Diploma in Careers Guidance.
Demetriades’ drive behind everything is her desire for positive social transformation. When the crisis first really hit in 2013, a huge transition happened for everyone, including Demetriades. “I believe that the 2013 financial crisis in Cyprus is a consequence of the crisis in values; our personal, social and political. We’ve lost touch with ourselves as individuals and as a whole.”
It prompted her to throw herself into building up her coaching career.
In January 2014, Demetriades set up her radio show ‘Emerging Voices’; a platform on MyCy Radio, as a platform for the unheard voices of Cyprus to speak. The increasingly popular show seeks to facilitate spreading positive messages and is an opportunity for voices and issues, often ignored by the mass media, to be heard such as human rights or gender issues, lost traditions, taboos, peace education, immigrants, disempowered women, drug addicts etc. It hosts a different voice every fortnight.
“I feel that there’s a need for marginalised people and groups to be heard. I’ve searched the mass media for representation of these voices but couldn’t find them. I also like to bring people together if I see ground for collaboration.”
For example, Demetriades hosted Fulbright scholar Patricia Martin on her show. Martin led the project OWAAT (One Woman at a Time) which helped to simplify the legal procedure of victims of domestic violence. The abused were offered an opportunity to “download a specific form from the OWAAT website, drop it off at the court with no legal expenses and above all, no social exposure and fear of gossip; it’s a small place,” says Demetriades.
Similarly, she also interviewed ‘Freedom Dolls Initiative’, an NGO which focuses on victims of sex trafficking in Cyprus. “I linked both of these organisations together and then brought them in again, this time together on the show. They then collaborated. Both of their projects progressed because of that collaboration. So it’s one way in which the show contributed towards this positive social transformation.”
Demetriades says the show prompts listeners to become more introspective, to evaluate and think about who they are and what they want, in order to create a desired life and society.
“We are at a crucial time now in our history here in a Cyprus, I share the feeling that many people have, that regarding the Cyprus problem it’s a now or never moment. So we have to really grab this potential and ask ourselves, how do I want our Cyprus to be? That’s taking personal responsibility.”
But the challenges can appear insurmountable sometimes, often because of prevailing attitudes. Youth unemployment is a case in point.
With youth unemployment at around 33.2 per cent, Demetriades and Cyprus Youth Organisation decided to put on two career workshops for unemployed youths in Nicosia and Limassol in 2014.
They planned for around 100 participants and took months organising speakers, materials and marketing etc. They received a small sponsorship from the Cyprus Youth Council so the participants could come for free. A free lunch was even thrown in. With over 50 youth organisations in Cyprus disseminating the information, a large turn out was expected.
In the end, only 20 people confirmed attendance while only about ten actually turned up for each event.
“Apparently many had slept in due to the previous night’s football match! There’s an indifference and apathy towards personal responsibility,” says Demetriades.
For Demetriades the lack of response was indicative of a deep social malaise.
“There’s a concerning issue which has been proven time and again, both in my professional experience and through the Youth Council’s experience, that there’s a general expectation that things be handed to them for free because they are unemployed, and it’s not their fault that they’re unemployed,” says Demetriades.
“I think it’s because the generation of parents that lost everything during 1974, fought to raise the next generation with nothing to want for. They were spoilt and got used to having everything given to them on a plate.”
What Demetriades wants these young people to learn is that although there aren’t enough jobs for everyone, people can learn to create opportunities. She plans more workshops for unemployed youths this year and this time hopes for a larger turnout.
We’re still a society in transition she explains.
“If we’re sitting on top of a mountain, what would the view be like? What each of us sees, affects the reality we co-create and how we move forward. If we all focus on overcoming our insecurities and focus on our individual true needs which are not superficial, then we find individual happiness. A happy society cannot be comprised of unhappy individuals. And a free society cannot be comprised of imprisoned individuals.”
Life Coaching workshop at The Home for Cooperation on June 27. 30 euro. Contact [email protected] for information
Emerging Voices is on very second Friday 4-5pm on www.mycyradio.eu