Well this blog has the potential to be read and discussed by more than just a few people. Before you read any further however, stop at the end of this sentence and consciously be aware of your first reaction to the topic heading and where you think it’s going. With that having being done, have you already got your angst up? Forming a position or a rebuttal without having actually read anything meaningful yet except the title? Open to whatever follows?
I was having a conversation two days ago with a woman who was scanning a job board. (Yes they do still exist). I started off by asking her what kind of work she was looking for, and she indicated a Waitress, Server, or even a position in the fast-food sandwich business. The problem however she said, was that she didn’t have anything she could really put on her resume. Can you guess why?
When I asked about that statement, I wasn’t sure if that’s because she had been fired from work and didn’t want to list the employer, she was new to the workforce altogether, or any number of other possibilities. And that’s when she said, “I don’t think Hooker or Prostitute would really look all that good on my resume”. I gave her an exaggerated stunned face on purpose and we both laughed a bit. Then the first thing I did was thank her for being honest with me, a guy she had literally just met and didn’t know at all. I could work with her better because of that.
First lesson for anyone out there working with a Job Coach or Employment Counsellor; be honest and forthcoming early in the relationship because you just waste time dancing around what to you seem like impossible issues.
So we discussed a few options. It’s important to do a skills inventory first so that a good match can be made between what employers are looking for and what a job seeker has to offer. Many people miss this critical step and expend a lot of time and energy pursuing occupations they are not suited for or qualified for. This woman who identified herself as a Hooker, had great interpersonal skills, assertiveness, solid eye contact, experience handling money, people skills, survival skills, street-smarts, good personal grooming, was organized, had solid time management capabilities and more than anything was self-motivated. In fact I’d say she was a hustler, but that would be a pun gone wrong.
“I hadn’t thought of things that way”, she said when I pointed out these skills; for when it came to a discussion of her skills, she initially said she had nothing she could legitimately offer a company. Re-positioning the outlook and demonstrating the transferable and marketable skills she had made an immediate and profound change in another key area, self-esteem. And she wasn’t talking to a man who gave her a look of disdain, judgement or lust either, and that helped I think. She was being talked to like anyone else with past employment skills and she didn’t really expect that she said later on.
So we talked about all kinds of options. We talked about how making a transition from the life of a prostitute to working for an organization in a traditionally socially acceptable job could be a great story for an interview; the ‘I’m making significant changes in my life to improve myself and that’s why I’m sitting in front of you today’ kind of answer. She could allude to that in a cover letter/resume and expand on it at an interview. It’s an option designed to be noticed and not forgotten that may get her to stand out from the other applicants. This can attract employers who want to be part of a turn-around someone’s life story. The downside is that unfortunately it may attract someone who thinks, ‘once a Hooker always a Hooker’ and is hoping for something they won’t get.
Another option is of course to leave it off the resume altogether and get an entry-level job such as she wants claiming to have no job experience – just re-entering the workforce; get her SMARTSERVE and Safe Food Handling Certificate to bolster her chances, and then that new job is her first job she lists on future resumes as she seeks better and more lucrative employment down the road. Other options we discussed included going to school to upgrade education, take a College program designed to train her for a career and keep her former life in secret or share as she chose.
We also discussed the idea that there are organizations that specifically assist former sex trade workers to go mainstream. They counsel, they provide job search services, they help with success stories, and have relationships with understanding employers who while they want legitimately skilled workers, will fairly and respectfully interact with these people in transition.
The bottom line I think is that whatever your personal feelings are about the choices others have made, if they eventually come and seek advice and counsel and you’re in a position to share your knowledge and expertise, it’s incumbent on us to provide that help as best we can. And it is well to bear in mind that a little empathy and genuine assistance is often what is most appreciated by job seekers no matter their background and history.