A few years back now, I had the honour of meeting a woman named Susan. I’m actually going to use her real first name because it’s a common name, and I could be talking about several people I know, but I’m sure she’ll recognize herself. While I’d normally alter the name, or seek the persons consent first if I was going to blog and use her real name, I have decided to chance it, because I want her to be surprised if and when she reads this and I think she’ll be pleased with how I feel and what I write about her.
Susan was a social assistance recipient the first time I met her. What brought her to this point is not what I’ll write about, because I want to demonstrate what she did and continues to do, from that point forward. We were brought together in a workshop I run called, “Worksmart”; essentially a two-week job searching group. I’d pass on tips, strategies for getting interviews and job offers, and the participants would apply themselves to the task of job searching and hopefully make progress toward obtaining job interviews and offers.
Susan was highly genuine. When it was her turn to get some 1:1 help with me, I was always struck by this quality. She wasn’t overly polished, didn’t put on airs, or try to be something other than herself, but she worked really hard at bringing out the best in herself that she could. Susan listened, participated, laughed at her self and with others, she expressed her optimism and her frustrations equally, but more than all this, she put forth the effort.
When you’ve been out of work for a period of time and you take part in something like I’m describing, the general tendency is to start off with enthusiasm and hope because you’re dealing with an expert and getting support. However, that soon wears off for some because when you are being encouraged to try things that are uncomfortable and difficult at first, it requires a lot of trust and effort and it’s too easy to fall back on whatever you were doing previously, even though to people on the outside this seems counter-productive.
Like I said, it’s been a few years now, and in a nutshell here’s what’s happened since. She had big hopes initially of working with a nearby Municipality in an administrative function. She even knew someone who encouraged her, and kept scouring for opportunities to apply. She’d apply for those jobs, and would listen to me when I suggested she consider creative ways of achieving her end goal such as applying for Crossing Guard positions with the Municipality just to get on the payroll where she’d be considered and internal candidate in the future.
She obtained a job albeit not with the Municipality, but it was short-lived. After a couple of jobs that were not good fits, she has recently landed with a Canadian-owned building supply business, where she is working in retail. With no previous experience in retail, she is finding this a good fit, and doing well by her account. She likes her job, and it may lead to either advancement with the company itself but at the very least gets 2013 and 2014 on to her resume, preventing unwanted gaps. She’s picking up and learning customer service skills, establishing relationships for future networking and references, and getting paid enough that she’s not on social assistance.
Now she’s not in her previously stated job of choice, nor with her employer of choice. But she’s a winner. Oh yes, she’s a winner. Susan is smart enough to be versatile, and in a tight economy with many competitors, she’s taking action to stay competitive. And here’s another thing that impresses me personally; she emails or calls from time-to-time, just a brief two or three-line email to tell me how she is doing. Why bother doing that? I think it’s because she’s genuine like I said before.
On this Sunday just past, Susan emailed again and I love getting her updates as brief as they are. They tell me that I had some impact on her, and I’m so glad she knows that although it was my job that brought the two of us in contact with each other, that it is me as a person that is interested in her ultimate success. Susan does more for me with those little contact emails than she probably realizes.
Those who have never worked on behalf of and with people probably don’t get it, but boy is it nice to know somebody stays in touch long after the ‘working relationship’ is over. That says more about that person than anything they may have said when they were sitting down in person years ago face-to-face.
So I’ll continue to pull for Susan, and for Cristian and Paul, all of whom write from time to time to keep me up on how they are doing. Unlike Susan and Cristian, Paul is still struggling to find employment; he’s looking for office administrative work by the way, and his going to succeed eventually. They all have the professional courtesy to stay in touch and maintain the relationship. Good people doing good things that deserve good jobs and will shine if and when hired by the right employers.
If you previously worked with someone who helped you along the way professionally or personally, think about possibly dropping them an update. It’s good manners and has quite the impact!