In the middle of February, I will be facilitating yet another intensive job searching group for a couple of weeks. This is a group of twelve people; handpicked by my fellow Employment Counsellors, who have in the recent past demonstrated they are self-motivated to find employment. In addition, they must have some basic computer skills, know the kind of work they want, be prepared to come dressed professionally daily, and above all else, be open to receive constructive feedback on how to effectively improve their job searching skills.
Now in my own case, I decided at the outset of first designing this program that I wanted to invite these people via the phone to the program rather than have a clerk fire off a letter of invitation. My reasoning is that over the phone, I can check their voice message if I get a recording, I can hear if it rings forever otherwise, hear the tone of their voice, how they talk on the phone etc. Also I can gauge better their situation and determine if their situation has changed which would preclude their participation.
And in one gentlemen’s case, I have found a unique problem. Upon reviewing the file, the referring person indicated that he doesn’t always have phone access, so he should be contacted by email. Now if I were looking for work and applying for jobs I’d have an active telephone. If money was the problem and I had to rely on email, you can bet I’d have it on all day so I could hear the ‘ping’ whenever I received one, or I’d be checking it many times a day. How odd then that I emailed this fellow on Tuesday of last week and have yet to hear from him.
If this fellow should reply to me prior to the class being full and get accepted, the first of many things I would do is issue him funds to get his phone connected and active. You don’t have to be an Employment Counsellor to understand surely that if an employer finds it difficult to contact you as a potential interview candidate, they are going to move quickly on to others who are likewise qualified. This is after all, a competitive market with many qualified job seekers for almost every position advertised.
This is self-destructive behaviour which is likely to sabotage ones job search, and doom a job search to a very prolonged matter.
So let’s assume – for assumption is all we have – that this fellow has money issues and can’t afford to put money into his cell phone and has no landline. Okay, now with that premise agreed upon, it now becomes a situation that reveals a persons problem-solving skills or a lack thereof. So what would be other potential solutions if we brainstormed a bit?
Well for starters, one might borrow the money from family or friends. There’s also the option of him asking his Caseworker or Employment Counsellor for up to $30 per month in his case to restore his phone to service. Then there are phones in local resource centres and employment agencies which are free of charge. In our resource centre we even have a message service. How it works is a person puts this number on their resume, and when they come to the centre, they can ask if they’ve received calls, then call them back. No phone, no problem.
And there are other solutions too, like making the phone a priority and doing without something else even when funds are tight. Now before anyone starts to educate me on how someone on social assistance has so little funds in the first place and can’t afford to short change themselves in some other area, I know all to well how hard it is to get by on the little they receive. I am not insensitive to this situation.
But it does seem a huge waste of energy and time to send out even a single resume and apply for a job if in fact you close off the very form of contact which an employer might turn to in order to invite you in for an interview. Yes while it’s true more employers do correspond by email than in the past, some still want to make personal contact so they can quickly ascertain if you are interested, your availability, and hear any enthusiasm in your voice. Why make things harder on yourself?
If this fellow has a computer with internet access, there are more options like Skype which can put him in contact with others, and if there is no internet access or he has no computer or smartphone, he is at yet another disadvantage. Unfortunately, until such time as he initiates a response to me via email, or should happen to make contact with another staff member of the organization, I am at a loss to be able to communicate with him and sort out the nature of the problem and offer a solution.
In you own situation, may I suggest that in this age of multi-communication media, you do your very best to make yourself widely available to being contacted. If you are going to list a phone number, ensure it can receive calls and that you don’t get it so filled with messages you are unable to receive more. If you list an email, check it and respond. Be accessible!