Yesterday I met with a woman following a two-week intensive job search with her. During that time I determined what she wanted, which is this case was a career as a Librarian Technician, Librarian Assistant, Information Specialist, Social Media Mentor, Information Researcher or Archivist.
Now with the exception of Social Media Mentor, she has recent education to support her career goal which would be working in the library system, but not in the role of a Librarian as that would require additional education. So you may find it curious then that I told her near the end of our conversation that in my opinion, she should delay going after her career goal which at this time she is likely to fail miserably at. Ouch! And I did use those words. You would have to be there of course to understand why I’d choose to use those words, but in the end, as an Employment Counsellor, they are the ones which I felt she needed most to hear.
You see at the moment, other events in her life are taking priority. One of the biggest of these is a prolonged effort to regain having her children which in the past were removed by a social services agency. She’s been working hard, (to her credit) to demonstrate to the agency that she is a fit parent, taking classes in good parenting, anger management and has been regularly meeting her children both on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Those are now two days a week when she puts visiting with them above working and all else.
So right off the bat, she essentially is saying to an employer that she wants to work, but isn’t available on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Now in addition to the above, she’s taken on some individual tutoring and has a few clients of her own which bring in some cash each month, but only a couple of hundred dollars. And then there are other things going on like an entire lack of family support and few friends upon which to gain any kind of emotional support.
Now the number of careers out there doing what she wants are few and far between. There just aren’t that many institutions and most aren’t hiring. She’s also limited by the geography in which she is willing to travel to again primarily due to the restrictions on seeing her children. So in essence, she wants a career in a field where jobs are few, is limiting herself in both the area she can work in and the days she can work, and is closed to considering employment outside her field.
This last point is interesting. I suggested to her strongly that at the moment, she would be wise to go after a job with a large retail chain that sells books and magazines. I pointed out that she’d get current experience on her resume to fill a void, be surrounded by books, use cataloging skills and research skills to find the right ones for people, and in so doing also have to learn their computerized database, another transferable skill. She dismissed this job before I’d even stopped talking – and that is something that always tells me the other person isn’t even listening.
Her point of few is that a job in retail is a failure. Apparently any job doing anything other than what she went to school for is a failure; utter and absolute with no middle ground. My argument was that in addition to the benefits I’d pointed out, a retailer might be more open to working around someone’s schedule, especially in the case of a part-time employee, than a Library where there were fewer employees and the position would be full-time.
It took a lot of doing, but eventually I may have got through when I pointed out that if the job at a national bookstore chain didn’t work out and she quit or was let go, that reputation wouldn’t likely follow her in her career. However, get fired for poor attendance and an inability to focus entirely while at work on the job in her career role, and that reputation could follow her and hamper other positions because the field is small, and those that hire network as a tight group.
I found it disturbing too as I mentioned that sees any work on the planet other than in those few positions listed earlier an utter failure. Can you imagine the self-pressure she’s put herself under than to see herself as a success? It’s like a scale from 1 – 100 where 100 is her career job, and 1 – 99 is a total failure. There is no room for any progression. You fail or you win. Period. I think many of us would have low self-esteem with such self-pressure to succeed under such self-imposed limitations.
And so, I told her in my opinion to put her career on hold and sort out the other priorities she has first so she can focus 100% on an employer’s needs in the future. In the meantime get a job; hopefully one with some transferable skills that she could use in the future at the interview for the career of her dreams.
Sometimes, the best advice; the words you need to hear, are words that might be the hardest to hear and the hardest to swallow. It’s not fun to tell someone they are their biggest barrier to employment, but is always helpful to be honest.