Opportunities Squandered


Most who facilitate classroom instruction will tell you that a classroom full of adults and a class room of high school students should be instructed using very different techniques.

My first introduction to this concept is still as fresh in my mind as the day I experienced it first-hand sitting in my first university Sociology class. I can recall the Professor telling us he wouldn’t be taking daily attendance because it was up to us to get what we needed by being present; we were accountable to ourselves. That has stuck with since that September morning way back in 1979!

So zoom ahead to 2015 and I’m the person at the front of a room and I’m facilitating employment workshops with adults, all of whom are either underemployed or out of work entirely. I’m doing my part in similarly trying to make people accountable first and foremost to themselves for both their attendance and their success.

I’ll be honest with you that things haven’t changed much since 1979 as I’ve experienced them. Personally I was the studious one who never skipped a class and really wanted to soak up whatever someone was trying to educate me on. I was open to learning and while I didn’t agree with everything being taught, I did so if I couldn’t come up with a counter point of view based in experience and fact.

In a group of 12 invitees to an employment workshop I’m running for two weeks, here’s what I’ve observed: 1 never bothered to show up at all – for the second time by the way. 4 have missed one or two days of the 7 we’ve had to date with questionable reasons. One in fact won’t even tell me why she was absent one day.

So why let such people continue on in a class at all? Well some people wouldn’t quite frankly. In fact one of my colleagues has a rule that you cannot miss a single day in the first of her three-week class or you’re out. That’s her call, it’s her program.

Me, I figure that I’ve explained the expectations even before class began in a personal 1:1 chat and they agreed to the conditions. the only one in fact they are hurting is themselves. Disappointing, disrupting, disrespectful – absolutely. Do they really care about these things? No, not always. But if they are to be truly treated as adult learners I’ll teach and share with them what I can, when I can. If you aren’t present, you can’t learn.

Now of course the real world doesn’t work this way and I’ve told them all this. Miss time away from work with no excuse and you’re gone. And if you can’t commit to being at a class for 2 weeks to help you get a job, how on earth are you going to perform should you get one?

There are some consequences which at least one of them will feel personally today. A colleague of mine who helps match our clients with employers who have job openings asked me for the resumes of the people in my group. I gave them to her and then she asked me who were my ‘A’ and ‘B’ people. Those whom have shoddy attendance, who have been less than committed to their own job search and have been idle, she doesn’t want to pass on to employers with whom she herself is trying to build a reputation with for sending quality people. So some are going to get interviews for real jobs, and some will undoubtedly think it unfair they didn’t get a chance. They did get a chance however. They didn’t make the most of it.

My advice is pretty straightforward; all the people you interact with are constantly observing your behaviour and sizing you up. Your behaviour ultimately predicts how you are going to act in the future. If you want inside leads on jobs, help, advice, good references, people to speak well of you, etc. demonstrate through your actions that you are deserving.

One of those in my group is disappointed she hasn’t had a job interview yet. Ironically in my opinion, her ‘interview’ started on day one when she walked in my class. I’ve been evaluating her since then and watching how she participates, her commitment to her own success, how she handles adversity and disappointment, how she copes with life events outside the class. No it’s not a job interview with a job on the line at this time, but I could be a reference in the future and either be a great one to extol her virtues or politely decline when asked because I would tell the truth.

If you want others to help you, you must first decide to help yourself. It stands to reason that if you aren’t committed to your own success, other people are going to stop going out of their way to really work hard on your behalf. If you get a job lead, follow-up on it. If you are told you should get out from the screen and knock on doors, ask for interviews, make some phone calls, do some research, etc. you should.

Opportunities don’t come along as frequently as we’d like. When they do come along, we always have a choice to seize them, dabble in them or let them pass us by completely. We always have a choice and it’s our decisions that define us.

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