I am fortunate to count among my readers a broad cross-section of professionals, some unemployed and looking, or in school preparing to launch themselves into the field of their studies.
My appeal in this post is to actually speak directly to you who are clients receiving some kind of support and guidance, where you are sometimes told or asked to meet with a representative of an organization. This kind of meeting may be mandatory or optional, and you may look forward to it while others might see it as an intrusion; the price you pay for financial, spiritual or social support.
These meetings are wonderful opportunities for you to take advantage of. While the person you are meeting with might have their own agenda, such as updating your computer file every few months, you should recognize this as a chance for you to ask some questions of your own, find out what more the person you are meeting might be able to offer you or possibly help you do for yourself.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who come to such meetings without having done much thinking about its purpose; who sit in chairs provided, answer all the questions put to them, then get up and leave not having really engaged themselves in the process. What a shame!
As an Employment Counsellor, I often meet with clients 1:1 following various employment-related workshops I facilitate. This is a great time to give a person feedback on what I’ve observed, listen to the person talk about their goals for employment or schooling, and based on what I hear offer some suggestions. If however, it turns out that the person I’m meeting with limits themselves to short responses to questions I ask, asks no questions of their own, that meeting is going to be short and unproductive.
You see, you might want to get out of such meetings as fast as you can; viewing such face-to-face encounters as a wasted part of your day, having to travel there and back home, and for what? Just to go over the same old questions and give the same old answers? If that’s how you see things, then I guess you can be forgiven for not wanting to be there in the first place.
However, I wish that you could be a silent observer and watch some other clients in the same position as you as they go through the same meeting process with the same employee. You see, these folks come in willing to participate in the discussion; they want the opportunity to share what’s going on in their personal lives. This information is often valuable to the person listening; as a trained professional will be able to figure out what services, training opportunities or even what money might be available to help the person achieve their goals based on what they’ve shared.
So for example, if someone wanted to look for a job waiting on tables and serving alcohol but couldn’t afford the money to get the training in responsible alcohol service, the person hosting the meeting might have the funds to release so they could get the training, or know where to access it. If however the client says nothing, no help can be suggested, and the person’s goal is still only a wish.
Just yesterday I had two meetings I’d like to contrast as examples. One meeting was with a mature man who knows the construction industry. Being around 50, he sees himself working for 10 – 15 years but is trying to figure out what to do as he only knows construction and the body is making it harder to continue doing labour. So we addressed some options and he left with a plan.
The 2nd client showed up with her grandson and really just saw the meeting as a ‘where do I sign the required forms’ session. She was very nice, but there was no meaningful conversation to be had when the young pre-schooler was present and so actively robbing us both of a productive discussion. Was that her plan? I doubt it, but the entire meeting was less than 10 minutes. The conversation with the man? It lasted just over an hour, and he was surprised it went by so fast.
These are the chances and opportunities which you only get so often. How you view that meeting you must or could attend largely affects the outcome and whether you walk away feeling it was productive or not. I would encourage you to share your thoughts, your ideas, your problems and challenges. Be open and honest, listen to feedback and if you feel yourself being dismissed earlier than you’d like, arrange another meeting, or ask for more time. Some of my best discussions with clients actually happen when the client emails me ahead of time with questions they’d like answers to at our meeting, or things they’d like to discuss. That’s great! I’m always impressed and our time is much more valuable.
Truth is, this is YOUR meeting. You should take advantage of it. Will it be just a formality so you can go on with the day or will you really get involved in YOUR plan moving forward.
Now I really believe that as an adult, you are responsible for your own actions. You can choose your level of engagement or separation from the process, just understand the opportunities before you and the consequences of each choice.