Yesterday I had two significant conversations with two different women; both unemployed, both looking for work, both going about it however with different strategies.
The first woman I spoke with and listened to, is a woman who attended a resume writing workshop a couple of weeks ago which I facilitated and then later worked with 1:1. She’s a single mom with a girl on the cusp of becoming a teenager. On top of all the usual anxieties, the child is also dealing with the fallout from an abusive father which has caused some separation anxiety, and that’s translated into several calls to mom a day from school or from home when she’s there without mom for short periods.
The state of affairs has made it difficult for this woman to look for employment. Nonetheless, there she was in the drop-in resource centre yesterday, pulling up job postings she was qualified and interested in, writing cover letters and tweaking her resume for each job posting. She smiled the whole time she and I were together, and while her teeth could use some cleaning, that was the least of her worries at the moment, so I left that discussion for another time and took the smile as gifted to me.
Seems to me that before she can really look seriously at taking a job – any job – she’d have to first get some reliable support systems in place for her daughter in addition to the counselling she’s had. Without these supports, no employer is going to tolerate or allow the high frequency of personal phone calls she currently gets from her daughter to be assured everything is okay. To this she was receptive and agreed, and she took down in writing the few suggestions I gave her for help in her local community. By concentrating first on eliminating the need for constant phone contact from her daughter, she could then concentrate herself on finding employment. To do otherwise would be to take work and then be fired in short order for the interrupting phone calls taking her away from her job. What struck me most about her were her positive attitude, gratefulness for help received and her words of thanks for the suggestions.
The 2nd woman I had a conversation with was actually over the phone. This individual had previously agreed to attend an intensive job finding group I run but didn’t attend stating she had the flu on day 1 and then on day 2 she said her 5 year relationship had just ended and she couldn’t attend. As I’m putting together another of these groups, I called her offering her a 2nd chance to participate in May. Everybody deserves a 2nd chance. When I called, some of the first words out of her mouth were that if the program I was running was in May, she couldn’t attend. Well that ended the offer, but I was curious to know what was going on in May that made attendance impossible.
This woman told me that she was taking some time in May to spend with some friends who were going to Europe for a year, and she was spending some time with her dad which she doesn’t get a lot of. Later she also mentioned a move sometime in May complicating things. I mentioned to her that I would remove her from the waiting list I keep as job searching wasn’t her top priority at the moment. I went on to tell her that she could possibly be re-referred in the future if and when looking for work became her prime focus; and then she told me she was offended by my comments.
Now I was taken by her words. Clearly she’s made a decision to focus on spending time with both her friends and her father; throw in relocating from one place to another and job searching is moving down on the list of her priorities. I pointed that out to her, and that she wasn’t being judged in any way by me, but the program I ran was for people who were 100% focused on getting work, and to include her at this time would be setting her up for failure. I honestly think she just didn’t like me putting it so clearly; she values friends and family at this time above finding employment.
I contrast these two women and the efforts they are taking to find work. The first woman is looking for a general labour position in a factory, has a grade 12 education but understands the value of work. The second is University educated and looking for a career in the legal profession. Would you have guessed this or would you have switched the education and job goals around?
Look, Life happens to everyone; priorities for some people remain fixed and for others priorities are fluid and change. Some put the emphasis on family and friends above all else, while some prioritize employment and financial independence. It’s really all about the choices people make; and in both situations I neither judged their actions, nor insisted on a change in their behaviour or priorities.
The behaviour and words of both these women made very different impressions on me. Think on your own choices and the values you hold that guide those choices. The values you hold will determine which of these two you identify with and whether or not you take offence or not.