Less than two weeks ago a young woman and I introduced ourselves to each other. Unemployed and looking for work, she voluntarily accepted an invitation to join a small group with whom I would take the lead and support while they searched for jobs.
When we first met, I looked at her existing resume and got an idea of her education and experience. Turns out she has a Community Service Worker Diploma which I was happy to see. So it was surprising on that first day when she announced to everyone in the group that she was looking for a job in Retail; or just about anything.
Ah the dreaded, “Anything” had raised its ugly head once again! Why on earth I thought to myself was this bright 29 year-old woman with this kind of education, ‘settling’ for an entry-level job outside her field of study? A natural question to muse about I thought at the time and had to look into quickly. After all, if I could get some time with her one-on-one, surely she’d open up and share which, in this case, would help me better understand her motive. Was it frustration with not getting to the interview stages, getting there but not being hired, not finding jobs to apply to? So many questions!
You have to understand that what I was in danger of doing at this point with almost no information to go on was projecting my value system on to her. People do this all the time don’t they; maybe you do too? You know, because we think someone has credentials and shows such potential they should be aiming higher, going for something better; something WE think is a better option for them. Transferring our own expectations on others.
I made it a point to sit down rather quickly with her and asked a number of questions to get at what was not clear just from looking at her. Without giving too much away here publicly, she mentioned that her last position was a poor personal fit and ended up with her termination. In addition to that experience, she has overcome some personal challenges (excellent news by the way!) which being very recent has left her a little depleted on the self-confidence meter. I mean great to have overcome them, but some passage of time without these reappearing would increase her belief that they are truly in the past.
In other words, the right job for her in the present; the job that she would best be suited for and fulfill many of her needs is a job outside her fields of training. When I listened to her without projecting my own expectations on her, I understood and empathized with her in a way that gave her reassurance that she was indeed going about things in a well-thought-out way. While she didn’t need my permission to do so, (and we both realized that) she did feel better knowing I wouldn’t be attempting to push her to try for jobs she wasn’t mentally prepared to succeed in a this time.
I’m thrilled to say that this allowed the two of us to connect on a more personal level. In sharing a little and finding reassurance and support, she was more at ease, truly receptive to learning, and it transpired into her demonstrating some excellent observable behaviours. She was the first one in class each day, the first to voluntarily contribute when I posed questions to the class at large and what I’m most happy to share is that she is the first one to have secured employment!
You know what else impresses me a great deal about this woman? In her email to me just yesterday in which she shared this success, she also indicated that despite having achieved her employment goal, she plans on attending both today and tomorrow; the last two days of class because she’s learning and enjoying the experience. Isn’t this the true sign of a winner? Absolutely; and she is. She also made me smile in that email when she mentioned that she had gone in with the reframed attitude that a job interview is really a conversation; and although it lasted an hour and a half, she and the employer had an excellent talk which ranged from the job itself to topics like the dogs they owned. She took what was shared with her and implemented it which resulted in her ultimate success.
So much to take away from her story. Of note, I’d urge you to give yourself permission to seek work that’s right for you at any given moment, even if it seems to others you’re underachieving. In her situation, this job will rebuild some self-confidence, offer some much-needed income, re-introduce her to what employers find attractive in the applicants they interview; punctuality, living up to employment expectations. She’ll improve her interpersonal skills, get a reference or two perhaps.
This is what she wants and needs now. Sure, in the future she may once more opt to pursue employment making use of her academic education. She didn’t ‘settle’ at all though did she? No, she actually identified what she was capable of and needed, then took the initiative to improve her skills and apply what she had shared with her and achieved her goal.
You have to applaud her and others like her; I know I do.