An Example Of Shifting Perspective


Last week I made preparations to lead a one week workshop on the fundamentals of looking for work. One week, twelve participants. I prepared for it as I would any other workshop; gathered the necessary supplies including handouts, notebooks, pens, notepads and made sure I had all the refreshments stocked and ready to receive. As I left work Friday afternoon, I looked over a room that was neat, welcoming, fully stocked and felt good. That feeling of being prepared allowed me to spend the weekend enjoying it fully, rather than feeling some growing anxiety about all the things I’d have to do upon arriving to work Monday.

So there I was, opening the doors to the room at 9:15 a.m. and hoping that in the next 15 minutes, 12 bodies would walk through the door. I say hoping rather than expecting, because history has told me that in most situations, a full house is seldom the case. Well, as it turned out, two of the twelve showed up. A third person came on the off chance there was an opening and so he was admitted too. 3 people, 1 week.

Now yes, I know that life happens. What I mean by this is that in the lives of the people I support, many face multiple barriers to employment. Many have dysfunctional families, physical and mental health issues, some just have poor decision-making skills, weak problem-solving abilities and so yes, some are on social assistance because they do not have the necessary skills yet to be successful.

Three is disappointing. However, what an opportunity for the three who did show up! I mean, they’ve got an enthusiastic and knowledgeable Employment Counsellor for a week to split between them instead of having an additional nine people to share me with. By the way, being excited for the three present rather than focusing on the nine absent is a shift in focus I want to stress. It’s so easy to be disappointed and let it show which can rob those present of your enthusiasm and passion. Unintentionally, you run the risk of making those who did show up feel less than worth your time.

Now sure I communicated to the staff who made those referrals to the program who showed up and who did not. It’s their role to follow up and determine next steps for the non-attendees after hearing why they failed to show. My focus is on the three.

It’s not always like this of course. Last month I taught a two week class on the basics of using the computer. For that class, fourteen showed up for a class that could only accommodate twelve people. Twelve started and twelve finished with perfect attendance. That was a special group of people; as is every class.

Without knowing the reasons why, it’s easy to make assumptions why people fail to show up for classes that are free, supportive, fun and beneficial. In addition to learning subject matter which helps them move towards self-sufficiency and financial independence, they receive additional funding for transportation, networking, sometimes funds for suitable clothing and/or grooming too. Then there’s the social engagement; connecting with others in similar situations and feeling less isolated. And in the case of this workshop, job searching support; a stronger resume and cover letter, help with preparing for an anticipated interview too. All free.

I’m not angry lest you think I am. No never angry.  I suppose I’m just disappointed. I know the opportunity missed to get all the benefits I’ve mentioned above. I understand the circumstances in which these people live and the pressures they are under. I get the stress that sets them up to make decisions I’d not make myself, and I know sometimes they have every intention on coming but they mix up a date or forget about it until it’s too late. I know they have childcare issues, they have poor health in many circumstances; a consequence of not being able to eat healthy foods as often as they should. I understand they don’t all have strong accountability either, both to themselves and others. You see I get all this.

I’m allowed to feel what I feel though too; disappointed. Disappointed for them not me. It took me no time at all to gather up what became excess supplies. That’s the least of my concern. A very busy week for me, constructing or revamping twelve resumes and writing twelve cover letters got a whole lot easier with only three. The energy I was prepared to expel shifting between twelve people with varying career/employment goals was going to be substantially more than it is now too.

Yes my job got easier – substantially easier. You’d think that as I’m getting paid the exact same wages for three as I would for twelve that I should be ecstatic. Ah, but I’m not. Now, my disappointment isn’t so deep that I’m walking around with a long face and moaning about things. Far from it my reader. I’m happy and invested in the three I do have. I can actually accomplish more for these three than I would have otherwise and we’ll have many more significant conversations.

For a time though, I’m permitted to consider the ??? that goes with the missing participants.

I’m thankful for what I have, not consumed with what I don’t. Hey, that’s  good enough for me and worth reminding myself of.

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