I caught myself yesterday in the act of projecting my own expectations of someone on to them instead of solely celebrating their achievement. It wasn’t a major gaffe, and it didn’t create any friction but that was only because I recognized what I was doing and changed my response. Maybe you’ve done something similar to this too.
You see, I am co-facilitating a brand-new initiative where I work; a one-week only, quick dive into the basics of job searching. My co-worker and I created this and have given it the name, Job Search Fundamentals. We invited 12 people in receipt of social assistance to partake; some are post-secondary students off for the summer and returning to school in September, and others are just looking for full or part-time employment. This program also bridges between two other programs we run, a three-week workshop looking at what employers want these days and a two-week intensive job search program with higher expectations that not everyone is necessarily up to.
One participant came highly referred by a colleague of mine. She’d taken an Office Administration program for 18 weeks prior to this week, as she had recognized that to compete successfully for employment, she’d need to upgrade her skills. Yes, she’s a smart one. Anyhow, she came highly referred and after having met her on the first day, I could immediately see why. She did all the small things that mark someone as ready, professional and committed to their ultimate success.
She constantly takes notes, writing down key information shared. Where others nod their heads and show they are listening keenly, she’s doing that and documenting what’s being shared with her because honestly, no one is going to remember all the gems shared with them as new ones come at them all day long. She smiles, laughs, engages with her fellow classmates, asks questions, has excellent eye contact with us as facilitators and most importantly, when it’s time to work independently, she has demonstrated a consistent ability to take what’s shared with her and then implement those new ideas into her own work. She’s in my so-called top 5 I suppose of people who have made a lasting, positive impression on me; she’s that good.
Yesterday her commitment to finding employment paid off. She received a call and stepped out of class and when she came back in, she was in a state of absolute jubilation. “I just got a job! I’m so excited!”, she said. Everyone was happy for her. Turns out this job she got was with a private education centre, where she’ll be working three days a week starting in September 2019. Between now and then, there will be some training in late May and early June before they recess for the summer. This was a job she was really hoping for among those she has been applying to.
Now me? As much as I’m happy for her, I couldn’t help but think, it’s only part-time and it doesn’t start until September. She can do better. While it pays more than minimum wage, the salary isn’t going to get her and her two children off of assistance; not without an increase down the road or additional hours at any rate. In seconds, I asked her then if her plan was to exit the program after only the three days, or was she going to complete the remaining two day and look for a second position to create more hours overall or find perhaps a better job that starts sooner, with full-time hours and higher income. She decided to remain and finish out the week with us to everyone’s delight.
So, there I was, wanting more for her; seeing more potential in her, knowing she could win herself a position with more hours, higher pay, benefits, etc. I even started to share this with her – removed from the group where we discussed the details of the job. And then, I caught myself. I was in the act of projecting my expectations for her on to her; trying to get her to see things as I saw them. It was like I was saying, “I’m not as excited as you are… you can do better.”
Luckily, I stopped and changed my mindset. While I know some of her life’s journey to date, maybe this is exactly what she needs and all she can handle at the moment. It may be perfect for her, allow her the summer with her two children, and have this job to look forward to in the fall when they return to school. Maybe as she gets into the role, she will indeed want more, gain confidence in her abilities and with this job on her future resume, compete better for a job that does indeed have her realize her financial independence for good. In other words, in her time, not my time. It’s her life, not her life as scripted by Kelly Mitchell; well-meaning and meaning-to-be-helpful me. So yes, I’m excited for her and thrilled to see the way she shared that excitement for the others around her to join in because jubilation is contagious.
I share my experience as a reminder to us all. We may want more for those we see great potential in. It serves us well to celebrate progress in others, be aware of our own expectations and avoid imposing or projecting them on others.