“When faith gives way to fear
When motivation disappears
All is lost if one abandons Hope”
These are the final 3 lines of lyrics from the 1977 song called, “Hope” by a Canadian band called Klaatu. Lovely song and you might like a listen.
These lyrics come into my head often in the course of my work; meeting with and interacting with people who are either unemployed or dissatisfied with their current job or career.
For many, that period of adrenaline and excitement at the prospect of breaking away from a job or employer they want to leave behind has past, That initial optimism that came with having made a decision to land a job and the belief that it wouldn’t take too long has ebbed and been replaced with doubt and worry. Those of us who work as Employment Counsellors and Coaches know intrinsically that this is often the point we interact with such folks; their belief or faith in their ability to find meaningful work is giving way to the fear that they won’t.
When we meet for the first time and walk awhile together, each on our own career journey, it’s hope more than anything else riding on this relationship. And thus, it is critical for us to remind ourselves of this because it’s far too easy to get distracted and caught up in the files and job boards that need updating, the academic courses we’re undertaking or the break we’re overdue for. In other words, tuning in to the person before us and empathizing with them is critically important. In these moments, we have a caseload of one person; the person before us. We are their hope.
Now for me personally – and I’m only going to speak for myself here – I do my best to offer the support and partnership to others that I’d benefit from the most if the tables were turned and it were I seeking help to find meaningful work. One of the biggest mistakes I believe we can make in this occupation is failing to appreciate that those seeking our help are intelligent enough to tell when we’re not focused on them. Whether a person has a grade 8 education and is after an entry-level job or they hold a Master’s degree and are hunting a senior position in a multi-national organization, people know when you’re distracted or zeroed in.
There’s a cartoon that just came to mind which has two employees under a customer service sign facing a long line of shoppers. The one says to the other, “This job wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the people.” Hmmm….
Ah but we’re human aren’t we? We have things on our minds such as the struggles our children are going through, the housework that’s waiting for us when we get home, the groceries that have to be bought and the parents we have to visit when we finally do get a chance. We are entitled to be concerned and think about these and the many other things going on in our own lives because yes, we are humans too. And because we’re human, sometimes these ‘things’ enter our minds at the most inopportune times. We don’t consciously seek out things to distract us, they just come calling. So we have to work harder to focus.
But back to that bit about giving the level of service we’d like and expect were it us on the receiving end. I know you can recall times when you’ve felt like someone’s lower priority. Customer service is promoted all the time as a key qualification in so many jobs but it doesn’t always translate into the experience received by customers and clients.
One tip I have found that serves me well is turning away from my computer keyboard and facing the person seeking help head on. Giving them 100% of my body language communicates that they have my full attention and I’m listening. This isn’t symbolic. I know I can hear the words they speak even if I look away, but I need their facial cues, their posture, their eye contact (or lack thereof) etc. in order to fully take in the complete message they are communicating. This avoids miscommunication and encourages them to share what they otherwise might not.
The short of it is by investing in the conversation, I invest in the person. When this is done, they feel hopeful in the depth of the relationship being established, because here is a person who is listening – really listening. Although that story they’re telling has been heard by me before, I’ve never heard it told by THIS person.
And then it clicks into place; hope. When it’s time to turn back to a computer screen, the job seeker feels fully heard and understood, feeling they are my priority.
If you’re considering joining us in the employment coaching or counselling field, I sure hope you appreciate that you’ll be someone’s beacon of hope; many if you’re good. We need empathic, caring and compassionate people, focused on serving others in partnership as we walk for awhile together on our career journeys. You’ll be enriched, you’ll be challenged and you’ll fail sometimes by the way. If you don’t fail every so often, you’re playing it safe.
Be a lighthouse shining a beacon of hope for those you serve today!