The majority of people I come into contact with professionally have as one common denominator, the lack of employment. Those that do have a job are almost always dissatisfied with the one they have at the moment and are looking to find another; one that will ultimately bring they greater happiness, be more of a challenge, stimulate some new skills, increase their financial health etc.
As an Employment Counsellor therefore, I find myself working with others when they are often vulnerable and emotionally fragile. Sometimes the good skills and strengths they have are obscured, not immediately obvious, and this isn’t because the person is consciously trying to hide them, but rather because they have come to doubt those strengths.
In asking someone to both show and share their good qualities, strengths and that which they take pride in, it can be a very intimate discussion. While a person who has only recently become unemployed has much of their confidence and self-awareness intact, someone experiencing prolonged unemployment may feel very little to be proud of. In fact, there are some who, while looking ‘normal’ on the outside, are walking around feeling they are completely devoid of anything of any value. Sad to say, they cannot think of anything whatsoever they like about themselves, they have no faith that anyone would ever choose to hire them, and this isn’t modesty in the extreme, it’s a void of identity.
So imagine you’ve come to find yourself as such a person. You honestly see nothing in yourself that would be attractive to a perspective employer. Skills, mental health, self-confidence, experience, education, attitude all empty and wanting; doubt, lack of self-worth, zero energy, high vulnerability all in great supply. Now you hear others advising you to market yourself to employers, to ‘fake it ’til you make it’, and you just feel so much more out of sorts and incapable. You’re literally incapable and immobile. There’s no way you can do that; you can’t even imagine yourself for a second ever being what your being asked to be. The interview therefore is a non-starter. There’s just no way you can perceive self-marketing yourself and being the first choice of any employer over others.
Let’s not delude ourselves here; helping and supporting such people is no small undertaking and it’s going to take a significant amount of time to aid such a person as they rebuild their self-image. Incapacitated is how they feel, not belligerent nor unwilling, just not physically or mentally capable of doing anything in the beginning to get going.
Can you also imagine therefore in such a picture which I’m trying to create for you, that such a person is going to have many setbacks? Sure they are. There will be many false starts; where they agree to try something you’ve suggested and fail. Where they lack the skills you and I might assume they have to circumnavigate even the simplest of barriers. Good intentions get them going, but without support they fail to move ahead. In fact, small setbacks become magnified in their eyes and thinking; more reasons to feel a failure.
A real danger is to look from the outside at such a person and judge them to be lazy, improperly motivated, unwilling to move ahead, happy to stay where they are and heaven forbid – not worth the effort. These are people who are susceptible to scams, vulnerable to being misled, easily taken advantage of – largely because they have come to look for others to tell them what to do and take care of them, and as such they are often abused financially, emotionally; and each abuse makes their distrust of someone with the best of intentions all the more real.
Wow! Helping such a person seems to get harder and harder with every paragraph I write. Think of the investment of time, effort and with such a high probability of failure, are you up for the challenge? After all, why not turn your attention to helping other people who have higher probabilities of success? That would seem so much easier!
I tell you this; there is immense self-satisfaction in working with people who are so innately vulnerable. Seeing the good in people; not for what they might become but for who they are at the moment – this is often extremely challenging but so worthwhile. It’s like saying, “Until you have the ability to believe in yourself, accept that I see much of value in you; that I believe in you.” Sending that kind of message, that this person is deserving of your attention and your time is something to start with.
You might not of course have what it takes to help such people. This doesn’t make you a bad person or flawed in any way. It just means your wish to help people lies in other areas, helping in other ways with other issues. You’ll make mistakes as you go and that’s to be expected and natural. You’ll make mistakes after years of service too, and you’ll always keep learning from those you work with who are unique from every other person you meet. You’ll never get so good you’re perfect for everybody you meet.
It’s been said that Hope is the last thing one has to lose; that when all Hope is gone, there’s nothing left. Now what if in their eyes, you represent that final Hope?