This Job Has Changed My Life
“This job has changed my life.” A string of words in a sentence that signify hope, backbone, self-esteem, and an astounding will to win. Who was it who said this, and why? Months earlier, a career in human resources was about to begin and a hurried shopping excursion was underway to pick up last minute items for a new office. It was nine years ago when I held a position in HR and prior to starting a new job, boned up on HR law, policy, and hiring practices. For a newbie, all were good starting points. Returning to shopping mode, ideas were swirling about a tissue box to match the slate-grey office desk and credenza.
A Resolute Promise
While in the store, a woman shopping nearby called out my name. I turned and saw the face of a former classmate. We hugged and chatted and then walked outside and talked some more. We were both working now and life was filled with possibilities. We continued gabbing and exchanging exciting details about our respective new roles. As I went on about job details, she looked at me and said, “Don’t do what they have done. Don’t look at the length of time someone has been out of work.” Those words sliced like a jagged stone across the face. For a moment, silence filled the air. The stillness was disturbing. Thoughts immediately revolved around a five-year stretch of unemployment/underemployment with its resultant financial PTSD symptoms. Her words served as a painful reminder that the person I was five years earlier no longer existed. I resolutely replied, “I promise I will never look at how long a job seeker has been out of work.”
Returning to the world of work is easy. Removing gremlins-those encroaching thoughts revolving around the recurrence of job loss is not. Securing the expertise of an executive coach helped to dispel fear, gain strength, and continue moving forward. Knowledge and empowerment are critical to ongoing success following unemployment.
In theory, it all made perfect sense. Nevertheless, in real life, long-term unemployed gremlins live on. They resurface in a courtroom during property foreclosure proceedings. Gremlins gain a stronghold when a personal vehicle-a lifeline to a scheduled interview site is re-possessed. Moreover, when an unemployed job applicant arrives for a scheduled job interview, that individual is painfully aware that the chance of attaining employment is near zero.
Barricades and Barriers
Whether we realize it or not, we are all deeply influenced by our culture. Being painfully aware of the barricades and barriers obstructing the hiring of unemployed people, a revised interview process and policy were created in the new job that is inclusive, comprehensive, and professional. It is free of discriminatory and insulting comments about age, suggested memory impairment, and words relating to perceived lack of energy- words that strongly insinuate laziness. Grueling and lengthy questions about personal and professional weaknesses and failures-most of which are not HR’s business to begin with, are removed.
Instead, a policy and method capitalizing on strength and growth, not weakness works to elicit adequate skill level and job interest. Eliminating interview-eliciting blights and obstacles make the process relaxed, conversational, open-minded, and professional. This is a practice and technique which puts qualified people back into the workforce. The choice was clear-be an obstructionist in an already problematic workforce or an open-minded HR professional willing and able to hire the best-qualified people for available jobs. Many times, the star employee with the greatest set of skills just happens to be out of work.
A Human Resource Perspective
Respecting all job candidates for what they bring to the table build a better and stronger job force and economy. The focus includes professional skills and excellent character, job contribution and quality of life, career and educational growth, and knowledge of health care. The notion and excuse of “damaged goods” get replaced with an appreciation of clearly demonstrated job ability. Removing unnecessary defenses to job-re-entry contributes to a cohesive society, improved health, including mental health, and a more robust economy.
A long-term unemployed Registered Nurse stated, “This job has changed my life.” The words ran through my head as I walked back to my office and cried. The business owner came close to reacting the same way. Patients and their families rave about the job skills, professionalism, and quality of care demonstrated by this worker-as do office staff. Shuttering job re-entry in its various forms for long-term unemployed weakens a people and nation.
Choices for Leaders
While there has yet to be found a positive spin on the jobs crisis and long-term unemployment, following the characteristic pattern well known in today's business climate necessitated change.
In a minuscule corner of the world, two choices are available. The first is an accepted employment practice and way of thinking marked with multi-level issues including discrimination. This way of rationalizing keeps people out of work, desperate, and further contributes to loss of opportunities, dignity, property, and increasingly-loss of life. This is a hallmark of an across the board decaying society. Raising the minimum wage and entrepreneurship are not viable answers. Hiring a qualified job applicant is.
The second and only option pertains to a different vision and plan for change. People occupying this space today are successful in their work. Newly employed workers have walked away from public assistance in its various forms and trappings. Tax credits benefit the company. It is not hard for Human Resources to do the right thing in hiring practices. It is even less hard to respond with a yes rather than no when giving back is fittingly due.
In my practice, I have yet to see where a hire who was gainfully employed at the time of a job interview is more skilled, knowledgeable, or more competent that an unemployed hire. Having directly experienced job loss and job-reentry, the custom of extending job opportunities to unemployed job seekers has made great business sense-one which instills hope and leads to opportunity and better jobs up the road.
While no longer working in human resources, my current training and development skills result in fitness members and private clients gaining improved health, increased mental and physical strength and agility, and healthful eating habits-with the weight loss to show for it. Certifications and training in the physical fitness industry initially served as a back up career. In the new age of uncertainty affecting many, a second career choice proved to be the best choice!