Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Lessons from Ed

Last week, a quiet man came to my resume workshop.  I'll call him Ed.

It was a small workshop with only a handful of participants.  Most of the people were very outgoing and interacted without my having to call on them.  Ed paid keen attention to the group and always responded positively - if called upon.  But, he never volunteered an answer.

At the end of every workshop, participants fill out "survey forms" which are really an assessment of what works and what could be improved.  One of the questions is what did you like most about the workshop.  Ed's response was, "She loves what she is doing".  I was blown away.  He was so right - I do love what I'm doing.

What I learned from Ed is that quiet and observant go hand in hand.  When we stop talking and just observe, we can see beyond the words to what lies beneath the surface.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Lessons from Joe

In December, I met a young man I’ll call Joe in one of my workshops.  My job is teaching job search skills to people who unemployed.  Often, their body language is very negative – reflecting the pressures of trying to find work in the worst economy since the Great Depression.
But, Joe was different.  His face radiated a smile every time he entered the room.  He always asks how I am and remembers things I’ve mentioned in previous workshops.  There is a simplicity and innocence about Joe.  He somehow cuts through the clutter and goes straight to the heart of any discussion.  Yet, I sense he’s had to deal with some major life issues in his young life.
In our interviewing workshop, I asked him a practice question about making a difficult decision.  At first, he said that he has never had to make a difficult decision.  I knew that Joe had come to our career center to get his GED.  So, I said that deciding to pursue this goal must have been a difficult decision.
With a smile on his face, he told the class that this was actually a very easy decision to make.  He dropped out of school for personal reasons.  He promised his dad (whom I suspect was in his last days) that he would one day get his diploma.  So, he moved to Cape Cod to live with a relative and fulfill his commitment to his dad.
What I learned from Joe is that keeping your word is your best compass.  It makes it easy to choose which fork in the road to take.  I also learned that smiling is contagious.  By the end of the workshop, his smile and good humor had transformed the day for everyone in the room.