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.