Thursday, November 1, 2007


For the past almost eight weeks, my son has been out in the world looking for a job. He had been laid off from his job, with a "call back" label, saying when work picked up, the job would be his again. After three months of living on the lesser pay of Unemployment, and with no sign of his former company calling him back, he began the arduous and unenviable task of job hunting.

The job he came from was material handling and he had done machining. Nothing he has ever done involved sales. And yet, when you go to look for work, what you really need to be is a top notch salesman--and the goods you're selling is YOU.

As I've listened to my son's daily encounters, the finding places that will take applications, the places that advertise, but then all the applications must be made through the state's employment center, the on-line applications now used by the small local branches who are owned by larger corporations, so everyone for all positions must jump through all the hoops of those larger operations . . . I think I was having as many nights of wrenched guts as he was enduring.

And then the call backs began to come in--the ones who said the job was already filled. The calls that set up interviews, set up "walk-throughs", the ones that announced "OK, the Next step is . . ." and then when you've jumped through that hoop" LOL . . .

All the time you're watching the calendar pages turn--the days seem to fly by, you can see the "ending" of the unemployment coming--and still nothing. So you push harder, you go to more places, where no one is asking for workers, but you want to get yourself out there. It doesn't help that we live in rural Iowa--twenty miles to the nearest decent-sized town, fifty to anything really respectable.

The interviews become acid tests--can you sell yourself to this person, today, right now, in the next few minutes--because if you can't do that, no matter how long the interview will go on, you've either "got" that person on your side or you don't! You can see if you have them or not in their body language, hear it in their voice, see it in their eyes. No sale--yes they will call you back with the results, yes, you know it might take a week or more, yes, you already know the answer is NO--you can see the "no sale" sign in their eyes. And when you're not a salesman, you really aren't sure what else you should/could/would do--and now the interview is over, and that door of opportunity has closed.

In my life, I've had to go out there and sell ME. I've never cottoned to it--but out of necessity, I've done it. In fact, I've been fairly successful at it. And in life, I've also been the person conducting the interviews, and felt, with compassion, the situation I was now inflicting on another human being. There was only so much I could do to lessen the angst--it seems inherent.

But watching my son go through it. That has been an entirely "other ballgame". It seems almost as heart-wrenching as watching him let go of my hand and climb up the stairs of the school bus that first day of school. There are things you find early on as a parent you cannot take off your child's plate. They have to go through these things alone. And as I listened to my son's daily job finding adventures, I wondered what I should have or could have done while raising him, to create a self-made salesman out of him---and is that what was needed?

He has been hired. He's now going through the drug screening, physical exams, all the hoopla of finalizing the hiring. It isn't that he has the job of his dreams that has him dancing--it's that the job hunting is over! I thank God for getting him to this job--even with the anxiety of starting a new job and being the "new kid" on the block, at least the selling task is over.

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