AmeriCorps This Week #6

Our Journey is Our Own

One interesting lesson I have discovered from three months of serving our customers at the Workforce Center is that some people who ask for help don’t actually want to accept it once it is given. We know from analyses on how humans filter information that people are twice as likely to avoid ideas that contradict what they already know. Put simply, people hear what they want to hear. This can be incredibly problematic in an environment where we strive to reduce barriers to employment.

For example, a woman came in today asking for help with a cover letter she had written. She was applying for a food services job and cited watching and taking notes from the television show by Dr. Oz as professional experience. Clearly, this information would not be appropriate for a professional cover letter. Rather than suggesting point-blank that she remove it, I conveyed this to her by mentioning that Dr. Oz’s credibility had come into question in recent news and that prospective employers may evaluate her based on that fact. However, she was very adamant about keeping it on her cover letter. This put me in somewhat of a dilemma. On one hand, it is our responsibility to provide well-informed employment advice that will assist our customers in securing a job. However, we are also obligated to respect the wishes and beliefs of our clients in a professional and understanding manner. I recognized that she was in a difficult situation, and was doing what she thought was right to convey her passion to a future employer. I gave her all of the advice I could, but ultimately it was her decision to accept or reject it.

I have noticed this issue manifesting itself in various ways over the past couple of months. No matter how many times we write down a customer’s email password, no matter how many creative ways we develop to coax our one-on-one’s to come in for their appointments, there will always be people who refuse to take our advice.

There is only so much we can do for our clients. This is a tough lesson to learn, especially when we want to do what we think is best for them. We can arm our customers with the tools and knowledge to succeed in finding a job. We can look over their resumes and set up their emails and run virtual recruiters for them on NC Works. But in the end, it is up to them to complete their own journey. We can show them the way, but they must walk their own path.

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