One of the most informative and eye-opening aspects of working one-on-one with customers at the Career Center is the opportunity to hear their individual stories. Our clients come from a variety of backgrounds, and the often harrowing experiences they share are a testament to the indiscriminate nature of unemployment. For instance, I have recently been working with a client at the North Regional Library during my outreach who is currently disabled and is looking for part-time work. She has experience as a top salesperson at various large car dealerships in the area. She told me how she was making a six figure salary and lived in a large house with her daughter. She went on expensive vacations and was truly enjoying every aspect of her life for several years. When she showed me her resume, she told me about all of the awards she received because she was the top closer at her dealerships, an achievement even moreso distinguished because she was a woman. I was really inspired by her work.
However, all of this changed after she broke her neck when she was hit by another vehicle in a car accident. Now that she is receiving disability payments, there are only a certain number of hours she can work each week. She went to her most recent employer to ask if she could work part-time hours, and they denied her. Even after her years of dedication as a top sales employee, which often involved being called away from her vacations to close a deal, the company she had put her life into was no longer interested in working with her. Since then, she has been coming to the library every day that it is open and looking for jobs. She spends at least two hours on the computer searching for and filling out online job applications. It has been a month and she has not heard back from anyone yet.
Her story really impacted me because what happened to her could happen to anyone. In a flash, her life was completely and permanently changed. She lost her job, her house, and the ability to walk normally. She didn’t make any wrong turns in life. She wasn’t lazy or reckless. In fact, she was just the opposite: a hardworking, dedicated saleswoman making a name for herself in a male-dominated field. Now, she is overqualified for most of the jobs she will be applying for, and her age will be a factor for any prospective employers. She is in an incredibly tough situation. Her experience gives me perspective and a sense of gratitude for my own circumstances. We live in a very materialistic society that focuses on competition, individuality, and external gratification. Knowing that many of things we prize and value could be taken away from us at any moment is important, because it reminds us of what is truly worth cherishing. At the end of the day, the people who support and care for us are the ones that really matter.