Monday, March 16, 2009

Thinking Outside the Box

In a past life, I was a job developer for developmentally disabled adults. It was my job to assess their skills and find – or more commonly, create—employment for them. My favorite story from that life was for a young man, who we will call Joe.

Joe was born with muscular dystrophy. He was very heavy, had an electric wheelchair, and had partial use of one arm. He could feed himself, but all of his other needs were met by others. Joe began having increased behaviors in the day program and when asked could tell us that he really was not happy. I struggled to think of something for Joe to do. Finally, I put him to work shredding confidential documents. Confidentiality was not a problem because Joe could not read. The staff would divide the paper into piles that weighed a set amount, and keep Joe supplied. Joe would move up in front of the industrial shredder and feed the papers in, a few at a time, with his good arm.

We paid Joe per weight shredded. At first he was very slow, and his first check was somewhere around a dollar. When Joe received that check, he got tears in his eyes. He came up to me and he was grinning wildly. He wanted to buy me a hamburger! It was the first paycheck that this thirty-something year old man had ever received and his self-worth had skyrocketed!
Joe’s speed increased, and he was a very hard worker. He began receiving larger and larger paychecks. For the most part, his behaviors stopped. Instead of sitting around, trying to amuse himself, or having staff try to amuse him, he was now a working man.

I think my past lives have a lot to do with my attitude about the economy. I made a living out of thinking outside the box. Recently I was speaking to someone who was laid off. He knew the lay off was temporary, but needed to come up with some sort of gainful temporary employment in the meantime. It’s all about keeping your head above water! We discussed skills he had and resources available. In the end, it was all unnecessary because work resumed quickly.
What I’ve recently learned is this: In this economy, we don’t have the luxury of wallowing in self pity or getting depressed. We need to act, and act quickly. It’s a very slippery slope anymore. I have several game plans to put into place if my job situation goes awry. I urge you to do the same.

Make a list of your skills. If you are a parent, don’t forget the day to day things you do. Things like budgeting, food prep, cleaning, caregiving, shopping, etc. Make a list of your resources. There is always unemployment, the food bank, welfare services.

Let’s say you are a parent who has made a living working as a secretary. Your skills include all of the above plus typing, filing, time management, conflict resolution, computer skills, 10-key, basic repair services, troubleshooting, and so many more.

I once got a call for an interview at a Mongolian grill type place. It was after 6 years of being a stay at home mom. When asked on the application what qualified me for that position, I put that I had kept my family alive all those years! They were impressed by my candor and called me for an interview. Luckily for me, however, I was called on the first day of my job that led to my job developer position. My husband took the phone call and told them that he was looking for employment. They hired him!

That was a side story . Back to you as a secretarial parent. Your skills qualify you for not only secretarial positions but a slew of caregiver jobs, personal shopper positions, food prep, office management, fast food (all positions, including management), and so many more. When you are forced into a corner, think outside the box. Not all are going to be your dream job. Some will seem like miles backwards.

When I got that job as a caregiver for developmentally delayed adults, I worked in a day program. The job was not glamorous, nor was it always rewarding. I wiped noses, I changed diapers, I spoon-fed people. But I also taught a girl who they said ‘had no communication’ some basic sign language. And it worked into a position where I became the job developer!
So that’s the next big suggestion I have. Don’t be picky. Go out there, take something that brings home a paycheck, work every day thinking outside the box and you never know where it will lead!! We can all make it through, despite the economy.


Rose Works Jewelry said...

Love your positive attitude my dear :) thanks for the stories!

pigatopia said...

you are very strong and have a great view on life.

aquariann said...

Very touching and motivating entry. You have such a great outlook and positive attitude. :D

BrigaBauble said...

You did and continue to do-from what I've seen of your art-awesome work. Thanks for an interesting and upbeat take on today's economy.

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