of the impact of feeling seen, valued and respected…and NOT!

Through one of my career services contracts, I have the opportunity to work with young incarcerated adults, soon to transition back into the community.

As soon as you pass through the door leading into the locked area of the jail, the message is clear!  The walls are bare and painted a dreary tan.  The young people called down to meet with me are dressed in orange jumpsuits with “ACJ INMATE” stamped in black across the legs;  their expressions and body language reflect this.   When I first introduced what I call “the workplace preferences auction,” I got a lot of blank stares.

 “You have $10,000 to spend at this auction,” I explained.  “ASK YOURSELF, how much you would spend to win one or more of these ‘workplace preferences’?” 

And the bidding began! …It was almost as if a spark had been ignited within each of the young people present… The energy level jumped and so did real engagement!   As Trinity Alliance Re-entry Director Andre Morris remarked, “I don’t think I ever saw Shawn smile before!”

And while 17 year old Shawn was reticent when he first entered the room, he soon called out, “$3,500” for “ a position which requires selling either a product or service/and if you’re good at it, your earnings will reflect that!”  Even 18 year old Marlene, who was to be sent upstate for a longer sentence, jumped in. “$5,000,” she stated, for the “opportunity to build my technology and computer skills and find employment in this area.”  That’s my thing,” she explained.  Shawn jumped in again!  “2,000,” he said clearly, when he heard “opportunity to gain worldwide recognition for my accomplishments.”  When I probed a little, Shawn shared that what he most wanted was respect from an employer!

By asking each of the young adults what was important to them, what mattered to them, they suddenly felt visible…Their feelings mattered…and thus, so did they!

An important reminder for all of us!…whether the individuals – for whom we advocate, coach or supervise – are living within the community or not,  employed or not, whether they have a graduate degree or left high school without a diploma or whether they live with a disability or face other challenges…genuinely noticing, valuing and conveying respect for their unique talents, interests and goals – does really matter! 

And when I meet individuals who initially tell me that they don’t have any talents, I don’t believe it for a minute!  In fact, I am invigorated by understanding each person’s uniqueness…
the interests, goals, strengths and challenges that they bring to the job seeking/career exploration process!

And yes, I assist individuals to identify/target a particular job (or jobs) that excite them and build on their experiences and skills.  I work with them on creating a strong resume that highlights their strengths and skills.  We work together to find the most effective ways to present (and sell) themselves in a job interview and informal networking…and I work with individuals on-the-job to build self-advocacy skills in the workplace.

But at the core – what truly makes a difference for both job seekers and employees – is my ability to  appreciate each person’s unique strengths and abilities!

“I feel a lot more confident in doing job searches on my own.  What was helpful from Marsha was her reassurance and confidence she has in you!”  “I feel more confident in my training and achievements…and feel ready to interview and put my best foot forward.”  “I learned to be more explicit about my work abilities to showcase the best of my potential!”

I look forward to meeting you at one of the free one-on-one sessions or workshops offered at numerous libraries throughout the capital region!  Dates for sessions this Fall will be posted on the EVENTS page once firmed up.  Keep a look-out!


Career/Workplace Coach and Trainer

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