Tuesday, March 29, 2011

It's the Small Things that Make a Day Remarkable

There are some days in life that don’t seem particularly remarkable on their own but there are moments that will make them remarkable in your mind for a long time to come.

For example, today was remarkable because I got to make someone very happy. It’s a lovely feeling.

Part of the reason I was not happy in my last job (besides bad bosses, optimistic bathrooms and office politics) was because I didn’t get to work with people. As a general rule, I quite like people. Granted, there are days like I had on Saturday where I just feel crotchety towards the whole human race because they seem to be working against me but, for the most part, I generally like people. They’re unpredictable. They don’t always do the right thing. Yet they also make life nice and interesting. Also, it feels really good to help someone. I like helping people.

In my job, I see all types of candidates. I see the ones who aren’t employed because they were laid off and the job market has just been bad. I see the ones who aren’t employed because they were ‘let go’ from their job. One thing I have learned is that when someone was ‘let go’ from a job, they were never “fired” and it was never their fault. It was always the fault of the manager or the HR department. While I think in some cases, this may be the case, usually if someone was ‘let go’, there was a reason. It takes a while to dig to the reason.

During an interview, I’ve learned that I have to be sneaky to whittle out the good candidates from the weirdos. Another thing I’ve learned is that everyone is a little bit of a weirdo. Most of the time it’s manageable and it doesn’t really show. These are usually candidates who are currently in a job but want more money or more of a challenge. The candidates who haven’t had a job in a while but have been on a ton of interviews to no fruition…well, they’re a little trickier. Usually, I try to do in-person interviews with these folks. That way you can see them while they’re talking to you and it helps you figure out what might be ‘wrong.’

Sometimes, as awful as it is to say, it’s apparent quite quickly. For example, there are candidates that show up who clearly don’t bathe much. Sitting in a small conference room with them and having the door closed actually makes it quickly apparent that it might be a little hard to work with them. We can’t really discriminate against them but there are times when we do have to suggest that if they get an interview with a client, they need to be clean and tidy.

We’ve had candidates with no teeth. Quite a few of them, actually. I try not to discriminate on something so minor as having no teeth but it’s a little…offputting. We still try to send these candidates on interviews but we can’t control our clients’ reactions and, sadly, if they have a problem with toothlessness, we can’t force them to hire a candidate. It sounds mean because, after all, maybe they have no teeth because they have no job and I really WANT to help them find a job so they can get teeth but we have little control over if candidates actually get hired.

I’d like to take this opportunity to point out that I am not a bad person and I try to respect every person and so if I have someone come in who’s missing, say, an arm or a leg, I wouldn’t discriminate against them AT ALL. It’s harder with teeth. I can’t explain why. It just..is.

Maybe it’s because people with no teeth have a less interesting ‘story’ than someone with a missing limb. A missing limb could have been bitten off by a shark or mangled in a lawnmower. Missing teeth if knocked out in a fascinating way generally get replaced. If they’re missing without replacement, they probably just fell out. That’s not such an interesting story, say, as my dad’s story- he lost several teeth as a youngster by playing on a slide. They were playing “bridge’ where one person straddles the slide and the other kids slide underneath. My dad was the bridge. He fell off and knocked his teeth out.

My dad has a story to go with his teeth. He also have false teeth. He likes to flip them down so he has this rather creepy skeletal grin and do a slow wave. It makes me laugh every time. Also, he lost his teeth in the English Channel once. That’s another story to go with his teeth. Still, most of the time if there are false teeth involved, you don’t know they’re false teeth. Thus, if a candidate comes in without any teeth, false or real, you can’t help but wonder why they don’t have any teeth but you can’t ask their story.

That was a rambling about teeth especially since it most likely was a thinly veiled attempt not to make myself sound evil for judging someone based on their teeth. Or lack thereof.

Anyway, moving on, sometimes candidates come in and they seem normal. Then you ask them something as simple as “what’s your dream job” and they spend ten minutes explaining how it would be rebuilding antique cars. Now, while I think that’s a perfectly respectable ‘dream job’, it’s not terribly helpful. What I prefer is someone who says, “my dream job would be to work on antique cars but since that’s not very realistic, I’d like a job that fits my skillset, provides me with a challenge in a company that doesn’t suck.”

When I don’t get that response but, instead, a ten-minute diatribe regarding the beauty and freedom of the antique car, it’s a little…disturbing.

In short, what I’m trying to say with my ramblings about teeth, antique cars and amputated limbs is that it’s important to interview candidates in detail because it does actually work out. Which leads me to the original topic of today’s blog: Helping people.

A few months ago, one of my first placements was a lady who’d been out of work for a while and feeling down about it. When I told her she had a job offer, she was so excited, she hugged me and promised to send people my way. That was a good day and it made me love my job.

The best part is that she did send someone my way. It was a friend of hers who’d been laid off and had been out of work for months. Then she found a very low-paying job that made her miserable. When I talked to her, there was a certain level of empathy on my part. Having had a job where I had to psych myself up to get out of bed and go into the office every day and how I had to make sure to control my urges to strangle people with a yoga strap, I knew what she was going through. Thus, I wanted to help her.

Today, I got to tell her we’d found a position for her and that she’d be starting in two weeks. When she came in almost immediately to fill out her paperwork, she was so happy, she was almost crying. She gave me one of the hugest hugs and “thank you’s” I’ve ever had.

That’s why I do my job. The paycheck is nice. I like my coworkers. My office is nifty. I like that I get commissions and incentives.

Yet, honestly, cheesy as it sounds, that’s the best part of my job. It makes me feel like I’ve done something nice, something that’s slightly remarkable because I’m helping someone make their life just a little better.

Sometimes, it’s the small things that make a day remarkable.

That and a full set of teeth, real or false.

Don’t judge me. Please.

Happy Wednesday!

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