Jan 16, 2009

Job Help

I have been discovering a new (for me) very concrete way to help my homeless youth friends. Not all of them want jobs right now, but some of them do. After living a traveling life or a life on the street, they rarely have a lot of confidence for employment. They get reviews and instruction on how to get a job from social workers, but it is all rather overwhelming.

One of the ways to get concrete with them is spend about 45 minutes with them creating a first resume. It is fairly normal for the youth to have a very sporadic and spotty work history. However, they typically have worked and acquired many skills from jobs, training, and volunteer positions.

[Don't get me wrong... creating a resume is serious stuff and takes more than an hour. However, I sit with them for about 45 minutes to create what I call the starter resume. There is always good, better, and best options. They can (and some do) continue to work to polish their resumes from the starter resume I help them create.]

Over the last month or so, I have written about 10 resumes with youth. Most were surprised that we could create one at all. All were delighted with how they felt having a professional looking resume to hand out, email, and use for web job applications. I'm sure 80% or more of them have actually used the resumes, returning for help to get more copies or tweak it or email it to some potential employer. And this week I got the news that one got a job right away using the resume! Now that really made my day!

Every day now I have youth asking if I'll help them write a resume. It is so much fun because it lets me ask them lots of questions. They are willing to share a lot of their life with me in this way. And they not only share facts but also how they feel about those people, jobs, and tasks that make up their past history. Often they even talk about what was going on in their lives outside of employment.

In addition to helping me know them better, I find that it's very therapeutic for them to assemble the resume. Because they have a number of bad experiences, they tend to forget the past or at least the bad parts. But often that means forgetting a lot of good things that happened at the same time. In some ways, assembling the resume is symbolic of the task they face: taking all the pieces of their fractured life and assembling a whole from it.

What I have learned... keep on learning every day... is that they have beautiful portions of their past life that they are quite happy with. And they have parts that they are very dissatisfied with. This is pretty normal sounding, but somehow the typical street youth has become frozen in the process of juggling these pieces and can rarely keep them together as a whole and keep the good and bad in perspective. At some point, the pieces of their life that they don't like can paralyze them and keep them from moving forward.

These are wonderful young people, and making a resume with them truly helps me get a better understanding of their lives. It creates an improved and more balanced view of self for them. Finally, at least in some cases, it truly gives them a boost to go out there and get that job they want to get.