My firstborn son is on the job hunt. With the assistance of a dedicated teacher of Grade 10 careers, a pocket full of freshly-minted resumés and stars in his eyes, he began the search in earnest in January. Throughout the job hunt process, no matter how hard it was to watch, he has learned some key life lessons.
Never give up on your dreams
Top on his list of dream jobs was – what else? – lifeguarding. Envisioning a summer working poolside, enhancing his tan and chatting up bikini-clad babes, he was harshly initiated into the wasteland of the online job application. Sending in a standard form application along with thousands of other hopefuls, he then sacrificed his March break snowboarding with his buddies, electing instead to upgrade his life saving skills with 60 hours of in-pool learning. Every day after school he arrived home with hope in his eyes only to find an empty answering machine. This led directly to life lesson number two.
Separate yourself from the pack
Discovering that one of his friends had been called for an interview when he had not, his competitive spirit kicked in. He put his super sleuthing abilities, honed from reading dozens of Hardy Boys mysteries in Grade 3, to work. With the nerve of one of the most polished salesmen of Glengarry Glen Ross, he picked up the phone and sweet talked a city parks and recreation worker into handing over the crucial information he required; he got the name and fax number of the supervisor responsible for the aquatics hiring in our area. With stealthy determination, he bombarded her with an updated resumé, a scanned colour picture of his Bronze Cross medallion and a convincingly worded fax cover sheet, laden with all the skills he’d acquired in his 15 and a half years of life on the planet.
He got a phone interview, but no job offer.
Digressing just slightly, the careers course in high school had been very helpful in building resumés and cover letters and the like. However, it threw us a curve ball in early spring. The course included a career aptitude test administered in class. After completing a painfully detailed 120-question survey on attitudes, preferences and skills, he eagerly listened as classmates received their evaluations. Some were encouraged to pursue careers as pilots, scientists, writers or politicians. He ripped open his envelope. He was encouraged to become a … a …. this cannot be true … a ship’s captain. What? A ship’s captain? How incredibly ironic. Following the release of Pirates of the Caribbean in 2003, I’d spent a good four years of his life convincing him piracy was NOT an option as a career, and yet here it was, his true aptitude was a sea faring leader. As strange as it sounds, it helped with life lesson number three.
Narrow down your prospects
When you take a scattershot approach to job hunting you have less luck. He applied to grocery stores, variety stores, restaurants, and clothing retailers. Then he caught on to a key factor – pay attention to who the managers hire. The clothing retailers were looking for the sharp-dressed man; he was not that man. The grocery stores were looking for a kid who would look good in a lime green shirt and loved to stack boxes of cookies all day long. He might not be that kid. But the sporting goods store – they had guys that looked and talked just like him. They were athletes who had worn the very equipment that customers were asking about. Heck, he could give opinions on shin pads or jock straps with the best of them; he’d been doing it in the change room since he was five. He was a natural.
Do what you love, the money will follow
Finally, his life lessons and his passions collided. He remembered that he loved hockey and he quite enjoyed showing off. With a fair amount of trepidation, he began to pursue jobs with hockey trainers, many of whom he’d skated for over the years, and he caught a break. One of his former trainers gave him a chance to ‘try out’ on ice with his young patrons. Feeling awfully nervous, he asked for a rare thing from his parents: advice. We simply reminded him to be like the trainers he had loved most when he was a budding young hockey player – help the kids keep their dreams alive, show them gently where to improve, encourage them, challenge them and most of all, have fun with them.
It turns out teaching kids hockey came quite naturally and he’s learning from one of the best. Job prospects are becoming job opportunities. His confidence is going up and these critical lessons will serve him well throughout his life. As an added bonus, I can relax, knowing he’s continuing on the journey of life – luckily, not heading off onto the high seas singing bawdy ballads, sporting an earring, pinching a buxom wench and swigging a bottle of rum.
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