It was an eight-week program, four hours every Tuesday, and we were getting paid, but it was boring as hell. The object was to sharpen your job-hunting skills: how to research your prospective employer, how to write a power resume, how to conduct yourself during your first interview – the proper employee etiquette, in short, in hopes of landing a measly minimum wage job in a predominantly factory and rural town.
Somewhere at the midpoint of this drudgery, I had a brainstorm, or so I thought. “Why don’t we,” I posed the question to the project director, “have a panel discussion next time we meet, rather than read from the script? I’m certain some of us here might want to contribute. I’d would be interesting to learn what other people think.” (We were discussing the importance of networking when looking for a job. A so-and-so may hear of an opening somewhere and share it with others, the word of mouth kind of thing. Well, I wanted to take the concept to another level.)
“Excellent idea, Roger,” the director seconded. I was her pet, I suppose, since she couldn’t fathom why someone with my education and background would even be here. I’d told her my only objective was to save enough dough so I might get a used car and leave this ghost of a town for sunny California where I belong. Whether she believed me or not I have no idea, but I knew she felt sorry for me.
Come next Tuesday I opened the discussion by suggesting that we might turn the whole idea of networking upside down and put it to our advantage. Rather than limiting ourselves from the outset to the passive role of a job seeker, it’d make much better sense to talk among ourselves in order to learn what skills we have, what training, what interests. Who knows, there might be a match. We all know that in a community such as this, a great many needs, important needs, remain unmet by the existing structures, municipal or commercial. Even charities don’t do the kind of work they ought to. Many seniors, for example, are in dire need of transportation to do grocery shopping, make a doctor’s appointement, or pick up their
prescriptions – all basic stuff but vital nonetheless. Taking a cab to the local supermarket and back will set you back twenty dollars or more, a price they can barely afford. Most of you have vehicles in good running condition. Why not set up a joint venture and ease their burden? Or take catering, for instance. From what I hear, the service here is attrocious and the food below standard. If cooking is something you’re good at and love to do, here’s another window of opportunity. Likewise with aiding the handicapped by providing a limited nursing care at home or delivering their meals. And how about tutoring the kids who are deemed “slow learners”? I realize some of this may require licensing and jumping through all kinds of hoops, surely an inconvienience, but the possibilities are endless.