Meeting In The Middle
Now that I have been at Daily Work for a few months, I am beginning to really understand and utilize our mission to help people achieve sustainable work. At the same time, I am applying aspects of social work and communication techniques that I am learning in my classes at school and tying that into my practice here.
While I often have the same goal as the job seeker I am working with…such as helping them get a living wage job and achieve a sustainable lifestyle; in the end, it is their choice about how they want to achieve that goal and it may be different from how I think or suggest it should be achieved. Here’s an example.
I recently worked with a job seeker who worked a lot of part-time jobs. In our meetings, she stated that she wanted to obtain more part-time jobs, but I feared that they would be lower paying and would lack fringe benefits she needed. This job seeker had a lot of experience in multiple fields and I thought she could apply for better, more sustainable jobs rather than various fast food places. While my heart was in the right place, I also needed to respect the fact that she enjoys her current jobs and that there might be reasons she prefers to work multiple, part-time positions.
To find out more, I used motivational interviewing to learn more about her preferences and to help explore possible changes. Motivational interviewing uses questions that aim to be non-judgmental and non-confrontational to help clients gain awareness of events and behaviors that may be harmful to them or that they might benefit from changing.
Along with this, I also consulted with two of my supervisors who had had previous experience with this client. From this, I gained more knowledge about her and learned that she has some health reasons that might interfere with her ability to work other types of jobs.
After further discussion and getting to know each other, we developed a plan for her future and that was to find part-time customer service jobs versus fast food jobs as a way to move towards better employment. Through our discussions, she realized she is capable of more than she thought and I learned an important lesson in meeting clients on their terms.
Through this, I learned that it is important to not have a preconception of what is best for someone else. I learned it is important to build a relationship with our job seekers and learn all you can about them before trying to create goals. I gained real understanding into how everything in someone’s life affects their ability to be employed. As a new intern, it is sometimes scary to ask people really personal questions, but through this experience, I can see how knowing as much as possible about my clients will help me be a better, more effective, and more understanding social worker.
My real-life experience at Daily Work is teaching me to meet people where they are at and valuing their unique choices and life experiences, even if they are different from my own. I also appreciate how real change only happens for people when they agree with it and fully embrace it. This is learning that I don’t think could be achieved in the classroom or from a book.
Spending time with people who have significantly different life experiences from my own is both rewarding and perspective-changing. If you are interested in challenging your own perspectives, consider volunteering to do mock interviews with our job seekers. It’s a great way to help someone else and see another person’s point of view.