Realistic job advice for those in reentry

realistic job advice

Qa’id, “Q”, Aqeel

At college commencement ceremonies across the nation each year, illustrious speakers urge graduates to “Think big. Reach for the stars. Find your purpose.” Sounds good, but in today’s world, they may be unrealistic ideas, especially for those leaving prison.

It’s important, actually, to think smaller, to take those initial steps that will get you on your way to reestablishing yourself in society.

The title of a mixtape by Nipsey Hussle, “The Marathon Continues,” reminds us that it’s a long race, and you need to run it slow. For those in reentry it’s best to not rush and put too much pressure on yourself, as that could be a setup for failure and returning to the old ways and landing back in prison.  And, of course, take your time doesn’t mean drag your feet, but rather realize that things take as long as they take and usually can’t be rushed.

Marty Nemko, a well-known Oakland, Calif.-based career coach wrote an insightful article in Psychology Today (its video version here) on a more honest commencement address with realistic job advice. He says that because of offshoring, outsourcing, automation and an ever-increasing demand for skills and requirements, solid careers that pay well are more difficult to achieve than in the past.

Take any job, and use it as a launchpad

As a result, he writes that “unless you’re quite a star, you’d be wise to take whatever job drops in your lap.” And instead of spending months looking for the perfect job, take a job, any job and use that as a launchpad for something better.

He uses the example of a gravedigger, not something most people would consider. But he writes that when you’re not digging graves, you could spend your time talking to the funeral director, the landscaper and the person who makes the monuments. Ask them for advice and get to know them. They might even have a job for you somewhere down the line. Then, if you get it, become an expert at that job, and you might very well succeed, since so few people consider that type of career.

Nemko provides the sort of out-of-the-box thinking that will give you an advantage in today’s marketplace, especially if you have been out of the official workforce for a while and are a bit rusty on your skills.

And Qa’id, “Q”, Aqeel, the post-release program manager of Defy NorCal, has similar realistic job advice. He comes into daily contact with people who face incredible challenges.

“I’m working with people who are lifers, who did 25+ years. When they come out they have all this excitement. It’s a brave new world,” he says. “They don’t understand that the world has changed drastically. When they come out you have people who say they can do this, they can do that. They don’t know which way to go.”

The direction Aqeel recommends is to start with the very basics, like obtaining a social security card, birth certificate and driver’s license. Take advantage of transitional housing and have a base to begin searching for a job.

Take the ABC approach

“Get a job, any job, so you can be able to save money to use when it’s time to exit transitional housing,” he says. “When people come out, there’s a lot of anxiety and panic attacks, so you have to curb their enthusiasm, so they’re not in a rush. They’re still acclimating to society. It takes some time.”

As for looking for a job, Aqueel’s philosophy is ABC. That stands for any job, a better job, a career.

“We have to have realistic expectations,” he says. “They don’t have a work history. You’ve got to get a job so you can have a work history and references. You have to start establishing a foundation.”

Take your time; don’t rush, but focus and finish.

Skills gap among job seekers means those who have the skills will be the ones hired

Skills gap

Human resource managers report that trade skills, like welding, are among the top three skills that are lacking among jobseekers.

Those leaving prison and exploring potential work opportunities may be pleased to know that there are many jobs going unfilled these days. And the job seekers who have developed the skills for certain kinds of work will be the ones who will succeed.

For the first time in more than two decades last year, the number of jobs available outpaced the number of people who were looking for work. According to the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), while there were 7 million job openings in the U.S. in December 2018, for example, only 6.3 million unemployed people were searching for employment.

While it appears to be a job seekers market, the opportunities will come to those who have the proper skills.

The Society for Human Resource Management represents 300,000 members in more than 165 countries, making it the world’s largest human resources professional society. Its “2019 State of the Workplace: Exploring the Impact of the Skills Gap and Employment-Based Immigration”  survey found that 83% of respondents had difficulty recruiting suitable candidates in the previous 12 months.

Why U.S.-based human resource managers can’t find suitable candidates

Among the reasons for the difficulty are the facts that:

  • The candidates do not have the right technical skills. (Reported by 35% of respondents.)
  • There was a low number of applicants or a lack of interest in the organization. (Reported by 33% of respondents.)
  • The candidates do not have the right workplace. (soft) skills. (Reported by 30% of respondents.)

While 75% of those with recruiting difficulties feel that applicants lack skills, certain skills – both technical and soft skills – are more in demand than others.

The top three missing technical skills:

  1. Trade skills, including carpentry, machining, welding and plumbing. (Reported by 31% of respondents.)
  2. Data analysis and data science. (Reported by 20% of respondents.)
  3. Science, engineering and medical. (Reported by 18% of respondents.)

The top three missing soft skills:

  1. Problem solving, creativity, innovation and critical thinking. (Reported by 37% of respondents.)
  2. Ability to deal with ambiguity and complexity. (Reported by 32% of respondents.)
  3. Communication. (Reported by 30% of respondents.)

As far as the skills gap, things are getting worse. More than half of the respondents to the SHRM survey reported that the shortage of skills has either worsened or dramatically worsened during the previous two years. Less than 10% found any improvement.

The Society for Human Resource Management’s skills gap survey was completed by 1,028 U.S.-based SHRM members between September 12 and 26, 2018.

The moral of this story

While there are increasing opportunities available for job seekers, those who succeed are the ones who are able to develop both the hard – and soft – skills that will set them apart.

But one must be realistic regarding what can be done and what aspects of one’s personality can be changed. As Marty Nemko a leading thought leader in career counseling, points out in his article, The Malleability Myth, “geneticists are finding: much of who we are is hard-wired.”  And he goes on to say, “I’ve been most successful helping clients find careers and jobs in which their strengths are valued and their weaknesses are of minimal consequence.”

This is good advice for all job hunters. Find the work that fits you. But at the same time do what you can to improve your skills.

How to use co-coaching effectively in your job search

co-coaching

Marty Nemko

Co-coaching is a technique that can help you improve your search for employment. Maybe you’re not sure exactly what type of job your skills are suitable for. Or you don’t really know how to go about finding a job. Or you just need someone to help you evaluate the options.

Practicing co-coaching will give you an opportunity to learn more about yourself and help you gain the confidence to confront the challenges you will face. But you need a partner.

The technique is so effective that even some professional life and career coaches use it. They choose someone they know as their co-coach and work with each other on a regular basis either in person or on the phone.

So follow their example and find someone to work with you, coaching you as you coach them. You should schedule sessions on a regular basis – every other week would probably be often enough.

Each session should last for about an hour, with one person asking questions and coaching for about 30 minutes, and then the other takes over. It doesn’t have to be just two people, however. It can also be a group of three or four.

Marty Nemko recommends co-coaching for certain job seekers

And career coach and author Marty Nemko is a big proponent of the practice.

He advises choosing a friend who knows you fairly well and who you think would be a good listener and non-judgmental. You want someone to hear you out, encourage you and give you confidence.

The first thing for you and your friend to do is to watch a set of videos of training sessions on co-coaching that Nemko conducted at the San Francisco Public Library. They are not long and will give you a much better idea of how to go about the process

You can assess them through the following links:

Part one  Part two  Part three  Part four

Co-coaching empowers people

Co-coaching is working to help your partner change their life. Nemko says you have to encourage disagreement. And the more honest you can be, the more the coach can help you. The goal of the coach is to help you decide what you really want to do and how to go about doing it.

You empower the other person. Nod as they talk and say “mm, mm” to encourage them. Ask them further questions as they speak. And above all else, make sure that what is said during the session remains confidential.

Nemko recommends beginning the session by bringing up issues or challenges your partner might be having with their job search – or problems that are keeping them from looking. And then you can say, “Tell me something more about the problem.”

And then ask them, “What have you tried in the past? Has it worked for you?

After they reply, you can give them some ideas and ask them what do you think?” Nemko recommends.

Keep asking those questions

Then you can begin to ask other questions.

Here are a few examples of what types of questions that Nemko and others recommend you might ask to help people build their confidence and consider various options.

What do you do well?

What are your best skills? What are the top three and why do you think they’re the best?

What skills would you like to be focusing on in your next job?

Where do you think you should look for work?

How will you go about it?

For example, do you think you’ll get your next job from someone you know or someone you don’t know?

An important part of the process is giving advice

Then you can give advice. For example, Have you ever looked into an apprenticeship program? Do you think you might like that?

What type of trade do you think you would like to pursue? Based on what you’ve said you might want to consider carpentry or sheet metal worker.

Tell me what steps you plan to take to start out?

And then a final question can be, “What other actions do you plan to take with what you learned today?

It might be a good idea to take notes, so that in your next co-coaching session you can come back to some of the things your partner mentioned. And also take notes on what you learned and what you plan to do about it.

So be adventurous and try co-coaching. It’s a unique tool that can help you learn how to achieve your goals. And for some people, this experience could also offer new insights into jobs that they never considered before.