Marching to your own beat in a tough job market


Connie sent me an email last week, short and sweet. “I need a job. I can’t wait until there is one for which I’m qualified. What should I do?” Implied in her message was the expectation that I could easily fix this for her. I cannot fix it.

Even so, I have been thinking of Connie since I wrote my reply, wondering how to better offer encouragement to someone so struggling. I thought of her yesterday when Gerry spoke during our sharing of joys and concerns at church.

Gerry, a 90-year-young bright and good-humored spirit, has been struggling with some health challenges. He is taking intensive physical therapy to re-learn how to walk. And this has been difficult for him, physically and emotionally.

He reminisced that when he was in the Army, all of the soldiers had to line up in order of height. He was the second-tallest! The very tallest man was selected to be front and right corner for their marching drills, setting the cadence and anchoring the alignment of their rows and columns as they marched.

After several days of effort, it became obvious that the tallest man wasn’t the best person for this role, unable to keep the cadence or to steadily anchor their team. So the drill sargeant asked Gerry to try it.

As it turned out, Gerry was naturally suited for this task. His innate musical rhythm made it easy for him to guide the cadence and his steady straight gait made it simple for the other soldiers to align their rows and columns!

It was striking to see how Gerry’s posture changed, becoming more erect and more stable, even as he reminisced about this experience from 7 decades ago. As it turns out, he had talked with his physical therapist about this experience one day recently, just chatting during one of his sessions. She wisely recognized this as more than an inspiring story. It could offer a therapy tool and breakthrough for him, too. She found recordings of military marches and transferred them to an I-pod.

Now Gerry strides down the hall of his physical therapy, bud discreetly placed in his ear, I-pod in his pocket, listening to military marches, and setting the cadence again for a drill team of one. He has made more progress in a week than over several months because someone was wise enough to tap into his previous learning to help him cope with this new challenge!

As I celebrated this success with Gerry, I realized that maybe that’s the best insight that I can offer to someone like Connie, who is struggling with how to find her own stride in a tough job market. I can’t fix the market, much as I might like to do so. But I can encourage Connie to explore what other times in her life she felt that her options were limited, her needs were urgent, and her resources were few. What does she already know about herself that could help her meet this new challenge, marching to her own beat?

~~ Names were changed for privacy and security, but both are real people! ~~
Republished with permission. Originally published by Elyse on her recruiting blog in 2012. Original title was “Marching to your own beat.”

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