A few weeks ago, Jake lost his job at the bowling center. Actually, several of his co workers lost their jobs as well. So did several people who worked at the bowling alley where I bowl, which is owned by the same group. Seems there was a sort of sweep going on. Maybe the owners were trying to cut down their payroll, since it seemed to be the long-time employees who were cut. Jake had worked at his place since it opened more than four years ago.
Jake was completely taken by surprise and hurt by the loss of his job. He has a good work ethic and it seemed to me that he was always at work. If someone called in sick, Jake covered. When there were snowstorms that prevented other employees from getting to work, the one who lives only blocks away – Jake – was called to cover. He worked extended shifts. He worked holidays. He was one who could be counted on to drop everything at a moment’s notice if he was needed at work. His immediate supervisor had been grooming him for a position as manager of the bowling desk. Jake was already running one of the bowling leagues and he wanted to get promoted. To lose his job was a complete shock. I was heartbroken for him.
He was at a loss as to what to do next. Mark and I talked with him. We talked about whether he wanted to give school another shot. He’d been thinking again about an auto mechanics program at a local tech college. We talked with him about his options, maybe applying for school and getting out there and applying for other jobs. Sort of cover all the bases and then decide which way to go. As hurt as I was for my son, in the back of my mind, I knew this was a good learning experience for Jake. He’s not one to leave his comfort zone. As long as things were going along just fine at the bowling center, he would likely never think to consider there might be something better for him out there.
Jake’s shift at the bowling center was typically 5:00 pm to 1:00 am, so I saw little of him. He left for work most evenings just as I was returning home from my job. And because he worked late, he slept late in the day. When he would finally get out of bed, typically after noon, he was always quiet and sullen. His end of any conversation usually consisted of the least number of words he could get by with, or even just a grunt. Whether it was the hours or the atmosphere at work, it was clearly not good for him. And one of the first things I noticed a few days after he’d stopped working there was that Jake was a “real” person again. He actually communicated in whole sentences and even found a sense of humor. I enjoyed this new person he was becoming. And it was nice to have him join us for dinner and see him on weekends again.
Jake began to submit employment applications at various local businesses, and only a week later, a friend of ours called Mark asking if Jake would be interested in a job. Our friend is with an engineering firm that does concrete testing and he had given Brad a summer job for two years when he was home from college. He was offering Jake the same type of work, entry-level with a chance to learn new skills. What amazing timing! What a great opportunity and how fortunate for Jake to have a job come looking for him! When we mentioned it to Jake, I could see how shaky his self-confidence was and he was reluctant to commit. But we talked for a few days and he finally called our friend to find out how to apply for the job. He then filled out an online application and began the wait.
A couple of weeks went by and I began to get nervous. Maybe his application hadn’t passed the first requirements. Jake called to follow up and was told that he was still being considered and should hear from HR soon. And he did.
The interview was scheduled and I talked with Jake about how he wanted to dress. This is a company that does work on construction sites. When Brad worked there, his daily attire consisted of his oldest, most worn-out jeans, grubby t-shirts and sweatshirts and a pair of steel-toed boots. The son of some other friends of ours had also interviewed for a job there recently and had dressed casually. At Jake’s old job, he had worn black dress pants and a uniform shirt. He thought he would just wear his black pants but felt he needed to get a “decent” shirt. I agreed it was a good idea.
I went shopping with Jake and asked him what he liked. He picked out a very nice dress shirt and I suggested he go try it on. On his way to the fitting room, he stopped by a rack of ties and said, “I think I should get a tie too.”
“Okay,” I said. “Pick one.”
He picked up a few and asked which ones I thought matched the best. When he went to try on his new shirt, I browsed through the dress pants, thinking how he could use a new pair anyway. When Jake came out to show me the shirt, (which looked great on him,) I asked if he would try the pants too. He did and came back out looking not like my usual, scruffy 22 year-old son, but a very sharp young man. I was so impressed with him and told him so. And as long as he was going the whole nine yards, I suggested a new pair of shoes to round out the outfit.
Jake was all set for his interview. I was pretty sure he wasn’t expected to dress in business attire, but I wasn’t about to discourage him from making the best impression he possibly could. On the day of the interview, he dressed up and went to meet with our friend, who jokingly asked Jake, “Did your dad make you dress up for this?”
Jake assured him that Mark had nothing to do with it and the clothing was completely his own choice. The interview went well and Jake was offered a job. It is a summer job, yes, but with potential to learn a lot and possibly to stay on if he is needed. Either way, it will be a great opportunity for Jake to break out of his comfort zone and learn to trust that he is capable, intelligent and has strengths to contribute in the work environment.
He has just finished his first week at his new job and seems to be reveling in the new experiences. I like this new person I see in my son. He’s more confident. He’s happier and already more mature than he seemed just a couple of short months ago. He even greeted the day before noon on Saturday, taking advantage of the beautiful weather to go outside and pamper his car.
Jake spent the remainder of the day helping me do chores and some much-needed spring yard clean-up before he went to hang out with his friends last night. He made a great day even better for me.
It’s hard to remember when in the midst of such disappointments, that it is often the means to a better end. It was difficult to imagine on the day he lost his job, that it would ultimately be the best thing for him. I think he and I both learned from this experience and I hope that it enables him to more easily balance the difficulties that will inevitably face him as he moves forward in life. But for right now, I just want him to have some time to enjoy this time of learning and feeling successful. I am so proud of him!