Harold was about as typical a client as could be expected in rehab. At 40 and unmarried, he reported an 8th grade education and a steady history of labor and unskilled jobs until he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. Following a short period of hospitalization he was unable after that to find a job for over a year. He was living on general assistance, a welfare referral. He said he was tired of nothing to do and wanted to go back to work.
When any person on welfare says he/she would rather work than draw assistance, this expression is so unusual that any doubt should be set aside. His history working in kitchens was suggested as probably inappropriate for the future, while he was otherwise physically fit for working both indoor or outdoor. He expressed considerable frustration over being out of work so long.
Up to this point Harold had heard of, but had never used an Employment Service Office (ES) located across every state. An office was located only a few blocks from his apartment. To facilitate his return to work and removal from the welfare rolls, I suggested that he complete an application for employment at that office and keep it current.
On a return visit with Harold a few weeks later, he confirmed that he had completed an application which was on file. His application was coded based upon his work history, excluding work in or around food preparation. He expressed concern that it had been some time since he completed his application, and that he had not heard anything from the office about possible jobs.
It is customary for folks who are indifferent about working or have many concerns about the adjustments required to follow a wait and see position. Each ES office is simply a clearing house of job orders (from employers) and applicants seeking jobs. When a match occurs those applicants who fill the bill are notified. This distant and very sterile process does not bring into play any personal attributes of the job applicant. Most employers are interested in folks who willingly take some initiative on the job, and above all will be reliable workers when hired.
I explained to Harold that the folks at the ES office were just like everybody else in the world. They form impressions of the folks who show up at their office. While they do not make the final decision about who will be hired by employers, their impression of applicants may determine how readily they are referred to various employers who have job orders on file. This impression may be very important for those folks who are really anxious to get a job.
With this as the primary job-seeking strategy, I suggested that rather than waiting for the ES to call him, he should go to the ES office in person, every day, to check on the status of his application, and ask whether they had received any job orders that matched with his needs. Harold agreed that this made some sense. Since he had nothing else to do, and the office was only a short walk from his apartment it was an easy plan to follow.
While this plan, on the surface, is designed to impress the ES personnel of his strong desire to work, a key ingredient may be the irritation factor that accompanies showing up anywhere each and every day. Some individual in the office actually has to respond to Harold’s job needs every day. That person becomes quite familiar with Harold, and whenever a job order comes close to Harold’s needs, his name, and his daily presence come readily to mind.
On my next visit to Harold’s little city he had pestered the ES personnel as much as they could tolerate. They had referred Harold to a golf course for a job opening as a grounds maintenance person. One may imagine the ES person’s conversation on referring Harold to the golf course grounds manager; “Harold has been showing up at our office every day to find out whether we have found anything he could do. We know that until that day arrives, Harold will be here again tomorrow.”
Harold was hired on his first referral, and worked as reliably as he had demonstrated to the folks in the Employment Service Office.
At some level he was probably considered a pest, but the tactics must often be judged by the outcome. Harold demonstrated his reliability in person every day.