Last month, a 22-year-old man scheduled an appointment with my office to discuss the possibility of filing a bankruptcy. For the purpose of this article, I’m going to call him “Jim.” When Jim and I met, he explained to me that he had been terminated from his job earlier in the year and was drowning in debt. He told me that he currently lives with his girlfriend in the basement of her parents’ home.
Jim’s accumulated debt included a large amount of medical and credit card bills. He had not been able to make any recent payments because of his job situation. His situation had gotten to the point where his creditors were threatening to file lawsuits against him.
Although he graduated from high school, Jim does not have any marketable skills. I quoted him a fee for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and he told me that he would contact me within the next month to file the paperwork. He planned on borrowing money from family members to pay for the cost of the bankruptcy.
Before Jim left my office, I asked him if he had been applying for jobs. He said that he had submitted several applications, but none of the companies followed up with him for an interview. I explained to him the importance of continually visiting the managers of the businesses where he has submitted applications to show the managers that he has ambition and is serious about finding a job. I also explained to him my “Walk Like A Matador” concept, which I wrote about a few years ago.
The last thing I told Jim before he left my office was that when he applies for jobs, he needs to show up in dress pants, dress shoes, a button-down shirt, and a tie. I suggested that he wear a long-sleeve shirt to cover up the tattoos he has all over his arms. I told him that the tattoos may be a hindrance to him finding a job, and if he is hired, he can ask his supervisor if it’s okay for him to display his tattoos while working.
During the entire time I was talking, Jim sat quietly and listened. He did not react one way or another to what I was saying, so I was uncertain as to whether he was offended by what I said or was willing to do what I told him. My impression was that there was no one else in his life who was going to tell him what I told him, so I felt as though I needed to be blunt and honest with him about what it would take to get hired.
A month after we met, Jim scheduled an appointment and brought in the necessary documents to file his bankruptcy. It typically takes two hours for my assistant to enter the necessary data in our bankruptcy software program and for me to answer any questions the client may have. During his appointment, Jim revealed to my assistant that he had recently started working at a local department store. (The topic came up when he was asked about his current income.)
When I met with Jim, he mentioned that he had done exactly what I had told him to do when he applied for some jobs. He dressed up and went to several retail stores and filled out applications. One of the stores invited him back for an interview. When he showed up, he said that instead of conducting a one-on-one interview, the store manager performed a group interview with several applicants who were seated in the same room.
Jim told me that out of all the applicants, he was the only one who was dressed up. He said that all the other applicants were dressed as though they were going to a beach party. Several of them were wearing flip-flops, some were wearing T-shirts, and others were wearing shorts or jeans with holes in them.
After telling me about the group interview, Jim said something that surprised me: “I really felt out of place. I was the only one who was dressed up. I was very uncomfortable and I wanted to leave because I did not fit in with everyone else.” Despite how Jim felt, he stayed and was offered a job at a rate of pay that was higher than minimum wage.
My experience with Jim was not my first experience with helping guide a young client through the process of interviewing and finding a job.
The biggest problem I see in a large share of the young men and women I meet is that they give up too easily. They routinely bail out of a situation before they’ve given themselves a chance to learn and grow from the experience.
When I meet people like Jim, I am reminded of how blessed I was to grow up in a large family with parents and relatives who encouraged me to get a job at a young age and consistently work on developing my skills and capabilities. I’ve written before about how I got my first paying job when I was twelve years old. I learned early that if you want to achieve your dreams, you have to be willing to work hard and sacrifice. I also learned that if I wanted to continue to improve myself and earn more money, I had to be willing to endure the mental stress and anguish that comes along with learning new capabilities and skills.
Any time we take on new responsibilities that involve tasks and activities that we have no experience performing, we risk failure and rejection. This causes most people to experience an immense amount of stress and anxiety. Rather than commit to the new responsibilities, the typical person withdraws and avoids taking the risks that are necessary to develop much-needed new skills and capabilities.
All personal growth and improvement requires that we stretch beyond our limits. The key word here is “stretch.” Unfortunately, just as a rubber band snaps back to its original size and shape when it is stretched, most people snap back to the point they were at when they first attempted to stretch themselves beyond their own self-imposed limits.
I have found that because of our fear of rejection and failure, most of us prematurely snap back to our comfort zones. We never really give ourselves a chance to break through to new heights. For my young client, Jim, it was a stretch for him to sit in a room with his peers and not fit in, but when he persevered and refused to snap back, he was rewarded with a job that he desperately needed.
What commitments and responsibilities are you avoiding right now because you may be concerned about being stretched too far out of your comfort zone? God has some challenging plans for you that you may have avoided because you’re not willing to step out of your comfort zone and stretch yourself. Think about it. Pray about it. Then push yourself to do what you know you should be doing.