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Job seeker's journal: Lessons my 6-year-old taught me


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The following is the second in a series of journal entries from a member of the community about losing a job and searching for a new one. At his request, his real name has been withheld so that he can relay his experiences with his former company and potential employers with impunity.

"Joe" (his nom de blog) is 45 years old and was let go from a management position at a major consumer products company. He relocated with his family to take the job a little more than a year ago. He has agreed to write an online diary about his experience.

I read once that most companies fire people on Tuesday mornings. That way the exiled workers have time to pull themselves together before going home to their families or, even worse, their empty apartment. It also gives them three days to begin their job search rather than sit and stew over a weekend.

I spent my Tuesday afternoon at the library pulling together a list of friends and contacts whom I could call to discuss my future plans. That evening I took my son, Jacob, to his indoor soccer league, which was finishing up its season.

Being temperamentally unsuited to coach 6-year-olds at anything, I sat in the stands and watched. Turnout was low, and they had to mix up teams. The volunteer coach designated two captains and had them choose sides.

I watched in agony as my son was one of the last picked. I felt an abject failure, not only as a professional but also as a role model for my child.

Even though there were barely enough kids to play, Jacob began the game on the sidelines. "Rejected like his father," I thought.

By the third quarter, I began to feel immense anger. "If they think he stinks so badly, let's leave," I fumed.

I began to put on my coat and storm down the bleachers when suddenly Jacob was put in as goalie.

A huge grin spread over his face as he skipped out onto the court. He was in the game.

I watched nervously as he danced about in the goal cheering as his team scored and watching tensely as the ball approached his goal. The other team's "captain" kicked the ball toward the goal, and Jacob jumped out and retrieved it. His teammates and their parents cheered.

Jacob began to hop up and down, pumping his spindly arms in the air. He was so elated he didn't see the next shot coming. It landed in the net for a goal.

My moment of euphoria ended, and thankfully, soon after, so did the game. The teams did their congratulatory hand slaps. As we rode home, I asked him if he had a good time. "Oh yes, it was awesome," he chirped.

That's when I realized I'd found my job-hunt mentor.

Jacob certainly isn't a star, but he always plays to please himself and have fun. No matter how many goals he lets by, no matter how many shots he misses, no matter how many hyper-competitive parents grumble at the coach to take Jacob out of the game, he comes back for more -- with an unwavering conviction that eventually he'll make it.

And it's not just on the soccer field. Who but an intractable optimist would keep asking to watch "Finding Nemo" after being refused 1,000 times? If he could keep getting up and starting over, so could I.

"How was your day, Dad?" he asked. "Not, so great," I answered. "But things will get better soon."

Eventually I'd tell him what had happened. But I wasn't going to spoil our moment. At least I knew I wouldn't be a loser in his eyes. (At least not for now -- it will be a couple of more years before he's a teenager.)

© Copyright 2005. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority
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