Learnings that last a lifetime.
I did work experience as a 16 year old Grad 10 student. I dutifully put on my best outfit, nice shirt, pressed pats, skinny leather tie (it was the fashion) and turned up at the local city council to spend time in their Accounts Department and to be honest... I was bored to death, no one would talk to me (unless I instigated conversation, which as a young boy in a world of grown ups, some of which were parents of my friends, wasn't easy), they gave me very little to do (unless you count stapling things, drinking coffee/tea, getting to know everyone and building cool toys out of paperclips work), I barely even got to use a calculator for goodness sakes.
I was really disillusioned about the "training" for many many years, until it was put into perspective by a colleague the other day. I was talking to one of our interns, recalling my tale of woe, talking about how I did not learn a single thing in this 2 weeks which had any bearing in my career going forward, and of course how proud I was of this person for the effort they had put in, what they had achieved and the great level of focus they had.
A colleague called me to task towards the end of this conversation. He asked me publicly what the main part of my job today was? I said Recruiting and the Managing of the other people who did so in my organisation. He then asked me what the main way i did that was? I said by talking to people of all walks of life... He then asked me how did I converse with these people, networking? on the phone? over coffee? I said yeah all 3 work for me.
He then asked me to reflect on what I had just said to that intern and look again at myself and see if I did perhaps learn something? Wow huh... introspection is a powerful thing. I quickly realised that that time was not as much of a waste of time as I thought it had. I learned how to Network (as I had to to keep sane), I learned how to converse with people at all levels of an organisation, self motivation (as I kept going in doing the best I could), and drinking coffee! :)
There are learnings everywhere, my next job was that of a Moss Farmer, (yes it was one of those jobs where I had to get up at 4am, walk for 1 hour, get picked up drive for another hour to start work at 6am. I took it so I could continue to tell that story to my kids! :) ) The was hot and hardish work, as most of your day was spent in a hothouse, moving twigs etc from moss for export. What did I learn there, which had benefitted me in life? Well..... they had a habit there of picking on the new guy, the young guy, but it was always something. I had a strong lesson in politics on that farm, I learnt the hard way, and to be honest I hated it, all to take home a grand total of $180 per week!
This may not seem like much, but they are some of the lessons which have formed the foundation of who I am today. I started my career in 1997, Recruiting in the IT industry, I rode the wave joyously to the dot com boom, felt invincible! When the bubble burst (as they all do by the way) I was caught out, I was uneducated about how to deal with the situation, I had a really tough time. (sound familiar?) I learned a lot about myself in these times, good and bad. Unfortunately in life you cannot have one without the other, or else you wouldn't appreciate the good when it happened.
Is there a point to this spiel? Gee I hope so. Things are tough.. correct.... Can we learn and begin to prepare ourselves for the eventual upturn? Certainly. Be open to the experiences we will all endure in the next period of time, you can and will learn through them if your eyes are open and mind willing to. I understand it can be difficult for perspective when things happen which are deeply personal, like losing a job, however most things can be put into the basket labelled "Will look back on this in 5 years and either laugh, cry or at least armed with the knowledge of what I gained in that time!" I know.. must be a hell of a big basket. Well, I hope the knowledge gained is equally large. I think the knowledge gained through experience is called wisdom (don't quote me on that)... you cannot buy, sell or really trade that, you have to earn it yourself. I got a redundancy in 2002, it felt terrible.. business wise.. it made sense, I knew, but hey this was happening to me right?! You know what happened..? Well I ended up in the job I am now and I couldn't be happier... it took time yes, it took pain... yes, but also introspection, helping me decide where to drive my career from that point on... Very handy !
Goodluck in following the path you are on now, take in all of the experiences, know they can be used as a positive as life goes on, even if you cannot see it now!