Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I was never the home coming queen

Tracey was at The Coleman Institute the other day for a follow up visit. She’s been clean from heroin for about 7 months. She is in her mid-20’s, doesn’t have a car --which wouldn’t do her any good anyway because she lost her license, and she doesn’t have a job. She’s living with her boyfriend, because he’s been clean for 5 years and he charges no money for rent. It’s not ideal, but for Tracey right now, she feels like it’s her best option.

We talked most recently about what was going well and what was most troubling. Her greatest concern de jour was the prospect of sending out resumes in search of employment. And no wonder. Her career history appears moth eaten with several gaps of un-employment (or ways of making money she wisely chooses not to reveal). Her stomach clenches at the prospect of exposing herself to a potential employer and having to be the ‘new kid on the block’ trying to prove herself worthy when she perceives herself mostly to be a loser and a failure.

Think again I tell Tracey. Or maybe, more accurately, Stop Thinking!

Every time she has these thoughts, driven by fear of failure based on her past story, she reinforces the feelings which drive the actions which manifest as Her Life Today.

There are a couple ways to approach a cover letter, I’ve been told. One is to focus on your past employment experiences. The other is to focus on your strengths: what is it you bring to the table.

It took a little prodding to help Tracey verbalize some of her God-given talents, but there are plenty.

Example: In jail, she was the one who could make everyone laugh and calm down. Application to resume: I’m a leader and work well with others.

Example: She only went through 8th grade and hasn’t procured her GED, but she’s quite street smart. Application to resume: I work three times harder than the degreed applicant because I have to.

Example: For all the years Tracey used heroin, she never once sold her body to get it. Application to resume: I am innovative, creative and solution oriented.

Now, I’m not advising Tracey to include on any cover letter her multiple trips to jail and her vast experience in the world of drugs. But this is a young woman who is going to meetings several times a week, because she has found a way to get rides, she’s got a safe place to live, and is showing up for every scheduled appointment with us for her naltrexone implant and follow up.

Clearly the actions she chooses for herself these days are the result of changing her thinking. The more she changes her thoughts about herself, her feelings then actions will follow in kind, and the result will be a continued movement toward the life she is meant to live.

If I were an employer receiving dozens of resumes by FAX every day and say a cover letter come across my desk with the opening line, “I was never the home-coming queen “, I would by God want to read further.

Joan Shepherd, FNP

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