As a career coach, we often forget that we are not only coaching our students through their professional development, but we are also coaching them through life. We are confidence builders. We not only build professionals, we transform their lives. I know that seems cliche, and I have always cringed at the tagline ‘We change lives’" until one day one of my students demonstrated to me how every aspect of his life was impacted by the skills and confidence-building tools I taught him.
This particular student should have been removed from school for conduct infractions many times. There was something about him, however, that would not allow me to give up on him. I felt that if I could coach him through his anger issues and end the negative internal dialogue he was having with himself, I could save him. Besides, I had been professionally trained on neuro-linguistic programming. This would be easy ... so I thought.
He made it through his program and was ready to begin his entry into employment. He had always desired to work in commercial air conditioning. I was committed to helping him because he was doing the work to better himself.
All three times he was fired because of the same infractions that he committed while in school. I had to have a hard conversation with him and in that conversation, I had to inform him that I could no longer work with him because I wanted him to be successful more than he wanted it for himself. I felt I had failed as his career coach and as his life coach.
Three years later, I had moved on to another job, in an entirely different part of the city. One day, I was standing in the hallway talking to some of my students. I noticed in my peripheral someone on a ladder working in the ceiling. As I continued my conversation, I saw the person tilt their head to see us standing in the hallway. There was a rumble of the ladder falling over and I suddenly felt someone behind me hugging me so tightly that I was a bit uncomfortable. As I wiggled loose, I turned to see my student—the one I’d had to walk away from.
He was working as a commercial air conditioning technician for the building management company. He was so proud to show me his uniform that had his name on it. He had been consistently employed by the company for one whole year and was a stellar employee. He continued to share how he was now able to pay the bills and provide for his family. He said to me,‘I will never forget the things you taught me. They changed my life. Thank you turning me away that day. It was just what I needed. I left there saying I am going to do better and one day be able to show her that I was listening.’ To all my fellow co-laborers in this field, let's continue to change lives! They are listening! They hear us! Our work matters ... if only to one individual who will never forget you!