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The Dignity of Choice

Posted by Dave Griffith on July 30, 2016 at 3:55 PM

I have been working with a number of young adults as they go about seeking employment. Some are in our programs at ECS where I work and some are individuals I know from our church, community, or through my network.

I am struck by just how much the job market has changed since I was looking 40 years ago. What also struck me is how many of the fundamentals then and the fundamentals now have not.

I was 23 when I graduated from Kenyon with a BA in Economics and History. I never interned, although I have been active in the Fire Department and worked as a resident advisor during school. My summer employment had been as a life guard and working on a green chain in a lumber mill. I applied for a position at IBM and after I was accepted they put me through a yearlong training program.

Today in addition to a specialized degree, some background in technology and its use is a core competency, internships and summer work in the field you are interested is a plus, and the resources available in various placement offices to help network did not exist 40 years ago.

What was true then and remains true today is the importance of mentorship and networking. Mentoring provides the practical advice and real time coaching based on experience that is difficult to gain without experience. Networking is about learning about opportunities and getting the door open to tell your story and sell yourself to an employer. It is about access to opportunity.

Some observations and some of these are not original thoughts, is that access to opportunity is very different for different populations in America and at the end of the day is one of the root causes to systematic poverty. The notion that the American dream is available to all is just not true. I see this in my work every day and the contrast between the individuals I work with at ECS and the individuals I work with in my home town and former business community is stark and troubling. 40 years ago I had access to opportunity. Then and now many do not and it remains a different world based on race, gender, and your economic base. Equity in America is far from balanced, the question is how we achieve a level playing field so that opportunity is balanced and an individual’s efforts create an individual’s opportunity.

Let me also say that the contrast is not about work ethic, resiliency, or passion. I see these everywhere in abundance. The contrast starts early with access to choices; choices in education, nutrition, housing, wellness, experiences, let alone access to mentors and networks that can open doors to employment and financial security.

Poverty robs people of the dignity of choice. Our work at ECS and our challenge as a society is to restore and create the dignity of choice for every individual in our society. Most individuals given access to opportunity will take advantage of the access. I see it every day.

Some doors are harder to open than others, doors to housing, education, employment, wellness and financial security.

Help open a door.  Challenge poverty.


Categories: ECS Outreach, Muddy Boots, Griffith Thoughts

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