Each year, for the past seven years I’ve received a phone call on Veteran’s Day from a gentleman named Richard. Several years ago, I hired Richard for a very entry-level job even though he had more than enough experience. I was leading a team of what would be considered “unseasoned” employees. (Unseasoned being the politically correct way of saying young, undisciplined people with almost zero work ethic.) We needed a new team assistant because the one we had frequently flaked out and disappeared or didn’t bother to show up for work at all. We also needed some maturity in the group, a little “seasoning,” so to speak.
The company was growing like a profit driven, bonus crazed, toxic demon spawned unholy wholly owned subsidiary of the Wall Street firm Lehman Brothers. So, the large and in charge decided we should hold a job fair. Job seekers packed the place and anxiously approached our tables to discuss how
they could get in on the action their skills might be a good fit for the company. Little did they know a few short years later the lucky ones would be those still sober enough to shut the place down. (Yeah, it tanked big time.)
Back to Richard. He had worked for over twenty-five years for a large aerospace company. Suddenly one day his job was eliminated (outsourced) and he was given, not a gold watch, but the boot. As many people of a certain age discover, updating a resume for the prospect of an entry-level job is worse than the sink or swim situation in which they have found themselves. It can be downright excruciating to sit across from someone whom you could easily work circles around, hoping they recognize your skill set, while not certified by Six Sigma, is worthy of real consideration.
Fortunately for us both, Richard knew better. He approached me with a smile, greeted me like the gentleman he is, spoke honestly about himself and his abilities. I was sold. He was just what our little team needed to make us the complete package and over the next year and a half we became the complete package. We busted our asses, exceeding our goal time and time again, never knowing it didn’t matter how many deli trays and jeans days were hurled at us the mandatory overtime would never be enough.
One thing that made it bearable was the relationships that we developed. We learned things about each other and ourselves. Once Richard became aware that I’d served in the military, he never forgot it and I look forward to his call every year to wish me a happy Veteran’s Day. We catch up, and for the span of a brief phone call we each know we made a difference in someone else’s life. There is value in that far greater than most people who work together ever get to experience.
Phrases like “core values” mean less and less when the core of a business changes from moment to moment or becomes completely invisible because of market fluctuations. Vision statements such as “aspiring to inspire” and “developing tomorrow’s leaders today” are, well, visionary, but when people in an organization don’t share a common core of experience, it takes more than vision to ensure that right actions actually do equal right results. Students coming out of high school with higher than average enthusiasm might get lucky and find a job. Graduates coming out of college with higher than average initiative might get lucky and land an internship that may possibly lead to a job. Honorably discharged veterans coming off active duty, who possess marketable skills that don’t require use of an automatic weapon, might get lucky and find employers, like my husband and I did all those years ago, who recognize the value of what people bring to the table just by their willingness to show up to do a job. I often think of Richard and how willing he was to show up and do his job. A job he was tremendously over-qualified for, but was so very grateful to have.
Happy Veteran’s Day Richard.