Let’s imagine a timeline stretching from November 2008 to May 2016. In that time, a lot happens for a particular guy:

  • NOV 2008: A young man (we’ll call him Sean) is working at a grocery store when he gets contacted by a long-time friend of his. An e-learning company that is new to the US market is looking for junior IT guys. Sean leaves the grocery store on good terms to pursue this opportunity.
  • JAN 2009: Sean is flown to the company headquarters. Jetlagged and a bit under the weather, he attends a meeting where the CEO is speaking about the company vision. This young man is not interested and soon falls asleep, snoring loudly for a large portion of the presentation. Sean does not know the speaker is the CEO until well after the fact. Shortly after his return home, he is let go from the company. He tells the administrative lady that he’ll come back to the company one day.
  • JAN 2009: Sean applies to a local pizza shop and works there for the better part of a year. He ends up leaving under questionable circumstances later that year.
  • OCT 2009: Sean starts working as part of the Geek Squad for the holidays and does freelance website work as he can. Bills are paid, life is good.
  • MAR 2010: The holiday rush has slowed down, so Sean is let go from the Geek Squad, the freelance work is still going, but slowly. A friend asks him if he can help move some boxes. “Sure, I’ll come by this afternoon.” When he arrives, the administrative lady is there, surprised but happy, to greet him. She gets Sean in front of a manager who hires him on the spot. This lady defends him – tooth and nail – when the higher-ups see him as inexperienced and a potential liability. When the dust settles, Sean works hard to reward the faith of this woman that stood up for him. He works there for three years and knocks everything out of the park, becoming one of the pillars of the company.

The story goes on and gets better with every passing year, but let’s get to my point here: I was that guyI was the liability, the questionable kid, the risk, the person everyone was frustrated with and if a few someones didn’t take that chance on me then I wouldn’t be where I am now….

and neither would you.

There seems to be this trend around only seeking extraordinary talented, perfect people and they don’t exist. What does exist is someone that, with a bit of nurturing, could be the best thing to happen to your company or to the next three companies they work for.

For me, it’s been a wildly successful six years with more to come as time goes on, but I’ve never reached that point of success where I forget what it’s like to be lost, to hope that someone sees me trying to succeed and comes to assist, to hope that someone sees beyond my stumbling and failing to my potential and finds a way to call it out…

…but man do I see that a lot lately.

When, in our successes, did we forget what it was like to be the one of the new people?

Why do we feel it is okay to look down on the new guy that “just doesn’t get it”?

What happened to us?

I wish I knew.



3 responses to “Liabilities”

  1. I remember being 18 in 2003 and canvassing a 4-county area with my application and lacking resume. I’d never held a job before. It was 3 years and 3 unpaid volunteer jobs before anyone hired me for a paying position and even they took a chance on me.

    A friend who’d known me all of maybe 6 months took me in to the office for a meeting with one of her professors, the dean of the School of Christian Ministries. She talked me up to him, he interviewed me for the workstudy receptionist position on the spot and I was hired. My friend took a chance, my new supervisor took a greater chance — receptionists in this office were called upon to create test documents (type them up from notes on a legal pad) and grade papers. I was scheduled to be in at least one SCM class per semester, so to hire me meant reworking how papers were graded or created and by whom.

    Many have taken chances on me, but I must also take a chance on myself — difficult to do when people act like I haven’t the qualifications. The two greatest complaints I’ve received while job hunting any year have been “You haven’t enough work experience” and “you’re over-qualified”. The hilarity of being over-qualified was that I was applying at Burger Flipper Inc… in hopes of eventually gaining a position within management so I might utilize my office skills in addition to grilling animal parts.

    Back on point: From a distance, I can tell you that my peers and I often feel like damaged goods. In my case, I can tell you the working world has been a huge letdown. Labels are a bully. The working world stamps LIABILITY on me while my family labeled me LAZY or UNWILLING TO WORK. Those are hard ones to battle. “…get told you’re a dumb animal long enough, you become one.” – the DLF, Prince Caspian

    The greatest obstacles between myself and achievements are based within me and the opportunities I’m granted by others in life.

    Within Me – What don’t I know? What do I need to learn? Where can I learn this? Then I find I need a job just to pay for the knowledge necessary to create my own work.

    Opportunities – Friends don’t let friends go without their achievements, guys. My friend had NEVER worked with me a day in her life. She just knew me. Granted, she was aware of my computer skills, but it was a vague awareness.

    Take that to heart. Take your heart to class.