Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Reality Check

Things continue to go well this summer. My son’s driving skills are improving; he joins a pick-up Ultimate Frisbee game two or three days (or nights) each week; he and his father go to the local YMCA to work out once or twice each week; he is involved with the small group of college guys with similar issues (although my son’s sense is that the other two men have different, and perhaps more debilitating, issues than he does); he sees his long-time therapist/friend once every week or so; he does his “walkabouts” daily.

But under all this progress is a learning disability that doesn’t go away. It shows itself subtly, though in a manner that impacts my son’s life in an anything-but subtle way.

In his efforts to find a job this summer, he filled out several applications online. The most recent one was for a drug-store chain where we had seen a “help wanted” sign posted at the outlet in our neighborhood. After he completed the standard identification and background sections, there was a series of multiple choice questions to be completed. Once during this part of the process, he said to me “I hate these questions when they don’t have a ‘middle-of-the-road’ answer.” There were four response choices, so – whatever the question – the answer was pretty much a definite or weak ‘yes’, or a definite or weak ‘no.’ I didn’t look at the questions, just told him to answer as best he could and not to worry about it.

WRONG! Live and learn.

He decided to go into the store last night and find out about the status of his application. After checking, the manager told him that the questions at the end of the application are designed to measure how a candidate would deal with stress in customer service situations. There was a certain minimum score that had to be achieved to merit bringing in the applicant for an interview, and my son’s score was below that minimum. He could reapply after ninety days.

Now here is the dilemma: was it better that my son answered the questions honestly and effectively avoided a job that might have exposed him to a stress level that he could not handle? Or would he have been better off if I had looked over his shoulder and coached him on some of the answers, giving him the reassurance that – at least on paper – he’d react differently than perhaps his gut was telling him?

As we walked home from the store, he seemed to be okay with what the manager had told him (but I’m really not sure he was, and I’m glad he is seeing his “talk doctor” today). I asked him if he felt better knowing why he didn’t get called, or would it have been better just not to have heard from the store; he said he thought it was better to know one way or the other. Then I told him that, knowing in hindsight that the questions were designed to figure out how he might cope in a stressful situation, it might have been better to take a more confident position on some of the answers, even if he wasn’t being completely true to himself. However, I had to add that maybe it was for the best that he was honest. He knows what he is capable of. In the event of a misstep on the job, it is frequently difficult for anyone to tolerate criticism or correction by a manager. He will eventually experience on-the-job criticism, but perhaps today that's something he's not ready to manage.

In his first year at college, it seems to me that he was certainly criticized more than complimented (he might not agree), and I’m not sure what that has done to his self-confidence. I do think further coaching and development might be warranted to ensure a successful first job experience.


Barbara said...

This is a constant struggle for me right now. I think I'm almost to ready to jump in and help ds out. My dh is starting to tell me that I need to let him be a little more. Entering adulthood isn't easy on them, or us.

PatK said...