Life & career lessons from a women’s prison

A few years ago I was invited to present sessions on how to find a job to a group of unemployed women.   My goal was to encourage and support them in life and career lessons.

I had delivered many motivational talks and sales training sessions over the years to a variety of companies and community groups.

And as everyone who delivers training and motivational talks will agree, there is nothing more satisfying than witnessing the positive impact you can have on people across their life and work.

But these talks were to be very different indeed. My audience were groups of women soon to be released on parole from jail.  I felt humbled, nervous and very challenged by the task.

How was I going to translate my corporate knowledge into something meaningful and relevant for women who were behind the eight-ball in the first place in life?

It’s hard enough for career and job seekers to find work at the best of times irrelevant of their status, experience or skills.

But for these women who had been in jail with frequent cycles of recidivism and external pressures that have bound their psyche, their challenges to find work were even more complex.  

I knew that with already low self esteem and mostly coming from disadvantaged  and generationally unemployed backgrounds, these women needed something unique to empower and amplify their efforts to find work once on the outside.  

And having been a foster parent of teenagers at risk I knew how important seeds of hope and encouragement are – no manner how small. So I devised  sessions around Life’s essential 4 P’s  :

Passion ~ Purpose ~ Persistence ~ Proactiveness

Launching first into PASSION – my 1st question was

Apart from drugs, sex and booze – what did you once and/or or currently love to do in life and WHY ?  

That question got the sessions off to a rip roaring start (with some funny animations to lighten the mood). After some contemplation the women really got excited and talked about the hobbies and skills they loved doing. 

 I then took that to the discussion around the things we love to do, we are generally really good at. And with the emotional connection of passions I could see the rise of self esteem and pride in the room.   

Yes I AM good at something after all- WOW – I have something to contribute.

From a position of greater awareness, PURPOSE was then interwoven into the construct of how perhaps their skills and passions could be part of their life purpose.

And a reflection on how that may be transferred in some small part into the sort of jobs they could apply for when outside.  If not directly, indirectly by hooking into their ‘why’.

The final 2 P’s – PROACTIVENESS & PERSISTENCE demonstrated that everyone (whether they be the Prime Minister, Madonna, Mother Theresa, CEO’s of large corporations etc ) need to be highly proactive and persistent.

Everyone in life gets knocks, set-backs and frankly finding a job is hard yakka – no matter who you are. But some of course have a far tougher time and hurdles to jump.

These women share something with all of us when we look for a new job. We all suffer from self doubt in some way. For that, we are all in the same boat in many respects.

The 4 P’s are essential for our success and we all need to think deeply and connect our Passions and Purpose and to recognise that in job hunting and business we always have to be Proactive & Persistent. 

Do also reflect that you are in a far better place than these women in prison. Many of these women btw were in jail resultant of family and partner circumstances and a life on self destruct and bad choices. A lack of self love and support was a constant issue.

So whatever bias and obstacles most people need to overcome in their job hunt, there will not be many harder than addressing incarceration.

So when you are going for a new job or career transition, no matter your age, gender profession – embrace and commit to the 4 P’s – Passion, Purpose, Persistence, Proactiveness.

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