No On-the-Job Training…

April 19, 2011

Imagine with me for a moment, you got a new job…

It’s a pretty important position, and everything is riding on it. You’re not exactly sure what qualified you for this position, or what exactly you’ll even be doing, but you’re determined to give it your best shot. You show up to the first day of work and there is a note on your locker. It reads, “Hi there. You will be responsible to create different formulas, that will in turn create different outcomes, either resulting in success or failure. There will be no on-the-job training, but I am sure you have some skills that might help you with this position, you just have to figure out what they are, and how to use them. Good luck! Oh, and don’t fail! Be productive!”

You break out in a cold sweat, and look up from the note in absolute horror. A sage, older employee slams his locker shut and scoffs, “At least you got a note kid! I didn’t even get that on my first day!” His comment doesn’t really help at all, and only makes you feel more insecure. You put your lunch bag in the locker, and go to the main work room, an enormous warehouse-type, spacious workspace, with all different types of men, at all different types of work stations, doing all different types of random work.

You stand at the entrance, waiting for instruction; someone to guide you, tell you what to do, heck, even someone to reprimand you. Nothing. Eventually the sage old employee looks up from his work and says, “Kid, you’re work’s not going to do itself. Get at it!” Before you can ask what you’re even supposed to be doing, he looks back down, and carries on with his work. Suddenly a loud siren goes off and red lights begin to flash. All the employees look around in fear.

Leroy, a rough-looking guy wearing baggy clothes and thick gold chains, throws his hands in the air and shouts out, “Yeah, I did it again! What?! It’s not like I ever had anybody to show me what’s up!” Leroy stands on the table of his work station, takes off his shirt, and bangs his chest. Some of the employees cheer in Leroy’s support and praise, while others just continue working, trying to ignore him. All of the sudden, men dressed in all white uniforms come busting in the back entrance, armed with batons and tasers.

Leroy tries to make a break for it but one of the uniformed men shoots a taser that flies through the air and connects with Leroy’s back. He falls to the ground and convulses. The uniformed men stand over Leroy and hit him a few times with their batons. They handcuff him and drag him out of the work space. The flashing lights stop, and the siren turns off. Everyone continues to work. Now you are really scared.

You go up to a work station with a nice looking man, who seems to be hard at work. He sits in front of a computer, typing frantically. Every few seconds the computer makes a ding noise. Curious, you ask him, “What’s that noise?” Without looking at you, and continuing to type like a mad man, the man answers, “Success.” You stare at him in awe. Ding, ding, ding, DING! You ask him how he became so good and he smugly replies, “Oh I had an excellent mentor who was there from day one. He was the best in this field and taught me everything he knows. Now I’m the best.”

Surprised, you ask, “Wait! On-the-job training?”

He looks at you, completely annoyed, “Yep.”

“But I had a note that said there’s no on the job training.”

He rolls his eyes, “Not for you, I guess. It’s different for everyone.”

“But how am I supposed to know what to do?”

The man stops typing and sighs, “Don’t ask me! That’s your problem. But I suggest you start trying to figure it out, before they come for you!”

You look over at the red lights that had flashed not so long ago, and then down at the work space. Gulp. The table is filled with different tools. You pick one up, and the man shouts, “No! Not that one! You can’t use that!” You put it down quickly. You are completely overwhelmed, and it doesn’t get any better. And without any guidance, or help from your fellow employees, you begin to fumble your way around, trying to accomplish tasks that you are not fully sure how to do, or if you are even supposed to be doing them in the first place. It takes years and years for you to fall into a comfortable work flow, still never fully knowing if you are doing what you are supposed to, but always aware of your successes, and even more aware of your failures. That underlying insecurity never leaves.

That job would suck, right? It would be terrifying. I could not imagine it even being real.

Now imagine with me for a moment, a young boy coming into his teenage years, with no dad around, and no positive male role models in sight. This young boy basically has the same task as the person in my previous scenario, but this scenario is unfortunately way more real, for way too many young kids. What are we doing to ease their suffering?