This is part 2 of a series. Find the first and second parts here and here (yeah I see I can’t count, you’ll see why when you visit those posts.) It is highly recommended that you read those parts first so you understand what’s up here.
After an encouraging time of exponential growth in his career, Mr. WW found that the plant that responsible for the growth was shutting down. We lived in Michigan and this was a plant that made auto parts and the automotive industry was in crisis. Remember that? If you live in Michigan you do. It crippled the entire state for a while.
It was not as discouraging a situation to us as it was to many of the other employees. Thankfully Mr. WW had good relationships with his superiors and had received many glowing letters of recommendation.
Yay! We have good options and this one is great for us!
His potential was further encouraged by the fact that the company was going to take a handful of employees on at their corporate office. We were not against moving the four hours south for such a job and we were told by both the plant manager and the HR rep that they had listed Mr. WW in the top of their recommendation list.
When the first person who went in for the interview for this job, he walked out of the meeting room with a big grin. The news quickly spread that the new plant was offering positions with much higher pay rates.
We waited expectantly for Mr. WW’s interview and were excited at the opportunity for the change as Mr. WW saw one after another the people coming from their interviews smiling.
But then the flow of people stopped. He curiously went to HR and asked if his interview would be soon. The response was not encouraging. “Um, yeah. I guess we can do that.” The interview itself was even more discouraging. The people interviewing for the new plant were totally disengaged. The interview was over with, “I’ll let you know” but sadly we had a good guess at what the outcome would be.
We found out later that the corporate office plant had strictly chosen the five with the most seniority and did not consider anything else. Mr. WW would not be asked to work for the corporate office plant.
We have good options and something will come through!
Thankfully we had many other irons in the fire. Unfortunately there were not any jobs closer to us but the world was our oyster. Mr. WW used our newly acquired internet connection to our benefit and we carefully filled out applications and sent resumes waited to see where we would be accepted.
But we weren’t. One by one, even after promising phone interviews, we were not chosen. Time moved on and it came closer and closer to the final door closing date.
We can do this, maybe? Or no. Let’s go with no.
We had one other option. It made the LEAST sense. Many other people were jumping on this option because it was a good deal but it scared us. Due to some political moves that had been made, employees displaced by the plant closing could choose to get a paid two year degree and extended unemployment benefits for those two years.
It was not a good deal for Mr. WW because he did not have a good track record with school. It was bad enough that memories of school were full of bullies, there were also some serious shortcomings in the grades department. He NEVER did well in school. Most of the years were spent in a special education class and he still struggled. Then after 6th grade he was supposed to do his learning at home but he made very little progress.
Going back to school was not something he wanted to do. He hadn’t been in a classroom environment in 10 years and when he was he was not good at it.
But we had little choice. I reassured him that I would help him with homework. I pointed out that we at least needed to try. That, although each phone interview went well, he obviously needed a little push to make him a more desirable employee.
“No, no, no!”… I guess “yes” it is?
So he headed to the community college and stood in line for a few hours with our two year old to register. Since it was a community college they did provide a basic test that showed he would have to take some remedial classes first, but he was signed up for the CAD/CAM program. So when the day came, he put on his backpack with his highlighters and #2 pencils and headed out for the hour and ten minute drive to the closest college.
What happened the next two years was jaw dropping.
For all except some basic re-typing, Mr. WW refused my help. He translated that drive and passion to school and he took it very seriously. He NEEDED to do it all himself and somehow he kept coming home with A’s. A papers turned into A tests, A tests let to A midterms and A finals and all of that turned into A final grades. He took hard classes and he aced them. Not only did he get his Associates in Applied Science he also got a certificate in manufacturing technology and another in advanced CAD/CAM and he even made huge strides toward becoming certified in welding as well. When all was said and done, his GPA was 3.98, he graduated the top of his class, was voted as most likely to succeed, and was respected by instructors and students alike.
It was an amazing thing to witness.
I shamefully admit that even I, his wife, never expected that outcome.
Not surprisingly, Mr. WW was a much more desirable candidate after the schooling. In less than a week out of college, Mr. WW had a job.
So what does it all mean?
So what’s the moral of this story? Probably something clichéy like, “don’t judge a book by its cover.” The interesting thing is that everyone who meets Mr. WW notices that he is special. But we had a hard time seeing it when it came to education. I told you that he was not good in (or even IN) regular school much of the time. As a kid he was perceived as dumb by many. Even now he still has terrible spelling.
In fact, how much did those years of school really help his value as an employee? Mr. WW did learn a lot during his college years but he didn’t learn much that he has used that he couldn’t have easily learned on the job later on. The more and more we see of the traditional education path the more we’re learning to doubt it.
If one of those hiring managers had given him a chance two years earlier without the degree, they could have had a good employee that much earlier. (Interestingly, this is what the last job had done, did you read part one yet?)
How about this: Mr. WW didn’t even stay at that job long. (That’s another great story but for another day.) When he moved on he became an engineer.
He is an applications engineer and his job is to go to companies and, knowing the product inside and out, train employees how to use the machines to their company’s highest benefit. He now walks into many factories in North America and is immediately respected as the most knowledgeable guy for the process and efficiency of whatever they’re building.
This guy that they respect and trust with their company’s manufacturing power went from a 6th grade education level to engineer in just four years. Let that sink in.
This should be encouraging to everyone. Your potential is not as limited as you would think. (I crossed it out simply because it’s so important that I wanted you to go back and process it again. See, while you were wondering why it was crossed out, I tricked you to read it again. Gotcha! Here it is yet again: your potential is not as limited as you would think.)
We are currently finding this especially encouraging to us. Our son is a sweet kid with a kind heart and a desire to learn… and a learning process that is quite difficult. We often find ourselves getting discouraged by poor grades, by spelling tests that are failed, and handwriting that is often totally incomprehensible.
But then we sit back and realize that these are the same things that Mr. WW struggled with when he went to grade school.
He thought he was dumb back them.
Our son has an amazing amount of potential.
Also interesting to note: Apparently all 5 of the guys who were accepted by the corporate office were let go within a year and found themselves back in the unemployement line– but without the benefit option of the schooling. I don’t know what was up with that company but I like to think that they’re just stupid. Yep, who’s the dumb one now? ; )