23 Dec Transformation from Outside-In
I remember the day I met Mr. Lim. He approached me walking with a limp. Immediately, he sat down and told me he needed help. He wanted me to look through his cover letter and resume because he just wasn’t getting employed when he sent out those documents. Trying to understand the situation, I asked more about him and realised that he hasn’t been employed for the last 4 years.
He promptly took out his laptop to allow me to look through his resume and cover letter. I took a quick glance and noticed he appeared 10 years older than his resume photo, which was taken 3 years ago. I pondered about what had happened to him over the last 4 years but did not ask. It wasn’t time to open the can of worms. However, I was ready to help him.
I closed the laptop and took a good look at Lim. He had messy hair and was clad in a t-shirt so wrinkled and grimy it looked like it hadn’t been washed for days – even weeks. The James Bond bag he was carrying looked almost comical and definitely unfitting for a professional.
“Today we aren’t doing the resume”, I said. I informed Lim that he was facing a problem that was bigger than simply getting employed. So huge that the problem was larger than him and I knew he had to grow to be bigger than the problem in order to solve it. As his eyes started to water, I could tell he was currently consumed by the problem. It strengthened my resolve to help him.
I asked him how ready he was to get a job, emotionally and physically, on a scale of 1 to 10. It wasn’t so much about how confident was he about landing a job. Lim answered that he wasn’t ready by telling me he was 1 on the scale of 10. I advised him to improve the scale to 5, and then the job search would come later. We proceed to think about how to prepare Lim for a job.
Firstly, I needed Lim to change his image. I instructed him on how to do so by telling him that he should cut his hair short and neat, shave off his stubble and change his dressing so that he would look presentable and professional.
I am a firm believer of using the physical self to influence one’s internal state of mind. I understood the stress of being unemployed, with no income and no Central Provident Fund (CPF) to rely on. The pressure he was going through had strained his relationships and I knew this would also affect his state of mind and how he would portray himself in front of his employers. I needed Lim to be prepared to change that.
Next, I spoke to Lim about waking up at 5 in the morning to have a walk for at least 20 minutes everyday. I wanted him to break his usual mundane routine to see himself with a fresh pair of eyes. For accountability’s sake, I also requested Lim to give me a text about what he saw and felt during his morning walk.
The next day arrived with a new WhatsApp notification on my phone. It was from Lim. He sent me a picture of him in a park with dyed short hair that took years off his age.
He was clothed in his exercise gear and his grin was so wide I could almost see all his teeth. The transformation on the outside had succeeded in changing him from the inside. Clearly, the physical appearance does not only make one presentable, but may also change one’s mood and frame of mind. Through this transformation, one may also find a new lease of life amidst difficult situations just as Mr. Lim did.
This new lease of life and vitality may serve helpful in overcoming challenges we might encounter.
Adrian is the CEO and co-founder of Centre for Career Excellence. After 10 years of training over 50,000 career seekers in employability programs, Adrian champions coaching with learning within a community for career growth and excellence. He enjoys exploring multiple ideas and possibilties that can integrate into programs to produce tangible outcomes.