You would imagine, I have no doubt, that it is easy to find a position for someone to learn a job if the company providing the job experience was required to pay no wages. It’s rather like the Intern system we have in the United States: a student comes in, gets all the rubbish jobs to do, and then goes back to their college course refreshed and with an excellent idea of what the working world is really like. In Germany such job experiences excursions are part and parcel of a course, depending on the subject being taken, and students are expected to disappear for weeks at a time, learning the reality away from the lecture hall. So it is with my course, except for the fact that we have had to play around with paperwork and – finally – the truth a good deal. Finding me somewhere to gain work experience has been an experience in itself.
The problem is, no one wants disabled people to work for them. They are required to employ disabled people, a certain percentage is laid down in many industries by law, but that doesn’t mean they have to like it. And who is going to employ a middle or higher management woman who cannot talk? Come to that, who is really interested in hiring a woman for any higher position, when there are enough men – often with lesser qualifications – applying for the same position? Everyone complains that the women, when they’re not off because it’s the time of the month, spend all their time talking and then, having a chance of using someone who isn’t going to hog the phone lines, they’re not interested at all.
Photo Source: juhansonin – Creative Commons
So yes, we cheated. The company was told that I had simply lost my voice, temporarily, and would be fit as a fiddle in no time at all. Things would have been easier if it was a major business, but this was a small, family firm where someone could give their work experience people full attention. None of the giving them a task and wait until it’s finished, full-time, over-your-shoulder, always hovering in the background attention. It worked for the first few days, everyone was happy to quickly explain what was needed and make sure I could do it. Then I made a mistake. I discovered that there was something they were doing, in this family company, which could be vastly improved with increased sales – potentially – and lower costs.
The trouble was, aside from the fact that I was only there to learn and not to teach, that they had always done things this way and it had always worked. And it did work, no doubt about it, but a few changes would have increased the potential and made a good idea into a wonderful one with all the benefits one might expect. At some point or other I began waving my hands about which, for me, is talking. This was misinterpreted as a sign of impatience, of knowing better than your betters and had to be explained. No temporary illness. No chance of my voice gradually coming back again. They had been fooled, mislead, duped.
My work experience was excellent, it taught me a great deal about the way in which some businesses run, about their hierarchy, about family values, about the disinclination to accept change, whether it be for the better or not. It also taught me what it is like to be without an Internet connection – the company has no cyber presence at all – both on a business and a personal level.
Whether this firm will take up my idea for improvements remains to be seen, I have to write a complete report on my experiences as part of a presentation and send them a copy of it. For me, though, it is clear that there are many hurdles still ahead, should I choose to take them, and that is a challenge I can see myself taking great pleasure in.
Love & Kisses, Viki.