Learning on the Job

Posted on January 29, 2013

I’m finishing up a supported job in the mailroom at Morgan Stanley. Even though the job wasn’t perfect, I still gained a lot from the experience. I learned things both big and small - about myself and about life in general.

The first hurdle was the dress code: modified corporate, which means slacks or skirt, long-sleeved shirt or jacket, and closed toe shoes (no sneakers). I stocked up at the Fountain House Thrift Shop and, for a few dollars, got all that I needed. Although at first I was resentful of the dress code, I now find that dressing to look good by these standards has a positive effect on how other respond to me, and thus, makes me feel better about myself. It engenders a feeling of pride that has gone far beyond the job.
I find that you need to pay special attention to your shoes. New Yorkers spend an extraordinary amount of time examining each other’s shoes…in the subway, in elevators, on the bus, waiting in line - you don’t want to be moving around feeling bad about your shoes. Check the thrift store often until something in your size turns up.
At Morgan Stanley I see myself a lot in the chrome elevator doors. It reminds me to stand up straight and take the frown off my face. The frown is an old habit that I don’t need right now. There, that looks better. I don’t look half bad. Hey, I think I look pretty good! These are new thoughts for me.
I was reminded that I can’t be in control of everything. On the job you run into situations that you don’t like and all kinds of people who have the right to tell you what to do. Don’t foster bad feelings over these problems. I have come to understand that I am only one little piece in a very large puzzle, and my biggest job is just to fit in. On some jobs showing initiative can fail to have the desired effect.
At home, under the stress of the holidays, I crashed and burned and had a mental health crisis that could have escalated into something very serious. The healthy part of me that has been nurtured through Fountain House helped me through. I also thought about the promise I had made to show up at my job every day for six months, ready to work. Working gives me what I need right now: discipline, structure, commitment, and healthy social contact. I’m getting back on-track without having had to miss any days at work. The pay is so-so, but I’ve learned that the benefits are great.

Susan Baus
Wellness Unit, Fountain House

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