By Raquel Webster
Last year I volunteered as a coach and interviewer for the Job Interview Skills Program that the Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association and the Federal Bar Association conduct for CARE/RESTART, reentry programs of the Federal District Court of Massachusetts. One of my most vivid memories was working with one of the probationers on his interviewing skills. We worked on one particular question over and over, as I knew that if he gave a potential employer the answer he was giving me, he would never get a job. By the end of our session I thought we had made real progress, but wasn’t sure what would happen when he was in a real interview.
A few weeks later, as I impatiently waited in a long line at a local coffee shop for my required morning cup of coffee, I heard someone behind me repeatedly say “I didn’t give the same response and I got the job! I didn’t give the same response and I got the job!” My first instinct was not to react – just a random person with a new job, right? Wrong. Seconds later I felt a tap on my shoulder and to my surprise, I recognized the newly hired and very excited youth, he was the probationer I coached in my mock interview sessions, and he was talking to me. Needless to say, I was surprised to see him. When I congratulated him on his new job he replied: “You were extremely tough but I stopped given those bad answers you helped me through!” He went on to explain how much his life had changed and how he finally found a job after being told no over and over again. What really stuck with me was how convinced he was that he would not have gotten the job but for our mock interview and coaching sessions.
I never realized how much impact my mock interview questions and coaching would have on him. However, the excitement on his face and in his voice as he told me about his new job was priceless. Knowing that I, as an individual, could make a real impact in one person’s life is why I didn’t think twice about signing up to work with CARE/RESTART again. As a member of this year’s Public Interest Leaders (PILP) class, I’m excited to be assisting CARE/RESTART by developing a series of educational workshops addressing civil legal barriers that might otherwise hinder these probationers reentry to society. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to work on this pilot project with my fellow PILPers. I may not be lucky enough to have another positive encounter with a participant like the one in the coffee shop, but I will be satisfied knowing that I am doing something to help the CARE/RESTART participants make a positive re-entry into society.
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Raquel Webster is Senior Counsel at National Grid USA. Raquel is a member of the Boston Bar Association’s Public Interest Leadership Program.