Open mind, open heart, and opportunity
At a recent recovery job fair in Biddeford, a young man walked up to the Paradigm Windows table and introduced himself to Lark Pitts, the company’s human resources and safety coordinator. He told her about his background and then, in a whisper, asked if the fact that he’d been incarcerated would eliminate him from consideration.
Pitts leaned over and said, “You don’t have to whisper. It’s OK … I don’t have a prejudice about that and – we are at a recovery fair.”
Pitt’s comment reflects the open-minded, open-hearted culture of Paradigm.
“We are very inclusive. It comes to us naturally,” she says. “We have such a diverse workforce. We have people from all over the world and all types of backgrounds.
Bouncing back from incarceration and recovery are just part of that.”
To give you an example of Paradigm Window’s culture of open-mindedness, take Julka Arsovski, an immigrant from Bosnia. When she joined the company as a production worker, she spoke no English. Twenty years later, because of her drive and initiative, she is now the company’s plant manager. In addition to immigrants seeking opportunity, Paradigm has many employees in recovery and others who have been incarcerated and have worked their way up to leadership and customer-facing positions.
To make the most of Paradigms’ opportunities, Pitts offers this advice to anybody with a strong work ethic and desire to do their best:
Your past doesn’t define you.
“Look me in the eye and own what happened … no blaming or excuses.” Doing this communicates accountability and integrity, two qualities employers value highly in employees.
You’re more than your past. You have accomplishments and skills. Own them.
“Don’t be afraid to tell me about the good stuff. Don’t worry about tooting your own horn, no one else will do it,” says Pitts. By backing up your claims with specific examples and stories, you can speak candidly about your abilities and accomplishments without sounding like bragging. You’re just sharing the facts.
Remember everyone has aspects of their past they aren’t proud of. There’s no need to dwell on the negatives. Acknowledge them and then help the interviewer understand the contribution you can make. That’s what they want to hear about.
Don’t be a shrinking violet.
Pitts tells new hires to “Speak up … whether it’s about processes, quality or your pocketbook.” People who advance at Paradigm ask for what they need, she says, and also show they care about contributing to Paradigm’s success by speaking up when they see opportunities for things to be done more efficiently or more safely.
Have a ‘can-do’ attitude.
“Don’t be an Eeyore (the gloomy donkey in Winnie-the-Pooh). Be willing to do the jobs that need to be done, be willing to work hard, interact with everybody, and speak up rather than be silent,” Pitts emphasizes. This is hugely valuable career advice. A can-do attitude, along with its cousin, initiative, are among the top qualities managers look for – and wish they saw more of – in employees.