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Lifelines: On-the-Job Training

C. Saphir

I was so unqualified for this job that I didn’t even know to turn it down

Wednesday, July 06, 2016


Photo: Shutterstock

The mesivta I attended offered no formal general studies. No English, no math, no science. I graduated with some sort of diploma, but without any idea of where my vocational interests might lie. 

As long as I was safely ensconced within the yeshivah system, this wasn’t a problem. I did the same thing all my peers did: continued from high school to beis medrash, then to Eretz Yisrael, then to a yeshivah in America. 

Unlike most of my friends, I did not have an easy time in shidduchim. As one year went by and then another, keeping a positive frame of mind became increasingly difficult, and my learning deteriorated significantly. I put a lot of thought into my situation, and decided that I wanted to go to work. 

This turned out to be a much more difficult step than I anticipated, because my family and friends were opposed to the idea. “Who would date you?” they asked. And, “How can you possibly leave yeshivah? You don’t understand the repercussions.” These were comments I heard over and over again. 

I soon realized that if I wanted to take this step, I would have to do it alone, without anyone’s support. But where to begin? 

I met with a vocational counselor, and he advised me to take an aptitude test. The results indicated that I’d make a good police officer. Right. 

I decided to go out and speak to people in the working world — business owners, professionals, rank-and-file employees. Along the way, I met some wonderful people who tried to help me network and meet potential employers. 

About six months into my search, I got a call from one of these people. “I have a few possibilities for you, Yaakov,” he said. “There’s a wholesaler who’s looking for someone to help with sales and returns, a plumber looking for an assistant trainee, and a nursing home chain looking for an IT intern to help with day-to-day operations.” 

I had always been interested in computers, so I decided to go with the IT internship at Golden Age Care (GAC), even though it was an unpaid position. 

On my first day at GAC, I was told to “image these computers from the network.” I didn’t have the slightest clue what that meant. Nor was there anyone to ask, because GAC did not have anyone on-site in charge of its computer system; all of its IT needs were handled by outside companies. 

At a loss for where to begin, I Googled the words “How to image a computer.” Luckily, I came across the right information and figured out what I needed to do.

Photo: Shutterstock

What to do next? Management wasn’t giving me any instructions, but the company employees were happy to keep me busy. Very busy. One employee called me to tell me that his computer had crashed, while another one yelped that the phones weren’t working. As I was hurrying over to the first one to help with his computer, a third employee flagged me down from her desk to let me know the printer was out of ink. 

This went on for the duration of my four-month internship. In addition to helping my coworkers with their computer issues, I spent a good portion of each day logged onto various IT sites that provided me with the information I needed to get through my day. I also spent a lot of time talking to staff members, and slowly, I got a picture of what needed to be done to keep the various computer systems working properly. 

When my internship was over, I still didn’t know what my responsibilities were supposed to have been. But apparently I had done a reasonably good job at whatever it was GAC wanted from me, because they offered me a steady job continuing to do what I was doing, at a salary of $11 an hour.

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