By Robyn Hill, LPCC
It is by my parents’ stories that my path was shaped for me. As a young girl, my parents would share their experiences and life lessons to teach me about the world. I can remember one important lesson from my father’s life that has stayed with me since my youth. My mother was actually the first to tell me this story and my dad filled in the blanks as the years went by. The story goes back to when my father was working at Ohio Bell (later to become Ameritech, then SBC Global, then AT&T). I recall that he started out in maintenance (for some obscenely low hourly rate I can remember my dad telling me) and then he eventually moved into a phone technician position. The pay was low but with the union contracts it increased steadily, yet the work was laborious. Climbing poles, learning the ins and out about electricity and cable functioning, this work definitely was a specialized trade. Most black people could get jobs as technicians, and upper management was reserved for white people.
Then along came affirmative action. The racial divide in management could no longer be ignored and so the opportunity came for black people to leave the pole climbing and enter into the corporate office atmosphere. No more work pants, work boot, and tool belts, Black people now had the opportunity to wear slacks and ties, skirts and blouses. A lot of Black people applied and got hired in, including my father. But something about the atmosphere didn’t feel comfortable to my dad, he didn’t trust the whole corporate office vibe and requested to transfer back out into the field. He tells me that his decision to leave the office was questioned by the other black office comrades, as if he was passing up a golden opportunity. I can understand their concern because my dad was choosing to be a labor worker that climbed poles and refusing to climb the ladder of corporate success.
Some time goes by and my dad continues to work in the field, a union worker gaining seniority. Then there came a time for budget cuts (I’m not sure if this was around the time Ameritech took over. I’m sure he will correct me after he reads this.) Well, Ohio Bell/Ameritech’s first cuts began with the corporate affirmative action hires. Now, I’m sure on paper it doesn’t say that they cut the affirmative action hires but there were several black families now dealing with unemployment. However, my dad with his seniority was protected by the union and went on to work for Ameritech, SBC Global, and then paid to retire by AT&T.
Sometimes we set goals based other people’s perception of success. If we are not careful and attentive to our own intuition, needs, and purpose, we can derail our own progress. I am thankful for this lesson taken from this page in my father’s story because it instilled in me the ideology that success is what I make of it and I can always go off of the beaten path. With that I say, Happy Father’s Day!
Hey, check out the Success Chat on the homepage, where I share a snippet of an interview with Jay Floyd from 2017, where he discusses the impact of grief on his success journey. And be sure to sign up for more information on becoming a Success Seeker® so I can help you develop a holistic success journey!