Jobless – Part 10

This week it will officially be six months since I’ve been out of work. The frustration level is starting to grow. I feel like I have been diligent in looking and have been doing all of the right things, but with negative results.

You have to make decisions on an ongoing basis as to what your priorities are. I’ve been told that my biggest negative to potential employers is my location. Even though I have said I would be willing to commute, and to me the jobs are at a commutable distance (though granted, a life changing distance) employers make assumptions that you can’t do it. I commuted an hour each way for about eight years or so, so it’s not as though I don’t know my tolerance level. It’s frustrating that potential employers are making this decision for me without really knowing me, while I know if I agree to work certain hours I am responsible enough to be there barring an emergency. Shouldn’t all adults be?

I’ve spent a lot of time agonizing over what is most important, location or money. I love living in Statesville. My family is here, amazing friends are here, the culture is rich, the cost of living is reasonable….there is so much to love. For the first time in my life, though, I believe I have to choose money as the priority. Not crazy money…..just close to the level I have been making. I have goals that will be more difficult to reach if I take a major cut in salary. And while I love living here, I’m also usually up for an adventure. One of my friends who is a balloon pilot pointed out that through ballooning I am lucky enough to have friends scattered everywhere. I also have friends I have met along the way who live in places that could be interesting. I’ve always said I could live anywhere and be happy. This may be the time to prove that. Yes, it would bruise my heart, but it would not break it. It may even make it stronger.

I’m not motivated by money. Even now, as I say it is a priority. But this I have learned….many in the world are. Because of this, sometimes when you don’t make it a priority you get seen as the salary grade you settled for, instead of the quality you bring to the table.

There are times when I haven’t fought for my worth, because it seemed wrong to me. And not the priority. Looking back I have some regrets. Not that I haven’t accumulated more stuff or a fatter back account, but because I think in some ways I haven’t lived up to my potential. My business is employee benefits….and this impacts lives. If I had fought for a louder voice at the table, I believe I could have done more that would have positively impacted “the system”. Business decisions should often be made by people who understand what a budget is. Who have lived paycheck to paycheck and even been in debt. Granted I got my finances under control years ago, but I have never forgotten what that felt like and don’t think I ever will. I believe as many people make more money they do.

Some are wondering now where job satisfaction comes in. When it gets down to the work itself, I’ve been happy in every job I have had. I enjoyed working at McDonald’s. I really loved my summer job in Hunt’s shipping department when I was in college. I loved the work in radio stations. I loved impacting the lives of kids when I was a houseparent at the Grandfather Home for Children, my first year after college. And I have loved the work of every single job I have had in the insurance/benefits world. I always looked downstream and saw the lives impacted and that mattered to me. I cared about these people I didn’t know.

I look ahead to the years I have left in the workforce,and I want a voice. Not just for a person here and there (because I was always able to champion individuals in whatever role I had), but I want to be involved in actively making policy decisions that impact people.

I have a background that has put me in places where I see the struggles of everyone involved in benefits….the employee, the Human Resources staff, the insurance company, the providers, even the very government that drives me crazy. I have the ability to see the benefits world as both a business and a place where needs can be met for working people everywhere. These next years are important and I want to help make things better. Therefore I need to be willing to step up and fight for a voice at the table. While many see me as an extrovert, I am a strong introvert. Because of my strong bent for justice, however, I have always been able to be vocal in the workplace. Voices like mine are needed.

This 6-month anniversary of joblessness comes right at the time of my 59th birthday. I promise that I am not going to allow myself to be enveloped by stress. My friend circle has not let me forget to enjoy these days. Their suggestions often come just when I need them. I am heading to a balloon festival in Paris, Texas to hang out with my ballooning friends, staying with one of the strangers I have met along the way who has become a friend. I’ll tell that story soon, because I have never blogged about it, but for now just know that it is a strong reminder that things we deem disasters can turn into rainbows. It’s always good to remember that, but for me, especially now.

Next up in the unemployment world…..I have to file for unemployment, That’s sure to be… experience.


Victory Junction

And this is what my ballooning friends do in the summer on Tuesday nights. Victory Junction is a camp for kids with sickness or special needs, and their families, started by the Petty family of racing fame, in memory of Kyle’s son Adam Petty. It’s a first rate camp with amazing staff, and we are fortunate to be able to bring smiles to some special kids.

At this week’s NASCARnival, Richard Petty was on hand, as well as driver Joey Logano, one driver who almost always comes with his team and puts on a little driving demo to take it to the pit for the crews to show what they can do. I have no pictures of either, but the kids were proudly showing off their autographs.

Jobless – Part 9

You want to know what is truly frustrating? Of all of the jobs for which I have applied, only a few have sent me rejection letters. Of those rejection letters I have received, most have been for jobs where I was eliminated early in the process (after a resume review). Of the jobs I have interviewed for in person? I have only received two written rejections. From the rest I have heard nothing,

I know at least one of these companies has hired someone else for that job. About a month ago. I know this because I know the person they hired (and I believe she does offer some things I couldn’t, such as closer proximity). I thought the rejection letter would be forthcoming. But no.

I’ve also been a bit surprised with the recruiters I have worked with. After every interview I have reported in to them, discussing my impressions of how things went. They have always said they would follow up with the company. They haven’t gotten back to me with feedback either.

If someone takes the time to interview, especially in person, they deserve a certain level of respect. Most of the jobs I have interviewed for required at least an hour’s drive there and back. Most have lasted several hours. Some have required that I return for another interview or do some sort of exercise that shows I am able to do the job. I’m not paid for any of this (though in many cases it is intellectual property), nor do I expect to be. Still, acknowledgment that they noticed I was there would be nice.

No one owes me a job because I have made investments to interview. Those investments are by my choice and I don’t want to work for anyone who doesn’t hold at least a bit of excitement for what I bring to the table. I don’t mind rejections. Much. But when there is no door closed? It keeps you in a crazy kind of limbo.

This morning I spent some time following up on some jobs I had not heard back on. I want to know for sure the door is closed. I’d also love feedback, if they will offer it. That’s good when you are in this process.

Thirteen years ago when I was job hunting things were a bit different. I usually received a stipend for gas, for example. I was not asked to produce documents to analyze information or produce sample presentations. They asked me questions, reviewed my experience, and made decisions based on that. Communication was more personal and came quicker. Usually by the next week I had an offer or a rejection…..usually by phone call. Today, in internetland they often receive hundreds of applications for any job. Expectations for candidates are greater. Expectations for employers are less. But a simple form letter saying the job was filled or that they don’t think you are right for them? I would think that would be part of their normal hiring arsenal and would be a regular part of their process.

I don’t want the jobs of all of the companies for whom I have interviewed, so it’s no surprise that many will not want me when I’m in the pool with many other great candidates. I try not to take a lot of it personally, because I too have hired people and know that not only is that evaluation process difficult, but sometimes the reason certain employees are hired is a bit random. I once voted to hire a guy because he was so darn nervous (when the other candidates were quite poised) and I thought we could get up his confidence (it was for an internship). He got the job. I think his confidence was raised, but later I did question whether we hired the right person. So I know the best candidate does not always get the job. When I don’t get it I try not to take it too personally but instead think “That’s just not where I am supposed to be.”

Whatever the result is fine. I just would like to free my mind to move ahead unencumbered. It’s a bit more difficult with loose ends flapping in my wake.

Iredell Christian Ministries

My wonderful friend Susie Wiberg, who has her heart on the pulse of needs in the community, gave me a quick tour of Iredell Christian Ministries this morning. Awesome to see the vibrance of this organization, as people can come by to get food and other things they need to take care of their family.

One of the big needs at the moment is dog food. I know some folks are a bit judgmental of people having pets while struggling to feed themselves and their family, but before judgment think of how many people are one paycheck away from being in their circumstance. Also think of where strays are often dumped (often near low income neighborhoods.) Think of how much comfort your pets give you, when sadness or illness or struggle hits. I know a lot of compassionate people, so I know we can meet this need.

You can either drop off a donation at ICM (Monday or Tuesday 9-12 a.m.,), or even order on Amazon and get it shipped right there. Big bags are good….they break them down to about 10 lb. bags for the people.

Also if you have clothes or toys or household items you are getting rid of, or extra personal items you cannot use, they have a “free for the taking” section where you can drop things off. I had a couple of blood donation T-shirts (I never want them myself but get the largest sizes available for just this purpose) in my car and when I hung them I I noticed that there wasn’t much there. (One thing I usually tell people….donate new or gently used items, not your rags. Use those for rags! People deserve items of dignity.)

Address for ICM is:

752 Old Salisbury Rd

Statesville, NC 29677

They are located behind the Partnership for Young Children.

If you’re not in our community, you can still donate, but look for a like-minded organization who is serving the poor in your area. This is a universal need.

This Flag Thing

Hey, my city, Statesville, NC, has made the news! Some of my Facebook friends, even those who don’t live anywhere near this area, have made posts about it. You see, there is this big flag flying at a local business, it is bigger than the Statesville city ordinance allows, and the owner of that business says he will not take it down.

It’s created a lot of drama and generated a lot of national publicity for both this business and our city. Statesville is thought by some to be “anti-American flag” (including many in our community.)

For those who have never been here, or have been and not noticed, I’ve lived here the bulk of my life and have found it to be a town full of patriots, many with amazing stories to tell. And there are a heck of a number of flags here.

Many of you who don’t live here, and some who do, see this simply as a fight over the size of a flag. To others, this issue is not currently about the flag, or even about the ordinance.

Let me go on record and say this first…..I tend to usually be on the side of property owners rights, both private and commercial. I purposely do not live in a neighborhood with a homeowner’s association, because I don’t like the idea that my neighbors could dictate what I do on my land. I guarantee there are times a homeowner’s association would be sending me notices to change something, because their priorities are not my priorities. I believe I shouldn’t have to explain these things to them or make decisions about my property based on what the neighbors think. But if I lived in one if these neighborhoods I would have to be compliant with their wishes or face the consequences. Even not living in one, I still have to abide by local ordinances….and, if caught breaking them, I pay the consequences.

When it gets down to it I don’t really care what size flag someone flies or what kind of sign they have outside their business. I’m fine with that being their choice. Yes, even at the expense of my property value.

I also don’t like the large flags that fly alongside interstates. They distract me. Not blaming anyone for this….it is my responsibility to be aware of this quality in myself and take extra care while driving by one. Recently I was driving through Greensboro, it was windy and rainy, and the flag was all contorted. It bothered me. It was distracting. I also get distracted by someone broken down on the interstate, so once again I don’t necessarily feel that government needs to protect me from myself. I have never been in an accident as a result of either of these circumstances.

I don’t feel that the size of the flag flown shows anything about the person or business that flies it. To me people and businesses show what kind of American they are based on how they treat their fellow Americans (and visitors to our country) and how they respect our country….not whether they fly a flag of any size.

I admittedly have a preference of flags at the standard size. We as a country and a people are at our best when we’re not showing how great we are in the big gestures, but in our humility. Still, some people like big gestures.

The current elected officials have elected not to change the ordinance at this time. The owner of the business has elected to continue to fly the flag that is out of compliance. (Note for those not familiar with the ordinance….the flag must be 25’x40′ or under. The flag flying out of compliance is 40’x80′.) The owner of the business is aware of the penalty ($50 a day) and has said he is willing to pay this. Well, he did say that at one time…. now I hear his lawyers are saying he’s not. Whatever. He can change his mind at any time. His decision. His consequences.

I dislike several of the laws and ordinances that we have in Statesville. I’m still miffed about the beautiful murals the city required be removed. I loved them and thought they added character. I think it should be up to the building owner to decide what art appears (or stays) on their building, But once again, the owners of those properties were made to comply with the ordinance that addresses murals. They did. I am simplifying this story because it is not relevant here. Or is it?

If we become a society that allows people to pick and choose what laws and ordinances they obey, all become worthless. To me that is the main issue here. Companies or individuals that break the laws or ordinances, especially those who do so knowingly and willingly and even daringly, may have to pay consequences. Leaders who don’t enforce these ordinances and laws, especially just because there is national attention, are setting up for chaos.

I’d like our local leaders to review all current laws and ordinances on a fairly regular basis to see whether they need to stay on the books. Which really protect and promote our community and its businesses and people, and which hinder it? What’s important to keep and what can we throw out? I’d love them to keep the number at a minimum. But whatever we keep, let’s enforce.

Profits for Gander are currently down. The free publicity generated by the ruckus in Statesville (and those they have participated in elsewhere around the country) hasn’t yet done enough to help. Though personally I think it is a genius marketing strategy, so maybe time will tell and profits will bolster as a result. I’m personally not calling it “that camper place” anymore, so it has given brand name recognition to at least one person. Though I’m not in the market for a camper/RV at this time.

But really….wouldn’t a 25’x40′ flag do the same thing as the current one, plus allow them to use it for doing things like flying it at half mast? (The height of the current flagpole evidently does not allow this.) One of our local car dealerships has a large flag that is compliant with the ordinance and I have no problems seeing it. My eyes are good….I’d probably also notice several of standard size.

Should the ordinance change? I’d be in favor. Should it change right now? I’m fine with them holding strong for a while. Maybe look at a few other ordinances that impact more than one business, those local businesses that are currently being compliant and respectful to their detriment, and change those first.

To the Statesville City Council members, thank you for serving. You take a lot of flack for not only this, but other issues (many outside the scope of your power), and I believe most (if not all) of you try to make the best decisions for our community, based on what you know. I don’t agree with all of your decisions, don’t always respect what you say and do, but I still respect that you volunteered to serve in this way and were voted into public office in our community. I’m not a city resident so I didn’t vote for you, but as someone who loves this city you do get my attention and thanks.

And to Gander RV/Camping World, I also wish you great success. Thank you for adding to the tax basis of our community, employing some of our people, and operating a retail outlet for those who love camping. While I personally don’t care if you fly a flag that reaches the heavens, I also don’t believe you show yourself to be a better patriot if you do. Instead of being the company with the biggest flags, why not spend your money on community compliant flags and be the company who respects the ordinances of the communities you do business in (while fighting lawfully to change them if you disagree)? Why not show your allegiance to our country by gifting homeless veterans with a RV in which to live? It seems like a natural fit. I’m sure our local-based charity Purple Heart Homes could help you get that going. If you’re already doing something of that nature, maybe you can swing the national discussion that way. I love hearing stories of corporations with kind hearts who really make a difference in the world.

And truly I think the ordinance will change in the future. Just not now. Because for now, it’s not about the flag.