Jobless – Part 6

“I have always believed that the way you treat your employees is the way they will treat your customers, and that people flourish when they are praised.” – Richard Branson

So I had another interview last Wednesday. It lasted about an hour and to date it seemed the most comfortable interview I’ve had. Not that I have had any terrible ones yet….but some seem unnecessarily formal. These folks simply asked me to tell them about myself and then asked a few questions and told me about them as an organization. In my estimation this is the sanest kind of interview. How rattled do you need to be by those people you may be working with in the future?

This company stresses they want their work environment to be a family atmosphere, however large they grow (they are currently in acquisition mode and plan to be for some time). It’s a cornerstone of their culture. A lot of family members do happen to work there, but the company is also the result of the combination of more than one agency….so the family they talk about is the collective group of employees who make up the company.

This type of environment is very important to me. I’ve been on the other side…..where people talk differently behind your back than they do to your face. Where adults refuse to confront a co-worker about a problem, but undermine them when they are not around. Where you are discouraged and no one notices. Or particularly cares.

I’ve also had the other. Where “we” win and “we” fail. Where we may drive each other nuts on occasion, or get really loud during “discussions”, but bottom line we stand together. Where we tell truths and work for the success of each other.

So yes…..a true functional family atmosphere…..I need that.

I was headed to meet some friends for an early dinner, when I got a phone call from the head of HR at the company saying “Would it be possible for you to come back on Friday to meet again? They want you to make a presentation, then introduce you to some more people, then take you to lunch.” If I couldn’t do it then, they understood, but because of their travel schedules it would be 2-3 weeks before they could do it again.

My mind went into full out panic mode because of all the reasons this was not a good idea. One being I had volunteered to help at an over-the-counter drug giveaway a group called NC MedAssist (medassist.org) was doing in Statesville that day. I learned about this group from seeing an event invite on Facebook, and always wanting to know about options for the uninsured or others struggling with medical costs, I looked up their website. It seemed like an organization I wanted to know more about, so I decided to volunteer. (One great thing about being a severed employee is that you have salary coming in for a while. I am not someone who has the attention span to “make it my job” to job hunt eight hours a day, as I have seen some experts advise, so I am loving the chance to consciously do some good things with my time.)

I told the HR Director I would talk to the event coordinator for MedAssist the next morning and then let her know if I could do it. The NC MedAssist coordinator was incredibly nice about letting me out of my commitment…. even wished me well. So I decide to go for it. Sooner rather than later usually matters in job hunting.

Now…..the other reasons that it was not the greatest timing for me. First of all, there was the presentation. I didn’t see the email when it first came in (do you know how many emails you get when you are out of work?), so didn’t even get the instructions until the middle of the afternoon. So…..I get it Thursday afternoon and I have to be in Charlotte at their office on Friday morning at 9 to present. OK…..I’ve pulled together a lot of presentations at the last minute and though I had to make up data (they didn’t ask for anything specific except a 6 month plan review), I figured I could do it. But while I am used to doing presentations on PowerPoint, I don’t currently own it. A problem.

Google saved me. They have free apps you use for documents that I had heard about, so I dug up the presentation one. Using a new app isn’t what you want in these circumstances, but I had no other choice. Can I say I love Google even more? It was easy to use and was exactly what I needed. A tiny learning curve, but nowhere close to what I expected.

Then I had guys putting my new kitchen counters in. They talked a lot, and drilled and banged and were just generally noisy. Not their fault….that’s the norm. But it was not the best environment for preparing a presentation. I finally decided I had to wait until they left.

I had other things planned for Thursday. I cancelled everything.

And my printer. It wasn’t working….which I have known since I did my taxes last minute on tax day. I didn’t have time to mess with it. So I ended up having to go to Staples and get my presentations printed. Which meant I needed to work fast. I asked how many would be in the meeting and the HR Director said it would just be the same four who had interviewed me previously. I normally always make an extra copy or two when I make a presentation. This time I didn’t. Copies were $45 making just five. I had no clue it would cost that much. Plus the cost of folders. But not having that extra copy was a mistake. That morning when I arrived the CEO had decided to join us. The HR Director noticed my stress and said he could have hers. (They shared.)

It was fine. Instead of running it like a regular employer meeting, which probably was their intent, I decided to just work my way through the presentation and tell them why I chose the data I did and how I would use it in the meeting. I am one of the world’s worst when it comes to role play…..it was better for all of us that I not do it. I got through it. They continued to ask a lot of questions, even when the presentation was done. But was all fair and pertinent. I asked a few questions of my own. (There is currently no flexibility to work remotely on occasion. Tough where they are located now, though not bad for Charlotte, but a planned company move will make the commute longer.)

About 11:30 they said “Thank you for coming.” I guess the plan to introduce me to others or take me to lunch changed. They told me it would be about three weeks before I heard anything. That executive travel issue again. So I left feeling a bit flat. I called my recruiter and she got me to look at things a bit differently. I knew their schedules were going to be rough, so nothing to do but wait.

But late that afternoon I got a call from another recruiter about another job that sounded interesting to me. The recruiter said at the end of the call “I’ve talked to a lot of people about this job, but you are the first one that I believe is exactly what they want.” (Which sounds great…..but we all know it may or may not be true in that employer’s eyes.) So maybe the waiting time isn’t a bad thing. The search can continue. Options are good.

While I never really felt like I would be out of a job (because caring about what you do and being pretty good at it means you are immune, right?), I did listen to some good teachers in the past regarding personal finance, so I was somewhat prepared. This week I had new kitchen counters installed and also found out my house has termites. Big financial things that most would not want to tackle at this time. The termites are beyond my control…..that needed quick action. The inspector came today and I have the money to pay for treatment. He was a fantastic person, too, and the encouragement he gave was another gift of this season of life. He gets the God thing and laughed with me at some of the stories that have already come from this experience. (That treatment is getting done tomorrow. Goodbye termites.)

I’ve been putting off a kitchen mini-remodel for four years, because I was intimidated by the whole process. Having always lived in apartments or rental houses before moving here, I never had to do anything like it. Since a new job will probably mean a commute and little spare time as I get up to speed on a new job, I decided I wanted to tackle it. You know I like to challenge myself to face hard things. It hasn’t been bad at all….mostly because my family has supported me through the process and my brother and my nephew saved me a lot of money doing some of the work. When the full project gets done (I still need a backsplash) it gives me options….it will make the house more marketable if I have to sell. And I can enjoy it in the time I have left here.

I’m eager to get back to work, but I also see this as an adventure that not everyone gets to experience. I am taking it very seriously, but also my faith allows me to not give in to stress often. You know I love stories….one reason I am blogging about it all…and there are so many that come with something like this. I don’t want to forget the journey.

Plus it’s going to happen to a lot of you, too…..and I’d rather you heed my story and prepare not only financially, but emotionally and spiritually. It really doesn’t have to break your heart or spirit. I promise.

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Jobless – Part 3

Trajectories aren’t linear. Life’s just a roller coaster. If you’re getting a chance to do cool stuff, and it’s varied stuff, just enjoy it. I guess I’m a believer in the randomness of life rather than it being a linear trajectory or an arc, a consistent smooth arc, towards anything.” – Riz Ahmed

“Happiness is a critical factor for work, and work is a critical factor for happiness. In one of those life-isn’t-fair results, it turns out that the happy outperform the less happy. Happy people work more hours each week – and they work more in their free time, too.” – Gretchen Rubin

“Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.” – Lao Tzu

It’s a rollercoaster. A sometimes scary one. OK…..I admit I am having more fun than many would have in my situation and most of the time I’m enjoying this time in my life. I’ve always liked roller coasters. Well, except for the ones that beat up your body along the way. But while most is fine with me, then there are the moments of sheer panic when I think “What if I can’t find a job?”

We’ve already established I am crazy analytical, skills developed by being anxious by nature but not a fan of that particular state of mind. Equilibrium is important to me, so I have learned to quickly look at worse case scenarios and find the truth in them. And the humor. I know I can get by at my current state of living at least through the year. I also know I can reduce my expenses and get by longer. I could actually never have another job and be OK living a crazy vagabond life. But I want to work. I like the purpose it brings to my life. And I enjoy my current life, so don’t have strong desire for major changes.

One of my severance benefits is the use of executive career counselors for six months. I wasn’t sure how helpful that would be, but I suspect it is as helpful as you make it. I had my first “counseling” session last week (I had already made my way through the sessions with their branding expert), and was pleasantly surprised at how helpful it was. It had been a particularly frustrating week, where I got rejections for jobs fir which I felt highly qualified, without even a phone interview. I got to unload a bit with the career counselor. He handled it well. His calmness calmed me. He reminded me it was not personal….but the result of electronic review. He said “We just have to get your resume past the system and in the hands of people.” Which is a matter of having just the right keywords to put you over their limits. I had paid attention to that with my resume, but he said we just needed to tweak them a bit. So we will tweak. Again.

This morning I got another email about one if the jobs I got a rejection for last week. This one was “Congratulations! You have the skill set we are looking for. Please sign up for a telephone interview for this job.” I actually got two of these emails for that same job. From different people. The job already in the reject pile. I guess in an electronic world anything can happen. I almost signed up for the two phone interviews in case I bombed on one. But I didn’t. I figured that one would have to do.

The career counselor is also looking at my Linked In account. That’s important these days. I had ignored most of the suggestions their branding specialist had already shared with me a few weeks ago and had to confess this to him. Mostly I ignored them because I didn’t want to do them. Especially recommendations. I have a difficult time asking for certain things and one is for people to write recommendations for me. It’s asking “Will you please say nice things about me in a public forum that I’m going to be able to see?” Goes against my grain. Plus I know some people hate to be asked and you never really know who those people are. But I needed them.

I was having a conversation with a friend checking in to see how things were going, who is also an insurance company rep, over the weekend and asked her if she would do one for me. Her enthusiasm helped tremendously. She did it right away (late on a Saturday night). She didn’t mind doing it at all. It gave me that last bit of confidence I needed to ask others. I started with a few people who came to mind because they had offered their help if I needed it. I emailed to make it a bit easier for them to say no or ignore. It was gratifying to get a couple of great responses immediately. And humbling. I will admit their words made me a bit tearful. That task I totally didn’t want to do, resulted in making my day.

I still haven’t put myself on that regular schedule a couple of my friends recommended, though I do agree it would be a good thing. Overall I believe I’m doing what I need to do, however. A lot of time is spent perusing job boards and websites and applying for jobs. Sometimes it seems fruitless….you can comb the same board for an hour and find nothing, then something will pop up from that one more keyword search you do that is one letter different than the previous one. There aren’t a lot of jobs I want to apply for, and yet I don’t want to be too hasty to rule some out. I do know what I like to do and what my strengths are, and also what I don’t want, so I try to match the jobs to those things.

My goal is just one significant thing done a day that may put me closer to finding something (today it was asking for those job recommendations and signing up for that telephone interview. Yes, you do that online these days through a scheduler. You don’t talk to real people for the first part of the process.)

I do not subscribe to the theory that your job when you don’t have a job is to spend all your time job hunting. It would make me nuts. I look for some time each week to spend with friends, especially friends I haven’t seen in a while. I also make time to do something for someone else so I don’t get too self-absorbed. Today I made a last minute decision to go to Winston to give platelets. As with much that I do, it wasn’t much of a sacrifice….it was nice to sit in a comfy chair for a couple of hours and watch a movie and get a snack afterward. Platelets are used for things like cancer treatment, which several folks I know are receiving now. Giving them is a reminder that there are way worse things than being without a job.

While I do try to make my days count, there are days when I don’t get dressed and after a bit of job hunting I read a novel and take a nap. It’s OK. Balance.

I’d love to take a vacation, and go somewhere exotic, but I don’t feel comfortable doing it yet. My barriers are the work ethic engrained in me that won’t relax until I find a job and the fiscally conservative side of me that wants a regular paycheck. I’d like to abandon all and just do it and am trying to talk myself into it. The adventurous side of me is in favor. But the rest of me is not there yet. Maybe later.

So that is where I am, six weeks without a job. The roller coaster ride continues. Thanks to those joining me on the journey.

Sore Afraid

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:9-11 KJV

My pastor Steve mentioned this passage in church today and it got me thinking. I’m not particularly an everyday King James Bible fan. I know that is sacrilege to some, but I am a believer that God speaks to us in our own language and while I won’t deny the beauty of old English and the warm remembrance of the tradition of my childhood where that was the only translation used, now I prefer to use a translation that is closer to the way I talk. And listen.

But one thing I love is when a phrase attaches itself to my brain and I can just ponder it. I began to think about being “sore afraid”.

If you are someone with fears, and I am convinced that includes most of us, haven’t you had times when that fear seems downright painful? When it festers like an open wound that simply won’t heal….and becomes infected and takes over more and more of your flesh? When it takes over your mind, and you can’t think of much else? When you are faced with it and there’s just a feeling of pure panic?

You hear the old saying “Love makes the world go round”….but often I believe it is fear that drives it. Fear seems to be the reason for so much of what we do and how we live. Why do wars begin? Why do relationships end? Why don’t people live fulfilling lives? Why do people stay in jobs they hate or that drag them down? Why do people turn to substances or food to make them feel better? Why do so many people spend much of their life angry or anxious? Why is there so little joy? I think often the answer to those questions is fear.

Sores can heal. They usually need attention They need to be cleaned. Sometimes they need air. Sometimes they need to be covered. Sometimes they need ointment and medication. Sometimes stitches. Sometimes they need amputation. Sometimes they simply need you to quit picking at them.

How do we get rid of that “sore fear”? The same way you deal with any other sore. Usually it means you do something….get support, talk it out, make changes that will fix it, and sometimes just shift your mind and/or face it head on. Often it requires a plan of care…or a plan of attack.

Oh, there is a healthy fear. I’m not talking about that. I tend to think of that fear a bit more on the level of a healthy awe. But so much fear is unhealthy. It paralyzes is, keeps us from living life to the full.

I spent a lot of my life living in fear. I was scared of so many things. Sometimes….OK often, that fear existed because I fed it and tried to avoid these things that caused it. I built it up in my mind as something bigger than it should have been. One day my outlook changed. Logic took over. I don’t know exactly what made it so important for me to overcome my fears, but I believe it is simply because I came to see how much acting out my fear insults God. If I trust God, why would I invest so much of my life in fear? Angels are messengers of God. What is their message in Luke 2, and at several other times? Fear not.

But my first instinct is still to fear. Fear is a feeling….it’s OK. We can’t necessarily control those initial feelings. But where do we let that feeling go? How do we handle it? That’s where our responsibility begins.

As the Christmas story comes to life, we learn that “fearing not” brings great joy and great change. It’s a gift to us and a gift to the world. That doesn’t mean that we aren’t scared as we face fear….but that we face it in spite of being scared.

One of my favorite things about scripture is watching God use some really flawed humans to make miraculous changes. I am one of these flawed humans. But each time I face a fear, I believe it glorifies God. It brings scripture to life.

You were not created for fear. You were created to bring joy to the world. Really, if you have to choose, which sounds like it will lead to a more fulfilling life….fear or joy? As a former fear-monger, and now a self-proclaimed fear facer, I can tell you my opinion. Give yourself a gift. Become a fear fighter. Choose joy. And remember….you don’t have to do it alone. There is an arsenal and a legion of troops at your disposal. God will bless you in your attempts. The sore will heal.

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

“Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.” – Marie Curie

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt