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.

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Jobless – Part 8

“Wherever I go, I’m watching. Even on vacation, when I’m in an airport or a railroad station, I look around, snap pictures, and find out how people do things.” – Richard Scarry

“The truth is that stress doesn’t come from your boss, your kids, your spouse, traffic jams, health challenges, or other circumstances. It comes from your thoughts about these circumstances.” – Andrew J. Bernstein

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller

I was getting emotionally tired. I’ve been out if work since January 19 and while I’ve had more free time since…..ever…..the emotional toll of things was starting to get to me. Oh, I am fortunate. I’m not someone prone to depression and I am using this time to not only look for a job, but also enjoy the freedom it gives, but like the ship in this picture I’m feeling like I’m not living my purpose. A ship stuck on land. I have always worked, beginning with babysitting at age 12. Life seems weird without a job to go to.

I wish I could retire (I think I’ll be excellent at it), but I’m not in that season yet. These are still my working years and there is much I want to contribute. I’ve typically loved my work….and have never been resistant to change. I believe a new job is a good thing right now and all has happened for a reason. I’m not saying that in a hokey way (heaven forbid)….but in a practical, shake-up-your-life kind of way. Still, it’s different for me to be unemployed, so it’s stressful. Sometimes when you feel stress, you simply need to get away.

So, while talking to a friend I said I was feeling the need to have a break and specifically to be at the beach. She said “Let’s go.” We each had weekend plans on both sides of the next week but could make those weekdays free, so in the midst of those weekends we rather spontaneously took off to Cape San Blas, Florida.

Cape San Blas (and the surrounding areas of Port St. Joe and Mexico Beach) was one of those areas hit by Michael eight months ago. Many homes that were part of the landscape last year are simply gone. Rebuilding and cleanup is happening, but it is a slow process. I’d never been there before, and it was the perfect place to reflect and regroup.

The job hunting process is slow for a lot of us. It’s a time where in many ways the structure of your life has been torn down and you get to assess how you need to rebuild, with the resources you have on hand or can get in the future. While it can be traumatic, it can also be cathartic. Many factors enter into this process and there are always questions.

Rebuilding this part of your life is a process. I’m trying very hard to hold out for the right job, but at what time do you need to compromise and consider those jobs that you don’t think you want? How much time is enough time spent job hunting in a given day? What am I doing wrong? What am I doing right? How am I appearing in interviews? Why don’t I get jobs I know I could make a great difference in? There’s lots of introspection, especially for a chronic thinker, and not a lot of helpful feedback.

And it’s so slow. If they tell you they’ll get back to you in two weeks, know that could instead be months. Or never. In fact, never happens far more often than you would expect. That’s tough to take….especially for potential positions where you have driven for an hour or more to get to an interview that has taken hours and often required all kinds of mental gymnastics and even extra “projects”. Often the interview process itself makes you think “Is this the kind of company I want to work for?” Companies should care about how they treat people….including prospective employees. But that’s the idealist in me talking.

I did not really look at any job boards last week while I was away. I did spend time thinking about where I am on this journey and I expect to not only regroup and change a few things during the next weeks, but to keep assessing where I need to go. I’m not yet willing to compromise much, but I know by necessity that is coming….along with starting to think about whether I need to be willing to uproot my life and move. I had already known a commute was in my future, but maybe I need to cast the net further. Yes, that would disrupt my life more than I was prepared for, but I need to be willing to consider all of the possibilities. Maybe my comfort zone is too comfortable. When we limit our parameters, maybe we’re limiting God’s plan. I am not prone to rash decisions (though sometimes make quick ones), but also consider life to be an ever-changing adventure, best lived by being open to knowing sometimes we need to drive down that road we’ve never been on before.

It’s a messy process, but still a good and important one to go through. Sometimes we hear to get rid of the rubble, and rebuild. Sometimes we just need a few cosmetic changes. Sometimes we need to sell the property, and make a new start. We simply can’t let ourselves become paralyzed.

Vacation is good. Getting away, changing your environment, looking up and out and inward. Next week I get back to the hunt. We choose what rules our life. I do not choose stress, but joy. That is the direction I will pursue. I still know God has a plan….and I have a purpose. But I also need to work to find work. I also need to keep adding alternate courses of action, because stagnant starts to stink.

Jobless – Part 7

“Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.” – Kurt Vonnegut

“Building up expectations, creating unrealistic time frames, feeling like our end goal is the end all, be all can all lead to frustration or anxiety. We end up feeling as though we have to power through what we want rather than enjoy the process and just let the result come as it may.” – Gretchen Bleiler

So it’s been over four months now. I have to admit it is getting more difficult as time goes on. When you know you work hard and are pretty darn good at your job, you really don’t think finding a new one will be difficult. Then you realize some of the roadblocks….that you’re perceived as older than you view yourself, your salary isn’t really crazy high but higher than many simply as a result of being in the work force for a long time (so that makes another pool of employees more attractive), and even when you tell folks that you are OK with the idea of commuting an hour or two away for the right job (and are capable of deciding that for yourself before you seriously entertain any job), they don’t always believe you. Even though they don’t really know you.

I guess there is comfort in that, too…these people don’t really know you. They’re looking at you through eyes that see the experiences and people they have experienced in their lives, and not really you. They’re forming an impression of you and one or two sentences poorly worded can impact that impression. I’m a straight shooter. Sometimes people can get the wrong impression with that….or even doubt what I say. Logically I know I can’t control that, but should I try to fit in more and be a bit less me? The recruiters would tell me a resounding yes, but I am looking for a certain kind of workplace. While they test me during these interviews, I also test them. What better way to find if we are compatible?

Having hired people in my past, I understand the random nature of it. Did I always hire the best person? Nope. Did I always believe the answers they gave me to my questions? Nope. Sometimes I just was tired of interviewing and hired the next good person, instead of the stellar one I interviewed three weeks ago. I figured it was just easier. Does that make sense? Not necessarily. The whole process doesn’t make a lot of sense.

And I interviewed folks under the old interview system, since I didn’t hire people in my last job. These days you can simply be out of the mix because your resume has the wrong key words. Or your Linked In profile isn’t exaggerating your accomplishments. Sometimes I giggle when I read those of people I know, but truth is that it probably works for them. I’m confident in my own accomplishments, but always really careful about their authenticity. Maybe I downplay some things. I’m bad with knowing the quantitative results of my past experience. Did I save clients $1.2 million in 2018 as a result of the work I did negotiating rate increases and such? Maybe, that was something I was good at, but I never thought to keep track of that sort of thing. What was the total amount of premium for the book of business I managed? I get asked that a lot and have absolutely no clue. Someone gave me a thinly veiled suggestion that I should make up numbers because no one could dispute them. Well, I could dispute them. That’s enough. But I would advise you to keep track of this sort of thing….it would come in handy. I just never took the time, because I was focused on the job at hand.

I’ve looked at my bank accounts lately and cringed. Don’t worry….I’m doing fine financially….but what if I go six more months without a job? Those savings I had for this possibility becoming reality…..I really didn’t want to use them!

So it’s time to start looking at my budget and see what I can cut. Last week I finished getting outstanding dental work done. At the end of this month I will cancel my COBRA dental coverage. I’m looking at things like cable TV…..I may turn it on once a week. Is that a necessary expense? I don’t think so. My home phone…..do I need it? I think I have included it on a couple of job applications, so I will try not to use it on them in the future and see if I can do that in a month or two. I’ll also probably take some time to look at things like my car and homeowner’s insurance. Is it time to change? I haven’t looked at it for years. When I start thinking about these things I realize there is some fat in my budget, and some things I can manage better that I have been neglecting. Why not cut some of it now instead of later?

While at times frustrating, I still can’t help but be grateful for this time. Waiting is one of the best exercises of our faith. If I really trust God, this is one of those times where the rubber meets the road. When those worried moments hit, I tell myself “Exercise that faith.” And I breathe in and out a few times and it’s all OK. I do trust. I may not know the next road, but the godly GPS is there and working well.

I can spend only so much time job hunting and I have decided I need to make a more concentrated effort to use my time well. I’m someone who could easily read my life away, but that’s not the healthiest approach (though it will always be a large part of my life…..and there is a ton of books on my list I have yet to get to.) I have complained that my job often made me too sedentary….why the heck am I still spending so much time sitting down? It’s time to plan more and better and enjoy the opportunity to be more active. I can volunteer more and spend more time with friends. There are tons of places in the area I have said I wanted to go. Why not now? That’s my plan for the next few weeks. To plan my days better and not be idle. Life was meant to be savored, working or not. But it takes effort. When we make that effort, we reap the rewards. So why not do it?


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.

Jobless – Part 5

So three months of joblessness have passed. It’s a slow process. I’m finding that there aren’t a ton of jobs that I can apply for. I am not yet prepared for backward, but I also know I am at that awkward age with respect to work. I’ve worked hard to get the experience I have, but it’s not necessarily what companies seek. Who knew I was way more marketable when I had more enthusiasm than knowledge?

I used to come out of an interview and know what kind of perception I left them with. Now I struggle with this. Often those who interview me are younger and I’m not quite sure what they believe they need….or what they see in me.

I’ve talked a bit about recruiters in past blogs, but let me tell you a bit about interviewing. With a recent job I’m in consideration for…..I did a phone interview with someone in their HR department. It was about three weeks ago and it seemed to go well. She was encouraging and informative and it was a great time to talk about what I am looking for and see how it matches what they are looking for.

The day after the interview I did two tests for the company. They were incredibly comprehensive and a mish mash of things to tell them both what kind of job for which I am best suited, how I can be expected to fit in with people, and what my learning style will be in the event I am hired. It took over four hours….and I am a quick test taker. I still had not been told whether another interview was in the works and whether the results of these tests impacted it. I assumed they did.

When I say mish mash, some were obviously trying to determine my personality type. It was interesting, because how I answer those questions for a work environment are different than my “real life”. For example, in my “real life” I test as a strong introvert (yeah, I know some of you don’t believe it), but when the same things are applied to my professional life, the answers are different. I don’t act like an introvert at work…. usually. I’m usually in a position that requires I interact and bring people together, and get to know them quickly, Those relationships energize me when I am at work, and drive much of my purpose. I’m still an introvert, for example, but business small talk is easier than “real” small talk.

Then they had some sequencing problems, the first one that gave me a case of major anxiety. Sequencing problems, for those who have gloriously forgotten, are where they give you a set of numbers and you give the next in the sequence. Like 3, -10, 74, 128….you give the next number. Do’t try to work that one out….those are random numbers. But similar to the problem I was working on. Sheer panic hit me…it wasn’t simple. It turned out to be heavy in square roots, I know they said we needed to know this stuff way back in high school, but I didn’t believe them. I especially thought I was safe at age 58. Nope. 58, 116, 232; 464, …. that’s a real sequence. None I got were that easy. But so you can get one right.

Anyway, back to interviews. Most to date have been very rich in requesting examples. “What is an example of a problem you solved well and contrast it with one that you didn’t solve well.” I’m OK with these, but often I feel like my brain has dried up with original answers.

One company sent me stack of their reports to review. So how far in depth do you go with them? Do you totally invest and they get you working for free? I tended to try for giving several points of feedback, but not get too comprehensive. Enough to let them know I can be insightful, but not enough that I felt like unpaid labor. I didn’t get that job, so was glad I didn’t invest more. Would giving them more feedback have helped? I don’t think so.

I went through another interview that I felt went very well. I had to drive to the South Park area of Charlotte and interview with two people. A couple of days later they had decided not to fill the position. Discouraging. Why hadn’t they figured this out before they called me in to interview?

I’ve had situations where I went and interviewed and and didn’t feel the company would necessarily be a good fit for me. Those are difficult. It’s hard to get an offer for a job and turn it down. There just are only so many opportunities out there. I’m still feeling the need to be picky, though. The wrong company can take some of the joy from your days. But…at what point do I need to be less picky? And am I being too hasty saying no based on a feeling? A point will come when I may need to take something I am less than excited about. But so far I haven’t felt like that time is here.

It’s quite frustrating when you know you are qualified, or you know you could do a job well, and you get an early rejection letter. Not even a phone interview. But you have to realize that’s not the right place for you. Even if it is based on the opinion of one person….or a screening app on their computer.

I am still grateful for this time in my life….and spend most of my time taking advantage of having it. While there will always be moments throughout the process where I get frustrated, or scared, or confused, I’m really very happy. And even as I work through those negative emotions I know it’s all going to be OK. If doors keep closing, I will need to open my eyes wider and see if possibly God has other plans for me. Traveling the world sounds good…..

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.

Jobless – Part 1

“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one that has opened for us.” – Alexander Graham Bell

“An optimist sees an opportunity in every calamity; a pessimist sees a calamity in every opportunity.” – Winston Churchill

“If we’re growing, we’re always going to be out of our comfort zone.” – John Maxwell

So it’s been about a month since I have been out of work.

While there have been moments of panic….which I know are normal since I have seen others go through this transparently in the past. Since college I have always had a job or knew what my next step would be, so this is a foreign feeling. But so far panic has only come in moments and I can remember my friends who came through it and move on!

From the minute I found they were closing our office and I’d be losing my job, I’ve felt like it was a good thing for me. It was time. I had that ferling of discontented frustration for a while, but I wasn’t doing much about it. I figure God decided to kick me off the ledge and let me free fall for a bit. If you know me at all, you know I have a love/hate relationship with adventure, that usually begins in fear and ends in delight. In the end, the fear usually does not stop me from experiencing the pleasure, I’m determined this will be just another of those times.

Not that I enjoy job hunting. If I liked it, I would have done it sooner. But yet there is an element of it that is useful and refreshing. It’s good to think through the question of what my next steps should be. What did I like best about the jobs I have had in the past? What did I like least? What kind of company do I want to work for? What marketable skills do I have? How do I want to use them? A job consumes a lot of my time – what do I want to spend that time doing?

One of my high school teachers (and friends) emailed me and told me to consider the possibility of doing something entirely new. She listed a slew of possibilities. Hang out with people who keep your vision expanding. It made me think through whether my scope is too narrow. What else is possible? I didn’t hate what I did, and feel that I can use my experience to help people, so the compulsion to change is not strong. But I am not adverse to the possibility either.

I’ve been overwhelmed by other kindness, too. People I have worked with in the past (clients and insurance company reps I had been working with, plus former co-workers from over the years) have called with what I will refer to as words of grace. They have bolstered my confidence at what could be a vulnerable time. They reminded me of my strengths…and gave specific examples. I suspect they have no clue how much they helped. You have to hold on to your confidence in yourself and these words of grace sure do make it easier.

My friends and family have tried to make sure I am using this time well. They have made sure I stay involved in life. They have kept that delicate balance of asking me what was going on, while making sure I don’t obsess over it. One friend who is a local recruiter (though not in my industry) called me as soon as she heard and offered great advice and encouragement. A couple of friends have told me to make sure I begin to schedule my time, so I don’t waste it. OK….that’s not my strong suit. But it has made me mindful of it and I believe I am getting there.

I’ve gotten some great assistance in this process… through the severance package my former employer gave me (which means I have some time with income coming in) and my network of friends and business acquaintances. Others don’t have these luxuries. It could be overwhelming without them.

I was prepared financially. No debt but my house, some money in savings, and plenty of places I can cut back if necessary. A lot of people live paycheck to paycheck or above their means. Some have a weird idea of the definition of necessities and luxuries. You can’t count on a job being there tomorrow. You need a plan if it falls apart. I hope my situation makes someone think “What if this happens to me? Are my finances in order?” and causes them to take action to prepare if necessary.

I’m already thinking through what I can cut out if I don’t find a job quickly. It’s a good exercise really. There are some things I will probably cut out regardless because I realize I just don’t need them. I hadn’t looked at my finances in depth for a while, so I had gotten a bit sloppy in my financial priorities (which I admit are probably different than those of a lot of people. Most don’t consider travel a need that would come at the top of their list, for example.) Reviewing finances and getting them in order..another reason God may have wanted me to freefall off that cliff.

I hope what I learn in this process will be of benefit to others in the future….or even now as we go through it together. It definitely has refreshed my empathy….and that is not a bad thing. I guess my main advice would be….don’t make it a secret. Tell people. You’ll be shocked at who will be there to help and encourage. And who won’t. (Consider this knowledge another gift of the process.)

As with most things in life, we get to choose how we are going to handle it. I plan to enjoy it as much as possible. Why not? I can handle even the worse case scenario. At least all possibilities I have considered so far. I’m sure I’ll think of more before it is all over. I’m creative that way. But so far, so good.