Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Ride

It's like a roller coaster or a see-saw. Hope-despair. Optimism-pessimism. Up-down. High-low.

Yeah, I know. You get it.

Long ago I decided that having those great highs were the cost of some abysmal lows. I see those people who are even-keel all the time, and I guess that's a choice, but it's just not the choice for me. It seems like a sort of walking rigor mortis.

Even when that flat line is way above me, I'll navigate my way out of the valley and head back to the pinnacle. But it's tempting to want to settle for something ordinary and still.

I'm trying to climb out of one of those holes right now. There are too many life stressors working on me right now and they're ahead. But the game isn't over. I've always been a fighter.

However, there is a time when it's wise to just retrench. And that's probably my best strategy right now. Just lay low, strategize, and find the right moment to battle back.

But at the moment, I'm not a happy camper. Hope your day is going better.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A New Hope

One thing being a sports fan teaches you is how to deal with disappointment.

Only one team per sport gets to be champion each season. Everybody else is a loser.


In that reality, being second-place -- or "first loser" -- is pretty tough for a fan to take. You make it all the way to the final, only one win away from ultimate glory -- only to watch someone else be crowned champion.

This is akin to what I've experienced in my job search the past two years. Granted, I've actually had some freelance activity, won a part-time job that I could have kept indefinitely prior to the move, and after the move landed the substitute teaching work.

So technically, I've had some employment. But nothing that was steady, nothing that stabilized not just our family finances but the gnawing worry that goes along with being unable to seal the deal.

What's really hurt has been the near-misses. The job editing the alt-weekly that should have been mine and instead went to an underqualified flake who bailed after nine months. The California jobs that I came so close to getting. Those three stand out, but there were others.

It's not like pro golf or tennis or other sports where you can win money without ever winning an event. Finishing second in a job hunt pays the same as finishing 20th -- zed.

Against this backdrop, I'm not letting the successful first two steps make me too giddy. But oh how I want to win this time.

A business here that matches my ideology needs someone with my skillset. I'm 90th percentile, at least. There is a Web component that I'm confident that I can master, but, it will be new, so I honestly have a potential issue there. But otherwise, I'm perfectly suited for this job.

After seeing my resume, they agreed, and mailed me Monday about setting up a preliminary remote interview.

That happened today. And at the conclusion, I was told I will be invited for a face-to-face downtown.

Everyone's process is different, and I've heard of long dances consisting of up to three direct interviews. I've been a part of something like that myself. But this situation seems to me to be one in which if I ace the next test, I'd be within perhaps only one more hurdle of getting the job.

Like the sports fan hoping for the best but guarding against the worst, I am doing everything I can not to be too hopeful, not to agonize over every possibility. Don't count your carp before they hatch.

And of course now I have to wait for an unspecified number of days before I not only know when the interview is, but then wait for it to actually take place.

To stay level, I will keep applying for good jobs, keep my head down and my spirits up, and hope for the best.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

April 23, 2009

I cried.

It completely blindsided me. I was part of management, and knew that layoffs were coming. I just didn't know one of them would be mine.

So when I was called in to a meeting with my supervisor, her supervisor and the HR person... I figured it out pretty quickly.

The whole thing took maybe 10 minutes. I was told what was happening, told what my severance situation would be, and a few minutes into it, I was overcome with emotion and began to cry.

Unprofessional. I wish I had handled it better. About 25 months later, I'd get laid off again. I didn't cry then. It still hurt, but I did better.

Losing a job sucks. It makes you question yourself in soul-shaking ways, even when you have no reason to. On April 23, 2009, among more than a dozen others, the most qualified person in his position was also let go. Personally, I feel like I was the far-and-away most productive person at my level. In fact, I was basically doing three jobs in one. And I guess that's why getting the axe shocked me so much.

I have a number of conspiracy theories about who got cut and why. It won't do me much good to review that. What's encouraging is that among my friends who suddenly found themselves without work that day:

* One has taken his extraordinary skills on a cross-country trek and gotten far, far away from those people. I still think he could play in a bigger arena and truly shine -- he's that good. But as long as he is happy, I am happy for him.
* One who had a very sick child has managed to start a career path with a reputable company and is advancing. In a place with limited opportunity, I'm very proud of his accomplishments. He's finally getting the respect he deserves.
* One who was actually torn about fulfilling her professional obligations and pursuing her dreams had the decision made for her, and it was the best thing that could have happened. She took a life-affirming trip, got an advanced degree and is just now starting to make a major mark. It's exciting.
* One exceptional young talent used the opportunity to develop his skills online, starting a mini-movement in his community and leveraged that into a reliable gig with a promising future.

Unfortunately my career has stalled to some extent. I landed a job about a month after the layoff, but it only lasted two years before the economy claimed it (and that of a few others). Snakebit.

I got a part-time job last year but had to leave it when we moved. Here, I've been able to substitute teach a little, and that not only brings in some income but rewards my heart as well.

Yesterday, I got a callback for a preliminary interview. It has sparked my hopes but a long period of underemployment makes me temper my enthusiasm. I don't want to hope too much.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

No News is Good News

I've read two stories in the past four days that I tried to avoid but couldn't.

Both of them talked about the grim prospects that the "long-term unemployed" face in getting back on the horse. The first one I read added in the variable of workers in their 40s and 50s.

It wasn't a pretty picture. The first one I just kind of rolled with. The second one was like a punch in the face.

I know it's bad out there. Since getting laid off (twice), I've scrambled. I took a job working overnights in 12-hour shifts that basically had a chief requirement of staying awake. I tried to be as professional as I could given the situation that didn't exactly call for initiative. I mean, this was a contract job that nine folks were hired for, and two of them couldn't even hack it. One figured he could go to his car in the parking lot and sleep for a couple of hours at a time. Another rubbed someone the wrong way and the resulting bunched panties jeopardized the whole contract.

Since relocating I've landed another freelance job with occasional work. But the "real" job has yet to come.

Yeah, I am worried. So worried that as I sit here, I wonder if even taking a few minutes to jot these thoughts down is counterproductive.

I can't *make* someone give me a job. That's really beyond my control. So what I have to do is just work harder at finding an answer, at giving myself chances.

So that's what I will do. The next few days I am going to hunker down and cast a wider net. Maybe that will work.

The other thing I have to do is forget those damned stories. Yes, people in my situation are mostly screwed. I have to find a way to be the exception rather than the rule.

Thursday, April 11, 2013


It's so hard to stare at long-term unemployment or underemployment and not feel like a failure.

The pain was mitigated for a while with the $276 a week I got in Unemployment Insurance. Then, I was able to work a blue-collar gig for a few months; that paid about $400 a week. Then came the move, and since then, I've not been able to land anything sustained. I've landed a contract freelance job that throws the occasional $60 per day at me. It's helpful, but really, it's just been a bandaid on a skull fracture.

And the bills have piled up. We borrowed a big chunk of change from her parents, a little from my mom, and still it hasn't abated. We've had more than $2,000 of unexpected expenses in the past five months, and now we owe more than that in taxes.

We don't have it. Austerity looms.

There's the tiniest part of my hope that flickers in the gale, refusing to go out. It's incredible in a way. I see a path to security regardless; if things stay the way they are, then it's just going to take longer. But it hurts me mentally. I just feel guilty. I feel like a failure.