In less than a month I will be losing my job.* That means I will soon be engaged full-time in the soul sucking process of a desperate job search.
If you get the notion that I’m not looking forward to it, you are correct. For one thing I’m leaving a job I love: people I enjoy working with, tasks I love doing, all in an area that has long interested me. And I’m not leaving by choice. About 20 professors (including tenured faculty), and three or four other staff members have also been down-sized. To make things worse, I felt very much passed over for a better job that opened last fall. Instead it was turned into a part-time position, given to someone else, with many of the job duties migrating to my desk anyway. (To be fair, I happily accepted the extra responsibilities then, thinking that my hard work would pay off and be recognized. It was — just not by the right people apparently.) To make things doubly worse, this is the second time my position has been cut since I started here. The first time, they went by seniority. This time, no one seems to understand how the decision was made. Dartboard perhaps?
If you get the notion that I’m a little bitter, you are correct. These budgetary decisions are being made by people who have never worked with me, who didn’t even seem to understand or care what it was I did. Feedback from my supervisors and from the people I work with directly has been very positive.
I thought I was going somewhere. I thought I was getting back on track. I’ve been expecting a raise for the last six months. What a let down!
Is there a bright spot here? Have the last two years been a big waste of my time?
Well, no. Of course not. As mentioned before, I have truly enjoyed my job duties and the people I’ve worked alongside. And it seems I’ve picked up more than good memories along the way.
To prepare myself for the arduous task of a job search, I checked out a copy of What Color is Your Parachute? 2015. Reaching for it on the shelf my hand hovered a moment in hesitation, remembering all the bad jokes I heard about this book back in the 80s. But I actually found this book extremely helpful.
A lot of people go to college/trade school/career centers and know exactly what they want to do when they “grow up.” I was one of those. There was no question in my mind – no changing majors after I declared at the end of the freshman year. Writing and communications was my propane and propane accessories. Specifically I focused on writing about agriscience. Every internship I took, and most of the courses I chose were designed to get me there. I had a plan. I finished my degree with an impressive list of hands-on experiences. I went to graduate school to learn about research.
And then I got married. And had kids.
Now hear this: I do not regret staying at home with my children when they were young. However, I must admit that my “career” has slid all over the place since then, with a concentration on jobs of convenience (close to home, flexible hours) and, during the “Great Recession,” on any job I could find. I’ve loved most of the things I’ve done, but it certainly hasn’t been lucrative or part of my original plan. My resume is a train wreck of part-time jobs and jobs below my level of education and abilities. I’ve typecast myself into a secretarial role. I’m capable of more. I’ve just needed a chance to prove it (which is why losing my current job is so deflating). It’s not about switching careers, it’s about getting back to my original career plan (or something more like it at least).
The Parachute book helped me to identify those “transferable skills” I’ve developed across all my many jobs that will help me find placement in the future, including skills I often downplay or ignore. The book also led me through identifying my own ideal co-workers and work environment, and examining how I define satisfying work. Most helpful to me, was an examination of which skills I enjoy using the most. Doing all this confirmed my original career plan still holds true, but offered a few surprises as well. It did all this in a systematic way, basically creating a check list for any job opening I look into. After going through the pages of this guide, I feel better prepared for a job interview. I’m reassured that the path in front of me might ultimately be leading somewhere worthwhile.
It has taken a few weeks to get over the let down of being let go. But as I lifted my head back up, I noticed a few hopeful signs. My job loss is being appealed, so there’s that to hope for. I notice too that the job market has improved vastly in the past few years. (Seriously, I remember a time when I could punch in my zip code on Monster.com and look at everything available in a 50-miles radius in about 10 minutes.) And finally, working in a bureaucracy for the past two years has taught me something very important about myself that I failed to realize before. Basically, I’m a damn good employee. I care about my job, I show up ready to work and I work hard. Sadly, my good work ethic puts me ahead of most of the people out there looking. But I’m also smart, easy-going, amiable and I like to be helpful. I’m skilled and creative, which means I have an awesome super-hero utility belt of tools. And if there’s any justice in the universe, karma is on my side.
Somewhere out there is a job opening with my future written all over it. We just need to find each other.
* Addendum: My position has been extended another 12 weeks, thanks in large part to many of the wonderful faculty members I work with and our college’s supportive dean and assistant dean. Waiting to hear something more permanent… with skeptical optimism.
* Addendum 2: As of December 2016, and after a lot of support from the folks I work with in my program, I have been given a nice raise, and am feeling better about my situation. It took s awhile, but the university eventually did the right thing.