Under the Rainbow

The job search continues.  I am keeping my parameters broad because what I do best cannot be easily pigeonholed.  This is often a problem because most job search engines and software desperately want to pigeonhole applicants.  While it is simple to search for particular job titles, that would limit me.  I largely ignore the titles now and put my focus on the descriptions.  I have more data to sift through, but in the end I will have a more relevant result.  Slowly I am building up a catalog of titles that are most likely to contain my particular skills.

While I search I am working.  I have returned to my old standby, Kelly Services. They have been a god send to me over the years.  When I was between jobs in the past I would often sign up with multiple agencies, but it was always Kelly that found me the best positions and kept me regularly employed.  I obtained five of my last eight positions as a result of starting on a temporary contact and received job offers on other contracts that I knew enough not to accept because I had experienced the position and, more importantly, the culture of the employer.

This time has been a little different.  No surprise there.  Everything has been different this time.  However, there are two key factors in play now.  The way jobs are sourced has, at least on the surface, changed dramatically from five years ago when I last converted from temp to perm.  Those pigeonholing search engines, resume filtering software and other computerized gatekeepers play a much larger role in preventing candidates who have not followed traditional career paths from being seen by hiring managers, even for temporary positions.  In addition, Kelly Services does not have the market share they once did.  Now there is a temp agency almost on every corner.  I mean that almost literally.  I counted more than ten agency offices just on my nine mile drive home from my temp job yesterday and more than half my drive was on the freeway!

It used to be that you would work with a specific person at the agency who knew your skills and your work record.  They would get requests in for a temporary worker, decide where you best fit and send you on out. It still sort of works like that but now they do not just send you out to a job.  They have to pull together a selection of candidates and we go interview for the temporary job.  I know it makes the customer feel like they have more control in the process, but I suspect they do not get any better results and it takes more time and probably cost for everyone.

I am fortunate enough to be working with the coordinator at my local Kelly Services office that I worked with five years ago and the time before that and the time before that.  She recognized me the minute I walked into the office, although the fact that I did month long job that had me working in her office as part of a small team because the client had no office space for the project may have helped.  She knows my skills and knows that I made Kelly money by converting to permanent on several jobs.  She is also a strong advocate for me with potential employers.

She also knows from experience that when I am looking for work I am willing to take on any short term position she needs me for even if there is no potential to convert to perm or it falls completely out of my job search parameters.  I have stepped in to proctor an engineering certification exam.  I took the role of general dogsbody for the instructor of a 2 day advanced excel class and was able to attend the class as well.  I have learned to use a multi-head embroidery machine and done inventory in a food freezer.  It is fun going out to spend a day or two doing a job I would not normally have the opportunity to try.  It also helps my Kelly rep out because she knows she can throw me wherever she has the most need and I will do my best for her. In return she promotes me when a job that really fits me comes up.

Right now, there isn’t a lot available.  I’m working a long term temp job at a good company with pleasant enough people, but I am more than the administrative assistant I am currently portraying.  So I keep scanning the job boards, watch all my alerts on LinkedIn and with Ella, the Lee Hecht Harrison automated assistant and apply, apply, apply.  I still have hope that opening I am waiting for is just around the corner.  In the mean time I learn what I can from every place I go.

We have hit the rainy season here.  Right now I am in the under phase, but things will look up.   Maybe my “real” job is somewhere over that next rainbow.

Lightning Strikes Twice

What I hadn’t mentioned in my earlier posts is that in addition to the job from which I was laid off recently I was also working part time on another job.  I started working there full time 7 years ago and for a while did both jobs on a full time basis, but a couple years ago I moved down to part time hours.  It was a remote position and my manager allowed me a great deal of flexibility in setting my schedule.  In fact my managers at both jobs allowed me a great deal of flexibility and any conflicts between the two schedules were easily sorted out.

I took a little bit of PTO last week to go on a short trip to Canada to celebrate my sister’s birthday.  While I was there I got an interesting phone call.  I learned that my entire workgroup had been laid off – effective immediately.  My only remaining tasks were to sign the severance agreement and send back my computer.

My response was a bit different this time.  After all, I’ve already been through shock and loss.  I have my financial situation figured out and my job search plan in place.  The panic monster didn’t even lift an eyelid but remained slumbering in the corner.  I responded politely to the call and remained quite serious and civil.  When the call ended I laughed and laughed.

Yes, I am sorry that job is at an end.  I will miss both the work and the extra paycheck.  What makes me laugh is both the suddenness of the layoff and how unlikely it is for someone to be laid off from two longstanding jobs in the space of a couple months.

I wrote earlier about the different effects of the time between layoff notice and actual end date.  I have a new time span to add – in this case, due to being on PTO, I didn’t get notice until a few hours after the job had already ended.  It is rather disconcerting.  And because I was out of the country and didn’t get back to my work computer until after my network access had been turned off I didn’t get a chance to forward to my personal email any of my emails I had kept with kudos and recommendations or to download and print off any of my electronic pay statements.  That was a bit frustrating.  Still, it is what it is.

I’m going to take this as a hopeful sign – there is a job out there that is just right for me but which will need my undivided attention.  With the part time job gone as well I am now free to take it on as soon as I find it.

Is it a second lightning strike?  Or is it a blessing in disguise?

Only time will tell.

 

Driving through Life

This post was inspired by a road trip I took over the weekend. I went out to take a long drive, see some new sites and take some pictures.  I did all that, but life had other plans for me too.

I learned that no matter how well you prepare or how much care you take, sometimes you can’t avoid the deer that leaps onto the road. I couldn’t, even though I was going below the speed limit and scanning the road ahead because I knew it was a possibility. I still didn’t see it coming.

The choice you have is how you deal with the situation although your response will vary with the severity of the impact. I was lucky – I lost a headlight and a bit of my fender. I was shaken by the experience. I could have let it ruin my vacation. I did briefly consider heading back to one of the big towns since I was in the middle of nowhere at the time, but if I had I knew I would simply give up and go home. Instead I decided to roll with it. I got out my tool kit, cleaned up the shards of the headlight, used duct tape and a bungee cord to secure the loose ends of the fender, checked to make sure nothing vital had been hit including checking the tires carefully and then I drove on.

It was still a beautiful morning. I still had an exciting trip ahead. I still had a functioning car. I counted my blessings as I continued along the back roads. Of course I thought about it over and over. I analyzed whether there was anything I could have been doing that would have prevented this happening and really there wasn’t unless you count not going on the trip at all. I wondered about the deer – it had disappeared into the tall grasses beyond the ditch at the side of the road and I couldn’t find it. I don’t know if it had a lucky outcome as well, although I doubt it. I wondered why I had cell phone service that didn’t work in the back of beyond. (I wouldn’t get a viable cell phone signal on a compatible network for another 4 hours or so). My mind circled back to these things and others again and again. I acknowledged the thoughts and then moved back to what was before me.

I was driving through an incredible landscape. The road snaked through hilly country, sometimes bare of anything but tough grasses and bits of sage, sometimes dotted with twisted pines and other conifers, sometimes forested. After cresting a tall rise I would sometimes see another ahead or sometimes the landscape would open to show range land, cattle and a lonely house or two. I was pretty much alone on the road which is just how I like it. I’m glad I didn’t turn back or give up. I’m glad I didn’t miss the quiet drive through this region.

The deer on the road and the surprises on the job or life in general are similar. Things happen and no amount of care or preparation can change that. Do you give up and cry? Or do you get out the duct tape, patch up what you can and roll on?

Twilight Times

The waiting is nearly over and the job is nearly ended. It does feel like twilight – the descent into the darkness that is my final day of work.

I feel conflicted. While I am still looking forward to finding my new adventure I am, quite naturally, sad to close this chapter of my life. I’ve been marking lasts – the last time I turn in a monthly report, the last team meeting, the last holiday Monday, the last full week of work. Now I am about to mark my last day.

Yesterday I cleaned out my cubicle and took everything home but my coffee mug.  It may sound silly, but I don’t want to drink my coffee out of a paper cup on my last day.  It tastes better in my Maneki Neko mug and I think I will need the comfort.

The others in my group are displaying a variety of emotions – frustration at having to leave, worry for the future, boredom at not quite having enough to do for the last few days.  The people remaining are sad at losing most of the team or anxious because now all the work will be on them.

We’ve had our last group lunch but it seemed hard to decide what to talk about.  Some want to discuss what is happening but others would rather not.  So we descend into silence like the light leaving the sky.

Night is falling.  The twilight surrounds us.

Next a little darkness.  Then comes the dawn.

 

 

Commentary

This is my first blog so I am learning as I go along.  I know that part of the purpose of a blog is to promote a dialogue with the readers through the options to leave a comment.  Since this is just a relating of my opinion I am fine with hearing the opinions of others and maybe learning something from them, so I enabled the comments when I set up the blog.  Based on the suggestions of the e-learning I took on how to set up the account, though, I made the comments moderated so I could weed out the inevitable troll or spam post.

What took me by surprise was the sheer volume of spam comments that have come in with suspect links and garbage content.  Wow.  I shouldn’t really have been surprised considering the amount of junk that ends up in the spam folder of my email every day and has for years but most of that is caught by the spam filters in my email which makes it a background process.  Out of sight, out of mind.  By setting my account to email me with a request to moderate each comment as it is added I opened the floodgates for email overload.

After a day of coding comment after comment as spam I decided I need to halt the floodwaters for a bit and have turned off the comments options for future posts.

I would still like the opportunity to hear other’s comments and to enjoy some of that resulting dialogue and learning.  I need to learn more about security settings and auto-filtering of commentary first.  My message for anyone who is reading this blog: Thank you.  I do appreciate your time and attention.  I will welcome your commentary – in the future.

 

 

 

Courage

 

 

At Christmas my department head gave the whole team calendars that she had put together with photos and inspirational sayings.  The entry for June was a quote from Winston Churchill – “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak.  Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.

I think the coming change is going to require both kinds of courage and the second is definitely the harder one. 

The first is about stepping forward, offering yourself and your ideas to resolve problems.  It is about identifying something that is wrong or unfair and making sure that those who need to hear about it will hear about it so that it can be addressed.  It isn’t about whining or whinging, but about bringing concerns forward in an appropriate manner. Make no mistake, I recognize this as difficult.  It is easier to ignore problems that don’t directly concern you or to keep quiet and let someone else deal with it.  It is also easier to fall into patterns of passive-aggressive behavior or to loudly complain without actually proposing or even wanting solutions and justify that as standing up for yourself or others.  It is a hard line to walk.

I think part of what Mr. Churchill was referring to with the second statement was about listening to your opponents and how they perceive the problem instead of just assuming you are right and your way is the only side that matters.  He was a diplomat and had to do a lot of that type of work. Sometimes, though, you also need to really listen to the people who are trying to help you.  It is easy to assume you already know what you need which prevents you from hearing new ways of doing things or learning them.  There is an old zen saying to the effect that you must empty your cup so that it may be filled.  It takes courage to tamp down your ego and let go at least long enough for someone else’s way of doing things to take root with you.  None of us are so wise and skilled that we have no need to learn anything new.

Another part of listening is having the courage to listen to your heart or your gut and take actions that may seem a little crazy or which will take you out of your safe place.  That is the kind of courage I am trying to work with now.  There is a large part of me that says that I need to immediately find another job, any job, and be working as quickly as possible.  But that is fear talking.  I need to listen to the other part of me that says this is an opportunity to take  the necessary time, let go of my fear and find a place where I can contribute and learn and feel satisfied with the work I am doing.  I need the courage to stand up for myself and to listen when my heart tells me I am in the right place doing the right thing.
Whether I want to or not I am stepping into the unknown. May my courage rise to help me face any obstacle.

Readying for Flight

One of the more important tools a job-seeker has is their resume. Even when you are finding a position through word of mouth, personal recommendation or other connections, at some point you will need to provide a resume if only “just for the record”.

I am not happy with my resume. In fact I haven’t been for years, not since I reached the point in my career where I had more experience than I could comfortably list in the recommended two pages. At first I handled the problem by narrowing my margins and dropping my type size, but that quickly became ridiculous.

I tried different formats – the chronological resume, the functional resume, the resume formatted as a marketing tool complete with endorsements. Nothing was quite right. I know the basics of putting together a resume. I know that I need to be aware of appropriate keywords, of targeting a resume to each position I apply for, of formatting for easy scanning and OCR of the content. I just haven’t felt myself to be very successful applying that information.

When I was laid off from Boeing part of the package was job search coaching and that included help with re-writing my resume. That’s nearly 20 years ago now and I’ve had a wide variety of jobs since then. I’m very happy that part of my current severance package also includes job search coaching, although I have to wait until the week before my final day to get started with it.

I am looking forward to getting help making sense of all the data I need to condense into a document that can truly be called a resume – a summary of experience, not just an information dump. I’ve tried several re-writes on my own in the last couple weeks but I don’t think I am going to come up with something to please me until I actually have some outside help.

At the same time I am glad to have the opportunity to post a full listing of my experience and the multiple responsibilities each job has represented in my LinkedIn profile. I started with just a simple summary, but finally decided to expand it and be thorough since the profile isn’t limited to any specific number of characters or printed pages.

I don’t know exactly what kind of job I will end up in this time. I’m open to the possibilities and as I noted earlier this is a grand adventure. I do know that I have a lot to offer to any employer. I’m hoping that at some point my resume will properly speak to that knowledge and experience and will represent me as it is intended to do.   When that time comes it will help me find the place where I am intended to be.

I’m getting ready to fly. Revamping my resume is just another piece of the foundation from which to lift off.

Time to go review some sample resumes. I did find a whole web site full of examples. That’s a place to start…

Waiting

The waiting really is the hardest part.

When I was laid off from Boeing it didn’t seem real.  Corporate headquarters was moving to Chicago and many of us were not invited to go with it, not that I would have due to family responsibilities here.  But there were several months between the announcement and the date that I actually handed off my job to my replacement in Chicago.  Because of the long wait it somehow didn’t seem real that job would actually end.  I prepared as best I could and I was always aware intellectually of the end date, but I didn’t feel it.  I had to wait and wait.  In the end it still felt like a surprise.

By contrast, my second layoff was quite quick and easy to believe in.  With the economic troubles of 2009 the company was in difficulties and my workgroup had already been dropped to part time hours.  When I was laid off I was told it was happening and had my few remaining personal items at the desk packed and out the door with me about 15 minutes later.

 This time the gap between announcement and my end date was about 2 months.  I like having the time to make sure I can hand off my job properly and make sure all my procedure documents are fully up to date.  I also like having a few extra paychecks to plump up my bank accounts.  At the same time it does feel a bit unreal having to balance between continuing the work, training someone else to do it and preparing to let go and leave.  As one of my coworkers said “I wish I could just leave now and get on with my life.”  Of course if we leave early we forfeit the severance, so that isn’t happening.  Instead I have to keep reminding myself to keep up with the balancing act.

 In a way the job end date is like the whale just starting to surface in the distance.  When you first see the spout it is hard to tell if it will breech or just break the surface and sink down again.  You just have to wait for it.

One month to go.  Back to my preparations…