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Hang in there, life does get better!

I started a blog a few years ago, after I found myself suddenly laid off from a nice job I had for 10 years, at a large St. Louis law firm.  I was blind-sided by this, and unprepared for a job search.  I was in shock for the longest time, but then got angry and sad and eventually quite depressed.  It was a lot to go through.  I was over 40, a single home-owner and wanted to keep my house and car that I was paying on.

So I searched.  Searched for jobs, searched for information, searched for tips and tricks, and comfort. Searched for any avenue that would give me answers, hope and even the slightest bit of peace.  And I soul-searched.

I went to every marketing get-together that had to do with job hunting, from workshops to regular seminars and meet-up groups.  I was desperate to get my life back in order.

What is really funny now, years later, is that in 2008, the year before my layoff, I was miserable with my job!  So miserable that I literally woke up each morning wishing I hadn’t.  I was wishing for God to take my life from me, as I couldn’t stand the misery any more.

My life was terribly unbalanced.  I had put almost all my energy into that job.  At home, I barely got things done. Doing the minimum: laundry, dishes and getting the garbage out.  Cleaning the bathroom every so many weeks when I couldn’t stand it any longer.  Friday nights I was so exhausted I frequently fell asleep on the couch by 7 o’clock.  Weekends were for more sleep, to make up for all the sleepless hours that my anxiety kept me up from.  That was it.  I barely had a social life.  I didn’t have the energy.

At work, I had taken a newly created position in a different department.  It had sounded like a golden opportunity.  I was an IT person performing a newly created IT job in the Accounting department, supporting Accounting applications that I did not know at all.  I reported to the CFO.   What could possibly go wrong?

The position was created due to office politics and boy did it get political.  I don’t even want to go into the details as I don’t want to relive it at all, but that is in huge part that reason for my misery.  This new position began in mid-2006.  By early 2008 I had had enough.

So, in desperation, I reached out to a counselor friend who lives in California and she invited me out.  Out I went!  In July of 2008.  I had not only a very nice and relaxing time, but it was really a spiritual awakening for me.

The rest of the year seemed to calm down, and I hung in there.  The holidays came and went, and a new year began (2009).  In January 2009, my position changed again and I was learning some new things and it seemed promising … until out of the blue … my layoff occurred.  It was mid-March.

Panic.  Super-dooper anxiety.  Craziness.  But …. I gave it time.  And I had hope.   (What is there, if there is no hope?)

In August 2009, at a seminar for professional unemployed folks, I met my husband!   I sure didn’t see it either upon first meeting.  I also met some new friends there.

In October 2009, I was contacted by our local CBS news station for an upcoming segment they were doing on the difficulties of finding a job for women over 40, and my interview was on TV at the 10pm broadcast!  I was picked because someone I had met at one of the networking functions I attended recommended me.  Wow.  That was a first.  And pretty exciting!

Then in December 2009, after going on to Dr. Oz’s website to check something I had seen on his program earlier that day, and then answering some questions on a particular subject (sleep apnea) on one of his webpages, the producers contacted me.  It turned out they had me and my fiancé on their show!  Due to the show, we both have been checked for, and both have, sleep apnea, and now we both have very nice C-PAP units to help us sleep at night!  The show aired in February 2010.

But wait!  There’s more!

My future husband and I (who I used to call my “sleep alligator”, as a pun for his sleep apnea) flew to New York, taped the Dr. Oz show and flew home a few days later.  Then went to the Christmas party held at that weekly seminar place we met at (called The Go! Network).  At that party, there were some reporters and photographers from our local newspaper, the St. Louis Post Dispatch, there to do a story on this fantastic venue.  One of the photographers was taking our picture from across the room unbeknownst to us and came over to get our consent to publish it.  She found out we had met there, and were now engaged.  Guess what happened?  They published a side-story about us next to their main story about The Go! Network!  And it was published on 01/01/2010, on the FRONT PAGE of the BUSINESS section!  OMG!

That was amazing to me.  I still smile ear to ear over that.  A lot of people read the paper here, and especially the Business section.  Old friends contacted us after reading that article.  My husband’s brother’s boss, an old friend I used to baby-sit for in the ’80s, and others , and it was wonderful.

At this point we had not set a wedding date, as we were both still unemployed.  But good things were coming our way.  Mr fiancé got a job a few hours away so he had to move.  I stayed at my home still looking for work here, and also in his new city.  Nothing was happening for me.

By April of 2010, we set a date.  The wedding would take place on 10/10/2010, a Sunday.  I liked the date, and I just have a thing for numbers, and cool dates, so that was it!

I spent the new few months looking for work and also planning my wedding down to every last detail.  And setting up a wedding website.  Loving every minute of it.

Got married unemployed (“unemployed and fabulous” as one friend said), had a stay-cation honeymoon here at the St. Louis homestead, then hubby traveled back to his city for work, and they let him go on Monday morning.  Sounds terrible, and it a way it was, but it was truly a blessing in disguise.  I did not like the city he was working in.  To me it was the equivalent of Mayberry, and we were the outsiders.  And I didn’t want to sell my house for that.  So, no more issues with what to do!  We were staying in St. Louis where both of our families are and where we were raised.  Amen.

In early 2011 I secured a contract job and hubby found part-time work at the Anheuser-Busch brewery that frequently needed more hours and the pay was good.  So things were better.

Also in early 2011, NPR (National Public Radio) did a story following six folks in the St. Louis area who were looking for work.  The story line was “The Road Back To Work”.  We were chosen for that too.  This was all on radio and not too many segments aired over the year, but it was still cool, nonetheless.

http://www.npr.org/series/133088535/st-louis-the-road-back-to-work

Eventually we both left the jobs we started with in 2011, had at least one in-between that and where we are now, but now … both of us are full-time permanent employees at good companies and are both doing quite well at them!  I just got a promotion too!

I couldn’t be happier.  This is a dream.  Is it perfect?  No!  But perfect for us – Yes.  Hubby has a 2-hour daily commute with a job that requires a lot of O.T., and he is salaried.  But he is employed, full-time and permanent.  And he loves his job!  So it is a very good thing.

My job … I started as a Contractor for 6 months.  But then I was hired right after the 6 months and it’s only gone up from there.

I write all of this, baring my soul to you dear readers, to give you hope and see an example of an ordinary women with a very ordinary life have miracles happen to her.  And it can happen to YOU TOO!   I am no different than any of you reading this.

Was there any special tricks for all these good things to come pouring into my life?  Well, I would like to think so.  I am a strong believer in a higher power that I choose to call God.  I strongly believe in prayer to God, and I also believe in being grateful for the things I do have.  In fact I think this is so important that I believe when we are in a state of gratitude, we are as close to God as we can humanly get.

Here are some things that helped me when I soul-searched:

  • Dr. Wayne Dyer (watching his programs on my local PBS station).
  • The Secret (movie and book)
  • Joel Osteen (awesome pastor on television).
  • A journal dedicated to things I was grateful for which I wrote in each day.
  • The Go! Network (the former seminar I met my hubby at, in St. Louis).
  • Friends!!
  • Searching the Internet on various spiritual subjects.
  • The Meditation Garden in Encinitas, CA.
  • My cat Pandora (she just makes me happy all the time).

I want to leave you with great encouragement that no matter where you are at in life, things will get better.  Just believe it!  And keep believing it.  Get yourself in a state of gratitude – doing whatever it takes (well, legally).  Then count all your blessings.

Take care and know you are loved, friends.  As you are!!

The Meditation Garden, Encinitas, CA.

The Meditation Garden, Encinitas, CA.

Coi fish pond in The Meditation Garden, Encinitas, CA.

Coi fish pond in The Meditation Garden, Encinitas, CA.

The ocean view from The Meditation Garden, Encinitas, CA.

The ocean view from The Meditation Garden, Encinitas, CA.

The Meditation Garden, Encinitas, CA.

The Meditation Garden, Encinitas, CA.

Pandora snuggles in a plant.

Pandora snuggles in a plant.

 

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Tips for living through sudden employment loss.

You have been working hard, for a long time now. YEARS. Ten … twenty. Or worse, thirty-plus. And BOOM. You are let go. Layoff? Corporate Downsize? Just found to no longer be a “fit” at the company?  What do you do?

Immediately you feel L O S T. You don’t know what hit you, or why. You can only think about your loss of income (even if you did get a severance), your loss of benefits (even if you do get COBRA Ins.), your loss of friends/colleagues, and did you forget any of your personal things from your office before you left?

Well I know this only too well, my friend. It happened to me.  In early 2009. I know all of these feelings … and more.

So, here is my advice on things to do immediately to take care of yourself. I will post more in subsequent blogs, this is just to get you going NOW.

(1) Contact those colleagues who you would like to be a reference for you, and ask them if they would be willing to do so. You could even ask for a letter of recommendation although the higher up you are in a position, the less this really matters for your future employment.

(2) File Unemployment immediately. That day, or the following. I KNOW it is hard to do, but do not delay it. This system is in place to help you between jobs and in these tough economic times, let it help you. Put your pride aside and file for it.

(3) Get yourself personal business cards.  They need to have your name, e-mail address, phone number (either home, cell or both) and ideally some bullet points of your career strengths.  Do not include your home address – that is your private information.  There are many places you can get these at, and Vistaprint (on-line at Vistaprint.com) is a great place to go.  They offer a lot of cool designs and have an easy layout each.  You can completely customize them if you are design savvy.

Another great place I found and regularly use is OfficeDepot.com (not the in-store business cards).  They have Value Cards that cost $10 for 100, and they are two-color designs and are on the thick paper stock.  And they ship for free!  I love these most.  You will need these cards for your upcoming networking.

(4) Breathe.  Deeply, and a lot.  Know that only time will help you get over this shock … and pain. Don’t try to deny these feelings, let them come when they come, and mourn your job loss. It is OK to do this. It is even preferable. The more you allow yourself these feelings, the sooner you can move on to bigger and better things.

(5) Aside from the top 4 things above, plan to take off two weeks to rest, recover and get your head together. This time of “between successes” for you can be short, although in today’s economy it is not so likely, and you deserve this little vacation.  If you got a job immediately, it would be a while before you will get a vacation … so do yourself a favor and take this now.  It helps greatly in getting yourself together.

(6) When your vacation is over, work on your resume. Get it as up-to-date as possible, then send it to some of your friends for their review. If you have friends who are in HR, even better. Take all reviewers suggestions with grains of salt, and heed those suggestions that resonate with you.  You will find over time that everyone has different suggestions and you will end up with many (MANY) versions of your resume.  This is ok.  In fact it is not uncommon to have a slightly different resume for each job you apply for (but keep a copy of each of them in case you get an interview … so you will know what they are looking at).

(7) Register with on-line job boards (if you have not already done so) and post your most up-to-date resume. You may not get a job through this venue, but you should still do it to keep all your doors open. Use Monster, Career Builder and Dice (if you are an IT professional like me).   And there are others.  You should also set up a search with each of these job boards so that they send you a daily e-mail with the search results based upon your criteria.

When you search for jobs, use Indeed.com which scans all the openings posted on job boards and the newspaper so you do not have to go looking at each of those places individually.  You may get some job overlap between what you find on Indeed.com and what you get in your daily e-mail from the job boards, but too much is better than missing out on something.

(8) Go conservative in your spending from this point on, (for the foreseeable future). This means much less eating out (give yourself tight limits, like once a week) and grocery shop at the least expensive stores. It will help you TONS. Most of the food at these cheap grocery stores are at minimum just fine, and at maximum very good. If you have an Aldi grocery store near you and you are not used to shopping there, try it out. I’ve been very pleasantly surprised.

You will find that you go through a lot of supplies at home that you are not used to, such as coffee, creamer, snack food, and toilet paper.

If you are a shop-a-holic like me, make friends with your local Dollar store (mine is a Dollar Tree),  with resale shops such as Goodwill, and other local shops that specialize in things like upscale/resale. It is not as bad as it sounds. Goodwill gets some very good items in there and sometimes new things from stores like Target that just didn’t sell. The resale shops are not as cheap, but have some very nice things which are quite affordable. But do limit your spending on this type of thing. Remember to conserve!

(9) Go to local events for unemployed persons and local networking events.  You will find out about these places the more you talk with people in your same boat, but first try your local unemployment office.  They should have information on some of these meetings.  Then meet new people!

In networking situations I tend to be a little bit shy.  The more extroverted you are, the better you will be at talking to strangers but even if you are very very shy, still go to these events.  At minimum you will gain valuable knowledge, and maybe just maybe you’ll meet a new friend.

By the way, I met my HUSBAND at one of these networking events!  No, I was not looking at all.  Nor was he.  And I do not encourage you to do this to meet a date or “hookup”.  These events are professional and that mentality will only make you lose credibility.  So keep your professional hat on while attending these events!

(10) Lastly, really try to get some exercise.  Even if just taking a walk around the block.  Just getting your blood pumping and the fresh air will do wonders for your morale.  And morale is a delicate thing.  It needs daily attention.

Until the next post … Hang in there my friend!

 
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Posted by on March 4, 2011 in Unemployment - Tips

 

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NPR highlights unemployment in STL

NPR is doing a year-long following of six St. Louisians. Both my new husband Brian and I were chosen to be followed, since we are both struggling with finding jobs. I have been unemployed almost two years now and thought my job search would take maybe three months, six at most.

It is quite a different world that it was in 1998, the last time I was looking for work. Almost all applying must be done on a company’s website and not only can it take an hour or more to do just one, there are so many filters that it seems impossible to have your identity acknowledged.

Then there is the emotional battle. No one is above it, no matter what they say. It is hard to find a job in normal times. It is a job in itself. You have so many i’s to dot and t’s to cross, and new ones seem to come up all the time. But in this economy, it is a whole new world. You are told that you will most likely get a job through your networking efforts (a 75% chance!). That is not good news for those of us who are shy, or introverted. I am a friendly fun-loving person but not one who can easily (well, comfortably) work a room. I have my moments, but when you are already in a down state due to your situation, then add-on the extra spark you need to make you stick out … well, there are just good days and bad days and lots of mediocre ones.

If you are new to being unemployed, and are looking for a career then I suggest getting business cards printed up right away to market yourself – if you have not already done so. It is a very important investment.

Vistaprint offers free ones fairly often, but you will pay for shipping and probably want some upgrades, so you’ll end up spending $20 on them for 250. Not bad, they have a great variety to choose from, and I do have some from there (with a paper upgrade).

But I found a great place to get 100 business cards that are very nice quality (heavy paper, slightly glossy, raised print), which is OfficeDepot.com, and they are only $10 with free shipping. This particular offer is only available on-line; it is their “value” cards, a 2-color option, but they do look very nice and ship quickly. I am on my third order of them.

I’ll be posting more tips for the unemployed’s in the future. If you want to read the article on NPR where I am highlighted, the link is below.
(NRP) The Road Back To Work – Jennifer Barfield

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2011 in Unemployment - Tips

 

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