You Never Know

Still working feverishly to meet an important project deadline,  I got my seventh layoff package in 20 years on a Thursday morning in November 2014.  By noon, I was waiting for a taxi to take me home after I took the shuttle bus to work. I was walked out with only my personal belongings, but left responsibilities and pending decisions with my manager.

Once again, it was time for me to move on.

Little did I know then that I would be out of work for almost a year. Nothing prepared me for the day I exhausted my 26 week unemployment benefit, or the hand injury that led me to collect eight more weeks of disability benefits.

I was prepared somewhat for the job search by updating my resume and applying for jobs that I believed suited me. I was not prepared for the 40 rejection notices that focused on my “lack of skills”  or “relevant experience” (but I often suspected may have also been influenced by my age).

Accepting what seemed inevitable, I finally admitted that I was done.

Then, a funny thing happened. I felt a load was taken off my shoulders. No longer needing to jump back into the rat race of the long hours (and long commutes) working in Silicon Valley, I explored retiring early and moving to a slower pace of life in the San Joaquin Valley. After talking with realtors and financial advisors, my wife and I made plans to leave in January.

Just when those plans were being put in place, I got a call to interview for a job in San Ramon (about half way between Silicon Valley and the San Joaquin Valley). That was followed by an offer I couldn’t refuse because they actually wanted someone with my skills and experience.

So, I guess I can put off retiring early since the business is projected to earn $6 billion this year.

But you never know…

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Feelings Are Not Facts

I recently noticed that I have a bad habit of dragging my past into the present whenever I turn my feelings into “facts”. Some person, place, thing, situation, or outcome is not what I expect, and  I’m taken out of of my comfort zone of what is known and familiar. Unlike someone whose emotions rockets them to anticipate the unknown as challenging and exciting, my emotions often drag me to anticipate only despair and foreboding. I have a knack for subtly distorting present circumstances with past memories of disappointment, frustration, even betrayal. It is only with persistent and conscious effort is it possible for me to not slip into this whirlpool of negativity and see how I allow my feelings to become false evidence appearing real.

But, this time around, something  is different. Although I consider myself just a hired gun paid from nine to five to do the job–I am given the respect and consideration typically given only to a permanent employee. So, when an e-mail arrived  with a notification that  my contract was ending soon,  I immediately felt the grip of Doom (the fear of losing what I have) and Gloom (the fear of not getting what I want) settling in for a long stay. Expecting the worst, I go to my manager and I inform her that  I would no longer be able to access the building and submit timecards unless she  follows up with the HR manager responsible for reviewing my contract extension. To my surprise, she agrees and picks up the phone to speak to the HR manager to address the issue right away.

So,  just for today, I am reminded that feelings are not facts…and perhaps my past does not necessarily need to become my present.

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Passing It On…

I became aware that the work environment that my goddaughter would enter would be much different than the one I began my career when she asked for help on her resume. You see, I  follow a familiar routine waiting for the other shoe to drop having bounced between being a contractor and a full-time employee for the past four years. I  have grown accustomed to leaving without a trace after 6 pm since I don’t fret about the “golden handcuffs”  (such as health insurance, sick leave, accrued vacation,  401(k) plans, and stock options) that  shackle other  full-time employees to the notion of  “job security”.

I did not quite know how to prepare her for such a future, so I wrote a letter from my experience, strength, and hope as words of encouragement to sustain her on her journey. I wanted to pass on an excerpt of that letter to others who may need the same encouragement:

“I have been thinking long and hard for awhile about any wisdom or experience that I can share with you that would help as you start out on your professional career. I even go back a few years ago when I gave you a book on career planning that I hoped would prepare you for the many job searches that will occur in your work life—some you will get to choose, some that will be chosen for you.

You see, my “career” has consisted of 16 jobs since I graduated from college in 1981 (being employed anywhere from six months to six years). During that time, I have survived six layoffs lasting anywhere from three to nine months. I have also worked as a contractor for three different companies in the past four years. Every time, I managed to put food on the table, clothes on my back, a roof over my head, and put a few dollars in the bank for a rainy day as I accept that my “career” will often consist of looking for the next job.

With that in mind, I have tried to craft a resume for you based on what I know has worked for me. Take the words that are contained with not only my experience and wisdom, but also temper them with your own wisdom and experience as you find your way to where you want to go.

Still, just as important as the journey from here to there, is the kind of person you become along the way. You see, when I got laid off for the first time in 1994 (when you were not even in kindergarten), it gave me time to do more than just put food on the table, clothes on my back, and a roof over my head — It also gave me the opportunity to spend time with you and recite my three rules (as necessary): “Please and thank you. You have to listen to me. You cannot always have your way.” Those rules grew with time and experience to be the lessons of life that carried you off to college and I knew you would be all right.

These lessons of life will serve as your compass because they are the values that your parents and I have raised you so that, when that day eventually comes, you can go to farther off places and we will know you will be all right. “Please and thank you” is a reminder to be respectful of others, and that “No” is a complete sentence (no reason needs to be given). “You have to listen to me” is a reminder to consider others in your choices and be accountable to others for your actions. “You cannot always have your way” is a reminder that if it is not possible for you to accept people, places, situations, or outcomes for what they are, then it is probably about “you” rather than about “them”.

So, my fondest wish is that you find your path to a fulfilling life, passionate and exciting, with the knowledge that God has given you a purpose, meaning, and plan with the full support of your Mom, Dad, and I.”

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If The Shoe Fits…

It was last November when my colleague stopped by my cubicle to quietly let me know that layoffs were happening and that two writers were already gone.  A few minutes later, our manager stopped by and asked to meet with me privately.

He simply told me that the company was going through a reorganization instituted by the new CEO who arrived the previous August, and that I was being laid off with several others who worked for my manager. After six months, just like that,  I lost a permanent full-time  job, along with the perks that I didn’t have for the two years I worked as a contractor: the  health insurance , sick leave, accrued vacation,  401(k) plan, stock options, and the 20 minute commute.

It seems so straightforward now, as if it was somehow scripted to happen the way that it did. Yet,  as I look back over three years ago when I began this journey, every step that I have taken along the way haven’t  been as orderly as I would like (see my post Changing Times). There have been many forks  along the way, where my choices have brought me to a place where I am today. Along with those choices has been the endless chatter of Doom and Gloom (or those self-centered fears of losing what I have or not getting what I want)  that made me constantly worry about would happen if the other shoe fell.

Well, at least for the moment,  the other shoe has fallen on solid ground and it seems to fit. I completed my first big project last Friday  at my current assignment, and I was not shown the door on Monday.  In fact, I just completed another deadline at the end of this week, with more deadlines planned for the rest of the year.

Furthermore, between one friend offering to keep a look out for possible job opportunities or another  reminding me to be kind to myself, I know  that I am not trying to live a day at a time entirely on my own. Instead, I am just a fellow traveler on this journey called  Life.

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The Other Shoe Falls… (Again)

With the recent arrival of a new CEO at the company, my manager told me this week that my current  assignment may not be converted to full-time status because of budgetary constraints (but he assured me that I have a job until at least the end of the year).

My immediate reaction was  to anticipate only despair and foreboding. I have a knack for subtly distorting present circumstances with past memories of disappointment, frustration, perhaps even betrayal. A common term for this malaise is “doubt”.  I’m not so sure whether  the choices that I made over the past six months have been aligned with my will or God’s will, or  ultimately  whether I’m  even willing to accept the outcome of those choices.

It is only with persistent and conscious effort is it possible for me to avoid slipping into a whirlpool of negativity that allows my feelings to become false evidence appearing real (otherwise known as fear). So each day this week, I start off by expressing gratitude that I have a roof over my head, clothes on my back, food on the table, and more than a few dollars saved for that rainy day.  Such a simple change in attitude leads to a faith that allows for different choices…and possibly different outcomes.

God has always had a meaning, purpose, and plan for my life. I just have to remember that it’s not up to me to know (or understand) all of the details.

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Catching My Breath

The first time that I got laid off, there was a reorganization and I was odd man out. The second time that I got laid off, I said to the boss what others merely dream of saying. The third time I tried to be a good boy and did what the boss said, but it didn’t make any difference. The fourth time I was a good boy, but the company folded anyways after a year. Yet another time, I was not only a good boy, but a loyal company man as well for six years (with what I thought was that ticket to retirement).

This time around, the layoffs started barely two months after I started working there in January. Although I have survived so far, I still follow a familiar routine waiting for the other shoe to drop (having bounced between being a contractor and a full-time employee for the past three years).

As a hired gun paid  to do a job, I  grew accustomed to leaving without a trace after 6 pm since I didn’t fret about the “golden handcuffs”  (such as health insurance, sick leave, accrued vacation,  401(k) plans, and stock options) that shackled full-time employees to the notion of job security.  As a full-time employee, I honed a skeptical wait-and-see attitude after being let go the Monday morning after finishing a critical six-month project.  Even now, I am wary of  the bait-and-switch when  I am approached with an opportunity to “audition” for the part on a contract-to-permanent basis.

Still, when I take the time to catch my breath after being heads down for so long, I realize that I am only really responsible for the footwork. I need to turn over the outcome to God, who is my ultimate employer. So each day, I try to express gratitude that I have a roof over my head, clothes on my back, food on the table, and a few dollars saved for that rainy day. God has always had a meaning, purpose, and plan for my life. I just have to remember that it’s not up to me to know (or understand) all of the details.

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Just in Time…

A good friend once told me “You’ll go back to work when someone wants you to go to work for them, not when you want to go back to work.” I am struck by how simple and straightforward that sounds, but it is also very profound.  I can do the footwork of looking for a job — take the outplacement workshops, write and revise my resume, send my resume to every job lead that comes my way–and it still is out of my hands whether I get a job today (or not).  A prospective employer will review my resume for my qualifications and salary requirements. then determine whether the job requirements (and the budget) are a good fit. This follows the Golden Rule: “Those that have the gold make the rules.”

So heeding that Golden Rule, I set modest expections for myself when I went on two sets of  interviews before Christmas —  I also hedged my bets by submitting resumes expressing my qualifications for other full-time positions. Then came the waiting part as companies take the traditional holiday break when companies shut down  between Christmas and New Year.

Then, something wonderfully special happened. During the break, I was contacted to interview for two other jobs the week after New Years Day. On the day of the first interview, I accepted a job offer  from one of the companies that already interviewed me in December (almost two months to the day after I was laid off). I am now in the middle of  my second week at my new job.

As I have had time to ponder the past layoffs  I’ve endured, I realized that somehow all of my needs were being provided. While I was hounded by Doom and Gloom (those self-centered fears of losing what I have or not getting what I want), I still managed to keep a roof over my head, clothes on my back, and food on the table.

So, at this point, I need to acknowledge who my real Employer is, and I just need to perform the footwork laid before me.

Best wishes for a prosperous and joyful New Year.

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