Seriously, Universe? SERIOUSLY???

You all are going to think I’m just making this up. Like I’m a parody of the job market, since this is what? The fourth post I’ve written on this topic?

I got laid off yesterday.

Thank God I wasn’t wearing my pajamas.

I went to work in my jammies yesterday – purple flannel with colorful owls on them, plus my hair in pigtails and toting a stuffed frog. It was Halloween, we were encouraged to wear a costume. I went as a slumber party-goer. I thought, “Who DOESN’T want to go to work on Monday in her pajamblies?” Of course, there were only a handful who dressed up in the company and only two in my department – let’s face it, I can’t compete with a woman dressed as a whoopie cushion. So when I went home I changed into jeans and a shirt.

At three o’clock The Boss called me in and when he sat down, I let loose. I knew what was coming.

“You have GOT to be kidding me.”

Silence. Stunned. He and the HR woman shook their heads.

It’s not my first time at the rodeo, kids. When you get called in by your boss and the HR representative is there and she has a plain manila folder with a sheet or two of paper in it, mark my words: NO GOOD CAN COME OF IT.

They said they were sorry.

I glared at The Boss. “I told you, this is exactly what I didn’t want to have happen when I came here.”

He said, “I know.”

“I cannot believe this. I cannot believe this. You have got to be kidding me.”

<blah blah about the company making tough decisions, didn’t know this when they hired me fourth months ago, etc ad nauseum>

Finally I got up, got my stuff together, bid bon voyage to the co-workers and – ONCE AGAIN – set sail for the murky waters of unemployment. First port of call? Panictown.

I went home, posted on Facebook, and sat down with a Large Wine to watch Jerseyliscious until Husband arrived home. He’s good about assuaging the panic. Six hours later, around 2 am, I got up because it really started to hit me then.

Once again, I’m cast adrift from the safe anchor of a paycheck and health insurance.

Once again, we have to postpone starting a family because I can’t justify a baby without a steady paycheck and health insurance. And I’m no spring chicken so I might not get a chance at all.

Once again, I feel so much angry!! At the ex-friend who could’ve eased this panic, had she helped Husband two years ago into a better paying and more stable job instead of stabbing him in the back; and serious resentment toward my in-laws who could easily afford to HELP – to help with bills, to help Husband finish his nursing education sooner rather than later, instead of having to wait for classes to open up at the community college where he goes, anything, instead of asking why we can’t get our shit together.

Once again, I’m looking at long days of doing nothing, of feeling restless, of the company only from the anxiety of the situation.

And once again, I feel pathetic. Thirty-five years old and haven’t had a job for more than three years since 2003. I might miss my chance to have a family because my job situation has been so unstable. Husband is in nursing school, and sure, he’ll eventually finish and get a job but how long with that be from now? Classes are full at the community college, we can’t really afford the larger university or the private schools.

I usually am one to believe in signs from God, the Universe and Everything, but I just don’t know what the hell it’s trying to tell me.

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Jorbs

The Job Hunt of 2010/2011 has come to an end.

(And there was much rejoicing.)

 I will spare you the job details, save this: I’ll be writing for a web media company located a mere 3 miles from my house. The job includes full benefits and a lot of cool people to work with.

 The adult parts of me are like this: Oh, thank the lord, now I don’t have to panic that we will get smushed in a car accident and have a kazillion medical bills. Thank the gods that I will have a steady income, retirement planning, and DENTAL insurance! So far, I really like these people and I’m not stressed out at work all the time. Now I can get back into a routine that includes paychecks and going to the gym and getting out of the house!

The creative artist parts of me are like this: I really wanted to make a go of my own business while I had the chance. Now I’m afraid I’ll never be able to be on my own, making my own money and not held back by a salary.

 The lazy parts of me are like this: No more naps at 2 in the afternoon. Can’t go shopping at 10 am. Can’t read a book all day out on the patio.

 Also, I feel very cautious about getting excited. I got excited last year when I got that job at the non-profit and that was a total and complete unequivocal disaster, comparable only to the televised Romanian women’s gymnastics debacle of 2001.

I do believe in fate. I do believe in making your own way, too. I’m giving up on Making Too Many Plans because it’s a waste of time.

 Tune in next time for an update on your favorite neighbors, Thug Life, with a guest appearance by Casa de la Crazytown.

 

*The picture today is of a Momiji doll. I’ve been obsessed with Momijis since I saw them in Canada a few years ago. This is called “Hurray.”

Career Counseling

I think I need a tri-fold business card. Lately my ‘work’ (it’s not really work yet, since I’m not being paid for most of it so ….yeah) entails copywriting, graphic recording, and cakery.  I’ve had some interesting client experiences in the last month or so. Tell me what you think.

Copywriting A few posts ago I told you about the guy who contacted me about ghostwriting. I predicted he would disappear. I was right! Before I even did the whole proposal thing! Maybe THAT’S why they call it ghostwriting… Clients become ghosts. Anyway, I kept emailing this guy and giving him all the times that week that I could meet with him. He works out of town a ways so it had to be a time that I could spend an hour to get there and an hour back. Finally, I called him and left a message. And…nothing. Never gonna hear from him again. There is a part of me that is afraid that I MISSED my big opportunity but most of me knew this was coming and it’s fine. I can only meet you halfway.

Then I got a call from a guy who wanted to talk about handing some of his work off to me. He’s like…the kind of copywriter I want to be when I grow up. Totally sustaining himself and his family on freelance copywriting work. LOVE that. He passed me a project right away and I didn’t charge much because it’s a test-drive sort of thing, I think. He didn’t give any feedback either way. I’d like to know if it was what he was looking for or not. I want to encourage this potential connection.

Next I got a call from a guy who’s starting up a company and is looking for a writer to do the writing. He gave me some materials so I could create a proposal. The materials included a proposal from the marketing/web design company he’s using. I’ve worked with this company before and the woman who runs it – again, kinda like to be her when I grow up – and I know they charge three and four and five times what I could charge. I agonized over my proposal! (SEE: MONEY, below) I sent it in and now…we wait. Hate the waiting.

Graphic recording Not much going on here, except two little things: I went to the headquarters of the networking group I’m part of and did a mural on the whiteboard about what they’re about. It came out awesome and soon I’ll have pics up at http://www.sarathompsonwrites.com. It’s a good venue to showcase the work. Then, I got an email from a state university here in Kentucky asking what I would charge for a day of graphic recording. When I didn’t hear back, I emailed and asked if they had any questions and they came back with, “We’re not using you.” I wrote back and asked, in effect, why, and never heard back.

I’m frustrated by not being able to explain graphic recording well enough that people go YES COME DO THAT AND I WILL PAY YOU. But I will keep on trying until I run out of cake.

Speaking of cake…

Cakery Since I’ve been out of work, I learned some cake decorating techniques. My mom gave me a gift certificate for classes and by clever use of JoAnn’s coupons,I managed to
do it pretty cheaply. I just completed my second real job – 525 cake pops for a friend. I have a business card and I’m preparing to create a page on facebook and possibly a
twitter account. I’m also working with a friend who did wedding cakes for 34 years and has graciously agreed to sherpa me through some cakes – as soon as I can get someone
to take me on.

I like where this is going. I like thinking of doing all these different things to support myself and my family. What I need now is more clients on all three fronts.

The Hazy World of Unemployment

In this strange change-of-jobs time, I find myself sort of wandering around my world bumping into boredom, anxiety, and ennui.* Every so often I feel a wave of gratitude that I can take a 3-hour nap in the afternoon or learn to throw pots with a new friend at her studio in the next county. (Take heart, I’m not enjoying this too much – that wave of gratitude is rinsed away by a barrage of guilt that I’m  not contributing to my household.)

One of the activities occupying my time is networking events. I’ve found a group I like and I’ve been visiting them, learning a lot. Like, I know nothing about business. NOTH. ING. My business plan has been…pass out business cards and do my “real” job until someone calls me for a writing job. I’m also woefully unskilled at sales. You have to be good at sales at least a little bit to sell your small business. It makes me uncomfortable to talk about my VAST WRITING TALENT! and how I can MAKE YOUR BUSINESS BETTER!!! And I do this graphic recording thing which is dang hard to explain in a way that makes people want to pay me to do it.

In an effort to educate myself, I’ve been schooling with all the resources I can find for free – books, videos, podcasts. Stuff on how to market yourself, how to be a better sales person. I read everything networking contacts suggest if I can get it from the library. I go to any free or cheap meetings I can get to.

And I don’t know what I don’t know so I just kind of bumble around so far. A sales coach I met with offered to teach me a system for business but it was going to cost me $400 a month. I’ve no doubt in this coach’s ability but I have doubts in my ability to pay my utilities without that $400 so it’s an unkind paradox.

I haven’t had any interviews for regular jobs. My first thought is, “This is God The Universe and Everything telling me to go, be a writer and graphic facilitator,” but if this is what that is going to be like, no thanks, it sucks.

I also get overwhelmed with there being so many OPTIONS for my time. With wide open days, nothing MUST get done today or it won’t get done ever. I could do any of a zillion things and sometimes I just go take a nap instead. Thank goodness I’m not an emotional eater because if I were, I think I’d be a candidate for some TLC show at this point.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Ever since Gorey’s Neville died of ennui I have loved that word.

Learning Lessons

Last week, I worked for what I’m thinking of as my first “real” client for my graphic recording practice. It was a nonprofit’s strategic visioning session and I was there to graphically record the day’s events. When I say first “real” client, I mean it was the first time I had to negotiate the whole kit and caboodle from the fee to logistics. The marketing director called and we talked about what I can do for the group, my price, etc. And was that ever stressy!

I am not good at negotiating price when it comes to my work. I know I do a good job, I know I’m valuable, but it’s difficult for me to put a price tag on my time and talent. But I stuck to my guns and was hired for two different day events, one last week and one in February.

I learned a couple lessons. The facilitator had never worked with a graphic recorder and when I called to talk with her about it, I didn’t do a good job of making sure we were on the same page. What I didn’t want to happen was for us to be two disjointed entities in the room – her leading the strategy and me off in my own world. And that’s exactly what happened. She had to be reminded to introduce me, and then she did her own drawings up front.  I take credit for the breakdown. I should have been more assertive about how I wanted things to work and it would have led to a more productive meeting, the client would have been happier, and it would have been a more cohesive meeting overall. But nobody threw a rotten tomato at me which is good…

The real surprise of the day, the real gift from the Universe, was how I ended up with this job in the first place. It didn’t all click together until the very end of the day.

When my contact called me, he mentioned that he’d found me through a staff member. He mentioned her name and I jumped to the assumption that this staff member had been to see an event at the Big Corporation I used to work for and had seen me graphically record a keynote and some other things. I got to the site Thursday morning and spent time setting up, meeting some folks, etc. I’m on my feet pretty much an entire event, thinking, writing, wrangling paper. By the end of the day I’m usually pretty fried. There I was, cleaning up my space and getting all set to drive home in the snow, when a voice said, “You must be the writing spider.” The voice was attached to a tall woman in an awesome skirt followed by a boy. Turns out, she’s my blog friend Ellen there with her son. She knows me from this blog, and I know her from her blog, and we are both Bluegrass writerly-type people.

Like I said, I’m pretty fried at the end of the day. I’m sorry, E, it took me a few minutes for everything to fall into place.

Ellen and I had never met, never talked in real life, but  she sent my info to the marketing director of her organization who in turn hired me to come do this work I’ve been wishing/hoping/dreaming of making a living at. (In another strange turn, I went to high school with the marketing guy.) In fact, I bought a necklace that reads “Luck is when opportunity meets preparation.” I spent my entire ride home being amazed that this happened. (Well, I spent a lot of time freaking out about driving home in the blizzard of ’11, too.) This is the type of thing I’m asking for from the Universe. Send me people to recommend my work so that I may be paid for something I love doing. Ellen and I had a nice chat before I trudged out into the snow and I’m just tickled that she’s my first blog friend meeting. I hope there are many more.

If you want to learn more about my graphic recording and other stuff, go here.

Bits & Bobs

I don’t think I have enough stuff for one whole post, so this will be a Bits & Bobs Edition of the Writing Spider.

1. Christmas.We wrapped presents last night. This year, I’m actually really excited about some of my gifts. Do you do this? You get something for someone and it’s like PERFECT (you think…you hope) and you cannot wait until they open it? I have several like that. Luckily for the recipients, they were all purchased in like…August…way before I lost el jobbo and could afford cool prezzies. The house is bursting with Christmassy goodness, what with the decorations and whatnot. The ferrets have all turned into tree weezils – they climb up the tree and try to find the stuffed animal ornaments to pluck off and hide. Mostly they just fall out of the tree a lot. The angel has been catawampus for a week after Scout tried to scale Mt. Evergreen.

2. Cold. Damn global warming. The low today is supposed to be EIGHT. Thank God for flannel sheets and a husband with a fast metabolism. (Honestly, he’s my own little bio-thermal furnace). Even the ferrets have been cramming into the same hammock together – six ferrets in a hammock is pretty funny.

3. Jorbs. “So, had any job interviews yet?” “Found a job yet?” “Got any bites for jobs yet?” STOP. ASKING. Just be supportive of my talent. Be there if I need to talk about how this job loss has been harder than the others, how my confidence has been obliterated, and how crappy in general I feel. And stop talking about how AWESOME your job is.

4. Networking groups. I’ve been to a few of them in the last few weeks. It’s like a party where you’re trying to get people to buy your services… Sometimes they’re good but sometimes not. I haven’t gotten any business out of them yet but I sort of enjoy practicing my sales pitch and my graphic facilitation elevator speech. I’ve learned that life coaches are NOT INTERESTED in working with me. I had one literally turn her back on me and start talking to someone else after I told her what I do and how it might be useful for her coaching practice. Meh. Fine.

5. Cupcakery. I’d been toying with putting the word out that I can do awesome cupcakes when out of the blue an acquaintance from college emailed to ask if I’d do some for her son’s first birthday party. Yes, I would, actually! And I did. I hope this is God, the Universe, and Everything trying to tell me that’s a good path to pursue. Like a man who can dance, good cupcakes are always a welcome addition to a party. At least in my book.

Well F*@#

For the second time in my life I have been sacked. Let go. Fired. Terminated.

It is probably the ickiest feeling in the world. Or it’s up there in the top five.

Here’s the short version of the story from my perspective: For the last five months, I’ve worked in development for a non-profit organization in my town. I was courted by the VP, someone I went to college with. I was completely drawn in by this person’s charisma and vision and felt I could really find a career home as one of her reports. My direct manager was a totally different type of person – subdued, mousey, and not terribly creative – but the first couple months were awesome. I felt really at home, I was jiving with the VP doing brainstorming and idea sessions, I was throwing ideas out for ways to push the organization forward and she responded with enthusiasm.

Then someone dumped cold water on the entire situation. I saw less and less of the VP and was pushed away from projects I showed interest in, despite the fact that upper management would constantly tout that “we have lots of needs for people to fill around here.” No more requests from the VP about brainstorming, no more lunch dates to talk shop. Meanwhile, the manager obliterated all my writing projects with ridiculous edits, forcing rewrite after rewrite and resisting any standards for me to follow and despite the fact that I had been told explicitly that I had been hired because of my stellar writing ability. Things can be summed up by the moment I got a coming to Jesus lecture that boiled down to: I asked you to write x. You gave me y. That means you’re lazy and uncommitted and you should do better. I replied that I heard a request for y and thought I was giving what had been requested. Then I pointed out that we had a failure to communicate and that I needed more firm direction so that I wasn’t shooting at a moving target. I proceeded to ask LOTS of questions in an effort to stave off further misunderstandings but the manager grew irritated or flustered with my pressing for clarity.

I haven’t been happy there in months but I kept hoping we’d all settle into a groove. After all, I argued – I’ve never worked in this type of position before. I need time to learn the ropes. And since the manager resisted teaching me anything, letting me fail time after time instead, I stumbled more than I shone.

Fast forward to Friday when the house of cards collapsed.

This time, after the dreaded talk with the HR mistress, there was a box and the CFO sat in my office while I filled it, leaping over the desk to block me when I tried to power off my PC. “YOU CAN’T TOUCH THAT.” I left all kinds of crap in the office that wouldn’t fit in my box. NO WAY was I going back there and NO WAY was I going to let someone send it to me later. Thank you but I”ll do without my fifteen stick note pads and that lamp my roommate left when she moved out after college.

We had a Halloween party anyway this weekend. It had been planned and I couldn’t imagine why we wouldn’t. It was fun. And now, the first day of my latest unemployment, I have cleaned out the front hall closet and plan to start NaNoWriMo later today. I’m also making chili in the crock pot. And I’m trying not to panic. There’s no three-month severance this time. There’s no continued healthcare.

If you’ve been following along the last few weeks around here, you’ll know that the last couple of weeks have been mostly strange, but also kind of crummy. Strange things have happened. Bad things have happened. This isn’t a bid for pity, trust me I’ve got self-pity in spades right now, it’s more an acknowledgement that something is happening, I”m just not sure what…yet.