Archive for the ‘Being unemployed’ Category

The Next Phase

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

Three cycles:

  • Cycle 1 – In 1978, I moved to DC to start my first real job as an adult. In 2013, my career ended, a bit prematurely (long story).
  • Cycle 2 – In 1981, I got married. In 1992, my marriage dissolved.
  • Cycle 3 – In 1982, I bore the first of my three children. In 2012, the last of my children graduated from college and became self sufficient.
  • Three cycles – and full circle on all of them, putting me back to square one. I don’t think DC has another beginning for me, so for the last six months I have been renovating my home of 34 years and will move to another state in a few months. I finished the work on my house this week.

    So here is the Big Question: How do I be a real beginner again, like I was 45 or so years ago when I was a young 20-something with all the potential in the world? How did it feel to be open to whatever might happen? How was I able to live in the moment? After 45 years of responsibility, intense scheduling, and above all control, how do I slow down, drop my defenses, and let new experiences and people into my life again?

    I have no idea, but I hope I can do it.

    The Bad Dream

    Saturday, February 14th, 2009

    The bad dream goes like this. I have to do something, urgently. Something is lost and I can’t find it. I search, frantically. Then, suddenly, I’m somewhere else, somewhere I don’t recognize and far away from where I need to be. I try to run, I’m desperate, but my legs are enormous and move only with exquisite slowness. I run, run, run, run, but get nowhere. I wake up. The dream ends. Nothing is ever found, in this dream.

    Used to be these dreams were about losing my children. This morning, the dream was about taking a college exam. I wasn’t prepared for the exam, then couldn’t find the page with the question, then suddenly was somewhere else and couldn’t find the exam book. Futile frantic flipping of pages instead of running, but this was the same old dream. Children are gone, but now I’m filling out job applications . . . go figure. You just have to laugh.

    (By the way, in real life, the children never got lost and they grew into smart and capable adults.)

    Repackaging – to the future, not the past

    Sunday, February 8th, 2009

    Two friends gave me some advice today. Different friends, different conversations, but both pieces of advice were good.

    I was laid off a week ago from my interior design job and the prospects of finding a similar job in this economy are dim, seriously dim. As a result, I kind of gave up on getting a design job and spent the week looking to my past asking: What knowledge and skills do I have? How can I repackage those skills into a new job? I found a wealth of experience in that past – lawyer, writer, policy wonk – and completed a number of applications for jobs that would use those skills. But it wasn’t sitting right and I kept stumbling against the fact that those past experiences were past for a reason – I just didn’t love the work.

    The first friend said: Don’t accept a job you know you’ll hate just to get the income. You can do better; you’re worth much more.

    The second friend said: Don’t think about repackaging your past, think about repackaging your future. Figure out how to do what you really love to do.

    I really needed to hear the first bit of advice. I’m anxious when I’m not in control and am strongly inclined to jump into the first thing I’m offered just to be employed, just to feel safe. I’m not afraid of starting over, but don’t always remember that I have a lot more to offer than entry level.

    But it was the second piece of advice that made me think. My friend asked: What do I really love to do? Well, the answer is design – it’s what I’m passionate about, what I can do for hours without getting bored or distracted. Approaching my future by retreating to the past sure as heck isn’t going to get me closer to this and is, in fact, very likely to prevent me from doing it at all.

    Maybe I still need to have my resume in order and write endless cover letters, but maybe I can explore a more forward-looking approach as well. This is the next challenge.

    Repackaging after the hatchet

    Thursday, February 5th, 2009

    I’m sitting on the floor in my living room, surrounded by old payroll stubs, copies of documents written so long ago that the staples are rusty, letters of recommendation from people long since gone, a sheaf of loose-leaf paper, and a fresh sign pen. Trying to make some sense of 35 years of employment – trying to figure out how to condense it down to the proverbial one-page resume. One page? Can’t be done, but maybe two, or maybe four. . .

    The architecture/design field is in shambles. Those of us who’ve been laid off may well have to repackage ourselves and move on if we hope to have any income in the next couple of years. This is the stickler. After 5 years of design school and 2 years as a designer, what can I be next? Shall I try to be a lawyer again? Would any employer consider me as a technical writer? How about an environmental or health policy expert? I’ve got extensive experience in all these things, but, except perhaps for the writing (thesis), it’s been a while. Sure, I can get up to speed quickly – I haven’t lost my smarts – but there are probably plenty of people competing for jobs who are already up to speed.

    So, I plug away, discovering what treasures my beat-up file cabinet in the basement might hold, recalling bit by bit what I actually did in those previous careers, perfecting the resume. It will come together. It will.

    Laid off

    Sunday, February 1st, 2009

    I’ve neglected this blog for two years because I was so deeply consumed by my first job as an interior designer, with its long hours of intense learning and working. Time to ponder and write was . . . well, non-existent. On Friday, however, I got laid off, along with about 1/4 of my office – many of us junior staff. Now, it seems there will be some breathing space to think and write once more.

    The last two years were exhilarating. I was fortunate to work for a large, well-respected firm with a true commitment to excellent design. I teamed with top-notch designers, befriended terrific clients, and learned a tremendous amount. I learned how develop and communicate a design vision, produce well-crafted and complete construction documents to bring that design into reality, and work with builders through the construction process. I am sorry it’s ended, but I understand. The current market has hit the architecture/design industry hard.

    The next task, then, is to find another job and I don’t for a moment think it will be easy. Too many of us have been tossed overboard. However, as with any change, it will be a learning experience, an adventure, and maybe even the start of something better. Stay tuned.