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Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Week in Review (3)

Things I have learned:

In the winter, there is very little you can’t do as long as you dress for it.

“I won’t…” is a difficult phrase. But if you put “In a perfect world” in front of it, you may actually get somewhere.

When you are networking, it’s not the overburdened recruiter who is going to see your resume. As a corporate recruiter, I hated when people went around me. As a career changer, doing that very thing may be my salvation.

When you are “analyzing your assets in order to determine what to pursue next in your career” it’s important to recreate the tools and resources that were a part of corporate life in order keep yourself organized.

A slight disruption while medical insurance transitions to COBRA may feel like a punishment. It seems personal but it’s not and you need to get over it.

Crampons should be required attire for anyone who lives in New England.

Making oatmeal chocolate chip cookies with your daughter on a Friday afternoon is a proverbial small slice of heaven.

Eating them is a bigger slice.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Finding the Way

By far the most rewarding surprise relating to my change in employment status (aside from this blog) is how much I enjoy the walking. On my first day at home I stood shivering in the cold house, peering out to the ice covered gardens in my backyard, wondering how I would get through the winter. Walking has been a fair weather sport for me thus far. But when I commented on this to a friend, she said: “Go anyway. Dress warm, wrap up and walk, that’s what I do.” Her comment that day brought on an “I should have had a V-8” moment. After all, I did attend college in Vermont and the weather there never stopped us. Notwithstanding that I was a lot younger back then; the temperatures up north are significantly colder. So, to my way of thinking, that pretty much evens things up. Taking her advice, most days I’ve been out there.

Other than my Abominable Snow Man walking outfit which stays the same, I’ve mixed up the walks a bit. On sunny days, I power stroll by the ocean, inhaling the briny air as sleepy waves pummel the shore, then hiss as they crash into themselves on their way back to sea. When the wind was too strong last week, a friend’s neighborhood was the route of choice, 8/10 of a mile around the block, three times past expansive capes and Paul Revere colonials.

Twice this week though, I’ve been gifted with a walk that has opened my eyes and taken me to new places.

The Whitney Woods nature reserve, located a ways down at the bottom of my street, contains miles of trails though heavily forested second growth. Located off of a two lane highway, as you drive down the rutted road to the entrance, the traffic sounds dissipate and you stumble upon another century. The last time we tried to walk there as a family, our daughter was little, it was late spring and mosquitoes chased us out of the forest before we’d walked fifty yards. But a friend is reintroducing me.

Vermont experience or not, I would never have considered Whitney Woods at this time of year. With the winter we’ve had, snow upon snow followed by rain turning to ice, the going is treacherous at best. But my friend has crampons, spiked metal contraptions you pull over boots to prevent slipping on ice, which she kindly shares with me while introducing me to the colors of winter. Instead of picking our way across the ice covered trails, we stroll summarily through the woods, and she points out features. “Look at that vernal pool over there; you won’t be able to see that when the leaves are on the trees,” and “You can tell by the bark on this tree that there was a fire in here at some point.”

According to the literature on the website, the park used to be “‘Common Lands of the Hingham Planters,’ referring to the colonists who settled the area beginning around 1634.” It’s the same topography that exists beyond the boundary markers of my own backyard—forested hills and channels marked with immense boulders deposited by prehistoric glaciers. Marveling at everything my friend points out, in addition I see other pictures. Erase the pines, oaks and birches that tower over tumbling stone walls, and imagine rocky fields full of cattle grazing. I visualize a nineteenth century farmer, striding to his herd on a late afternoon, while a teenage rider in homespun breeches disdains the dirt roads and jumps the walls lining the fields. And somewhere there’s a farmhouse where a woman in long skirts stirs a pot bubbling on a cast iron stove.

It’s beauty and it’s history and it’s been all around me but I haven’t made time to see. I take a deep breath and smile as, surefooted in our crampons; we climb up a snow crusted slope.
Whitney Woods

Thursday, February 26, 2009

This May Take Some Planning

At work, I was a list maker. It started on lined legal tablets crossing off “to do’s” as they were completed and adding new items to the bottom. It worked, but I used the subsequent pages for notes, and sometimes the front list was full and there was limited space underneath on which to continue. Then I became a Franklin Planner girl, keeping a daily log and dutifully recording notes on the corresponding page. The next morning, I moved the incomplete tasks from “yesterday” to “today,” added additional actions, and my day to some degree, was planned. For a refresher on specific conversations, it was easy to flip back to the date in question and review the documentation.

As a Franklin Planner disciple, that calendar came with me everywhere at work. Devoted Franklin followers brought their planners home for personal scheduling but I drew the line at that. Somehow, it seemed like allowing my professional life to infringe on precious family time. So, at home, the school calendar dictated our activities. Hanging on a nail over the kitchen desk, the blue and white squares were preprinted with school activities, underneath which we scribbled our hair cuts, mother’s group events, Girl Scout meetings and dentist appointments. For about three weeks at the end of each summer I would get twitchy because the school calendar went from September to August, and there was lag time before the new calendars arrived. Aside from that though, the system worked.

At work however, I embraced my planner. Except, as Microsoft became less of a corporation and more of a commodity, Outlook Calendars became the rage and we transitioned to online scheduling. I was behind the curve on this, early on witnessing our computer network go down and my peers at a loss as to their agendas that day. It seemed like my planner was a safer bet. Eventually though, I had no choice and hopped on the Outlook bandwagon, sending and accepting invitations on line. I continued to take notes in my planner but other than that, I was a full convert to online scheduling.

Next, the blackberry arrived. Plug in, tune in, and turn on. When I finally accepted the need to cross boundaries it was big time. I requested the devise because the work volume was overwhelming, a vacation was pending and a lap top was not yet in my bag of tricks. In my mind the only way I could relax while traveling was to respond to emails each morning, rather than fret about what wasn’t being done. I never became addicted to the “crackberry,” as my associates laughingly called it, but clearly it was an asset.

That blackberry of course vanished with my employment. The planner came home with me but the cubby where our computer lives offers little room to spread out. Between that, and the fact that it reminds me a little too clearly as to what so recently has changed, it seems easier to keep the book closed. As I scheduled appointments over the last few weeks, I trotted across the room to pencil them on the school calendar until that began to seem silly. So we hung a wall calendar on the cubby door we can see while using the computer, but which disappears when the cupboard is closed. I had it in my head that I’d use that to document my outplacement/job search related appointments.

Then I went to an outplacement meeting. After garnering additional assignments and further understanding of how to market myself to a future career, it was time to plan additional appointments. I caught myself patting my pockets looking for the blackberry. Then I looked over to my portfolio, hoping my planner was perched on top. No luck there. And guess what? I don’t carry a personal calendar. As we scheduled the next two appointments, I muddled through my memory, “Yup that time is OK because the doctor’s appointment isn’t until later, and “Hmmm, is that the day the cat has to go to the vet?” Once we landed on the dates, I strode out of the office muttering, “Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.” Climbing into my car, I drove directly to Staples, where I bought myself a purse size calendar. I don’t miss the blackberry, and I can live without the planner, but all the appointments we have are now recorded my new blue book. At present my personal and professional lives are one and the same and it’s up to me to ensure things stay on the right agenda.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Other Side of the Desk

As a corporate hiring professional, sometimes I felt like a cog in a wheel with unlimited spokes facing a vast centipede of arms reaching out to snag me.

I date myself here, but back in the day, so to speak, when hiring was conducted via newspaper advertisements resulting in paper resumes and walk-in applications; we received piles of mail each day. We fielded phone calls from candidates who had applied for jobs as well as from third party recruitment firms hungering to “help” us to fill positions we had just advertised. Our internal hiring managers contacted us, seeking updates on their openings; and advertising agencies got into the game, requesting face to face meetings wherein they could pitch their services. In between all that, we read resumes to determine which were valid for our open positions, contacted candidates, screened for skills and if appropriate scheduled them to meet us in person. If they didn’t make the cut, we followed up with sensitive phone calls apprising them of that, deftly fielding the oft asked question, “Why?” Once we identified viable candidates, we set up additional interviews, and subsequent follow-up meetings, conducted references, extended offers, negotiated salaries and start dates. In a full on hiring mode, suffice to say, the days were busy. But compared to the employment environment today, that paper era was prehistoric.

In the Internet based talent acquisition world in which we now live, the volume is positioned at full blast with a knob that sits on maximum level, and receives constant tinkering to nudge the capacity higher. In the primitive days, a job search meant printing resumes and cover letters, licking a stamp and driving to the post office. This bit of required effort and expense ensured that candidates completed at least a minimum of self screening. In today’s world though, everything is on-line and free, which has eliminated that modicum of restraint. The time it takes to submit a resume is condensed to nano-seconds, so candidates feel no concern in applying for a job for which they have no qualification. Add search engines that use key word methodology to send “appropriate” job postings to the candidate’s desk top, “email this job to a friend” features, and web crawlers that farm out postings farther into the web netherworld, and the integers grow exponentially. Blend this ease of application with distressing unemployment levels and I would hazard to say that any corporation with openings has an overwhelming surplus of candidates. But we’re not done yet. Sales representatives from an ever growing industry of on line employment resources call and email repeatedly. Truly many of them offer valid tools with which to manage this insurmountable flow of information, but you could spend a year speaking to them all, and when you are done a whole crop of new ones will have sprung up. Honestly, it’s a wonder any one has time to conduct a simple interview these days. Corporate hiring specialists have mere seconds to spend reviewing each resume and if there is no critical phrase or experience that induces a more concentrated read, a mouse click transports them to the next one.

Knowing this, is it any wonder that today was the first day that I actually looked at an on-line hiring resource? And that when I did, I shuddered? I don’t have a resume yet or clear career goals, as those of you reading know. But after three weeks, given all the delightfully positive press related to our recession, I was curious to see what was “out there,” intrigued if anyone is actually seeking talented professionals.

Here is the good news. There are a lot of companies advertising. Now, I have zero interest in throwing my background out there for a 20 second review, but within ten minutes, I discovered a company I hadn’t heard of marketing a fascinating product that I never imagined existed. Searching the corporate website, I targeted, to some degree, the skills I need to develop in order to pursue employment somewhere similar. It’s one of the upsides of this on-line world we live in. Rather than tossing out a zillion resumes to job boards hoping that one will stick, you can peruse career sites, conducting methodical research designed to unwind the threads of a potential career. Hmmm—this is good stuff. It's the learning to sew that will be a challenge.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Matter of Degree

The other day my daughter mentioned a teacher who announced to the class that he would not accept the words “can’t” or “won’t,” a sentiment with which my husband and I heartily agree. Thus you can imagine how disconcerted I was the next day, when the outplacement consultant suggested I write a list that includes the activities I want to perform in a new job, as well as the things I “won’t” do. Raising my eyes to him and noting the difference between “prefer not to” and “won’t,” he verified, “Yes, the word I want you to consider is “won’t.”

While every exercise required of me during this self discovery process has been a challenge, I’ve been muddling this one over for five days now and am not any closer to a resolution. “Don’t want to” is gray, subject to change based on experience. “Won’t” however, is finite, black and white, a line drawn in the sand.

When I began concentrating on the “won’t” list, as often is the case when I’m uncomfortable, flippancy checked in. “I won’t run into burning buildings,” I scribbled (even though I respect and am grateful for people who do). “I won’t ship out as a merchant marine for six months at a time, leaving my family behind.” “I won’t work in a mortuary.” But cynicism is not my game. Abashed by my own glib notes, I conceded that while these jobs may be objectionable to me; they are valid and crucial careers that other individuals love. Getting serious, I reminded myself that over the years, my husband and I have promised that if we ever find ourselves poverty stricken, we’ll do whatever is necessary to pay the bills.

And then I realized why “won’t” is so difficult. “Won’t” is a luxury. While I won’t (ugh!) kid you that there isn’t some belt tightening going on in our family, my husband and I are relatively conservative and he is employed. So, it appears, I have the luxury of “won’t.” I can take some time and analyze my desires and be selective about the type of employment to pursue. But how about the people who can’t? What about a single mother who just lost her job? What about the multitudes of families where both parents are unemployed, with say, medical bills to take care of and more that three mouths to feed? What of the families, who lived beyond their means, unfortunately, before a pink-slip arrived? In each of these scenarios, the word “won’t” loses its scope and breadth. “Won’t” implies the ability to take risk—and in spite of my optimism for my career future, those who know me are aware that I’m not much of a gambler. “Won’t” also requires direct analysis and decision-making whereas I have been guilty of allowing my career to grow organically for an awfully long time.

With all of this in mind, I’ve been contemplating that side of my list. But having been trained to the “never say never” school of thought, the word “won’t” is a failing grade. Star students in my class say phrases like “I’d prefer not,” or “We’ll see,” or “It’s not my favorite, but I’ll try.” Occasionally, they whine “Do I have to?”—while knuckling down.

In my mind, "won’t" is a word that needs a crystal ball. If you can assure me that this recession will break, if you can promise me the perfect job is out there, if you can convince me that we will be able to get my daughter through college, then perhaps I can complete this list. So, considering the enormity of these statements, in order to get anything at all on the other side of the tally sheet, I had to rename it to the “Strongly Care Not to List." For the moment, it seems as if the “Won’t List” is a great big nope. But there is another outplacement meeting this week. Maybe during that I’ll be convinced not only that I can, but also that I should.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Still Within

My homework from the outplacement meeting last week included writing my own business biography. Given how challenging it was for me to compile a list of accomplishments last week, this assignment was daunting. Confronting my last 23 years, I knew there was a story to tell, but when I tried to get it down on paper, I got zilch, nada, a big old goose egg. So I walked away. Friday night, sitting around a half plain, half buffalo chicken pizza with my family, I announced to my husband and daughter that I wasn’t going to try to complete the task until Monday. With the wisdom of her high school years, my sophomore daughter said: “The teachers would tell you to do a little tomorrow, a little on Sunday, and a little on Monday.” If I could raise one eyebrow, I would. She’s right, but I haven’t seen it practiced in our house lately.

That said I made it to Sunday before I started feeling nervous, as if a deadline was looming and I had to make an attempt. So, seeking inspiration, I turned to the two cardboard cartons still sitting on my dining room floor. These two packing boxes, half filled each, contain the breadth of what I evacuated from my office on my last day. A little over two weeks ago, that office had five file drawers, several desk drawers and a bookshelf filled with the work of many years--but what I have to show for it sits on the hardwood floor, disrupting the symmetry of my newly painted dining room.

On my knees, digging through the boxes, I found:

business cards with my name in English on one side and Japanese on the other, left over from an award trip to Japan three years ago

notes from a Webinar the day before my job was “restructured,” on Internet resume mining techniques, including an in-depth “cheat sheet” on Boolean Search. (Aha, can be used to search employment opportunities on-line also.)

a sea rock purchased in Ogunquit, Maine, with the word “Breathe” etched into it, because sometimes I forget

a picture from October 31, 1994 of our then fourteen-month-old daughter, gripping the sides of her crib while greeting me with her early morning smile

a black and white photo of my husband holding our daughter, taken by a newspaper photographer whose son attended the same day care

a framed inspirational message from a long ago boss that says: “Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.”

The following books:
The Little Oxford Dictionary
The Art of Readable Writing by Rudolf Flesch
Practical English Handbook by Watkins, Dillingham and Martin
30 Ways to help you Write by Fran Webber Shaw
Monday Morning Leadership by David Cantrell

And last but not least:

Congratulations, You’ve been Fired by Emily Koltnow and Lynne S. Dumas

Tucked in the corner of one box, I found a replica of the 1960’s clay animation figure Gumby, who had swung from his bendable arm on the curtain pulley in my office. When people asked me about him I’d say, “He’s hanging in there, like me.”

What didn’t come home, I noted, were three glass marbles inherited somewhere along the line, that lived in my front desk drawer in case I ever lost them--my marbles I mean.

I pictured those colorful globes as I sat down in front of the computer and banged out a quick and easy draft of my work biography, which ended up taking all of about twenty minutes. I may have lost my job, but those marbles are right here with me.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Week in Review (2)

Things I have Learned:

We all have resources that when channeled differently can lead to career success or personal reward. It would be nice to blend the two.

My sister should open a bed and breakfast—or at least a coffee shop.

It’s hard to escape your worries, but a change of scenery helps.

There is no punishment severe enough for criminals who tear pages from library books.

You don’t have to be “unemployed.” It is OK to be “analyzing your assets in order to determine what to pursue next in your career.”

Figure out the above and a marketable resume will follow (I hope).

Writing a reference for a former employee helps to clarify your own achievements.

The computer is a valuable tool for connections, but it’s important to walk away once in awhile.

The famous second cousin is moving to an earlier show. (Perhaps I’ll manage to stay up and watch.)

Friday, February 20, 2009

No Strings Attached

It is February vacation week so my daughter is off from school. As a result, I decided that I would take a holiday too. Monday, as generally we do this time of year, we drove the 60 miles or so to my sister’s house. In the past, having taken a day off, I would spend the night, rising before dawn in order to beat highway traffic on my way to work from her house the next morning. My daughter would spend time with her cousins until my husband picked her up later in the week. This time though, I slept in. My goal with this “vacation” was to take a break from the fair bit of worry that has consumed me for the last few weeks, to suspend the accomplishment listing and resume writing and LinkedIn reviewing, in order to take a cleansing breath. Nice idea I guess, but what was I thinking? Of course my sister has a computer.

That first morning, when I didn’t have to fumble out to the cold car in the dark to make my way south, my sister built a roaring fire and I nestled in her reclining love seat, wrapped in a comforter, sipping fresh perked coffee. There I devoured my library book until arriving at the point where some fiend had ripped nine pages out of the middle. After staring at disbelief at the gap between pages 206 and page 215 in my book, I made my way to her computer and logged in. Just a quick check, I muttered to myself--and viola. Three LinkIn invitations from former co-workers and one email. While staying in touch is a good thing, this plummeted me right back into the current reality of life, which, I had pledged to avoid for 48 hours.

I am in regular contact with several individuals “out placed” at the same time I was. The email that day was from one of those contacts, who commented: “Could you imagine trying to find a job with out the aid of our computers? Right now it is my life line. Can’t even imagine what I would be doing without it.” However, while at my sister’s house, I found myself torn as to whether to consider the computer a lifeline or a ball-and-chain.

But once I was on-line, I perused my inbox, pondering the question. What in fact did we do before computers? Help Wanted anyone? Yup, and mailed resumes and subsequent phone calls, and yes, we even pounded the pavement, dropping off resumes at receptionist’s desks. Yikes, how things have changed. But then I remembered exactly how I happened to receive a job offer at my last company--my most recent employment stint that lasted for so many years.

Way back then, my husband and I were planning our first home purchase, a move to a town that was a non-commutable distance to the city where I worked. In lunching with a former colleague I mentioned our plan. She suggested that I contact what became my twenty three-year-employer, because the office was located nearer to where we’d be living. While familiar with the company, at that time I didn’t know where it was based. The rest—as they say—is history. Had I not shared my goal of employment closer to home with my friend during that lunch long ago, my past may have been markedly different. I couldn’t have put a name on it at the time, but that job came to me via networking. According to the outplacement professionals, it is likely how my next situation will evolve too. In spite of the transformations that technology has introduced to job search methods; it appears things haven’t changed much at all.

So, what is the computer? A lifeline? A ball and chain? Well, neither really. The strings that attach me to it are more like a ribbon tied around a gift. Sometimes it’s too snug, but most the time, I can untie it and find something wonderful. To that end, I’ll continue to stay in touch via email, complete my on-line research, maybe even view a job board or two. Primarily though, I’ll concentrate on how to package myself, keeping in mind that every one I meet is a potential link to a rewarding opportunity.

After establishing all this, I got back to the fire. And back to my book. While I was failing to keep my job search in a separate box, my sister, the most thoughtful of hostesses, procured a copy from her local library. I plunked myself back in front of her fire and read the missing pages in her edition before finishing up from my own.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Not Kevin Bacon, but...

My wise Australian sister suggested switching up the subject matter in this blog periodically, to keep things upbeat. So, given the tone of yesterday’s post, and that fact that there were two doctor’s appointments and one outplacement meeting on the agenda, today, I’ve decided to cheat a bit. Connections are an ongoing theme lately, so here is a piece I wrote several years back, related to personal links. Be forewarned that I borrowed the title for yesterday’s post from this essay.

Separate Connections

My second cousin is a late night TV personality. Not that it means much to me, for while we grew up a few towns apart here in Massachusetts, I’ve never met him or his siblings. For what it’s worth, I stayed up one night many years ago to support the family cause if you will and see his show debut. Back then though, my infant daughter stirred around dawn, so much as I struggled, I viewed most of that first episode through the interior of my drooping eyelids. In those days utter exhaustion dictated my bedtime, famous cousin notwithstanding.

Sleep patterns aside, I am nothing if not intrigued by my family, especially those I don’t know. So years later, when rising at sunup is less required but more ingrained in my psyche and midnight remains a foreign time zone to me, out of some sense of ancestral loyalty every New Year’s Eve after the ball drops, I attempt to stay up for this cousin’s show. Each time he appears on my TV screen, I analyze his face, his nose, the set of his cheekbones; eager to identify some tangible feature we share--an inheritance from our common great grandparents. But while the freckled Irish complexion reminds me of a few of the first cousins that I do know, he looks nothing like me or my siblings. Our connection may as well be ten generations removed, not just three.

Pop culture theory asserts that we are a mere six degrees separated from anyone in the world. An example of this principle goes like this: My husband’s brother, a Coast Guard captain works for the Secretary of Homeland Security, who reports to the President of the United States. So my husband and I are three acquaintances, or degrees, separated from the President. While amused at a pastime that demonstrates the miniscule breadth of the world, it’s perplexing to be that close to the Commander in Chief purportedly, yet a lifetime removed from my second cousin, a relation via DNA and not just by degree.

Although my parents lived in the same zip code for most of their lives and spent their respective childhoods knowing first and second cousins, playing with cousins was a novel concept for me. My mother’s one brother lived locally but privately, the other moved his family to California. Her sister married an officer in the Air Force and sported addresses from Alaska to Kansas, Omaha, to Virginia. My father’s brother moved to the West Coast, his sister to New Jersey. Thus my branch of cousins met rarely, most often at funerals.

In spite of the distances between them, my mother’s generation and the one before her maintained an ongoing correspondence. In my mother’s world, letters between aunts, sisters and cousins were forwarded back and forth cross-country between families. Folded inside a missive from Aunt Joan in Virginia might be a letter she received from Great Aunt Anna in Arizona, which may have included a note from her daughter in Chicago. With her reply, my mother would enclose a letter she received from Aunt Helen in Millbury. That way, the relatives of my mother’s time stayed in touch. These connections however, passed away along with the generation. Letters penned in spider-like Palmer Method faded to memory, and lacking a foundation of childhood friendship most of my cousins drifted further apart.

With the absence of communication, the distance between my family members grew exponentially. But in more recent years, the Internet has reduced the figurative miles between us. I can’t remember the last time I sat down to pen a simple letter, but since technology has made it so easy, I now email my aunt, currently in West Virginia, and am on the receiving end of emails from an aunt and uncle in Pennsylvania. I often forward their emails, as well as those I receive from my sister in Australia, to another sister and my brother, performing the same ritual my mother did, albeit instantaneously, and minus the postage stamp.

Not only has the Internet condensed the time and distance between places like Massachusetts, Australia and West Virginia, but it has introduced an advantage to my generation that my mother would have loved. Yesterday, I Googled a first cousin in New Jersey with whom we had lost contact, and found his business website on the Internet. I emailed the information to my sister, who sent him an email. He responded with promises of family information and pictures to share and in less then 24 hours my sister had both. Minutes later, I did too. Maybe we are six degrees and miles from those we seek to know, but thankfully, on-line research, a correct email address and a decent typing speed can place the world--or our families at least--at our fingertips, so to speak.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not threatening to email all my unknown cousins, but it’s comforting to realize that I can. Meanwhile, to keep myself feeling linked to my extended family, I’ll do more searching on the Internet, and maybe watch a bit of late night TV.

Oh, and by the way Conan, if you ever get a chance to read this, I think we may share a family nose.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Separated Connections

A few days ago, a former coworker created a group on LinkedIn, consisting of alumni from our ex-employer. It’s a small lifeline and it won’t pull me to dry land, but it may help me to tread water until I re-learn to swim. The other day I told my husband that I feel like I am a teenager, expelled from the high school clique. Coworkers are in touch via email, but sensitive to my feelings they aren’t sharing much. Until I’m ready to dive off the deep end into a full on career search, the LinkedIn group makes it easier to cling to a slight sense of connection.

In my department, we worked conscientiously, with the goal of doing our jobs professionally. And, while paychecks were necessary and company paid benefits critical, the value of the friendships formed over the years was; well, to borrow a word from Master Card, priceless. It’s hard to grasp, but I spent an actual life time working for my former employer—developing business and personal maturity and witnessing others grow up too. I adopted my daughter while there, and watched others become parents. We celebrated our respective marriages, grieved our parents’ deaths, honored our families’ triumphs and vented about our struggles. For every life event we provided a material support system for each other and in my mind, there isn’t much better than that for fostering company loyalty. But then, in the time it would take to wreck a car, or crash a plane, it was over. With no notice and just minutes to say goodbye, I walked out the door for the last time. After two weeks the shock may be subsiding, but the habit is struggling to die.

When my husband was laid off from a long term employer several years ago, he knew it was coming when his company closed its doors. So, while he empathizes with my emotions, the building he left was dark. The business I worked at for such a long time still functions and those left from my team are doing their job each day. I catch myself wishing for a list of the names of the other hundred or so people in our building that lost their jobs when I lost mine. Who is still there? What is happening with my pregnant staff member and the newly engaged coordinator? How is the toilet training going for the mother of the toddler, and what kind of birthday party did the supervisor throw for her son? And, though I try not to, I speculate as to what was prepared for the meeting scheduled for yesterday and if the year end budget was closed without trouble. Did anyone take care of the items left dangling in my Franklin Planner?

There are fresh pages in my planner now, and different types of to-do’s on my list. I’m accomplishing what’s necessary to move forward, a centimeter at a time, but when you experience a lay off, there is much more than work left behind.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Solar Slowdown

My neighbor is installing solar panels on his house and in my newly minted role as a jobless former manager; I was home to gasp the other day, while observing a man with no safety harness climb the steep rise of his roof.

We live on a stone-lined country road that serves as a cut through between two towns. Most homes are set back in the woods, in retreat type settings, although our house and this neighbor’s are nearer to the street. While we are in close proximity to each other, our place was built in such a way that there is little of his residence that we can see from inside of ours. But when I turn from the computer, which is situated in a wall cupboard in our family room (think a little bit like Harry Potter under the stairs), I am afforded a view of things that I never used to see during the week. This includes the roof of this neighbor’s “tower” as we call it, which is an addition he added several years back. Place the word “tower” next to “no safety harness” and you can understand why I was nervous. Eventually though, scaffolding went up and things looked a little more secure over there. Consequently, I turned back to the subject at hand, which was the outplacement homework assignment, relegated to the back of my mind by the warmth of our false spring day last week. The more I tried to concentrate though, the more I found myself peering over my shoulder to view the progress of the panels.

What a clever idea in these miserable economic times—to use an existing resource to create inexpensive, clean power. I wondered if our own house would be a candidate for solar panels, suspecting that his south facing roof is a better match then our west side location. Yes, I needed to focus on my inventory of talents, but a surely a quick Google search wouldn’t hurt. Needless to say, it confirmed that the direction of our roof and the added disadvantage of the giant pines surrounding our lot are insurmountable obstacles to any solar heat in our future. Once again, I endeavored to pull myself away from the progress next door and to ponder my task.

Ah yes, the list. The specific assignment was to write my accomplishments in a “forward thinking” manner--highlighting successes I want to exploit in the future, and excluding activities that I don’t want to pursue. So when I could distract myself from the action on the roof, I read old performance reviews, culling evidence of my abilities. Trust me, after 23 years, there is plenty of which to be proud. However, most of it is related to a career that I’m not convinced I want to pursue anymore. Of course there are transferable skills. But as a seasoned recruiter I am realistic enough to face the fact that typically it’s the resume with the most applicable background that generates the interview. With this in mind, I spent a lot of time that afternoon, tapping my pencil, shifting in my chair, drinking tea, and gazing at the power grid being installed next door. By sunset, it looked like half the frame was laid. With a sigh, I put down my partial list, now bordered in blue inked curlicues (Note to self: transferable skills do not include artistic talent.) and took one last look at the roof next door.

Perhaps I’m intrigued with my neighbor’s project because previously, aside from the usual moaning at long rainy spells, I have taken sunshine for granted. Yet my neighbor has decided to transform this daily warmth into electricity. His panels will alter the sun beyond its straightforward benefit and into a useful commodity.

It dawned on me that it is not unlike what I am trying to do—to harness my existing talents and channel them imaginatively. If I figure this out, I will better utilize my abilities, and with any luck develop them to insure a more rewarding outcome. In some way, I too am in the process of creating an alternative energy resource.

In the words of the late George Harrison: “Here comes the sun.”

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Out of the Fire

My friend said that prior to losing her job last week she was a “Teflon Don,” since nothing bad adhered to her. I’m assuming the title of “Teflon Donna.” They may have flipped me out of the pan, but it’s an opportunity to create a more satisfying dish.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Week in Review

Things I have learned:

Instant coffee can be palatable if you use real cream.

In the winter, the house is cold but in the daytime there is no one there to snicker if you wander around in a hat and scarf.

There is life beyond a discount card.

On windy days the cat ricochets around like a possessed pinball.

When you call an old friend one week to the day of your layoff and catch her in the middle of losing her own job, you discover that it’s possible to feel worse for someone else.

It’s a cliché because it is true. You can never overestimate the value of your friends.

A spring-like day by the ocean in February is a joy, but at 25 degrees and windy it takes about five minutes for your toes to go numb.

Lipstick is important, but being who you are is essential.

Buying [less expensive] Valentine’s Day gifts two days before, verses the day of, is less stressful.

Comments from the unemployed around the country, forwarded to me from a former (also out of work) coworker reinforce how lucky I am to have an employed husband, and a severance package. http://www.thenation.com/doc/20090223/von_hoffman

It is possible that Whitey Bulger is alive and well and living on the South Shore of Massachusetts.

Procrastination really can be an art form (How do you like my blog?)

Friday, February 13, 2009

A Woman of Leisure

It is not lost on me that although my routine has altered drastically in the last week, in some ways it hasn’t changed much at all. Before the unceremonious proceedings that occurred on my ill fated February 5th (How’s that for alliteration?) my morning schedule was fine tuned. Each day, I got up, showered, prepared lunches, ate breakfast, dropped my daughter off at school and arrived to work about an hour early. After trekking to the cafeteria for a cup of coffee, I’d hunker in at my desk, reviewing emails, developing a list of action items and preparing for the day.

This past week hasn’t been remarkably different. I get up, shower, prepare my daughter’s lunch, eat breakfast, drop her off at school, drive home, generally forget to make coffee, and sit down in front of the computer to review emails, LinkedIn, or to write this blog. However after that point, the path of similarity diverges.

Yesterday morning, the variation came in the form of a 9:00 email from a friend in my Adoptive Mom’s Group, who looking for adult companionship invited a few of us to lunch. Now those of you who have been reading this blog will note that this is my second luncheon engagement in the past week--don’t forget I’m still getting paid. However, one lunch in a week would have been pretty spectacular given my old routine, but two lunches? Well, la-de-da.

Except that this lunch had valuable implications.

I have been a member of our mothers’ group since my daughter was an infant. We meet several times a year, often on a Friday night and let me be clear that I treasure the group. The dialogues we engage in with regard to our mutual questions, concerns and joys relating to our children are vital and rewarding. Yet, for years I struggled to get to the meetings.

My knowledge of astrology is limited, but born under the sign of Cancer, my instincts are supposed to be toward hearth and home so to speak, and regardless of what day I was born, they are. So on many of those meeting nights, I would come home, tired to the bone from working all week, torn and slightly resentful (--dare I say “crabby?”) toward anything that took me away from time with my family. As a result, I skipped a lot of those get-togethers. However, yesterday, when the spontaneous email request arrived, without hesitation, I said yes. My morning hours easily adjusted themselves and I arrived at the restaurant at noon. Oh my. It’s a brave new world out there, and who knew that some of it could be fun?

A positive offshoot of this disquieting unemployment situation may encompass more time with these women I care about, thereby expanding our shared areas of interest. In truth, I could happily spend my whole life talking about my daughter, but now that I have lost the means by which I identified myself outside of my family, it is essential to bear in mind that I remain a person distinct from them. So it didn’t hurt to discover that a few of my lunch companions yesterday have been reading this blog. Yea, I have readers! (Thank you!)

Here is where it gets better. After lunch (which mercifully included an amazing and strong cup of coffee) I had time to get home a minute after my daughter arrived on the bus. We chatted before we both got down to homework—hers related to Trigonometry, Biology or Law, and mine—placing a check mark next to an item on my “What about My Future List” which meant calling the outplacement counselor with whom I am supposed to meet. He wasn’t available.

Good, something to aspire to today.

(In the spirit of full disclosure, I will confess that as I gave this blog entry its final tweak, the outplacement gentleman called. We have an appointment scheduled for next week.)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Warming Up

Once in a while, there is a February gift and it comes wrapped in 60 degrees with a blue sky and feathered wisps of clouds; breezes that smooth your cheeks like soft fingertips, and it’s delivered to Massachusetts, where we’ve most recently been frozen rock solid.

Taking my sister’s advice, I have been walking. It is so easy to procrastinate when the temperature is in the 20’s and dirty snow banks mound on the sidewalks. Man-oh-man--they couldn’t have waited until April to lay me off? But people live in colder climates and survive, so I’m trying not to let the weather deter me. Shrugging on my daughter’s down coat, a wool scarf wrapped around my neck, suede hat down over my ears, with mittens and thick soled boots, I set out on a route by the ocean and through the seaside neighborhoods in the next door town. It’s exercise and it’s thinking time, and it’s a few moments to marvel as always at the ocean, aqua blue even this time of year, slow waves rolling against the sea wall, gulls diving and chattering where the cold surf hits the beach.

Yesterday I started my walk planning to ponder my homework assignment from the outplacement visit, which was to spend five minutes making a list of all the people I can think of, and to write down accomplishments in my career. As I walked, I mentally pictured my printout of Outlook Contacts, thankfully retrieved just before my computer access was so discourteously shut off last week. As I marched along, glad that no one could recognize me in my haute couture get up, I wondered who my best networking contacts might be. Our outplacement orientation leader found a job once while watching a football game in a sports bar. In my own experience as a recruiter, I once hired a merchant that I met while dropping my daughter at day care. The point is that your next job may come from a contact you least expect. Pushing aside my image of me, perched on a leather stool in a smoky corner pub with “For Hire” written across my back, I fantasized about the people I encountered on my walk. The guy in the blue windbreaker walking on the sea wall? Well, no, he just looks like Whitey Bulger. But the dark haired gentleman cleaning up after his red sweatered bulldog (who took time out from his business to lunge at my legs)--maybe he’s a magazine editor, interested in publishing this blog on a monthly basis.

It took a bit before I realized that the people I was passing had jackets unzipped. Soon one man called to me: “You will be hot before long.” He was right. Before I finished my first circuit, the coat was off, hat stuffed into the sleeve. Prior to my next loop, my outerwear was back in the car and my spirits were rising as quickly as the temperature.

From my one week of experience, I’ve learned this already. The thing about unexpected unemployment is that it is a loss and your emotions can be manic and raw. I celebrated my freedom on a phone call the day before last, but I had bad dreams about the office that night and woke up yesterday low and teary. But then walking my route here in chilly New England, where people often pass by without acknowledgement, my fellow walkers were calling to each other, marveling at the warmth and our physical lightness, unburdened by heavy winter clothes. It was a reminder to embrace the positive and to acknowledge that no matter how rotten you are feeling, there may be a better moment, just ahead.

I didn’t get to my accomplishments. I walked an extra half loop, and drove home with the windows wide open, breathing deeply at the fresh air that ruffled my hair, surprised to find my yard still covered in snow upon my return. I figured for now, that was accomplishment enough.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


While preparing to be on my way to the outplacement orientation, I caught myself wandering; first to the bathroom to check my face; then to stare at the packing boxes in the dining room that hold the personal contents removed from my office last week. Next it was to the kitchen drawer for the lint brush to eradicate the ever present white cat hair, and back to the bathroom to grab a tissue for my pocket. After that, looking around for what to bring to the meeting, I returned to the boxes and peered in. Blackberry? No--mailed that back yesterday. Folders filled with company literature? Left those back at the office. Business cards? No longer current. Franklin Planner? Nope. The black canvas bag that has doubled as a briefcase for the last several years? What for? Settling on my purse, a portfolio and, because the old Girl Scout in me never dies, two pens, I walked out the door feeling naked.

Who needs Weight Watchers? I have been stripped of the accessories of my former life and if I stood on a scale before climbing into the car, the number would have come up ten pounds lighter. Regardless of my aimless wandering earlier, I didn’t feel particularly nervous going to this meeting. I was less stressed than on some recent days driving the short commute to work, and in fact so much less that I forgot to notice the driveway to my former company as I passed it.

In some part due to a latent control-freak gene as well as those past Girl Scout days, it is imperative for me to be early to any meeting. All the same, as I approached the Fore River drawbridge that habitually goes up at the most inopportune moment; rather than saying fierce prayers that it would stay down, I thought idly: Gee, it will be a bummer if it goes up today. It didn’t, but about a mile down the road, I got stuck in traffic anyway, speeding ambulances and blaring sirens evidence of some kind of accident. While sitting at the same red light for the fifth cycle, I mused that the meeting may well end up starting without me, and shrugged.

After pulling into the parking lot with about a minute to spare, I applied lipstick and chuckled. It appears that I can leave my house without the accoutrements of my former career, but lipstick is non-negotiable. Apart from that little bit of makeup though, I stepped into my outplacement orientation aware that they were meeting the bare bones of me, whittled down and smooth as a stone. Taking a deep breath, I introduced the person that I really am--the one who carries simple tools, a portfolio for writing and two pens--the one who has been standing in the wings, hoping to go on for most of these last twenty three years.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Cobbler's Shoes

Discomfiting is a word I used yesterday and I like it so much--I’ll use it again today. After twenty years of reading resumes for a living, it is discomfiting to try to write my own. Hmmm, maybe discomfiting isn’t the right word after all. Perhaps I should use demoralizing?

All right, that’s my little whine and it’s over. Actually, I had an old resume I had written in order to be considered for a previous promotion but never heeded my own advice to job applicants and hadn’t updated it in years. Lazy? Perhaps. Idealistic? Maybe. Unmotivated? Probably. Uninterested in pursuing anything resembling my current, oops, most recent career? Exactly. But that said it will probably be better to show up at my outplacement meeting today with something. So I got a draft written while mulling the same thought that I had while clothes shopping. How do you go about writing a resume when you don’t know what kind of job you’re looking for? Or better yet, what do you do when the experience on your resume looks nothing like what you want to do in the future? I think I used the word conundrum yesterday too.

When I finally got down to it, it wasn’t that hard to write this resume that I may never use, because I stole my own profile from LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com) and cobbled together a draft. For those who don’t know, and I’m guessing that few don’t because it is becoming so mainstream, LinkedIn is an online professional networking site. The “About Us” section of their website states the following: “LinkedIn exists to help you make better use of your professional network and help the people you trust in return.”

I was probably later to the LinkedIn game then I should be in that the “trust” component in that network was pretty critical. In my job as Recruitment Manager I was a bulls-eye for third party recruitment firms. I had to be careful of who I invited into my network, because anyone I linked with could find the professionals from my company with whom I was already networked, and entice them away. But in the last few weeks, when I suspected that there could be a networking need in my immediate future, I invited a lot more people to be my connections. So far, I have 41 professional contacts. What gets fun is when you look at their networks. It’s like the game “Six Degrees of Separation.” Through my connections’ connections, if you will, I am linked to 2800 individuals and through my connections’ connection’s connections; I’m attached to over 300,000. I’m feeling better already. There must be someone out there who has a creative idea for a young-middle-aged former professional, looking to reinvent herself.

And with any luck, along the way, I might even stumble over Kevin Bacon.

Monday, February 9, 2009


While I have been uninvited to appear physically at work, I am, actually, on the payroll for a few more weeks. Therefore, I still have access to my employee discount card. At up to forty percent, you can imagine that little piece of cardboard is a bit of a golden handcuff, and undoubtedly, the majority of my wardrobe contains the same label. It’s a perk that’s about to end. I am grateful for the fact that in the face of losing my job, our immediate circumstances are better than many others. But, clearly, in this economic environment it’s not clever to spend on non-necessities while the real thundercloud of unemployment looms--and it's particulary discomfiting when it means supporting the business that unequivocally indicated they no longer need my services. But the unemployment piece is exactly why I went shopping yesterday, albeit to the outlet division of my still-but-soon-to-be-former retail employer (SBSTBF for short). While the only thing I wanted to do less than walk through those doors would be to say--fall through the ice on the frozen pond down the street--the clock is ticking on the discount card. In spite of my denial, which remains as thick as the holes in that pond where the ice fishermen hunkered this morning, it’s just possible that there could be interviews to deal with soon. So with an idea of investing in my future, I slid through the closing window of opportunity, and here lies the conundrum.

I’ve worked in a “casual dress” environment for the past few years, and the thought of pulling on a “structured woven” (AKA: a suit) for a job interview gives me the willies. Please sir, could I wear blue jeans? And while we are talking about it, do people even wear suits anymore? In my recent experiences on the other side of the interviewing desk, the male candidates wore fitted suits and impeccable broadcloth shirts that we never saw again once they were hired. It begs the question as to how many men fork out the dough necessary to purchase expensive clothing before a job interview, only to relegate it to the closet afterward. I know female job applicants spend the money and it’s usually for clothes from my SBSTBF because, angling for points, they always announced it to me.

Though employed by a woman’s apparel retailer, I had zero input into clothing style and even less knowledge. Even after 23 years of exposure, it is beyond me to “get” apparel trends. Consequently as I slid clothes from one side of the rack to the other during my shopping expedition, my eye twitched as I tried to figure out what to purchase. Casual? Business Casual? Professional? And that aside, what do I buy for future interviews if I don’t know what I am interviewing for? It was enough to make me want to run home, lock the doors, yank on my sweats and begin my new career as a hermit. Possibly though, my husband and daughter would take issue with that.

So here is where it ended up. I bought two cardigan sweaters and a pair of refined stripped pants suitable for a funeral--oh I’m sorry--I mean a job interview. Our cedar closet holds several cast-off blazers that will fit the bill if I need to go upscale. I procured a pair of cotton Capri pants that can be worn casually or dressed up with a fine gauge sweater in a work environment. And though I have no idea what my future holds, I’m going to an outplacement meeting this week. I’ll wear one of the outfits there, and figure the rest out as I go along.

As for the investment spending--well, the clothes I bought were significantly discounted—-the markdown was more than I receive with the discount card. Wouldn’t it just figure? I didn’t need it.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Sunday--a Day of Rest

I’m curious to know what will happen at about 5:00 this afternoon when the normal, it's a work day tomorrow dejection typically descends. If it does, it’s nice to know that I can banish it. “I’ll get you my pretty--and your little dog too.”

See, it’s all good.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Baby Steps

House cleaning today--though I mean that figuratively. My husband and I pulled up our stools and laid out my “package” on the counter in the kitchen, where we analyzed our expenses and realized we aren’t going to starve. I knew we weren’t but the headache pulsing behind my eye since Wednesday evening lessened some once the numbers were tallied. Pride took a proverbial beating though. When your income figures significantly into the family budget, and it disappears, where does your value come from? I hope there will be a fine tuning of my priorities in the near future.

My Australian sister helped me initiate some of that adjustment last night as we burned some fourteen thousand miles of telephone wires between us. Since she is enjoying (operative word there) her first year of retirement, she had helpful advice for me for the near term, most of which was already bouncing around in my brain:

Develop a routine and stick with it
Get physical exercise
It’s OK to take time to relax and get your head cleared from that which has gone before
Listen to the BBC and stay up on current events
(Optional) Visit your sister in Australia while you have the time.

While I’m on my way to taking her guidance, on Monday the new routine will be disrupted a bit. I have the choice to attend an “open house” put on by my former (wince) company’s benefits department where those affected in this layoff can drop in and ask questions about coverage. I really don’t want to go. Since I was a part of the HR staff too, it will mean speaking with my erstwhile peers. Lord knows, I have always been a mush and over the past few days, it has been the calls and emails from these people, whom I genuinely like, that have caused the old Adams Apple to swell to grapefruit size. My husband suggests that I err, suck it up and go, and he’s probably right. The good news though, is this: Yes, I am emotional and yes I already miss the people. But it’s as clear as my sliding glass door that if I was offered the option of returning to work on Monday, I would lace my Nikes and run like the wind--the other way. Never say never—but right now that would be one giant leap backward.

Thankfully, I tiptoed a few steps forward yesterday during my first “day out,” enjoying a salmon burger with a friend from my mothers’ group at a restaurant I haven’t had time to go to in about 10 years. It makes no difference if you get behind a slow moving front end loader on a two lane highway on your way to lunch, because you are not on a schedule. And, there is something cleaner about the light outside on a week day at noon, when you are not sitting in a noisy company cafeteria, or as more recently, choking down food at an office desk. I was marveling at that when one of my former staff members, who was laid off seven months ago strolled by our table. She was lunching with a friend who also worked for the company and had been effected in a previous round of cuts. Hugs and big smiles! They both looked relaxed, healthy and best of all happy.

So far, so good--Yes Virginia, there is life after a lay-off.

    Friday, February 6, 2009

    "You Go Girl"

    Day two starts with an analysis of day one. Yep, I had three separate instances of tears. But in spite of that, the day can be described as, well, successful. First off, there is the kindness of people to consider. Since my news has become public so to speak, I have received several phone calls, one from as far away as Georgia, many encouraging emails, and three separate invitations: to the gym, one for tea, and to lunch. The lunch invite I’ve accepted for today! To all of you who read the blog and responded to my email, please know that each of you authenticate how blessed I am in life. And you are correct. There is something else out there for me. You all know it and I do too!

    That said, writing the blog first thing in the morning gave me immediate purpose and reward. I know I have to be careful about that, as it is a trap to fall in love with your own writing. But it’s the entire process that feels so good—not only the creation of an essay, but the editing, cutting and pasting, the detailed reworking of the words resulting in a final product far better than the one with which I started. Suddenly, it was lunchtime, and several constructive hours had passed. From there, it was down to the basement for laundry (yuck, but)— a novelty to me at noontime on a Thursday-- and then on to the dining room. My husband just finished a new paint job and the place needs to be put back together, a project that normally would have waited for the weekend. I hauled stacks of china, scraped errant paint droppings from the floors and swept up, the whole time conscious of the large manila envelope sitting on the edge of the kitchen counter. With a sigh, I finally opened it and found the details of my severance package. I didn’t cry then, but I did flinch when I read: “We regret to inform you…” and “We thank you for your contributions…” Reading it felt like standing beside my former self, the one who prior to Wednesday, I knew pretty well. Is this me they are talking to? Today, the article explaining the layoff was front and center in the Business Section of the Boston Globe. The final paragraph discussed how these are “appropriate measures for the long term growth…of the business.” There was a bit of a pang when I realized that if the company is successful, it will be without me.

    One of the overriding themes in my many conversations yesterday is that losing a job that one has held for so many years can be compared to a death. When my fifteen-year-old daughter shuddered at that statement, I commented: “Well, not that bad a death.” She said (attributing her comment to a favorite TV show), “It’s the death of your past, but the beginning of your future. Carpe Diem Mom.”

    OK Megs, I will.

    Thursday, February 5, 2009

    I Can do This

    Here it is-- my first morning as a member of the vast multitude of the unwashed and unemployed of 2009. OK, I exaggerate; I’m washed, but walking around in twice worn blue jeans. After 23 years with the same employer, close to half of my life, yesterday was the proverbial day of reckoning. No need to bore with the details. Suffice to say, this morning I find myself with a bit of time on my hands.

    To no surprise, sleep didn’t come last night, but it wasn’t so much the shock of unemployment that had me tossing from side to side, pulling the blankets up and then kicking them off. The restlessness came from one merry-go-round question that circled endlessly through my brain. What will I do now?

    As a Senior Recruitment Manager for a billion dollar retailer, there were parts of my job that I liked. Mentoring my staff, pulling at the hanging threads of complex problems and weaving together solutions, training people, interviewing eager candidates, the relationships developed over years of interaction. But to be honest the true value of my job over the last several years was that it enabled me to enjoy the rest of my life. The salary was necessary, and helpful. I worked six miles from home, could get to my now teenage daughter in less than 15 minutes and they let me. For the most part, other than the last six months or so, I left the work behind on nights and weekends. Deep inside, I knew that there was more in life I could do and there was more I could be, but the ease of the routine of my career enabled me to keep that thought on the back burner. Today though, the pot is slowly heating.

    So with some sense of relief, here is where I start my reconstruction, and I have a niggling of a place to begin. For the last year, I have been an avid reader and commenter on a blog of a New York based writer with whom I am acquainted. We have known each other for several years and she has persuaded me in no small way to exploit the contents of that pan resting on the stove. As an English major with a wealth of journalism courses under my belt, I worked that interest into my job, writing memos, training documents, and advertising collateral for the field--but it wasn’t until my acquaintance with the NYC writer developed, and she pointed out that that my writing is a passion, that I began to pursue it more formally. My work friends humored my interest, passing memos by me and joking at my level of editorial detail. However, few of them know of the whopping two essays I’ve had published in the last few years, and none of them know about the black notebook on my bedroom floor filled with final drafts and copious rejection letters.

    Truth be told, our family needs a lot more income than my erstwhile writing career will ever earn. So I will go to the outplacement meetings scheduled for me, I’ll rewrite my resume. I’ll do my best in this appalling economy to find a job that supplies an income that will help support a child going to college in two years. But while I am doing that, I will also do this. I’ll document my experiences as a middle aged and unexpectedly unemployed woman. Writing about my reinvention and job search will give purpose to my days, and perhaps direction in my career. Better yet, maybe I’ll be of some help to someone in similar circumstances. God knows I’m not alone, and among other things; this blog is a way to reach out to those who are in this pickle with me.

    Last night, as I shifted from side to side under the down comforter, hugging the teddy bear my daughter had sympathetically placed beside me while agonizing over insurance and 401K’s, I had a moment of peace. I pictured the blog that I read each day, and reflected on my joy in crafting my responses. When I recognized how absorbed I have become in analyzing each word, scrutinizing every sentence, pouring over key phrases to find just the right flow before clicking send, I realized, I can do this. I have something to say too.