Thursday, June 4, 2015

I Can Work it Out

Since my first job at age 14, washing dishes at the Charlebois in Vernon for $15 cold hard cash, I have rarely stopped. Back then $15 bought a Beatles album and enough to pay the bus fare to and from Utica where the record store was.

I tried to be a stay-at-home mother after the birth of my first child; after 8 months I was freelance writing, and after 14 months back in the workplace full-time. And that child is just as hard-working as her mother, so no damage done. Of course, it helps if you have quality child care you can trust, which I did. For those of you who have eaten at the Lady Bug Lunch Box food truck parked at State and Fayette, the proprietor, Pam Dwyer, watched both my children in her Eastwood home. Pammy was the best; she still is!

After the publisher at my long-term job (at which I had won awards for myself and the staff, but never mind that) didn't like my style and terminated my employment, I fortunately landed at a new place less than two weeks later. This time around, with a layoff from that job as of May 8, it hasn't been so easy. In a mere two years, the job market has changed, and not for the better, in my view.

As soon as I was told about the layoff (I had several days' warning), I began the search. I've gotten a few bites and two interviews, but both jobs were not quite right, and I wasn't quite right for the two jobs. Every day I make a list of things to do. Item #1 is "apply to 2-3 jobs." And, even if it was a part-time bank teller job that wouldn't be my first choice, I still apply. Like interviewing, the art of writing cover letters is just that, an art, and I continue to perfect both.

I have registered at,,,,, etc., etc. You get the idea. While the job of looking for a job can be a job some days, the Internet has simplified the task. Specialized searches entered at websites deliver new jobs to my email account every day; they greet me in the morning, and I look through every one of the listings.

Creativity is a plus, too. One job I am looking at would like someone with development experience. I always thought that to mean straight fund-raising, but an acquaintance just this morning explained that it could also be the actual development of a project or an idea. "Think of ideas you developed at The New Times that you could use as examples," she said. A-ha! I have a few of those.

Then there is the skill of "working your contacts." It's on my list to write down who I know and where they work and then setting up a meeting with them. Committing my skill set to paper is a big part of this, if only to gain confidence that you actually are quite capable.

Equally important is to really think about what you do on a daily basis, how you spend your free time. My passion is racing--running and triathlons. I would race every weekend if my body could handle it and I had the financial means. I would enjoy coaching other women toward their triathlon goals. I have a friend who works hard promoting the fitness lifestyle--she holds boot camps at a local park, welcomes others on training runs, has an impressive website--but those don't make her money.

What can I do with what works for me? How can I make that information relevant to others? And, most importantly, how can I make money doing those things?

And perhaps the toughest job is to remember that, while losing two jobs in three years is a huge blow to my confidence, I still must to project confidence in interviews. That's a job in itself!

Now, money has never meant that much to me--witness working for 13 years at a small alternatively newsweekly. But not having money is another story entirely. The goal is to make enough to pay the bills, give yourself or your family a bonus now and then, not worry about finances and save some every week.

After working for so long at a job I loved, but at which I was shamefully underpaid, it's difficult for me to quantify how much is my time worth, what is my value. I know how much it isn't worth--I saw a freelance job recently that pays $6 an hour. Less than minimum wage. Now that's shameful.

I also keep in mind what Michelle Obama and Sheryl Sandberg write and speak about. Mrs. Obama once told the supervisor at a job she was considering that she needed flexibility to take care of a sick child, to attend school functions, to have a life. It is so difficult for women to speak up and advocate for what they need to be both a stellar employee and a well-rounded human being. But she, and Sandberg, urge us to try.

Meanwhile, I will collect unemployment, make dinner again, hang the clothes on the line, take the dog for a walk and swim at noon, things I didn't have time for before. Most importantly, I will have the time to search for the job for me--the one I would like to retire from, the one I will consider my professional crowning achievement.

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