I’ve been unemployed for, well, a while. A major upheaval in health-related issues caused me to leave the job where I’d been employed in various capacities the previous fourteen years. It was imperative to my health and wellness to leave the work world for a while, and during the absence I took some comfort in the practice of thinking, ‘Oh this? This is temporary; I’ll get through it and get back to doing something that brings me satisfaction. I’ll feel useful again. I might even shake off this stinking stagnating missing sense of purpose. I can be happy again’.
This back-to-work experience has been a real trip. I haven’t generally discussed either my away-from-work time or the challenges of attempting to return to the workforce with many people. I had (and have) devoted friends and family who’ve listened and supported and who have continually encouraged me, but there comes a point when even I get sick of hearing myself talk so for now I’m content with having spilled a portion of my guts safely with them and leaving the rest to drift on. I hope you’ll believe me when I say with no hesitancy that if I was to ramble about the acronyms and seemingly arbitrary rules and the lack of __ (fill in the blank), your eyes would instantaneously glaze and, simultaneously, your brain combust. I’m all for full disclosure but really, there’s no need for bloody messes like exploded brains. Aside from anything else, your eyeballs will have gone AWOL after the brain combustion so you wouldn’t be able to see to clean up the splatter. And thus endeth both revelation and also the gross-out section of this post.
The Department of Vocational Rehabilitation’s contribution to this effort has thus far been minimal, but they do exist, they have tried to help if/when I’ve nudged them to follow through, and I’ve learned that the “Business Relations Specialist” (read: job coach) is my best go-to person for information and suggestions on how to navigate agencies, income guidelines, “not too much” income guidelines, and ways to navigate within the system without breaking rules. I do believe that there are fine, fine employees working for local and national agencies. I believe that every single governmental employee I’ve encountered – especially those in the social services sector – is underpaid and entirely overworked, juggling a ridiculously high number of caseloads than any single person in any sensible universe should ever be expected to accomplish. I’m not particularly satisfied with a host of services and conflicting information I’ve received, but it’s only fair that I temper my discouragement with all the stuff they’re required to do 1) well, 2) the first time, and 3) with all the other individuals they are supposed to be serving. I get it. I don’t like it, but I get it and I appreciate them for at least trying. In the same way I imagine I’d cling tightly to my airline seat that doubles as a flotation device if the plane crashed over water, I’ve learned to swing my lasso over the polite non-crabby informational-rich kind agency people and hold them tight. I like them.
So I’m feeling a little better, better enough to try working again. In December 2007 I took the first baby steps by meeting with agency people to rough out my skills and aptitudes and job goals. I began the hunt in December by just dipping a toe in, sending out one resume here or there to one potential employer, then another … It’s now early April and, after applications and resume-sending and first interviews and second interviews, I’ve been struggling against a strong despondent current and I remain unemployed. It’s probably an individual thing how much a person can take, but after so many rejections –even for positions I might not actually want- I’ve really had to focus on ignoring the compilation of silence and rejection so I can bring my best and most capable self to each new interview. Here’s a simple but elegant way of describing how that goes: It’s hard.
Within the past two weeks I interviewed for what I think might be the best job fit yet: a part-time position at a photography business (some behind-the-counter retail type work, some lab developing). It’s a job that would dovetail so nicely into the thing that I feel passionate about. While the wage is slightly low, the hours would be great and the products and services would be right up my alley. The interview went well, despite my lame-ass answer to the question “Say you want to shoot a picture with a shallow depth of focus. How would you do that?”
For the record, if you’re ever asked this question respond confidently, “Oh I most certainly would adjust the aperture, wouldn’t everyone?” rather than saying, “Um, well, I’d use a strong lens and I’d extend that sucker as far out as possible to make the subject clear and the background not”. Okay, I didn’t actually use the word ‘sucker’. My embarrassment was tempered greatly by the pleasant way he rolled with my strange sounding answer and worked it into an educational moment. I imagine I probably sounded like someone who doesn’t have all the cool kid photo skills, but you can use my dumbassedness to your benefit since now you’ll know how to accurately answer the question should you be asked.
I had to talk talk talk myself up into dressing and showing up today for another interview for a different job. The second employer of the two provides telephone captioning services to people with hearing disabilities. That someone put voice recognition software together with telephone service is astounding to me. I thought my typing skills might be of some value to them. So, deep sigh, I did dress. I did show up and announce myself to the receptionist. I did also discover I was at the wrong office. At which point I did get directions to the correct building and the receptionist kindly called the receptionist at the second office to let them know I was on my way. My interview went well (don’t we always say that about nearly all interviews regardless of reality? ‘How did your interview go?’ ‘Oh that thing? Yeah, I aced it.’). But really, I took and passed four tests –two of which required a specific kind of attention I can’t recall ever having used in my previous jobs. It was nerve-wracking. My stomach acids churned, but I was excited to discover I really could do what he was asking of me and that I surpassed my own expectations.
Rah. Go me.
We discussed details of the position, scheduling, wages, and client confidentiality issues then holy miracle of miracles, he extended me a job offer.
Because the ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ lists for each job have too many small details probably unimportant to anyone but me, I won’t belabor the details here. Both positions would work well with a class schedule when I return to college classes this coming fall. Both are part-time jobs with possibility of switching over to full-time employment. Both are located on bus lines (yay for less driving!). I believe both employers could be considered small businesses (yay no big corporate work!).
Rattling around up there between neurons and receptors I have this contantly-running voice squeaking and worrying oh crap, what if the guy calls from the passion-related job with a job offer? I find it challenging to purposefully think less in worst-case scenario terms, though given the past few years’ experiences in which worst cases blew up with some regularity, it made sense to lower my expectations in order to cope with the continual disappointment. I am challenging myself to hold in my heart only that which rolls along the lines of hopeful possibility.
So each time the annoying worry starts up I’ve taken to telling the rattles that I cannot presently accommodate them, but if they’d like to take a number and have a seat over on one of the ripped plastic waiting room chairs someone will get to them as soon as possible. As it turns, out I actually did pick up a few handy tricks from social services.