Riding the Bike with One Pedal.

Category: work (Page 1 of 5)

Big Stuffs

Tomorrow, I start my new job! I had started a conversation with a former colleague a year ago, and he had said then he wanted to add media to their agency, but they just weren’t ready. In the meantime, I took a job that let me work from home, and my new co-workers and clients were awesome. So it wasn’t the easiest decision to make when the opportunity from a year ago came to fruition, but in the end, I knew I had to take it because if I didn’t, I’d always wonder and possibly regret not taking the chance. I’m excited, it’s starting from scratch, but I believe it’s going to be a great job. The commute is crazy – all three minutes of it! We joked about me requiring a fuel stipend. And, they picked up a huge account this past Thursday, so I’m going to be a little crazed this first week – heck, the way my home phone and email blew up from certain reps that afternoon, I know I’ll be spending quite a bit of time on the phone!

In other adventures, we’re hosting Thanksgiving this year, so I’m pondering the menu, as well as getting the house clean by then. I keep debating on whether or not to have turkey, or something different. (Any ideas? Don’t say turducken!)

I took this past week off and spent a fair amount of time in my head, pondering current things, pondering the future, not getting as much done as I’d hoped to, but finally making headway with my laundry, at least. (That was the biggest “con” of leaving a work-from-home job: more laundry! Even I knew that wasn’t significant enough to sway my decision!) I think I want to challenge myself to share more, especially through my blog, but trying to be careful not to be passive/aggressive about it. There are a lot of things that still piss me off, or still hurt, whether from people’s actions/inactions or certain former employers/colleagues. I think what has emerged is a clearer understanding that all I can be sure of is where I stand, and what lies ahead. I think the downside of feeling like you’re on the outside looking in is that you feel excluded, or like you’re missing something you thought you wanted or something you once had. Or still want, but only if given. Certain pains are familiar, the reverb goes straight to the core, you wonder why you’re going through this all over again, yet things you don’t want to be cyclical are just that.

Today, I’m turning around, because the rest of the world is actually right there behind me, on “the outside.” New doors will open, undoubtedly. Maybe some old ones, too. I just know that I’m walking through a new one tomorrow, and it gives me hope. 🙂

The Real Life of the Home Office Worker

I swear to God, if I had my own reality television show, I would have just scored my biggest ratings yet.

First of all, said show could possibly qualify as a triple threat: I home office in a guest bedroom that is currently chock full of stuff I need to go through (thus, we could get the Hoarders audience), I have some crazy work adventures (have you seen Missouri Truck Stop? I am a barrel of monkeys compared to that show), and I’m a wife working out of our house, so it’s like that real estate agent dude and all the Real Housewives rolled into one, except I don’t dress up, and I rarely see anyone else so the cattiness is low. (Makes notes to work on this.)

My desk is a snazzy Lifetime table from CostCo, and my office chair came from there as well. To protect the hardwood floors, I put down my plastic floor protector. You know, those big sheets of plastic with the little gripper teeth on the bottom, so if you had carpet, it would stay put? Let me tell you something. My fat ass in my office chair keeps that plastic sheet in place just fine. Until I stand up, which then turns the plastic sheet into a fucking skateboard. Have I put down one of those rug gripper things? NO. Why not? I’M LAZY. And FORGETFUL. And I FORGOT about the ice-rink skateboard quality just now, as my personal cell phone rang, and I endeavored to find it as I was ending a conversation on my work cell phone (sometimes all three phones are going, that’s fairly entertaining. I’ve become the Deft Jedi Knight of the Mute Button.) I realize my cell has fallen under the table, and so I stand up to get it, and WHOOSH, with one foot lifted, I am down for the count. I’ve learned not to fight falling, it only frustrates me and generally speaking, hurts more in the process. But! The phone is still ringing, and I manage to swipe my finger to answer it while supine on my frenemy, the Floor Protector From Hell. This person wants me to write down a number. Ok. I don’t keep pens and paper down on the floor, so now I’m Ninja Turtling myself back into a standing position while trying not to let on what’s just happened or where I took said call. The chair scoots back away from me so I almost miss it (fortunately, the bed in here stops it), and as I’m regaining what composure I have left, the gigantic plaster mirror that’s tilted against the bookshelf decides THIS IS IT TODAY WE MUST DIE and slides to the ground, shoving the desk into me while I’m trying to figure out what in bloody hell is happening and WHERE ARE MY PENS? and WHY DOES MY SHIN HURT? My shin hurts because that rigid plastic is not shin-friendly, and it had the same effect as a dry razor across the side of my leg when I was scrabbling to right myself.

The caller? Had no idea. That’s composure, baby.

Meanwhile, Costco needs to start selling these rug pad grippers.

Good News!

I’ve kept this under wraps, but I’m happy to announce that I’m starting a new job today! It’s pretty awesome – I’m going to be telecommuting for an agency that’s a couple hours away.  The owner is cool, and we had been introduced when I lost my job the first go-’round. He’d wanted to hire me then, but that required moving because it was a management position. I did a freelance project for them, which was awesome to work on, interesting, loads of research, and since then, he’s been gung-ho about hiring me. We found a way to make it work, and I’ve felt like the cat who ate the canary ever since. It’s nice to be appreciated for what you can do – it’s nice to be paid, too – good to have benefits, good to be wanted, and good to work for someone who understands the work involved and has an ethical approach to their business.  (I recently got confirmation a previous employer IS gouging their clients in how they are calculating net/gross – pretty skeevy, and just confirms my own perceptions of the owners and how they view their clients.)

My only worry about telecommuting is that I’ll be insane to be around when I do get out of the house. (HI! HELLO! LET US TALK! WHAT IS GOING ON? I AM CHATTY.)

Hello, Neighbor…

No, I’m not talking about Crazy Cat Lady, though she had her own personal  festival of lights last week, courtesy of the emergency-service vehicles lined up in front of her house. I’m just feeling very…. Mr. Rogers. Won’t you come in? I should put on a cardigan. (Actually, I really should, I’m kinda cold.)

Starting off 2011 very differently than I started 2010. For one thing, I’m unemployed again, as my part-time employer unceremoniously gave me the boot the day after Christmas weekend. Of course, I could have been surprised, but when you advertise for a junior buyer on internal job boards at a local agency, I’m connected enough to find out within fifteen minutes. (That happened on Dec 1, ironically, my one-year anniversary there.) I was given a nice platter of prevarications.  I tried to accept them at face value, but, frankly, there had been enough lies before that point (nothing like having to keep from the client you’re only part-time and they’ve been told you’re full time) to know that it was time for something new, shiny and distracting to take my place. I got in touch with one of my co-workers, and let him know what was going on – and warned him some of the things I’d seen and heard might mean he was next. Sure enough, he came back from vacation and got axed today. I told him when he called to just keep feeling the relief, of not having to sustain the impossible anymore.

So what does that mean for me? Well, I have some opportunities for freelancing, and I’ll certainly be pursuing them as much as I can. I’ll have unemployment for when that’s not active, and I’ll keep my health insurance current. I think what I learned from the last go-round is that when you feel like you’re losing your integrity, just by walking through a door, you may be losing a salary, but you’re starting the process of regaining so much more. I also learned that as much as I worried and fretted and stressed, it didn’t make one bit of difference. I feel a strange sense of calm, and assuredness, that is really rather surprising. I have great friends in the community, former colleagues, vendors and clients. And as my father said in the worst of times, it will all be ok. I’m glad I don’t own a business that is hemorrhaging money and worrying about if I’ll make payroll and what happens if one client leaves, will it all go under. One of these days, I’m going to write down all the sordid stories, and they will astonish you, children, they really will. The advertising biz tends to look a lot more Gordon Gecko and not so much Melrose Place.  (I remember my father asking me, “This business? Does it have any NICE people in it? It doesn’t seem like it does.” Yes, dad, plenty of nice people. Just not the most honorable, as some are merely glorified con artists.)

I may need to take up violin lessons, though, all my appointments for fiddling when Rome burns and whatnot. Heh.

Well, that’s all for today, kids. I’m going to enjoy my zen, while others chug the Maalox. It’s a new year, and I just have a feeling, it’s going to be one of my best.

xo

jen

Ahhhh, Spelling.

Ironically, I was thinking this morning about how, at a former place of employment, typos weren’t really regarded as the heinous transgressions that they are, and it was quite minimized whenever I raised the issue. But, that’s their cross to bear now, as it’s my experience that most clients really, really appreciate it when you spell their stuff correctly. Or put together plans and recommendations that don’t have proper grammar, punctuation and other high school English mistakes.  This photo isn’t their work, by the way. It just felt fitting to have run across it on the same day. Enjoy! School sure isn’t what it used to be, eh?

Full story here.

Tuesday: Monday in Disguise

I’ve worked almost 12 hours today.

My office phone suddenly started demanding a password any time I tried to something normal, like pick up a call, or call another person in the office.

Then it rejected my password, gave me a strange error message and DEEEE-dooo gave me the middle finger.

The solution I heard was “We’ll just put people into voicemail unless they say it’s important.” What I missed was, “For this afternoon.”

This was not a good Forever Solution to my ears.

Clarification isn’t always clear.

And Tuesdays after holiday weekends are just Mondays with cuter outfits on.

(this didn’t post yesterday. Rather fitting, actually.)

That Reign of Terror is Over

Let’s talk about office bathrooms. No, I’m not going to go there. Though the fact that our office is located on the first floor of the building, we do get a fair amount of SecretPoopers(tm) who come down to use our bathroom, so they can sustain the impression in their own office workspace that they NeverPoop(tm). Eye roll, please.

First of all, the facilities were remodeled to make them ADA compliant, and in losing one bathroom stall, we have one stall that is a Toilet Suite. Of course, the toilet is still smack up against the wall next to the other stall, and there’s just a giant expanse that even goes around a tiny corner, where a very slim, mean-spirited person could hide and give someone the surprise of their life, if they were to leap out screaming at the right moment. Let’s hope that never happens. I’ll even admit I give it an extra eyeball just to be sure nobody’s back there.  However, I’ve often looked at that space and thought about how you could put a chair, ottoman, reading lamp and accent table, and still leave the stall feeling roomy and quite at home. The cleaning lady does kinda use it for her office, sitting in there, talking on her cell phone.  (I say that jokingly, though she will just sit in there and yap, and I always wonder what the person on the other end thinks as the other toilet auto-flushes.)

But the reign of terror I’m referring to is the paper towel dispenser. When I started there, I found myself instantly at odds with the machine. It was an automatic one. You’d wave  your hand under it, and sometimes, if the sensor was feeling generous, you’d get a towel. A small shred of a towel that was barely sufficient to dry one hand. Not two. I don’t know about you, but I wash both my hands as a general practice. So that necessitates a second hand-wave, which would often be more resistant than the first, because OMG no WAY you are OVER USING the TOWELS and you’d have to keep flailing your hand about until you got your second half-sheet. Or not. And for whatever reason, the effort to get the second towel would usually result in the machine jamming. Often times,  the first attempt jammed, too. The small print on the machine told you to use the manual feed button if the machine malfunctioned. Oh rilly? What manual feed button? Because all there is on the side is a dummy button that has been put over the feed, to prevent the Johnson County Paper Towel Insurgency from stealing your precious paper towels by the yard.

Frustrated, one day, I discovered that I could just pull the whole front metal piece up! and pull down and tear off the towel amount that I needed. I felt scandalous and vindicated all at once. (Lookit me! Tear that mother UP!)  Eventually, the machine malfunctioned so much, often a roll of towels would sit on the counter, for you to tear off. (Let it be noted that I never took anything APART, I just used my noggin to get at the towels.)  While I was annoyed at this situation, it wasn’t until some maintenance was being done and the bathroom was closed, that I discovered on the second floor, the paper towel dispenser was NOT flawed, it distributed a generous amount of towel, and it had a working manual feed, and I felt that it was truly the curse of the first floor location and the higher traffic.

Finally, I asked my female co-workers if they carried the same annoyance level that I had towards the paper-towel machine, and that’s when I learned that we were actually getting a NEW machine in a few weeks. This one works so well, it often spits out a second towel for the next person. I haven’t even had to investigate the manual feed.

So, that reign of terror in my life is over. It really is the small things, sometimes.

Many Methods of Measurement…

When I lived in Minneapolis, I worked for a small ad agency that eventually tumbled and crumbled and closed up shop. While I was there, I made some friends, worked on some interesting business, and got some good funny stories (always important.) One of those was sort of snarky, if only because it was brought on by the target of our snark. One of our co-workers (public relations) always behaved as though she was working ‘just to keep busy’, as though she existed on this ethereal plane above us, even when she walked among us. She loved to recount her days spent in New York City, and her favorite line was uttered with dripping nostalgia: “Life was measured in Hermes scarves….” I had to ask my compadre in snark what in the hell that even meant. “Oh you know, Jennifer. They just scrimped and saved and skipped meals so they could afford to buy a Hermes scarf. They’re like, $500 apiece.” Safe to say that was a different life, and definitely a different plane from mine. But my co-worker did a spot-on imitation of her, complete with the wafting of her hand and fluttering of her fingertips, and I could almost see the brightly-colored silk streaming in the breeze.

Since my unemployment started, I’ve measured time differently. It’s odd, and strangely emotional, as I tried to explain it tonight at knit night. Each day that I wear makeup, I take it off in the evening with one of those makeup-remover wipes, the kind in a plastic bag with a seal, to keep the moisture in. When I first lost my job, I wondered if I could continue to afford to buy them. (They’re like, $5 for a package of 30.) After the terror of financial ruin faded, I did continue to buy them, and as I removed one each night, I wondered where my life would be the next time I needed to replace them. Unlike the previous 10+ years, I don’t have the illusion that when the calendar page turns, and the makeup-wipe wrapper is tossed in the trash, life will be the same as it is today. In some ways, certainly, I don’t want it to be the same. But we are creatures of habit. For the most part, we have routines. For 90% or so, that routine includes getting up and going to work roughly 5 days a week. Now I work part-time and cobble up freelance as I can, and wait. And wipe. And wonder. Where will my head, my heart, my creativity be when I wheel my cart down the beauty products aisle at Target, and toss another Boots 4-in-1 Makeup Remover wipes into the cart? Not knowing, in some ways, is good. It stretches you. It pushes you into new perspectives, new paths, as you restructure your New World Order and check your budget and reflect on what you enjoy doing and what you’re rid of, too. In some ways, though, my heart aches to the point of tears for the comfort of knowing. Let me clarify. The illusion of knowing, because none of us really, truly KNOW. We assume. We hope. We wish. We trust. That things will remain relatively the same, because they are comfortable and they provide and they are The Way, where work or goods are exchanged for money or services. So when people say things like, “Let’s plan to do X, I think it’s the third week of April,” my mental calendar is a mystery. I used to know immediately if I could participate or not, what was on my schedule and what the future purportedly held. Now I assume very little and just wonder… where will I be?

That said, I can pretty much guarantee that I won’t be buying one of those silly scarves.

Don’t Let The Door Hit Ya On The Way Out

I know, like many other people, that I will be very glad to see the door close on 2009 tonight. Can’t say that I feel that way about the entire decade, of course, because countless wonderful things have happened in my life over the past ten years. I just see 2009 as a year that brought more challenges and strife than I cared to have. I shut the door on people (some shut the door on me!), I lost my job (but gained another!), and had lots of job stress and a couple really scary health scares (bronchitis, my eyes).

All of that said, though, and some of my negative thoughts about the year, I will say that this has been the year of contradictions. My job (that I lost) depressed me beyond belief – but then I got a new one that renews and energizes me.  Unemployment depressed me, but I reconnected and made new connections and feel more ensconced with fantastic, smart, creative people than any year before. And the mack-daddy depression of them all, the grief that never leaves me, my father’s death, that got better. I no longer feel like I am the lone ox, pulling the yurt with a tribe of nomads trampling it as I strain to put one foot in front of the other. There are days with great sadness, melancholy, and some tears, but there isn’t the sense of toppling over the edge into an abyss. Time truly works wonders.

I know that in time, some of the anger and frustration I absorbed and carried this year will also fade. But now, in the moment? I’ve got a special Fuck You to a few people, and while I don’t think they read my blog, but if they do? They should be bright enough to know it’s meant just for them. Enjoy, motherfuckers. Karma’s a bitch.

As for the rest of you twatweasels I know, love and look forward to laughing with next year? Happy New Year, and I love ya. Thanks for reading and all the comments. 2010 is gonna rock.

Unsolicited Advice

It’s been busy. Between going back to work part-time, and having a huge cool freelance project, it feels like I’ve been juggling my time like old times for the past couple of weeks. But of course, it’s great. Friday, we had an awesome new business pitch, and we did a great job – rehearsing several times, hashing through our messaging points, constructive feedback and just a general coming-together …. let’s just say it was a nice way to do business and built camaraderie.

And through all of this, in the back of my head, I’ve been thinking about unemployment, and how it feels when you first become unemployed, and how it evolves, and things you need to do, and things other people should do when it happens to you. Because it sucks royally.  So I’ve put together a quick list of the core learning points I got from my arguably brief stint on the unemployment lines. I realize my experience is my own, and my time on the sidelines WAS short, so by no means do I fancy myself the most sage and learned person on the topic. But there were some things I was told when it happened to me, and I recently passed some of those on to a friend of mine, and if it can  help someone else, well, that’s awesome.

1. File for unemployment immediately. Do not pass go. Do not wait a couple weeks. Just get yourself into the system. If you received any severance, but you don’t know how much yet, well, just be honest and report everything you can. Your employer will report as well, but the process of starting your benefits will at least begin.

2. If you are receiving severance, get it in one lump sum. You may be getting paid for four weeks’ of time? But if you receive it all at once a week after you leave, you report the amount you were paid, and you’ll discover your eligibility kicks in sooner.

3. Get thee on the LinkedIn. Connect to everyone you’ve ever worked with. Change your status so people know you’re looking for work. There are different camps out there on this? But I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to hear from my client, concerned about my welfare and offering to help me network any way they could. Your soul will need these things. Network, network, network.

4.Get out of the house. I heard stories about some former colleagues who withdrew, just retreated and played video games all day. First off, I haven’t heard of anyone finding a job that way, and second, being isolated gives you WAY too much time in your head to get discouraged. The good/bad side of this vast amount of unemployment is that a lot of folks are in the same boat. Meet at a Panera (free refills!) and just talk. I made some new friends (or finally met my virtual ones) – pensive girl, a new knitting pal – and re-connected with SO many people. I had the time, after all! And it was heartening. To not feel alone.

5. If you know someone (or worked with someone) who’s been let go – reach out. Give them a call, drop them an email, just say “hi”. I had a couple people I shared a lot of time with in my job completely ignore me after I was gone – and even if I didn’t consider us great friends, per se, it would have been nice to at least have heard a “Hey, sorry to hear about this.” I get that there’s survivor’s guilt or you think your own job will be in jeopardy – but at the end of the day, we’re all people, we’re all human beings, and it’s nice to hear that you’re missed. It definitely changed my opinions of the ones who never said a word.  (Of course, there are going to be folks you don’t miss for a moment! So there’s a silver thread in that bit of truth…)

6. Accept that there will be bad days. Don’t beat yourself up for them, it’s part of the experience, unfortunately. We are one of the most ‘working-est’ societies in the world, and if you have a career you enjoy, losing it will feel like part of your identity is gone. You will question your skills, your last environment, try to figure out what could have happened differently, but the important thing is to pick yourself up, and keep moving forward. Even if that means standing in place for a little bit.

7. Get a recommendation from your existing employer as soon as you can. I did not do this. If they tell you it’s got nothing to do with your performance (as they told me), then by all means, get a letter so you have that as a reference.

8. Speaking of recommendations, ask for as many as you can on LinkedIn – because these will give you positive input and help you through those days of gloom and paralysis.

9. Consider career coaching (LandaJobNow.com is a great resource here in KC, specific to advertising/marketing folks) to help you with your resume and identify new avenues. I have a longtime friend at LandaJob who gave me some invaluable advice on my resume. As in, suddenly I not only looked great on paper? I felt great. In real life. Unemployment can leave you feeling like your accomplishments have been devalued – but they haven’t. You’re vital and have something to offer the right place!

10. If you can freelance, do it. Just keep an eye on how much you’ll make vs. how much you’re getting in unemployment. If you make more than you’d get on unemployment, you won’t get UI benefits for that week. (You don’t get to have both.) If you make less than UI benefits, the state will calculate the difference and you’ll get a portion of your normal benefit. Your benefits are supposed to cover you (marginally, granted) while you spend all your weekday time looking for a job. If you cut into that, it affects how much you get.

11. Don’t listen to people who marginalize you for being unemployed. Frankly, with 10% unemployment rates, those people should shut their pie holes and be grateful they’re not in that pool. But I’ve  heard stories of people being sneered at, asked why they don’t just go get any job, how do they like living off the government, living on the dole. Well? It ain’t welfare, folks. It’s not a huge amount of money, but in my situation, I couldn’t just go and get any old job at minimum wage, because that would have brought in LESS than unemployment, and I wouldn’t have had any time to look for a job in my field, let alone interview. Employers pay unemployment insurance, and this is all part and parcel of being a business owner in the US.

12. COBRA benefits. Right now there is legislation that allows you to maintain your health insurance benefits for the first 9 months at a greatly reduced rate. This is crucial and awesome. I believe you only have to pay a third of the regular COBRA rate. And this counts for DENTAL as well. My former employer didn’t even know that and we had a huge flurry of emails hammering it out because I received a notice from Delta Dental referencing the lower COBRA rate that I should have received. I had even done the math on whether or not to maintain the dental insurance, but seriously, just get it, as one cavity and your out-of-pocket goes way up and beyond the insurance costs, even at the open rate.

13. Common sense stuff – create a new budget right away. We shaved our monthly expenses down rapidly, and in the process, discovered just how much money we saved by simply not eating out. Not that we were dining out on the town with bottles of wine and four-course meals, but when you’re working all day, you’re tired, you come home and don’t feel like cooking – well, those $20-$40 takeout meals add up right quick. We dropped our subscription to the Star (which I confess I still miss, though I feel a little better about not amassing all that paper for recycling), went down to one movie instead of three from Netflix, I extended the time between haircuts, and scaled back on shopping and food choices. CostCo and Aldi’s were my new best friends, along with the sale flyer (online now!) from Price Chopper. I suddenly paused at the prices at coffeehouses, trading in my large lattes for a regular coffee, room for cream.

14. But don’t eliminate everything, if you can afford a little slush in your budget. One of the kind things my husband said to me very early on was that he understood and appreciated how hard I was looking for a job, but that in all of this, I should take a little time for myself, try to have a little fun. Another friend encouraged me to do the same thing. I went to a movie (matinees are cheaper!), and spent money on coffees and even went out to lunch with friends. (Oh, how many lunches I owe people, too. What a sweet, sweet gift it was, to be treated. At first I felt very blustery and insecure, absolutely nobody could pay my way, but I saw that it wasn’t the money I was rejecting, but kindness and generosity. So I accepted it, and look forward to repaying the gestures in fun and unexpected ways in the year ahead.)

If I think of anything additional, I’ll follow-up with a part 2. If one person reads this and finds some comfort and assistance, then it was worth it! Always start your day with breathing, and for that matter, end it on the same task. Hang in there.

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