Thursday, March 12, 2015

By the Scruff of the Neck (Part 2)

This post is a continuation of a series started last week about how I've applied three simple principles to help deal with stressful situations that have cropped up throughout the years.

I feel these principles can be used no matter what life throws at you.

1) Don't play the victim
2) Keep calm and vigilant
3) Do what you can and then let go

Event: Quitting job a month after buying a house
Age at the time: 29

A year after graduating college I got a job with Lockheed Martin working in a graphics groups that made training material for the Navy.  Though the environment wasn't what I'd call ideal (more on that later) I loved the work and the pay was great.

About six years into this gig I decided maybe it was time to start house-hunting.  In November of 2008 I finally closed on my first house.  A month later I unexpectedly quit my job with Lockheed.

I suppose my leaving wasn't terribly unexpected, just untimely.  True, the work site with its chain link fences topped with razor wire patrolled by guards with guns wasn't really my bag.  I also was never a huge fan of working for one of the largest defense contractors in the country (I'm just too much of a hippie I guess), but I could have lived with that.  Being a subcontractor was endlessly frustrating, as was the semi-annual corporate training to remind all employees not to sell secrets to foreign governments or sexually harass co-workers.  All this was wearing but tolerable.

The straw that broke the camel's back was a new supervisor who wanted to make this little graphics group all his own.  He micromanaged and made sweeping changes and decrees that seriously rubbed me the wrong way.  At my December performance review he stated that my work performance was great but my attitude was bordering on insubordination.

We'd been having rows for weeks now and I was through.  I told him firmly that he could have my letter of resignation on his desk the next morning.

"Why not now?" he asked.

So I typed it up right there with hot tears of rage streaming down my face.

1) Don't play the victim
It was so easy to blame the supervisor but really he was just the nudge I needed to get myself moving.
When I first took the job I had misgivings for all the reasons I stated above, but I made a promise to myself that I'd only work there for as long as it took to pay my debts off.

In the late summer/early fall of 2008 I completely debt-free.
In six and a half years I had paid off my car and my student loans.  I had racked up a fair amount of credit card debt, but thanks to the gentle financial tutoring of my future husband, I'd completely paid that off as well.
I gotten braces, and paid them off and had even managed to do a fair amount of travel simply by saving money rather than putting it on credit.

I had fulfilled my promise and the universe was simply reminding me of that.
However, I now had a house to "feed and care for".

2) Keep calm and vigilant
Though there was a certain amount of worry over being an unemployed new home-owner, nothing about searching for or buying a house had sent up caution flags for me.  Neither did leaving my really well-paying job.  I took this all to mean that it was simply meant to be and all I had to do was watch it all unfold - while doing my part of course.

I needed a new job and I needed it fast!

3) Do what you can and then let go
I hadn't job-hunted in seven years and even then it was under unusual circumstances, so I had only the vaguest understanding as to how to go about it.  I did what any person with a 20th century mindset would do: I hit the phone book.

Two or three days a week I'd get up at eight or nine in the morning, eat breakfast and then sit in front of my computer with an open phone book.  Each day had a theme: one day would be calling advertising firms, another would be TV stations (for their graphics or video editing department).  One day would be caregiver and unskilled hospital jobs, another day would be temp agencies.  I'm trainable in just about any field of work and can squeeze enjoyment out of nearly any task, so picking themes wasn't overly difficult.  I of course would prefer something just challenging enough to be fun, preferably somewhere near my field of training, but I'm never picky when it comes to work.

I'd go through a list in the phone book and if a company looked promising (was in driving distance for instance), I'd look up their website.  If it tickled my fancy further I'd give them a call to see if they were looking for people.  I'd make these cold calls until about noon when I'd break for lunch.

Sometimes I'd hit the phones again until two or three, but usually that about all the energy I had for cold-calling.  I honestly knew no other way to look for work - it never occurred to me to use job-search websites.

I was unemployed for only six weeks (but it felt a fair bit longer!)
On a whim I called a sign company one day and scored an interview which led to a job.
It was a major pay-cut but I needed the work.  It was a small sibling-run business and was just what I needed at that point in my life.  Though I was only with them for three and a half years, my time there opened the doors to many other opportunities one wouldn't have expected.

I'm endlessly grateful for my time there and with Lockheed.  They both served their purposes and they served them well.  I learned a lot and am still living in that house I bought.

Post Script: that supervisor who'd given me so much trouble left that division of Lockheed a month after I left the company.

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