The Hallway

It has been said that when one door closes, another door opens and I truly believe that.  It’s just that sometimes, the hallway is a bitch.  And that’s where I find myself right now – in the hallway.  I recently lost my job rather unexpectedly and while I believe in the end it will turn out to be the very best thing that could have ever happened to me, waiting for that next door to open can be difficult.

However, I refuse to let it get me down.  My job now is to find the lessons.  And I’ve come to a couple of conclusions.  First off, I need to listen to my gut more closely.  My gut told me from the very beginning that this was not going to be a good fit for me.  While I needed the job, I should have heeded my gut and remained actively looking for a new position instead of sitting back on my laurels hoping things would get better.  I was let go for not being a good fit for the team and that’s an accurate statement – I wasn’t a good fit.  They were a close-knit team, one that enjoyed mixing personal with the professional and having frequent happy hours together.  Since I am not into happy hours, I would skip those, a political faux pas.

Which brings me to my next lesson – office politics.  I have to learn to play them better.  I’ve never been much of a political animal and I’ve simply got to get better at it.  I knew that skipping the team happy hours would probably not be looked upon favorably but I did it anyway (one I had a prior engagement that I couldn’t get out of but there were others I could have gone to.) I need to learn to play politics instead of pretending like they aren’t there.  As much as I don’t like them, acting as if they don’t exist is counter to reality and so I simply need to learn to play along, whether I like them or not.

A third lesson is also rather simple and that’s never to settle for something that’s less than what I want.  My last position wasn’t challenging for me.  It didn’t challenge my skills or abilities.  Sure there were aspects to it that were challenging and I did have the opportunity to learn some new skills (like twitter and blogging) but overall, it really wasn’t a stretch for me as far as my skill set goes.  Yes, I had to learn about the company’s technologies and learn to write in the company’s voice but that’s not stretching my abilities.  I settled for a role that I could essentially do in my sleep.  In my own defense, I needed a job, but at the same time, there were things that I could have probably done that would have made it more challenging for me – like taking ownership of a project from end to end, which I didn’t do.  So my lesson is not to settle just to get a paycheck, to be more particular about the jobs I apply to and only go after those that are going to ignite my passions and challenge me professionally.

Finally, I learned the importance of not taking people at face value and realizing that what people say and what they mean are often two very different things.  I need to get better at discerning the difference between the two and paying more attention to the unsaid messages that are sent and less attention to the overt messages.  Sometimes people speak volumes by not saying anything at all.  And I need to learn to pay attention to that.  Had I done that, I might have realized that my job was at risk and been able to change my behavior and saved it.

So what are my next steps?  Well, believe it or not, my next step is to go to Las Vegas!  I had already booked the trip and purchased my show tickets before I lost my job so I might as well go, albeit with a much reduced gambling budget.  I’m going to see two Cirque du Soleil shows – Ka at the MGM Grand and Mystere at Treasure Island.  I had a frequent flyer ticket I had to use or lose so the flight is free.  I’ll be staying about a mile off the strip at the Hyatt where I had an award night so I’ll only be paying for 2 nights instead of 3. When I originally booked my stay, I booked it at the MGM Grand and got about $80 of my ticket for Ka and then I canceled the reservation and moved over to the Hyatt but still saved the money on the Ka ticket.  Of course I’ll get programs and post pix from both shows when I get back.  I plan on playing mostly craps and perhaps some roulette and some Caribbean stud (which I have to learn how to play today).  I’ll play some slots but not much as they really get boring after a while and are definite money eaters.  I’m really looking forward to it.  This trip will also be a healing trip because this is the first time that I’ve looked forward to going to Vegas since Floyd was killed and so knowing he will be there with me will really go a long way to heal some of the pain I still feel around losing him in such a senseless act of violence.

When I get back, I will start searching for work in earnest.  I have already applied for about 12 jobs with Hewlett Packard, most here in Austin but a few in Houston and some out in California.  I plan on getting more involved with Door64, a local high-tech networking group.  And finally, I’ll have the chance to do some more volunteer work with Habitat for Humanity and the Capitol Area Food Bank. I’ve always found that my mood is lighter and my job search is more productive when I spend part of my weekday volunteering and now that it’s winter/spring in Austin, it’s the perfect time to be volunteering for Habitat for Humanity. I checked their schedule and individuals can work on Tuesdays and Thursdays which are perfect for me as they don’t interfere with any of my existing plans.

I also plan to do some volunteer work for Door64 as a way to network and make new contacts in the high-tech industry.  It seems that many of my contacts have fallen by the wayside so I need to start contacting them and meeting up with them for coffee and/or lunch and really getting out there.  Yes, it’s important to scour the ads, check the LinkedIn boards, but ask any career search professional and they will tell you that about 75% of the jobs out there are never posted. I need to do a better job getting at that hidden job market than I did last time I was unemployed.  It also increases the chances of finding a role that IS a good fit and decreases the chances of finding another role where I’m a square peg trying to fit into a round hole.

In between my job search activities, my volunteer work and my extracurricular activities, my friend Shoes is moving back in with me.  That will bring some much-needed financial assistance to me and also some much-needed moral support.  She will be moving in at the end of the month and so I’ll be helping her with that as well.  While a part of me will miss living on my own, I know I couldn’t ask for a better housemate. We get along well and enjoy each other’s company yet at the same time, respect each other’s need for alone time. She will be doing me a favor with her rent money and I’ll be doing her a favor by providing her with a stable rent where she can start to save money for a car.  And now that I’m unemployed, I can help her get to her doctor’s appointments, something she has struggled with this past year.  It was a hard decision for her to make – giving up her apartment, so we’ve decided to make it for a one year lease and then to re-evaluate after a year.

I’m also going to take some of my free time to work on making more Solcatchers. My inventory has slowly been depleted and I definitely need to make some in the $20-25 range to sell at the South Congress market.  The more expensive ones rarely sell there but the ones at the lower price point go like crazy and so if I can really stock up on them, I can definitely do well as the weather gets warmer and more and more people come to market.

Well, I guess that’s about it for now. I hope to do a better job of updating this thing now that I no longer have to commute an hour each way to work (another side benefit to no longer working where I do – savings on gas, time and wear and tear on my car). I hope to get back to posting at least a couple of times a month.  I will definitely post when I get back from Vegas and share some images from the Cirque du Soleil shows and let you know how the trip went.

My parting words are this.  You can’t change people and often you can’t change the circumstances in which you find yourself.  What you CAN change is how you view them.  I could sit here and feel sorry for myself for having lost my job and being out of work again but instead I choose to see this as a time of freedom and liberation. I could feel sorry for myself, as if my life and career are over but instead I’m chosing to see this as an opportunity to reassess what it is that I want to do with the rest of my life.  I got a Universal kick in the pants to get out of a job where I really was rather miserable but didn’t have the courage to leave on my own so now it’s up to me to take the next step.  I wasn’t living – I was surviving.  And that’s no way to spend your dash.  So ask yourself this – am I truly living today?  If not, what can you change?  Every day is a precious gift.  Don’t waste your dash.



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