One such area for me is employment.
My professional background is storied, eclectic and unusual. I have accumulated 2 years experience in Salon Management (I landed a job at 23 years old), 2.5 years experience in Program Development for a Labor Management Cooperative, 3 years experience in Policy and Procedure Development for a non-profit guide dog school, and a collective 6 years experience in Executive Support (Administrative Assistant/EA) at the Director and C-Level in a variety of industries.
I am 31 years old. I never completed college (though it's back on my radar). I was an english major.
More than the ego hit I took when I lost my job last month, the biggest insight gained from the event of my job loss was that I was lacking something: A Career. Many many friends of mine from High School and College were wise enough to identify and pursue an industry and build their resume based on the knowledge that comes attached to specific industry experience.
My professional growth has been the result of luck, really. I have always been the type of person who offered help where help was needed. I have a talent for identifying inefficiency, easily articulating the processes shortfall causing the inefficiency, and conceptualizing and implementing adjustments which will improve business process. Overall, most positions I have held began as an Executive Assistant position and then morphed into a position which leveraged this bazaar talent of mine. And so, over my 12-year working life, I have amassed about 6 years experience in Project Management and Process Improvement.
I told you it was a eclectic.
More than eclectic, however, it's a hard sell when you are trying to market yourself. YES, things are great when you are working for one company - you are well-utilized and usually happy for the most part. BUT, when you are in year three of working for a mid-sized guide dog non-profit developing policies and procedures or managing cross-departmental projects, no matter how much you love it, you one day realize that you are collecting experience that is so niche it will likely be difficult to make yourself attractive to other, larger, for-profit organizations if/when you decide that's what you want to do so.
So, here I was. Living in a state I still can't find much love for, having taken a beating over the last two years in every aspect of my life, trying to figure out what my next move was.
While living up north, I often utilized staffing and temporary agencies to secure employment. If you have never done or considered working with a staffing agency before - I highly recommend them. For those of you whose price-point is a little higher than average, it may be difficult to use a staffing agency as the majority (though certainly not all) of the positions may be on the lower-paying side.
But the little-utlized secret of a staffing agency are the following:
- You are performing a working interview. If they like you, they WILL keep you. If you are doing a temporary fill-in for a position while someone is on maternity leave or out sick, you may think that if/when that person comes back you are most definitely out of work - not true. You have no idea as to what other positions a company may be working on at the exact moment you walk in the door. By exposing yourself to the players within the organization, making a good impression and networking your tail off in a way that is respectful and motivated by hard, clean work, you may secure a perm opportunity for yourself you didn't even know about.
- You have the chance to interview the company and, in some cases, your boss to be sure that you WANT to work there. I cannot tell you how many times I have been the victim of "bad fit" since I moved to Florida. By working a temp or temp-to-hire position, you have the chance to work, full-time in a position that may be a good fit for you - but if you ultimately decide it's not the right place for you, you simply wait for the position to term and move on. No harm. No foul.
- You never know who other people know. There are plenty of articles that support the theory and argument that networking is a super-vital element to the current job market. The people at your new place of temporary employment may have associates and be so impressed with you work that they are willing to recommend you to other people.
Any which-way you slice it - the whole premise lies in: Take the job. Dress to impress. Work your tail off.
One of my local staffing agencies approached me with an opportunity to temp as an administrative assistant assigned to a Senior Vice President at a nationally-recognized company local to my market. The temp pay was stronger than most, but substantially below my previous salary. Eager to keep income flowing into my household (because something, even $5.00 a hour, is better than unemployed), I took the position with the three bullet-points I listed above etched into my mind. The company had hired someone in the role I was filling, but the person backed-out of the opportunity at the very last minute. So, I received the call on Wednesday, was phone screened by the company on Thursday and offered the temp assignment on Friday morning for a Monday-Morning start.
I went, I sunk my teeth in to the position immediately, and I impressed as much as I could.
By the beginning of the second week, I was hearing murmuring that people were liking what I was bringing to the party. By the end of the second week, I was offered the job - evidently "the fastest conversion" the staffing agency had ever experienced with the company to which I had been assigned.
So now - the moment of truth - do I take the position?
Suddenly I felt confused, scared, and unsure of myself. As I reflected back on my roles, I realized I had never worked for a corporation; that the support roles I had been hired for were for the heads of rather small companies; the positions I had generated for myself as an extension of my admin support roles were developed because of the "all hands on deck" feel of working for a smaller organization. In reality, I have never worked for a company with more than 70 people.
Yet here I stood - offered a position with an organization with more than 30,000 employees with global recognition supporting a Senior Vice President.
The bad fit I experienced for a year with my most recent employer (and did nothing to change) had so impacted my confidence, that I actually hesitated at the opportunity. But, at the end of it all, it has been this type of opportunity I have not been given and it is this type of opportunity that could define, at last, the career I never managed to define.
And so, I accepted the position. I took a huge pay cut, but I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that the adjustment will pay-off in spades for me long-term.
I mentioned that I have been extremely fortunate when it comes to work - well, in the 13 years I have been working, I have never gone more than 3 weeks unemployed. The most unemployment I have EVER collected has been 4 weeks (back in 2003). This year's unemployment length? 2 weeks.
I am SO lucky.
So now, it's time to get my sea-legs back, get my forward momentum going again, and evaluate my next steps. More to come, friends. With a little luck and careful planning, I may just salvage my 31st year after all...