Waltzing Through The Storm

As the job search continues, dirt under my nails makes me feel productive. A constant reminder that while I may need to scrub up at a moments notice, life is in the doing. Pulling weeds and planting seeds, a metaphor for life to be sure, keeps me grounded and gives me purpose. These humble tasks are important. Removing obstacles, cultivating relationships, sharing the fruits of our labor – this is work, this is life.

FLOWERPOWER (2)
Wake Up and Smell the Awesome!

 

Ten Years A Volunteer

The move was sudden but not completely unexpected. After all, it had been almost five years since we relocated, and that was only because we promised not to move while our son was in high school. Our professional lives had progressed much like everyone else’s, in starts and stops, not always of our own choosing, still, onward and upward from place to place for a job.

Then one day the call I’d been waiting over a month to receive came, offering a promotion that would finally let me step into the role I’d been hoping for my entire career. It meant we’d have to relocate to Florida, but I was excited for the opportunity. At the same time, another call from a different direction changed our lives entirely. We moved to Texas instead.

The first few months were spent learning to navigate the mangled highways in North Texas. Without a job and without children in school, getting to know people took some effort. Completely by chance while searching for a grocery store, I discovered a community garden that supplies a local food pantry and senior center with fresh fruits and vegetables. A sign posted the number to call for information about adopting a garden plot. I called.

A few days later I became a volunteer gardener. In Texas, that’s a bit like being an intern in hell’s boiler room. The first growing season I mostly dug nut sedge out of the neglected plot I’d been assigned near some fatigued fruit trees. I also harvested okra and got to know the other gardeners. It wasn’t long before I made friends with some Master Gardeners.

Certified Master Gardeners are the cream of the crop when it comes to volunteers. Always striving for excellence, how could I not want to be one of them? So, with the encouragement of my new friends, I applied for the twelve week training course offered through Texas A&M. It was great fun, educational, and most of all it opened up volunteering opportunities that filled my servant’s heart with joy. At the end of my first year, I received the President’s Volunteer Service Award for more than 100 hours of teaching and fundraising. Surprised by my new found enthusiasm for community service, it was clear that a search for paid work could wait.

Over the next nine years I poured myself into public education projects with local and national organizations, even going back to school to prepare for leadership in public affairs and community service. I believe education is the single most important factor in reducing a person’s vulnerability to poverty, the causes of which are numerous and complex to some and as simple as having a choice to others. It is my strong desire to serve an organization whose mission is to combat ignorance that perpetuates poverty. The luxury of choosing to do so for free is no longer mine. Ten years preparing for what’s next followed two decades of professional experience. Now it’s time to move on.

 

 

 

What Will You Do When The War Is Over?

Each year, for the past seven years I’ve received a phone call on Veteran’s Day from a gentleman named Richard. Several years ago, I hired Richard for a very entry-level job even though he had more than enough experience. I was leading a team of what would be considered “unseasoned” employees. (Unseasoned being the politically correct way of saying young, undisciplined people with almost zero work ethic.) We needed a new team assistant because the one we had frequently flaked out and disappeared or didn’t bother to show up for work at all. We also needed some maturity in the group, a little “seasoning,” so to speak.

The company was growing like a profit driven, bonus crazed, toxic demon spawned unholy wholly owned subsidiary of the Wall Street firm Lehman Brothers. So, the large and in charge decided we should hold a job fair. Job seekers packed the place and anxiously approached our tables to discuss how they could get in on the action their skills might be a good fit for the company. Little did they know a few short years later the lucky ones would be those still sober enough to shut the place down. (Yeah, it tanked big time.)

Back to Richard. He had worked for over twenty-five years for a large aerospace company. Suddenly one day his job was eliminated (outsourced) and he was given, not a gold watch, but the boot. As many people of a certain age discover, updating a resume for the prospect of an entry-level job is worse than the sink or swim situation in which they have found themselves. It can be downright excruciating to sit across from someone whom you could easily work circles around, hoping they recognize your skill set, while not certified by Six Sigma, is worthy of real consideration.

Fortunately for us both, Richard knew better. He approached me with a smile, greeted me like the gentleman he is, spoke honestly about himself and his abilities. I was sold. He was just what our little team needed to make us the complete package and over the next year and a half we became the complete package. We busted our asses, exceeding our goal time and time again, never knowing it didn’t matter how many deli trays and jeans days were hurled at us the mandatory overtime would never be enough.

One thing that made it bearable was the relationships that we developed. We learned things about each other and ourselves. Once Richard became aware that I’d served in the military, he never forgot it and I look forward to his call every year to wish me a happy Veteran’s Day. We catch up, and for the span of a brief phone call we each know we made a difference in someone else’s life. There is value in that far greater than most people who work together ever get to experience.

Phrases like “core values” mean less and less when the core of a business changes from moment to moment or becomes completely invisible because of market fluctuations. Vision statements such as “aspiring to inspire” and “developing tomorrow’s leaders today” are, well, visionary, but when people in an organization don’t share a common core of experience, it takes more than vision to ensure that right actions actually do equal right results. Students coming out of high school with higher than average enthusiasm might get lucky and find a job. Graduates coming out of college with higher than average initiative might get lucky and land an internship that may possibly lead to a job. Honorably discharged veterans coming off active duty, who possess marketable skills that don’t require use of an automatic weapon, might get lucky and find employers, like my husband and I did all those years ago, who recognize the value of what people bring to the table just by their willingness to show up to do a job. I often think of Richard and how willing he was to show up and do his job. A job he was tremendously over-qualified for, but was so very grateful to have.

Happy Veteran’s Day Richard.