Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Portrait: Phoenix, Arizona

Everyone always says that it will never happen to you; you will never loose your job. And then it does.

In seven months.

I can understand loosing one job in a lifetime, but two in less than a year? I still don't quite understand how a young, married, college educated professional, who played by all of the "rules", could loose two jobs in the space of 7 months, through no fault of her own. Some days it sill doesn't seem real. I wish the Universe would play this game of life by some fair rules, instead of cheating and making me suffer the consequences.

In March I was working as an engineer for a national construction company. When I graduated from college less than 3 years before, construction was THE industry to get into in Phoenix. Not to mention, the company was great and I liked working there. Then the call from the HR person came on a Thursday morning and all of a sudden, I'm laid off. No job. No income, only two weeks of pay for severance. Fortunately, my husband and I were in a good spot in our lives and had wisely saved up money, and suddenly very thankful that we had been able to save the small amount we had. We tightened our budget tremendously and figured we had enough savings to get us through this. The unemployment payments helped, although they didn't cover much more than groceries and gasoline. My unemployment was only going to be temporary and short. I would soon find another job and we'd be back to normal in a few months.

My plan of getting a new job entailed a career change. I had been looking into it for a while and this seemed like a sign from God telling me now is the time to do what I wanted to do. It took 3 months of job searching, interviews, submitting resumes online, to get my new perfect job, a job I loved doing. And it came with a salary cut of over $15,000. "That's alright. I'm new in this field. It'll be fine. It meets our budget and that's what matters", I thought, dealing with the initial sting. We kept our tight unemployment budget to make sure we were putting money into savings again. Less than four months into my new career, my perfect new job, the economy imploded and I lost my job. Again.

You start to question everything you did at your job(s). Did coming in to work a few minutes late here and there matter? I stayed later to make up for it every time, didn't I? Surely those times when I stayed late working on projects and didn't bill it to my time card evened that out. Didn't it? Did my bosses just put on a show when they appeared to like me and my work? Was it my work that just sucked? If that's the case, why wouldn't someone say so? You would think that would come up in the periodic employee reviews. It couldn't have been a personality conflict; everyone was super nice to me and genuinely appeared to like me. Or was it all an act that I was completely oblivious to? Especially when I feel like I read people well?

It takes some time to really answer those questions in truth toward yourself. Coming in a few minutes late didn't matter. My work was the best I could do and completely fulfilled the needs and wants of my bosses, even exceeded a lot of the time. And everyone really did like me.

It was the second lay off that really hit me. The first time I had a plan, with steps, that was completely obtainable. I had a goal I was working toward and I knew that it would be attained in a short amount of time. I even knew I was going to be happier with the new career. The second lay off was completely unexpected, out of the blue. You don't think that your brand new dream-job will end in less than four months. It doesn't even enter your thoughts in the tiniest way. Suddenly you're faced with these questions: What do you do when you've exhausted your meager savings with the first period of unemployment? What do you really do when you've found a job you love and now you don't have it anymore? How do you tell your friends, AGAIN, that you've lost your job again? And when they respond, "Seriously?" what do you say to that? Like I would really joke about this.

So, I'm on to searching for another job, after a few months out of the workforce. I just could not make myself look for a job for a long time. I floundered and seriously did not know what I wanted to do. I did not know how to make my dreams become a reality.

In all of this, I am extremely thankful that I have a husband who still has a good job. That I have a husband who supports my employment decisions because he just wants me to be happy. That we were able to keep our house. That we have both been healthy during the time of no insurance. That I have a support network of friends and family that care about me and are willing to help in whatever way possible.

I've come to accept and be happy that I'm now starting my third career in a year (and now a fourth). It's been a long journey of really high highs and extremely low lows in the year since my first lay-off, but I've made it through. While the economy doesn't look stellar even now, I am confident everything will be ok. I have to be optimistic about life. It's just not worth living if you don't think anything good can happen even during the not-so-good times. I firmly believe God is good and that He has a plan and will take care of me.

Phoenix, Arizona