Okay, this is weird.

There is a chance I may get laid off next Thursday. I don’t know what that means.

I just found out there are layoffs planned for my company… it’s in the news. This comes at the same time as being ordered by my boss (in a bcc email) to turn in my end-of-quarter goals report by next Thursday – a week earlier than usual… as well as them calling a team meeting on Thursday afternoon (which is also the end of a pay period).

Correlation does not imply causation, and of course this is an uncertain time, all around, so I don’t want to jump to conclusions, but there is a chance it might happen.

I imagine I will have insurance coverage for the short term afterwards – at least till the end of the month – but I don’t know.

But things are up in the air.

I just don’t know what this means.

I’ve been hoping for this, to be honest. But now that it looks possible, I’m less enthusiastic.

Oh, well. I needed to update my resume and LinkedIn profile, anyway. So, I guess that decides what I’ll be doing this weekend.


Time to update my resume… again

Some days it feels like this
Some days it feels like this

Oh,well… that’s interesting. I just found out today that they’re going to announce layoffs for my division next week.


I had no idea. I mean, I noticed that people have not been very perky, lately. They’ve been pretty down in the dumps, and nobody has been in a holiday spirit. All the talk about decorating cubicles has stopped. Back in the summertime, people were more into it, than they are now.

I think people are really freaked out and afraid of what will happen. Between the merger coming up and the cost-cutting that was already slated for this year (but hasn’t gotten much traction), I think it’s going to be a kind of grim Christmas season for everyone.

I’m really not sure what to think. I haven’t been with the company that long, so I don’t know what they’d offer me by way of a severance package. Best case scenario is that they give me year’s salary and a year’s worth of health coverage. That’s the ideal. Then I can take a few months to just chill out. And I can get some of my personal projects done. I can take my time looking for another job, and just tend to my own business for a bit.

Or, I could get moved to another group entirely. I’ve been getting a lot of attention from people in another group that has some dealings with mine, and the head of that group has actually told me that they thought I should be working for them. I’m kind of popular in places, because I’m eager to help out and I can be fun to work with. So, maybe that will help me.

Or it won’t.

Or… I could have the option to transfer to another position. I doubt that will happen, because they’re cutting positions, not adding them, but you never know.

It’s funny… I had a feeling, something was up. I’ve kind of cooled to this job, over the past weeks, I think in part because my boss has been removed and fairly tense. I’m just glad that I haven’t been in the loop, because it would have freaked me out a bit, and who wants that hanging over their head? I’ve felt like I was going to throw up, all afternoon. I’m better now — especially since I just updated my resume — but I’m still a little thrown off.

Oh, screw it. I need to just make supper and take it easy. It’s tempting to spiral down into the pit of despair. But what would be the point.

I have a plan – if I get laid off, I’ll strategize and figure out where I want to go next. If I get a decent severance package, then so much the better. If I don’t get laid off, it’s onward and upward.

It’s onward, in any case.

100 Days and Counting

And the count begins

The reality of my situation is starting to sink in. There is a very good chance that I will be out of this job by mid-June. It occurred to me last night, when I was thinking about the money I just spent on a replacement van — what kind of money I’m going to be making over the next few months, how many hours I’ll be working, etc. It occurred to me that I need to not bank on this job being around, six… no, three… months from now.

Oh, we got a really good van, by the way, for about $2,000 less than book price, because it doesn’t have all the power “bells and whistles” that people come to expect, and it’s been sitting on the lot since September. I really feel like I got lucky, finding that van. It’s smaller than the one we had before, so it’s easier for my spouse to drive. Plus, it’s a 2005 with under 100,000 miles (I know – where did I find that?) and it only had one accident reported on the carfax. Pretty amazing. I managed to cobble together the money to pay for it in full up front, and we even have a couple thousand dollars left to live on.  It’s not much of a safety net — 1/6 of what we had 24 hours ago, and if anything catastrophic happens, we’re pretty much screwed — but I get paid on Thursdays, so there will be money coming in from this contract for at least a little while.

Yep, we got lucky.

And now my luck continues, actually, because I might be out of this job in another 3 months, after my major projects are delivered, and the company switches over to a new technical infrastructure. What makes me think so?

  1. Nobody has added any projects to my docket after my two big projects launch at the end of May/beginning of June,
  2. My boss has been spending an awful lot of time at corporate HQ and has stopped going out of their way to be super nice to me,
  3. My boss’s boss has been dismissive towards me and cancelled the 1-to-1 meeting they scheduled with me when they first came on the job, and
  4. Nobody on the “new technology infrastructure” team is making eye contact with me.

That’s what my keen observational powers are detecting, anyway.

To be honest, it’s a relief to think I’ll be out of there. I’ve really been disliking the work environment, with all the political changes going on, the rumors, the gossip, etc — and the company switching over to an “open” workspace configuration. God, that sucks. Talk about fresh hell. The wild thing is, for all the technical environments I’ve worked with, and all the teams I’ve been part of, this extended team is the one I like the least. They’re okay as people, but they’re not the most inspiring.They’re more interested in feathering their nests and keeping up appearances, than kickin’ it in the technical sense.

And I just don’t relate to that.

But in another few months, it’s probably going to fall into the category of “not my problem“, which will be wonderful.

I’m sure there will be other problems at my next job, but this team and the dynamics will not be one of them.

So, I’m getting proactive and gussying up my resume, updating it on job sites, and also updating my other online profiles. I’ve reached out to folks I used to work with, to see if they can keep an ear open for me. I also have talked to recruiters and put them on notice for June timeframe. Even if I don’t get shown the door, I’m probably going to shift out of there, once my big projects are done. I have no enduring loyalty to this company. I don’t actually like the products they make. I just like the paycheck and the commute. Other than that, I’m fine without them in my life.

It’s funny… I’ve had this nagging suspicion in the back of my head for some time, that the 2-3 year contract they set up was not going to be fulfilled on their end. They’re letting other contractors go, and with a “last in, first out” approach, that puts my head on the chopping block next, because I’m the most junior contractor left.

Now that it feels more definite, I feel like things are freeing up for me.

Ideally, they’ll just tell me what the deal is ahead of time, so I can get a running start. I’m already talking to recruiters… And I’m not waiting for them to come clean, because they generally don’t — and probably can’t. If I hold my breath, waiting for them to do things the right way, I’ll probably suffocate.

So, it’s onward and upward.

100 days to go (max) — then I’m free to go. 🙂

Guerilla job changes on a shoestring

The preparation for my job change continues, with some much-needed adaptations. I spent a fair amount of time over the past month or so, studying up on new material I felt I needed to learn and know, in order to move into my next position. I am highly motivated, and I know I need to move on to something more challenging in an environment that’s more high-performance. Right now, the company I’m with is pretty invested in chronic under-achievement — not because they can’t do better, but because they’d rather run around like chickens with their heads cut off and *feel* productive, than actually *be* productive.

Those of us who have years and years of skills and experience are on the outside — the folks on the inside who get to make the big decisions and influence people — are relative newcomers to the industry they’re trying to take over, and it’s just embarrassing, watching them make the decisions and do the things they do. When we speak up and try to help steer them away from the cliff, we are summarily dismissed. And I’m being paid about 20% less than I could (and should) be, which is just ridiculous. I have recruiters contacting me constantly for jobs that look great, so there’s really no reason to for me to stay.

What’s the point?

So yeah, I’m looking for a new job. That’s a no-brainer. But the timing has to be done right, because there’s a big project I’m working on that is affecting a bunch of people I’ve worked with for years, whom I really care about. I’m not going to ditch them before we finish up in September. Then, I am gone, baby, gone.

And in anticipation of that, I am “re-tooling” my skillset — brushing up on technologies and topics that are in demand, these days, so I can be more useful in the job market.

The only thing is, over the past couple of months, I have not hit the goals I had for myself — to study and practice x-amount of material each week. I have had the best of intentions, and I have really tried, but it just didn’t happen. And it’s been getting me down.

See, the thing is, I get tired. Fatigue is a huge factor in all of this, and when I’m tired, I don’t manage my time well, I don’t read or comprehend well, I don’t feel like I know what I’m doing, and it just pulls the rug out from underneath me. It’s been very dispiriting, seeing myself fall behind in my own personal goals, feeling my future slipping from my grasp. There is no way I can put myself out there as an expert in these areas and hope to compete with folks who are younger and fresher and more experienced than myself. It’s a real concern, and a very real issue. I can’t afford to have my reputation smeared, and I can’t afford to get into a work arrangement where I am out-matched by my workload and I end up melting down. It’s happened before, and it’s not fun.

So, rather than feeling badly about myself and undercut my future, I’ve stepped back (during my most recent vacation) and taken a closer look at what I need to do to make a move.

I need to:

  • Present myself as an expert in my field — I’ve been doing technical work since 1992, and it should show,
  • Have a skillset that is fresh and current,
  • Show that I have been doing this skilled work on a daily basis in my current and past positions,
  • Be up-to-date on the minutiae of my particular specialty,
  • Have a portfolio of real world results to show for my work, and
  • Have all of this in place within the next two months, when I will start my formal job search.

I figure it can take me up to three months to find another position that suits me, and I won’t be ready to move till late September. So, I need to have things in place to send out to recruiters — and I need to have a portfolio of results I’ve produced — around mid-July timeframe. That leaves me with about eight weeks to put things together, while I’m also keeping my current job going, keeping up on my rest, and going about my everyday life.

I do not have a lot of resources, energy-wise.

I do not have a lot of extra discretionary time, because my work is pretty consuming and I have a LOT going on.

So, I need to do this on a shoestring.

That being said, I’ve taken a closer look at my job history, and I’ve realized that there are a lot of things I do (or could be doing) on a daily basis in my current job that actually support my future job change. I have a lot of different aspects to my job, and it can be very confusing, figuring out which is which and what I am actually doing with myself. It probably sounds a bit dense, but I am so overwhelmed on a daily basis by all the details and “trees” that I lose sight of the forest. And I also get so caught up in putting out fires, that I don’t actually do the work that’s strategically aligned with my future. I am so busy chasing down missing pieces of puzzles and fixing things that are broken (by other people who don’t do their friggin’ jobs) that I lose sight of the big-picture work I am doing. I lose sight of the big picture, period.

As an aside, I have to say that this job has been about the WORST thing for my distractability issues. It’s tiring, it’s distracting by nature, it’s chaotic, it’s loud, it’s bright, and there is no real direction anymore. I know, I know — that’s how it is pretty much everywhere. But I have never ever worked in a place that didn’t actually allow you to block the line of sight to distracting movements with a wall of some kind, and that had absolutely NO barriers to sound and light. This god-awful place makes cube farms look like nirvana.

Anyway, I’m re-adjusting my re-tooling approach, and I’ve identified a bunch of ways I can not only add to my skillset with new abilities, but also make the most of my past and present experience. I’ve identified some core themes to my work history, which eluded me before — areas where I have worked a lot and had considerable responsibility, influence, and success. I’ve done some market research relating to salaries, and I see a new direction I should go in.

It’s actually not a “new” direction for me — I’ve been doing this for years. It’s a new direction for my mindset and philosophy and approach to this job search.

You know, it’s funny — I never had this much trouble with the job search thing before. I always just moved, and there was someone ready to take me on. The thing is, my past screw-ups and mistakes and mis-steps from the years right after my TBI have caught up with me. People look very closely at your resume, these days, because there are so many posers out there, and there are so many people who’ve gotten burned by them. I had a period where I was moving from job to job every 3 months or so, and during that period, my TBI was catching up with me and making it harder and harder for me to focus, concentrate, interact with others, keep my cool, and be the best I could be. And it’s been increasingly difficult for me to just pick things up and retain them the way I used to. My memory is not what it could be, which really sucks, when it comes to learning new things.

Apparently, that’s a common theme with TBI — learning new stuff can be a challenge.

On the bright side, my past abilities with certain types of work still seems very much intact, and I need to remember that. I’m pretty skilled in certain ways, and I need to identify those ways and make the most of them.

It’s all a work in progress… but now I’m a lot closer to my goal than I was just a few weeks ago, and that feels pretty good.


Finding the spark

Have you got it? No? You can get it if you try

Almost there…

I’ve got less than 8 weeks, before I kick off my active job search. Actually, I’m going to start sending out my updated resume in the middle of September, so it’s more like five weeks… even so, it’s not a lot of time, and I have a ton of stuff to do to wrap up the things I need to wrap up before moving on.

That’s the one thing that keeps me going through all of this. My boss has been leaning on me more and more, as well as their boss. They’ve been grilling me a bit over my “non-compliance” with what they want me to do, which is actually very different from what their boss want’s us all to do. Basically, the folks in the middle have their own agenda to follow, which has not been helped by the folks at the top being duplicitous bullies.

But that’s enough of that. I’ll be out of there, soon enough. The main thing is to keep calm and just keep going. I can’t let them get in my head (which is pretty difficult to do, at times), and I can’t let them distract me from what I need to do — hone my skills, figure out how to better describe what I do in my resume so that I can connect with the kinds of jobs I want to connect with. I’m doing double-duty, these days, both keeping the shop running at work and developing my job search. It keeps me busy, that’s for sure.

It also tires me out. No matter how excited I am about my prospects, I still get tired, and then my mood starts to fade. When that happens, I need to find some other source of energy to keep me going. Mental and physical fatigue are a problem. But emotional/spiritual fatigue are even worse.

So, I’ve been looking for ways to keep my spirits up. And I’ve been finding them. I’ve been finding books that interest me. And I’ve also found some music that I really enjoy. As it turns out, I have not been doing myself any favors, over the past couple of years, by listening to high energy tunes and alternative/hard rock. Although they really get me pumped up, in the end, they sap my energy… like a massive sugar rush that spikes me, and then causes me to crash. I’ve been listening to chillout/lounge music for the past week or so, and I am noticing a definite difference in my mood and energy level. I’m not nearly as pumped as I’m used to being. But I’ve got a lot more endurance. And while I’m fatigued, I’m not nearly as exhausted as I’ve been in the past. Plus, I have found a lot of my old interests coming back to me — like travel and places I once lived. I’ve been cruising around Google maps and images, looking at places I used to live, and it’s giving me a little spark to remember how things were before.

In some cases, I get a spark because things aren’t at all like they were before. Not everything in my past is something I care to remember and dwell on.

Funny, how things work out… In the end, I really believe that any important undertaking requires a great amount of effort and prolonged attention, and to keep going, you need to do things that feed you and your dreams and ambitions. Motivation is like any muscle – use it or lose it. And you need to have a steady source of energy and inspiration to keep going. Because the going gets hard and the going gets tough, and you need to be able to hang in there, when things get boring and depressing and defeating… as they often do.

So, I’ve found a spark with this new music I’m listening to. And I’ve found a spark with my plans for the future. I’ve found a spark, too, with helping others to do things that I know how to do really well. I helped a friend update their resume last night, and by the end of the evening, their perception of their abilities and their experience and their prospects had really changed. I just showed them a few things and rewrote the way they described themself, and they ended up a very different person on paper than they had been before. They were actually more true to who they were and what they’d done. It’s exciting, when that happens — and seeing people get their own renewed spark from the experience.

So, yeah, life can be a real slog sometimes. Doing the work that needs to be done to achieve real greatness, requires strength and endurance, as well as a high tolerance for boredom and frustration. We have to find ways to keep going. We have to find ways to feed our spirits. The good news is, those things are out there, always ready and waiting for us to get clued into them.

It just remains for us to look above our immediate struggles, to see what else is out there.

Website for Veterans with TBI/PTSD at Work

America’s Heroes at Work
Supporting the Employment Success of Returning – Service Members with TBI & PTSD

This website “a U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) project that focuses on the employment challenges of returning service members living with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and/or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).”

Bravo! Brava!

The site has good information that’s straightforward and to the point. I would like to see more detail, but I think they’re a fairly new site, and they’re still under construction.

If I ever am in need of support in telling my employer about my TBI(s) and/or coming up with solutions for dealing with my challenges, I’ll definitely point them to this website.

Things are looking up on the job front!

Things are really looking up! I’ve been away from this blog for a really long time… about eight months, in fact. And it’s been a really busy eight months.

When I last posted, I was in the process of looking for a job. Or had I just started a contract? I think I was on the cusp of re-entering the workforce, trying to get my ducks in a row, trying to make sure that my resume was in fact a work of fact (and not fiction ;), just working like crazy, trying to keep my head on straight and not freak out, realizing that my brain has changed and is not going to return to how it was anytime soon… if ever… and realizing that my brain actually had changed numerous times, over the course of my life, and a lot of the assumptions I fondly held about myself might have been “off” — if not flat-out wrong.

It was a lot to process, considering I also had to keep my head above water, find a job, pay the mortgage, and try to maintain some semblance of normalcy in my life. It was a lot! But then, when I really sat down and thought about it, I had been wrangling with these types of challenges almost my entire life… I just didn’t realize it, till the end of 2007. And once I realized it, and I took a long, hard look at how well I’ve actually done in life, well, that made things a little bit easier.

A little bit…

But some things still were pretty much of a challenge for me, and since I’m given the option between laughing and crying, I think I’ll see if I can keep my sense of humor as I recount what’s been going on for most of the past year.

In January (I’m pretty sure), I started a web developer contract position at a major multinational technology company that has its headquarters cleverly built into the side of a hillside with a commanding view of the rolling countryside below it, about 20 minutes from my home. It was actually a really great gig, as the money was pretty good, the hours were flexible, and it’s the kind of work I’ve been doing since 1996, so it’s almost second nature to me. Actually, it is second nature to me.

(Note to those who think that computer programming is “beyond” the ability of a TBI survivor: Computer programming/web development is perhaps the best employment I could possibly find because A) it’s very binary, as in, you either get it right or you get it wrong — either what you type in works, or it doesn’t, B) the only person who ever needs to know how badly you screw up, is the computer, and it will never call you idiot! imbecile! stupid! space case! (at least to your face ;), so you always have time to fix your errors before some human comes along and notices your screw-up, and C) this line of work tends to be heavily project managed, at least in corporate environments, so I always have someone looking over my shoulder who can help keep me on track).

But back to our regularly-scheduled programming…

Anyway, I had this great gig going on at a huge company in a huge building with a huge employee population, and I was working on projects that were being used in countries like Latin America and Europe, and I was making pretty good money. The only problem was, I wasn’t paying close enough attention to my stressors, and I wasn’t getting enough rest, and my “issues” started to kick in. I found myself becoming increasingly stressed over my work — there was some takeover bid being considered, and people were nervous about their jobs, and the environment was actually too big for me — the space itself was cavernous and I found it disorienting to walk down hallways that were not only BIG, but were also very sterile and, well, hard. I have certain sensory issues that make me really sensitive to sounds and light, and the actual sound of walking down those corridors… the echoing in my ears, was actually a stressor.

Plus, I was having communication issues… having trouble understanding what I needed from the work situation — what worked for me, what didn’t. I wasn’t able to articulate very well about the things that got to me, like not having a properly configured computer that was hooked into the main system the way it should be (I was essentially doing network work on a “standalone” computer, so I never knew if my work would come out right). And the guy I was working with was also not very communicative. I could never tell if I was doing an okay job or not, and I didn’t know how to ask in a way that didn’t sound stupid to me. I tend to be the kind of person who doesn’t like to call attention to themself, anyway, so I didn’t want to highlight the fact that I felt like I was falling behind in my work. I didn’t want to give anyone the wrong impression and seem like I didn’t have confidence in my own abilities. If I did that, I was afraid I’d set off the alarms and people would start to look for problems with my work, and then I’d lose what little control I had over my situation.

Well, long story short, I actually did lose control of the situation, and by the end of the 2-1/2 months I was there, I had successfully alienated my recruiter who’d placed me there — no, alienated is not the right word — more like, infuriated, pissed off and completely distanced (I can still smell the bridge burning behind me) — had pushed everyone in the group away from me, and I’d gone off to a permanent position that suffered a similar fate to the one I had just left.

Yes, I went from the frying pan into the fire, but this time, in March, I was driving twice as far and dealing with a company that was a fraction of the size of the one I’d just ejected out of.

I took a job doing more heavy-duty development work with a little start-up that made big promises and sounded like a great thing… like a cyber-tribe of sorts, with a close-knit group of people who liked to play as hard as they worked. And my decision to sign on with them was both ill-informed and ill-advised. I mean, I asked all the right questions… I even wrote them down ahead of time and checked them off on my list. But the answers I got did not “correlate with the truth” — in other words, they told me what they thought I wanted to hear, and I took the bait, hook, line and sinker.

That tale is a sad and tragic one — even more sad and tragic than my ill-fated stint at the MegaCompany. The long drive fatigued me, but the frenzied pace and the lack of structure is what really took its toll on me. Plus, it turned out that the technology they built was NOT as ready for prime-time as they said it was. It was, to my systematic and logic-seeking mind, a total friggin’ nightmare.

And I really screwed up with my exit from there, too. I wasn’t able to keep up with things that were happening around me, I ended up making stupid comments and drifting way off base in meetings, I wasn’t able to concentrate, I wasn’t able to deal. Plus, the building was situated in a place that was very remote — I couldn’t get away from the office without considerable effort, and I just got so turned around and freaked out… it was very sad. And I started having serious issues with memory and logic and being able to interact with other people. By the time I left there, I’d really alienated everyone in the place, and my excuse that I was leaving for health reasons (which was quite true, tho’ not the entire truth) barely got me out the door without being attacked by the CEO and the President, who both had a terrible reputation for tempers and verbal abuse. It’s not that I couldn’t have survived their vitriol, but what worries me is what I might have said in return. I have a real skill for going off on people and venting inappropriately.

It was bad enough that I had to bail on them after three months. I didn’t want a full-on TBI-exacerbated confrontation on my conscience, too.

So, I did the humiliating but necessary thing — I made excuses and snuck out the back door. ’nuff said about that adventure. For now, anyway… there are lots of juicy tidbits that are very educational in hindsight, so I’ll write about them later.

Anyway, somewhat demoralized and downtrodden, I started another job a little over three months ago with another multinational corporation, doing web development work. The team I’m working with is small and close-knit, and between the ADHD and other personality quirks and old sports head injuries, we all manage to reach agreements about how to deal with each other well. So far, so good. They know there’s something “different” about me, but they don’t hold it against me. And frankly, there’s plenty about them that’s different, too, so I’m in my element.

For now…

When I look back on my work history, I have to say it’s a little disconcerting to see how short a time I’ve spent at so many companies. The longest I’ve ever been in any one group, is 2-3 years. I include my 9-year stint at a multinational corporation in that, since I jumped around a bit, and I moved from group to group — I was in 5 different groups in the 9 years I was there, having made a deliberate decision to move on, myself. So, while my resume says “Such-and-such-A-Company” (1997-2005), the fact of the matter is, I had five different jobs there, in five different groups:

1. 1997-1999 — web developer

2. 1999-2000 — software engineer (yes, it’s different from being a web developer)

3. 2000-20002 — technology integrator

4. 2002-8/2005 — software engineer/architect

5. 8/2005-12/2005 — technical writer

And because all these were done at the same company, they don’t “count” as career shiftlessness. So, I can get away with it and camouflage my issues and still look great in the process. Which is great for my resume and career.

The only problem is that now I’m out on my own and I’m not doing this at the same company, so my resume is starting to look a little more sketchy. Which isn’t good for applying for financing, and it isn’t good for finding other jobs.

Fortunately, for the time being, I’m in a good place at a good company that’s in the healthcare industry, so there’s not bound to be any decline in business anytime soon.

And despite the fact that the last two attempts I made at finding and keeping gainful employment were sad chapters in the book of my life, the fact is, I didn’t get fired, I left on terms that were my own, and although I truly regret the fallout and consequences to the people I “bailed on”, the fact is, no animals were harmed in my experiment, and everyone is still standing. So, it’s not a
total loss, and I did learn a lot! (I simply must write about this later!)

Things are indeed looking up!

The job interview did not go well. Oh, well…

Well, I had my first face-to-face meeting with recruiters who are helping me look for work. They’re a permanent placement firm that specializes in high tech, and they are not the people I need to be working with. Looking back, I really missed a lot of clues about whether they would be a good fit for me, and I was feeling pretty down on myself yesterday, for “wasting” my time with them. They were not a good fit in so, so many ways. But the more I think about it, the more I realize it was very educational for me, especially with my new information about TBI impacts and after-effects.

The first clue actually came when I was first talking with the recruiter who contacted me — a guy who just wouldn’t take “no” for an answer, when he was trying to get me to come in and talk to them. He kept pushing for me to show up at a certain time, and I told him, “No, I can’t do that time.” I told him I was booked prior to that time, and I couldn’t make it. (I’m getting tense, just thinking about it.)

He just wouldn’t let it go, and I had to really snap at him, before he backed off and agreed to see me at the time I said I could meet him.

I’m kicking myself for not picking up on that clue, first thing. But I’m a kind-hearted sort, and I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. Plus, I wanted to get my resume out there, and it sounded like they were a firm that really makes a great effort to find good opportunities. I don’t like to write people off, right away, but as it turned out, I probably should have.

The next clue came when I had to reschedule our meeting, and the recruiter kept pushing me to come in sooner and sooner than I said I could. This guy just wasn’t hearing me, when I said, “No, that time won’t work for me.” He just wouldn’t budge. Thinking about it, now, a whole lot of frustration and anger comes up, but when I was in the moment, it didn’t occur to me that his behavior was inappropriate or pushy or out of line. It just was what it was.

We finally agreed on a time to meet — at least, I think we did. I wrote down 4:00 in my book — right in front of me. The guy kept pushing for 3:00… I don’t think I agreed to 3:00. But I may have… I should have confirmed by e-mail the time we agreed to meet, just so we’d both be on the same page. And I’d have actual written confirmation. Ideally, it would have been best if he’d e-mailed me with the time.

Because when I got there at the time I’d written down (4:00), the guy said, “You finally made it!” and he sounded a little miffed. I didn’t even pick up on it, at that moment. Just went right over my head. I innocently said, “Yes,” like there was nothing wrong. And then he disappeared, after telling me that he was handing me off to some of the other recruiters at the firm.

So, that was odd, and I was wondering why he seemed agitated with me. “Oh, well,” I shrugged, and had a seat. They had a small seating area in front, with a receptionist who wasn’t really that “with it” sitting there watching the clock. She kept asking me if I needed a drink of water or coffee, or whatever. I had just had a cup of coffee, so I declined.

I started to get a bit agitated, sitting there in the reception area. Not only was their clock a few minutes fast, but the receptionist had to print out copies of my resume — I’d been told to bring extras, which I did. But they told her to go ahead and print out additional copies.

I sat in reception, waiting for someone to come see me, as the clock ticked away… watching through the open door into their “bullpen” of recruiters. It looked like a scene from the movie “Wall Street” with everyone sitting at tables, facing each other, phones wedged between chin and shoulder, talking loud and high-fiving each other and passing notes back and forth. That should have been the third clue that told me to get out of there. The whole “bullpen” was chaos, loud, frantic, hustling… I was starting to get nervous, just watching through the door. I could hardly believe that they left the door open to reception, so everyone could see and hear what was going on in there. Not the most discrete — or professional — of presentations. I sat and watched, intending to just observe… and learn what I could. It’s been a while, since I was in the job market, so I thought it couldn’t hurt to do some observing.

Still, what I saw didn’t make me terribly pleased.

Next clue: The first recruiter who came out to talk to me strode purposefully across the room and stuck out her hand. Not a firm handshake. She was pretty speedy and clearly had a pretty high opinion of herself. She whisked me back into the bullpen, pointing out the different groups — .Net, COM, Java — who were working there. I was absolutely overwhelmed with the energy in the place — very speedy, chaotic, frantic, hustling. But I still thought I’d give it a chance…

I was expecting to go to an office to talk, but she sat me down with her at her part of the table, in the midst of the action. I could hardly believe she was just plopping me down at her desk — no privacy, no ability to talk — it was a very intrusive environment, and I began to get really nervous. She commenced to ask me about my past, my jobs, my activities, etc. She asked me a lot of questions about the technologies I used, the percentage of new development vs. maintenance, what applications and operating systems I used, etc. Very high-level, and when I talked about what I’d done, she had this blank, glassy look on her face. Not very confidence-inspiring. But I still thought I’d give her a chance, and not jump to conclusions…

All in all, it was a very weird situation. It felt like she thought I had something to hide, as though there were something wrong with me for taking time off from work for a while… It was kind of strange, she kept asking me about my reasons for leaving, etc., etc. I supposed it’s all standard procedure, but I was getting increasingly nervous, sitting in that room with all those people on phones — distracting and disorienting… she probably interpreted that as me trying to hide something… or being unsure of my history and my abilities.

She asked about my past and got the names of my past managers… and she said she was going to check in with them… check my past/history… as though there were something more she needed to know. She seemed genuinely perplexed that I would make a break from my huge-ass multinational one-time employer and go off to do something else. Well, I suppose if you’re just a few years out of college, and you haven’t been behind the grindstone for the past 20 years, you wouldn’t understand.

Anyway, she passed me off to a couple more recruiters she works with — they all work as a team, apparently, but it was extremely disorienting to be handed off from one person to another, to another… Having to start from scratch each time, was working on my last nerve, and I really wanted to just get out of there. That was yet another clue that this firm is not a good fit for me — one person after another… chaotic frenzy… and other folks commenting, “You finally made it!”

And me standing there, grinning like an idiot, wondering why they kept mentioning that…

I did get to talk to one gal who was very nice and seemed a whole lot more intelligent than the rest of the lot. She had a position that sounded like it might be a good fit for me. But again, it’s a permanent spot, and it’s a ways from home, which is going to put a whole lot of pressure on me, physically, to commute back and forth. I haven’t done a big commute since my ’04 TBI, and I’m not sure I could make it. Having the fatigue issues that I have, I don’t think driving 20 miles each way in rush hour traffic is going to do it for me. Plus, I’ve heard stories about this company from someone who was treacherously ejected from the company, and knowing what I know, I think it would eventually be too great a stressor to live with on a daily basis.

Plus, I suspect they’d want me there all day, every day. Which I really don’t want to do. I need my rest. I need a part-time contract job, really. Something pretty basic and straightforward.

The final clue that this would not work out, was when the recruiter I was talking to pushed and pushed and pushed for me to interview at this company ASAP — time was of the essence!!! Oh, honestly. She pushed and urged and haggled for me to go talk to people tomorrow, of all days. Nope, sorry — I’ve got things I need to do. She was really pushing for Monday, but that wasn’t working, either. So, I agreed to Tuesday — against my better judgment really. I wanted to do it, actually, but in hindsight, I realize that I shouldn’t have committed to that.

Well, anyway, the end result was that I felt pushed and hurried and rushed, and nobody really understood what I do for a living, or why I would step away from a wonderful company like my huge-ass multinational one-time employer. I felt judged and second-guessed and completely underserved. Of course, it could be me and my mind playing tricks on me (again), but the experience was not a good one.

It just brought up all my TBI issues, all my problems and it made me feel like even more of a reject than I did, when I went in.

So, ultimately, it was a beneficial experience, albeit a very uncomfortable and undermining one.

What I learned was:

  1. If someone is not listening to me and keeps pushing me, despite me being very clear about my boundaries and limits, I cannot work with them.
  2. Have firm confirmation of details in an email, not just personal notes jotted down. I can get distracted when I’m writing things down, and I may write down the wrong thing.
  3. Make sure I get there early, because being on time may be too late, if they’ve set their clocks ahead.
  4. If someone makes a comment, always counter with an observation or a question. Had I simply said, “We agreed on 4:00 right?” that would have cleared things up. But I didn’t make any mention of the time and the comment, so there we have it.
  5. I cannot attend an interview in the midst of a bullpen. I need to speak with someone in private, with a door that closes, so I can concentrate only on them and hear them very clearly.
  6. I cannot work with a large group of people who may or may not be able to find me jobs. I can’t just field calls from whomever.
  7. I cannot be rushed and pushed into someone else’s schedule. I just can’t work with someone who doesn’t respect my limits and boundaries… and who’s going to hustle me into a position that suits them (and their earning potential), not me.
  8. If something doesn’t feel right, from the get-go, I need to stop the action and check in with someone who can give me objective feedback about what’s going on. I can’t be afraid to ask for help. I just need to find someone who is impartial and who can offer me some rational input about what can be a very irrational process for me.

So, all in all, it was a beneficial experience. I can’t work with those people, and I need to tell them to remove me from their database. But it was good to find out how… and why… I get hung up on job interviews.

It could be that I need to seek out some rehabilitation or vocational counseling. If I continue to have issues, I’ll need to do that. But for now, I’m pretty focused on just finding a job, so I can make ends meet and introduce more structure into my daily life. And make money using the skills I already have.

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