I know it’s a cliche but….

16 02 2009

So I got to go to see the start of the first stage of the Amgen Tour of California yesterday while visiting family here in Davis. I am not going to rehash all the stories, but it marks the return of Lance Armstrong to his racing career among other things. And while I was sitting on the patio at Steve’s Place (anyone from Davis will know what I am talking about) watching the peloton zip by a couple of times, I realized a couple of important things.

First, my personal challenges are pretty minor comparatively speaking. While I need a new job, that just makes me pretty ordinary, if all the recent (bad) news stories are to be believed. I am one of thousands (millions?) who is affected by the economy or lack there of, and needs to figure out what to do next. People with stories like Lance Armstrong are extraordinary. Someone who comes back from cancer and wins the Tour de France 7 times, or even the ordinary rider who just ekes his way onto the team for the opportunity to ride for little or no pay because he loves what he does. These are great examples of how to live life.

My day was extraordinary because I got to spend it with my family, and they are supportive of me no matter what I do. In fact, my brother got me very excited by agreeing with me that going back to school full time for the next couple of years might be the best option for me. But I am truly starting to realize that I was too caught up in my work and letting my employer define who I was, and not what I could do. I want to be a great family member first, and just have a job that allows me the freedom to do just that.

I was caught up in the myth that my employer’s so called social responsibility made me a better person just because I worked there. Instead, I found out that they were no different than anyone else, and in the end I lost my job because they needed to maximize their profits. So I am no longer looking for any potential employer to provide me with anything other than a paycheck. As an employee, I will represent them honorably on the clock, but am no longer concerned with anything else they do once they satisfy their obligations to me.

I spent over twelve years at Starbucks, and all I got was a lousy grinder. While it may make me jaded, there is no way I am going to invest that much of myself into another company again. The world is a changing, and I need to be okay with that, and just get through to survive to fight another day.

But with the support of family, I am starting to realize that there is something bigger out there for me, I just need to work hard and find out what it is. But whatever ‘it’ is, might not be apparent for a while. That’s okay, I’m patient, they say it’s a virtue.


What is really important

14 02 2009

Could the answer be anything other than family? Maybe for others, but not for me. My recent calamity aside, my visit over a long weekend with my family has been very helpful. It is extremely gratifying to walk in the door and have a five year old (my niece) literally scream with delight as she sees me. It is also nice to have unconditional love from my parents and siblings. My sister in law actually had to pull me aside and tell me that she thought I looked great.

I am grateful for the fact that I have lost 85 pounds over the last 9 months. The fact that I am much healthier is going to help me in two big ways on my job search journey:  grocery expenses are cheaper because I make all my own meals, and looks matter. I would have insisted that they don’t a year ago, but that would have been me lying to myself. All other things being equal, the healthier looking person is going to get chosen. It was true on the dodgeball court in elementary school, and it is true on the corporate playground today.

My final thought is that it is important to be social when you are out of work. Locking myself away from others for a few days didn’t help me at all. Over the past couple of days I have been on the phone with friends and family. And while the conversations always include the obligatory ‘how are you doing’ question, they also all seem to have a useful suggestion. Socializing or networking doesn’t have to be about trying to make a connection that leads to a new job. But it can provide useful information and ideas that you haven’t considered. That has been my biggest takeaway from ending my self imposed exile.

In the end, everyone here loves me for me, not for what I do at work or who I work for. I saw a headline on a news service quoting the Anglican Bishop of London. I am paraphrasing, but he said that losing your job in this crisis could be a good thing, because it is a reminder that what you earn and what you have are not the important things in life. Greed is still a deadly sin, and maybe many of us in the world (myself included) have forgotten that. It is how you live, not what you have that makes the man. And family is a great reminder about why we need to put ourselves back on track to live better.

The journey begins

11 02 2009

It began as a weird surrealistic experience. A meeting request one week ago today via email on Outlook for the next morning signed with an emoticon smiley face. I will give her the benefit of doubt that that was done as a force of habit and was not meant to be inappropriate. But still an as yet unbelievable chain of events was set into motion that led to my appointment to my own layoff from my employer of 12 1/2 years.

Starbucks Coffee had been very good to me. They are hailed as one of the great American employers for their generous pay and benefits packages for a reason. I was able to enjoy my free coffee and reasonable vacations while contributing to a company that defined the culture of the consumer society of the last 10 years. But this is not the same company I joined in 1996. The culture of the great American coffee house was lost in the continuous demand for sales and location growth by the stakeholders, including employees like me. As ‘partners’ we were all supposed to share in the success of the company, and be rewarded for our longevity with stock options and other niceties.

Apparently it was all a shell game. You see there is no such thing as perpetual motion or never ending growth, so it peaked, and the house of cards started to collapse. But the biggest problem I have is that I was doing my job, and making a difference, but because of mistakes of others much higher up the ladder (who were rewarded handsomely at the time) of unrelenting growth, I am now paying the price for their hubris.

So now my story is very similar to thousands (maybe even hundreds of thousands) of others over the past few months who are victims of circumstance. I am not writing this to bash my former employer, at least they have the decency to give me a generous severance package. In fact, I was a customer at Starbucks before I started working there, and I will be a customer after. Just maybe not for a few days right now.

My severance and a little bit of savings is going to give me the opportunity and a little bit of flexibility to figure out what to do next. I am going to lean on my family and friends, and I have decided on a creative outlet to record my journey.

Working to work was a title I picked because finding a job in 2009 is going to be the hardest job I’ve probably ever had. ‘Life of leisure’ is just me being facetious. I take the state of the economy very seriously. However, we still have it very good here in our times of trouble. The fact that I can sign up for a blog page, and write this on a computer says that pretty well. But in reality I won’t truly be lounging around for a long time.

Just wanted to put out a ‘why’ post to get started. The who, what, and where will be coming soon as well. The ‘how’ is the part I’m not so sure about……