Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Brother, can you spare a job?

     The hardest job I ever had, was looking for one.  If you've ever gone through a period of unemployment, then I think you'll get a sense of what I am saying.  At a regular job, you have set hours, and expectations, and goals and a workplace, but when you are job seeking, you have none of this.  When does your day start?  end ? Where are you supposed to be, and is your goal to find any job or the right job?  This blog is about the 2 times that I was unemployed in my life and on the support offered to me by my family during those times.....

     My Dad worked 2 jobs, most of his life, and sometimes 3 to support our family.  I've always been able to get by with one, with the few exceptions when I did some freelancing on weekends, catering or managing a restaurant.  There were two big differences between Dad's family and mine in this scenario, the first was that
Dad had 12 kids and I have 3, and the second was, Mom worked as a homemaker, and my wife has always held a job and additionally done most the duties of the homemaker.  We have been blessed with incomes commensurate (or more) with our educations and as a family we really haven't wanted for much. I'll repeat, we've been blessed with good opportunities, but that's not to say there haven't been transitions in our employment, more mine than Char's.  

     About 14 years ago I was working as a Distributor Sales Rep for a local food company.  It was the 4th such company I had worked for in the same position over a 16 year period and I enjoyed the work immensely.  After your relationships were established, it was like driving around to visit your restaurant friends each week, oh, and you sold stuff to them.  I worked on commission only and some expenses were borne by the company and some were mine.  I never had a problem taking my cut, as I made it a point to always bring value to my business partners, sampling products frequently, giving advice and consultations and sharing what I had learned both formally and during my time on the streets.  As I said, I really loved the work, and could have retired in that job, but it wasn't meant to be. During my 3rd year
Job search triangle
working for the last distributor, the owner, a man I like and admire, got some bad advice and instituted Draconian cuts to the commission plan of the sales team.  The new proposed plan would have cut my pay by more than half, and while I first tried to change the plan working from the inside, I eventually quit that job in search of a better one.  My former boss had alerted me to the fact that the DSR job was one with a declining pay scale, he had just got his numbers wrong.  During that time it had slipped from paying an average of 3% on sales, to 2.8% on sales, but the fact was, if I were to stay in that job, I could expect to make less, so I decided to shift careers.  Helluva a catch, aren't I?  Not only did I quit my job without having another one lined up, I also decided to disqualify the jobs that I am most experienced at.

     The normal progression out of the DSR job is to move on to become a food broker. These folks, God Bless them, represent 30 or so manufacturers and sell to restaurants like I had done, but only the specific lines that they represent.  I worked part time for a friend of mine in this business, and quickly discovered that I did
Typical Food Trade Show
not have the temperament to survive in this job.  I like to work independently and unencumbered by management, but in that job everyone you deal with, operators, manufacturers, distributors, and your boss all think they have a right to manage your time.  Recognizing that this was a bad fit for me, I eliminated the next series of jobs that I was most qualified for, and set my sites on securing a job as a manufacturer's rep.  Mind you, I had no experience at this job, and I was skipping a step entirely by not doing my time as a broker first. Each time, however, that I came in the door, or downstairs to tell my wife of the new evolution of my job search, she smiled and wished me luck.  Here she was, working more than full time, and she supported me in what seemed, at the very least, a dubious plans to change careers at that time.  Amazing !  She would pass by my
Bill,  job searching
office, and I'd be dressed casually, on the phone, feet propped up on the desk, yucking it up with some of my old cronies, and never once did she shake her head, or question my job search method.  She had faith that my work ethic,and skills would bring opportunity to our family again, and she turned out to be right when within a few months, I got an offer from Mrs. Smith's Bakeries to become their Northeast Regional Sales Manager.

      It was 4 years later that I was exited from that job, a new management team came in and I didn't fit the picture of what they
wanted, so I found myself unemployed again, but for the first time, not of my own doing.  I took a burn to it at the time, but truly wouldn't have found the great job I have now if that door hadn't been opened, so my ego got over it pretty quickly.  The bigger paycheck helped a lot. My job search methods hadn't changed much for that search either, feet on desk, call a few cronies, check the job sites, sign up with a recruiter, etc. I had jaw surgery 2 weeks after the job loss, so this period of unemployment lasted almost 4 months, but once again, my wife and family jumped in to support my search to find the right fit.  The kids were really cute, offering to give up their savings or extra curricular activities that cost us more. My wife increased her work hours, once again, to provide more income during my down time.  After we were celebrating the new job, I posed the question to her about seeing me watch TV or have friends over, while she worked harder, and whether that was difficult for her. Her reply was "Sometimes, but you have never failed to provide for this family, so I had faith in you, if not your methods, that you would better your position again."  She is a remarkable woman (I've said it before, marrying well is half the battle).

     So, starting this morning, I am getting an opportunity, for the first time, to support my wife during a job search period.  For 17 years, she has worked at home as an independent medical transcriptionist.  She dutifully got up each morning at 4:30 am and got paid for only the work she did, by the character she typed, oh, and made a heck of a living doing it. This job allowed her both a nice income, and the flexibility in her schedule, so she could raise our children and be available for the important events in their lives.  I firmly believe that this time spent was directly proportional to the caliber of the kids that we raised.  Prior to that job, she worked in a medical office and a health insurance company and her degree is in accounting.  I would ask for your assistance in helping us to determine the next path for Char. My last 2 jobs came from networking, not job postings, and I suspect it will be the same for Char.  Let us know if you hear of any interesting opportunities, and spread the word about an intelligent, motivated, individual with an unparalleled work ethic being available.  Pray for us, that we are able to recognize the right opportunity when it comes, and that we have the patience to wait for it until it does come.  I've passed along the advice, to her, that I've received about trying to enjoy the time off as it is normally pretty fleeting, but I know how hard this is when you are so wrapped up in finding work, so reach out to Char, feel free to pop in and just give her a break from the worry of job searching.  Lastly, pray for me, that I can be as supporting of a spouse that she has always been to me, especially during the times of my unemployment.  She deserves nothing less.




Leverage said...

For the last few years many people have been in the situation that you have blogged about. It's always great to be able to find resources that help you find a job or provide information on how they can help you. I've read information about manufacturer reps and the benefits of becoming one. There are many sites out there that help you in your manufacturer rep job search .

katmin@ptd.net said...

I know char will find something. You both are great and loved the blog..