Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Eighty-five

Day 285 - Basics
It was “back to basics” for me today in terms of my networking.  I didn’t have a whole bunch of things to do; just the Job Finders Support Group meeting at noon.  It was good to be able to focus on just one thing.  I feel as if I’ve been running myself ragged lately - and spending way too much money - on individual coffee meetings and various other events, so it was nice to sort of slow down and go back to the group that pretty much started me down the networking path.
I joke that I need a job so I can rest.  Well, I rested a bit today, and still accomplished something.  I’m grateful for Cleon Cox and his gentle mentoring, and for the support group he facilitates.  

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Eighty-four

Day 284 - Assignments
My friend (and fellow job-seeker) Manuel met recently with a mutual acquaintance who challenged him to research one new company every day.  He took on the challenge with enthusiasm for what he’ll get out of it.  He felt it was doable.  It got me to thinking about what I could do as an assignment.
A few days later, I met with my friend and colleague Dick Warn who, after complimenting me as "talented" and then qualifying it by saying I seem "lost," challenged me to do some work for (and on) myself; he gave me an assignment of reading the book “Leadership and Self-Deception” and writing out two lists - my top three goals in life and the five biggest things holding me back.  I admit I don’t want to do either list; I don’t want to be that vulnerable.  But I know it will help me, so I’ll do them.
I guess I’m grateful for both the assignment - because I know it will help me grow - and for Dick.  I really respect Dick and value his perspective, and I’m very happy to have his advice and his trust.  I’m trying to convince myself (so far) that I’m grateful for the assignment.  We’ll see....

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Eighty-three

Day 283 - Giving It Away
I met a fellow networker today over coffee who, as it turns out, is looking to start an organization (presumably to make money, though its vision seems to be somewhat altruistic), and he asked me a lot of questions that I think will help him set things up from a strategic HR perspective.  My impression was that it very quickly turned into a meeting that I should have been paid for - I was giving him professional counseling, which as a consultant should be quite lucrative.
Instead, I gave it away.  I figure why not?  If I can make a name for myself by giving sound advice to a start-up, who knows what may come down the pike.  I figure I’ll do it because it makes me feel good, not because I’m making a fast buck.  
I’m going to call this an investment in my future.  I’m doing the right thing for the right reason; maybe someday the universe will send it back.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Eighty-two

Day 282 - River Rock and Single Malt Scotch
I picked up a bowl I made at Aquila Glass School that I really like: it’s a square bowl I’ve named “Pool” because the center has the “river rock” effect I made for Ignacio’s shelf tops.  This piece is for me - I love how it turned out - and I expect I’ll use it for years to come.
I then spent a couple hours with a new friend, Bill Findlay, who introduced me to a new brand of single malt Scotch - McLellands - that I could easily drink regularly.  I’ve never been much of a Scotch drinker, but this could do the trick.
Bill is a good conversationalist and a genuinely interesting man.  He wouldn’t talk much about his career, though he was clearly successful, but instead kept turning the conversation back to how he might help me in mine.  He is hoping he may be able to make some connections for me.  I’m flattered and honored that he would want to help someone he has really only met.  It was a most pleasant evening.
Would that life could always be this positive.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Eighty-one

Day 281 - Succession Planning
Ignacio had to leave for Canada this afternoon, and we had a nice time together leading up to it.  We had lunch at Wilf's, there at Union Station.  I thought it was a little pricey, but the food was decent.  Obviously, I enjoyed the company.  Now it is time to plan my next trip to Victoria - I had hoped to join him in Vancouver over the coming weekend to attend a concert up there, but I just can’t swing it financially (however tempting it is).  Instead, I’ll have to raise a bit of cash (through a job or a client or two).  No matter when it might happen, I’ll be thinking about it until it materializes.  I have already made plans to go to California at the end of April, so hopefully I will be able to earn a sum and maybe visit him before that.
After his train left the station, I met with a couple new friends I met via the Breakfast Club whom I’ve asked to step in as co-moderators.  I know there will be times when I cannot be there to facilitate the meetings (e.g. during my time in California), and both Fred and Manuel have shown skills that I think will be very helpful to the group.  They both agreed to back me up, and we met today over beers to discuss.  We’re going to make it a weekly thing, too, and I’m looking forward to it.
In all, I think today was mostly positive, even when it included Ignacio’s departure.  I’d say I’m in a good place.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Eighty

Day 280 - Feeling Good
Another great day!  We have been staying with Paul and Jim, and Paul has been kind enough to have the coffee made and waiting for us when we got up.  We didn’t see Paul or Jim this morning - Jim was just in from work (graveyard shift) and sleeping, and Paul had rehearsals for this afternoon’s Bach Cantata Choir concert.  Ignacio and I had a leisurely - and quiet - morning.
The afternoon was highlighted by the concert, which lived up to expectations.  One of the numbers performed was “Ich habe genug” which Paul and I performed years ago in one of our joint recitals during our university days.  The bass who sang it today was fantastic, and the whole performance was lovely.  I’m very glad Ignacio and I could be there.
As the day came to a close, I remarked on how good I felt.  Ignacio had even let slip that his feelings about our relationship were deepening - something I could have missed if I hadn’t been paying attention.  That made me feel very good, indeed.
This has been a great visit.  It’s a shame it will end tomorrow.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Seventy-nine

Day 279 - Wicked
Today was spent enjoying Ignacio’s company.  We didn’t have a lot planned for the day, and had a good time.  The one idea we had discussed that didn’t happen was a walk through the Japanese Garden - a mutual interest - but since it continued to rain, we opted to skip it this time.  We were able to run some errands he wanted to make (avoiding sales tax - yay!), and had a great day together.

Another reason I enjoy Ignacio’s company is our shared taste in cultural events.  We went to the symphony together on one of my visits to Victoria; tonight we went to see “Wicked” at the Keller Auditorium.  It was a particularly good production - the cast was uniformly strong, and the atmosphere was electric.  It’s the first weekend the touring company is performing here, so the local audience seemed excited.  I know I was.
Before the show, we met up with my friends Linda and Judith, and had a wonderful conversation with them.  I really like these two women, and I wanted them to meet Ignacio.  That, too, was a great time.
Today was a really good day.  

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Seventy-eight

Day 278 - Arrivals
Ignacio arrived by train today.  The rain was merciful, easing up shortly before his train pulled into the station; it didn’t start up again in earnest until after we got in the car.  About two months have passed since we’ve been together in person, and it felt like much longer.  I’m delighted he was able to make the trip.
We went to dinner with Paul to a great place - Screen Door - that has the best beef brisket and fried chicken I’ve ever had in a restaurant.  (Paul and Ignacio had the chicken; I chose the beef.)  It was a fantastic meal with two of my favorite people.  
I’m so glad he’s here.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Seventy-seven

Day 277 - Vicarious Creativity
I had the chance to work with one of my glass teachers, Leah, on the first steps of making a mobile.  Leah is known for her mobiles of various sizes, shapes, and colors, and she recently created a stunning red mobile that I immediately wanted.  The best part was that she was willing - perhaps eager - to teach me how to make one of my own.
As a first effort, I didn’t even try to do a different design - hers is so beautiful that I wouldn’t tamper with perfection.  Maybe I’ll get my own creativity going on a future project, but for now, I’ll be very happy with hers.  She gave me a list of the materials I need to pick up, and today we cut the circles and prepared them for the kiln.  I am looking forward to this project.
Thanks again, Leah!

Friday, March 23, 2012

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Seventy-six

Day 276 - Positive Energy
I had a couple of networking meetings - lunch with a dear friend and HR colleague, and a conversation over coffee with another job seeker.  My colleague is about to leave on the contract job of a lifetime - an extended period in Suriname, speaking her native Dutch, as well as travel to Europe.  (Poor thing.)  My job seeking friend is having challenges with her pre-teen daughter, similar to some of the issues my youngest faced, and I was able to help her see past the challenges of today and not be quite so hard on herself.  
And I was receiving positive energy from both of them - support and encouragement in my efforts. 
It was a lovely back and forth, a reciprocation that not only felt good, but may have done some good, too.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Seventy-five

Day 275 - New Possible Opportunities
Today was an eventful day.  Well... sort of.  I had two really good phone interviews.  These were initial “screening” interviews; if the interviewer felt I had done well enough, my resume would then be forwarded for a “real” interview with the hiring manager.  In both cases, I was told I would be advanced in the process, and both jobs look really exciting.  I was pleased.  
The day ended with my friend Josef’s 50th birthday party, which was at a splendid restaurant - Abby’s Table, a vegan place with the most delicious butternut squash gnocchi I’ve ever had (Abby even gave me the recipe!).  I met a couple of very nice men there: Ted, who is looking for work, and Bill, who wants to help me find work.  Who knew I’d be networking at a birthday party?!  I'll meet with both of them in the coming week or two.
In all, it was a pleasant day, and the new opportunities represented in these three “events” made it “eventful.”  

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Seventy-four

Day 274 - Fiction
Today was a fairly normal day.  I went to a networking meeting (a group), then another (an individual).  I’m glad these opportunities exist - I’d go stir crazy if I had nothing to do.
But then I came home.  Other than being on my computer (not so much on Facebook anymore, though I visit it), I have been enjoying reading the Wicked series by Gregory Maguire.  He enjoys using archaic language (sometimes a bit too much for my taste), but it is otherwise a brilliant alternative view of the Oz narrative.
I have been particularly grateful for fiction lately; it allows me to leave today’s existence, with its pressures and worries, and watch someone else’s story evolve.  I read the first two books just over a year ago, when I was staying with Erik in Long Beach; Ignacio gave me the third and fourth (final) book when number four was released.  I read the third installment, and decided I had better read the first two again so that when I pick up the final book, I won’t miss quite so many of the references.
It has been a fun journey to reconnect to these characters, and the anticipation of the final book - that apparently ties up a lot of loose ends - is fun to experience.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Seventy-three

Day 273 - Something to Look Forward To
I have a couple interviews coming up - two jobs I think I could really enjoy, that would use my interests and talents, and through which advancement might be possible.  They both are exciting for different reasons, and while I’ve been through this so many times before, I can’t help but look forward to the interviews and fantasize about landing one of them (or both of them).
They give me something to look forward to.  My view has been so bleak for so long that it’s nice to have a goal - an ideal - to strive for.  And as I’ve prepared for these conversations, I’m reminded that there are certain things within my control, and that I still have choices.  These choices may end up having nothing to do with either of these jobs, and that’s OK, too.
It’s nice to have something to anticipate.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Seventy-two

Day 272 - Text Messages
I received an invitation just a couple of days ago - via text message - to a pot luck dinner, and I decided on the spot to say “yes.”  I have been avoiding group gatherings lately - they have left me depressed and lonely - but this one came from a friend I haven’t seen in too long.  In fact, I had just been thinking I ought to contact him and suggest getting together over coffee when his text message came in.  I figured this was the universe confirming my thought, so I accepted the invitation.
The party was this evening, and I had a great time.  Only seven people were present, including the host.  There were four others whom I have known for some time.  We had a great time - pleasant conversations, easy laughs - and I hope we can do that again.
I felt a little closer to “normal.”

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Seventy-one

Day 271 - Kind Words
Have you ever been in a place where, as you were feeling better than before, your energy was still flagging, and your attitude less inspired than you felt it could be?  And then someone said something kind and it lifted your spirits?  That is what happened to me today.
I had a chance to conduct a mock phone interview today with a friend and colleague who is interviewing for a great job.  When all was said and done, she paid me some compliments that reminded me of why I enjoy my chosen line of work.
Then I went to a job finders’ support group and had another compliment paid.  How lucky I am to be in a place where these small gestures have such a large - and positive - effect.  Two months ago, I doubt they would have been as effective.  Today, I’m immensely grateful that nothing is permanent, including the “bad” times.

Monday, March 12, 2012

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Seventy

Day 270 - Cancellation
My one appointment of the day was cancelled, and frankly I wasn’t unhappy about it.  I am getting rather burned out from the networking, and although I’m sure when I do meet her, I’ll be very glad I did, my heart wasn’t in it today.  Instead, I went to Aquila Glass School and worked at the torch, as well as doing some work for the school.  
Torchwork is like therapy for me - at least when the items turn out well.  I made a number of pieces, and we’ll see if they make it through the annealing process.
I got to take a breath today.  Yay!

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Sixty-nine

Day 269 - Familiar Faces
It has been awhile since I was able to attend the Next Level mixer.  Last time, my car broke down and it took all evening to get it to the mechanic’s and then home.  Fortunately, I made it this time.  I met a really nice realtor there - one of at least three in attendance, though the only one I hadn’t met before.  Handsome, articulate... I’m sure he does well.  I just wish I were in the market.
I also saw a number of familiar faces I hadn’t seen in a long time.  It was nice to catch up with them, and it seemed as if we simply picked up where we left off months ago.  
I have been networking so much over the past three years, going to groups where I don’t know anyone, and it was nice to be at a mixer where I knew just about everyone.  It is so much easier, and pleasant.  I’ll be glad when I have a job so the networking is just to say “hello” and the stakes aren’t so high.
Thanks to all the familiar faces who came tonight, for making me feel more relaxed.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Sixty-eight

Day 268 - Loving What I Do
Wow, what a day.  

It started with an informational interview with one of the directors at SE Works.  I talked to her about a project I want to work on to either create an organization similar to WorkPlace in Connecticut (as featured on 60 Minutes a couple Sundays ago), or perhaps to work with a program that already exists in an effort to help long-term unemployed executives and managers - an almost invisible group within the uncounted.  As I discussed the ideas, I really felt as if this could go somewhere, and she promised to try to put me in touch with a few people within the state WorkService organization.
Then I had two meetings almost back-to-back with coaching clients.  Both went very well, and I was able to earn a little pocket change.  
All three conversations remind me of the joy that comes with helping people in this atrocious economy.  I love what I do.  I want to keep doing it.  I have to keep doing it.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Sixty-seven

Day 267 - Repeat Performances
I had the opportunity to return to SE Works to present at the Job Club.  Today’s topic was “Interviewing Skills: The Arrival Experience” and we talked about how to make a good first impression for and in an interview.  
I really enjoy doing this kind of work (and wish I were getting paid for it).  The participants give me positive feedback, and I feel as if what I’m doing has value beyond just having something to do on a Monday morning.  I look for ways to make a difference, and it is in situations like these when I feel as if what I do is important.  It is why I love being a trainer.
To be asked back is among the most sincere forms of praise, as far as I’m concerned.  I am again honored to be working with these participants.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Sixty-six

Day 266 - Coastal Drives
Mom and I took an unplanned trip out to the coast today, and it was a delightful drive.  The weather was cooperative - not always sunny, but enough to be bright and cheerful - and there weren’t the crowds one might see on a summer weekend.  It was a wonderful break from life in Tigard.
We took a familiar route - first to Cannon Beach and Haystack Rock - one of my favorite Oregon beaches (although one could wish for warmer temperatures to make lingering more worthwhile).  Then lunch at Mo’s in Tolovana.  Mom had the clam chowder, and I the slumgullion (clam chowder with a scoop of bay shrimp).  I don’t think I’ve ever had anything other than the chowder at Mo’s - it’s among the best anywhere, and I can’t pass it up.
We finished up at the Tillamook Cheese Factory for their delicious ice cream - mom had a cone and I had a dish of some of the best American ice cream you’ll ever taste.  I wish I could eat more of it without the results showing up on my belly (ah, the lost benefits of youth).  I love this stuff. 
The drive back was uneventful and quick.  In all, it was a nice day trip.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Sixty-five

Day 265 - Something to Prepare For
I have another presentation to give at SE Works on Monday, and I set aside the time today to work on putting the program together.  I am pulling it from my Interviewing Skills Workshop material, so it is really just a matter of choosing the appropriate slides and writing my notes about the specifics to present.  It wasn’t difficult (and I ended up doing a few other things while pushing this effort back a few hours); I had everything except the handouts done by evening.
The good part of this preparation is the opportunity to use it - it’s nice to be wanted - the sense of purpose feels good.  Someone values what I can offer, and I am continually reminded of what I enjoy most in my professional life.  I feel really good about working.  

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Sixty-four

Day 264 - Happy Hour
I went to happy hour with Matt - a man I met through networking - for our second meeting.  I was glad to meet over a drink instead of coffee this time.  I love coffee, but sometimes I get tired of it.  It’s nice to go to a familiar pub and chat over a glass of beer or wine instead.
We decided on Starky’s, and it was packed.  I had to stand for about 10 minutes before a table opened up.  Fortunately I was earlier than I had planned, and I had nabbed a table before Matt arrived.  
I like going out for Happy Hour - everything is discounted, and Starky’s offers relatively large glasses of wine (which may not be cheap, but it's a better value than most other establishments).  And although the service sometimes leaves something to be desired, their house Cabernet is good enough, and one glass is plenty.
The conversation was good, and the evening pleasant.  I do like happy hour.  

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Sixty-three

Day 263 - Re-entry
I had a wonderful opportunity to speak at the SE Works office again today, only this time it was for their Re-entry Program - helping those with criminal backgrounds looking for work.  It was one of the most gratifying experiences I’ve had speaking to job seekers about interviewing tips.  Here was a group of humble people looking to support themselves with any employer willing to give them a chance, and interested in sharpening their interviewing skills.  The participants put a human face on a problem most of us don’t want to think about, and I was honored to be there.  

This was an opportunity for me to help people who want help.  I enjoyed it immensely, and look forward to doing it again.

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Sixty-two

Day 262 - Leap Year
This day only comes once every four years.  That means I won’t have to relive it for a long time.  Not that anything bad happened.  Well... not exactly, anyway.
I had the “big interview” I have been anticipating for days.  It was for a job I thought I really wanted, in spite of the excruciatingly low pay - the work would bring a great deal of personal satisfaction, knowing that I was helping people in a real, measurable way.  People that needed help, too.  I was excited.
I arrived on time and had to wait nearly an hour for the woman I was to meet with to be available.  Once in her office, though, things warmed up beautifully.  We were laughing, talking about everything - it felt really good.  When it came to asking for the job - hopefully in an office that could offer me the chance to shine and really help the organization - she deferred the question to the man who would be my supervisor, and with whom I was scheduled to speak with directly afterward.  Still, I felt as if I had gotten at least a base hit, if not a home run during our interview.

Then I met with the supervisor.  Within the space of a few minutes, this man, with whom I had spoken several times before, finally showed his true colors.  To make the long story short, he demonstrated three traits that caused me significant misgivings that I won't detail here; suffice it to say that my impressions were corroborating comments his people had made to me during my informational interviews with them earlier.
I was very disappointed as I left the building, though still glad I found out now what working for him would be like, rather than after accepting an offer.  I realize the offer may not come, making my feelings irrelevant.  Still, I have decided that should an offer of employment come in a couple or three weeks (he suggested it would probably take awhile to act) and I don’t have anything better on the table, I’ll take it.  If I end up being shunted off to the hinterlands, unable to make a difference, I’ll have to keep looking.  This wouldn't be a long term deal.  Drat.
At least today only comes once every four years.
Onward and upward....

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Sixty-one

Day 261 - Reading People
I wonder sometimes how good I am at reading people.  There are times I hope I’m wrong.
I had another phone interview today, though this time I don’t think it went as well as the words would have anyone believe if they read a transcription of the discussion.  Although the interviewer said the right things, acknowledged the people we know in common, and gave me a chance to talk about my skills that could add value to his organization, I never felt the connection.  Granted, it was a phone interview, so I know it lacked a lot of the non-verbal communication.  But when you’ve interviewed over the phone as many times as I have, you gain an ability to “read” the other person in the same way you do in person, and I read this guy as simply “polite.”  
I’m not heartbroken, though.  I have some other irons in the fire, and felt OK with the outcome.  It’s better to have tried and failed than not to try at all, right?  I’m just glad I can read people fairly well.  It takes the sting out of the “thank you anyway” that comes later.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Sixty

Day 260 - Picking Up Where We Left Off
I had dinner tonight with Ken - a good friend I haven’t seen since before Christmas.  You know it’s a good thing when you can pick up where you left off, regardless of how long it has been.  It made me think about how fortunate I am to have the friends that I have - people who bring me up to date as if we never had a break, who treat me to dinner or coffee just to make me feel better.  
I am fortunate, indeed.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Fifty-nine

Day 259 - Repetition
I often say, “There is security in a lack of change.”  That doesn’t seem to apply to the long-term unemployed, except on days like today.  I was able to keep my pattern of doing laundry and other chores today - something that wouldn’t be possible if I were in a worse situation than I am.  I am grateful for the chance to have a certain amount of positive repetition in my weekly schedule.  

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Fifty-eight

Day 258 - Phone Screens
I had the day off today with nothing of any importance on the agenda.  I did my regular daily job search, sending what messages I could in the morning.  I thought about going to the gym, but didn’t make it - I have to admit it just isn’t as high on the priority list at the moment.
I found myself thinking about the phone interviews I had last week, and the one that’s coming up in a couple days.  It’s a good thing companies perform screening interviews over the phone, since in a period of less than one week, I will have interviewed for positions in Seattle, Tucson, Portland, and Lake Tahoe.  There is no way I could have visited them all in person.
I’m happy to see this recent flurry of activity; it offers a new glimmer of hope in an otherwise darkening sky.  

Friday, March 2, 2012

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Fifty-seven

Day 257 - Curve Balls
I had a curve ball thrown at me today.  Fortunately, that’s figurative.
I had a phone interview for a hotel opportunity in Everett, Washington.  It is for a limited service property and would be a one-man-show sales job (with a catering coordinator) - not really a great opportunity, but one doesn’t turn down something that hasn’t been offered, right?
During the conversation, though, it turned out she has another property in Arizona that  also needed help.  What made this phone interview most interesting wasn’t that the opportunities presented were all that exciting, but that I began again to open my mind to ideas that I had deliberately set aside a year ago.  It reminded me that there are still stones left unturned; questions unanswered, opportunities yet unseen.  Maybe there are options still open to me, just waiting to be rediscovered.

Hmmm... Now there's a thought....