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Pursuing Your Career

Thanks Sam: Reach out to your Network when Job hunting

It was 2003 and a month before my wedding. I was called over to meet with the director of the museum. I’d been working on a script for a new Native American exhibit. While waiting in the lobby, a colleague asked me why I was there. I joked I was either about to get fired or the director and I were going to discuss the exhibit script I had been diligently working on.

Yeah… ummm… we did not talk at all about the exhibit script.

My awesome boss (he is truly a wonderful individual) explained that the grant funding my position was ending and he was not successful in getting additional funds to continue my job (in fairness, he had already gotten 2 extentions and turned a two year job into 4.5 years). My last day of work was 8 days before the wedding. Very few wedding guests knew of my lay off, partly because we wanted it to be a happy occassion and partly because I was still coming to terms with my new reality. My network, as it was back then, included mostly college professors and not-for-profit administrators with whom I had worked since graduating from college in 1993.

My mistake was not reaching out to my family more during this time. That’s the whole point of this article. With the massive job losses due to the coronavirus, newly unemployed and long-term job seekers alike need to reach out to their respective Networks so that others are also keeping an eye out for possible job openings.

After a series of interviews (from being an editor at a publishing house to my being a coordinator for a university tutoring program), none of which I was hired for. I felt defeated, exhausted, and useless, especially because I had my new bride. She was contributing to our family (salary-wise)… and I wasn’t. A call from my sister Sam (Sandi) changed everything. When she called on a summer day, I snapped at her. I was frustrated and angry, mostly at myself, and I felt like no one could understand the stress I was under just like no one knew what job opportunities I was interested in pursuing. Turns out Sam knew. She had listened to me vent about my job search. More importantly, she was mindful of what types of work I enjoyed. That day she called, I started the conversation frustrated at her for bugging me during a dark moment. By the end of the talk, I felt sorry for how I treated her. Meanwhile, she was ever-gracious and let me know that she saw a job opening I might be interested in. Long story short… it was a perfect match for me, job-wise. I applied, interviewed, and was hired administering a tutoring program at a local college. I even was eventually hired as a professor teaching courses in archaeology and cultural anthropology (my specialties). In less than 3 months, I went from unemployed newlywed to employed college professional, and I was also making a good deal more than I had ever made, salary-wise.

Me teaching mapping techniques to undergrads and grad students. (1992)

What if I had never taken my sister’s call? What if I hadn’t let her know I was looking for work? What if I had dismissed my sister’s notion of me applying for that job? I was in that position for just shy of 10 years before I moved on to my new dream job (EOP Counselor). My life was forever altered for the better because my sister knew I was looking for a job and she listened to me talk about my interests. Sam is the oldest of our family; I know I felt ashamed being unemployed. I also know neither she nor any of my family were ashamed of me. Lay offs happen. Getting fired happens. Natural disastors destroying businesses happens. What is important is that we work with our established Networks (including your family) to job search. Don’t be ashamed; unemployment happens. Incorporate the eyes of family, friends and colleagues into your job search, and you will likely find a job a lot sooner than if searching on your own. What’s more, having supports makes it easier to manage the inevitable stress that comes with a job search. Take care evereyone!

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