Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Unemployment and blogging

I've read about people who have become prolific bloggers as a result of being unemployed.   For me that has not been the case.   I look back with surprise that I have not been posting for weeks.   I was lucky compared to many people in that I could see down the road the factors that were likely to determine whether I had a job or not.  I had time to mentally and emotionally adapt a little.   While I wasn't happy about it,  I wasn't devastated either.  The worst part of the closure of my organization's facilities was simply that I had the sad task of laying off most all the staff who worked for me as well.   That was hard because they are all talented, committed, and innovative people who, in the end,  had no control over what happened.   The second worst part I think was that the unraveling wasn't inevitable.  The economy and other issues may have nudged us over the edge,  but we had courses of action that could have changed the outcome.  While all that may be true, the reality is that I am not working for pay for the first time in over thirty years.    That number give me pause; an entire career rolls past in retrospect.

Looking for work in this economy is an education.  I appreciate very much the simplicity of filing for unemployment compared to the system I remember from the early Seventies.   And the ability to look in my computer at databases of job postings and offerings is convenient.  I still believe, though,  that most jobs never get posted.   That leads me to the setting forth to check in with friends and colleagues in the hunt for a job or part of a job.  I am blessed in having a broad and deep network to connect with.  And I am taking pleasure in having to take those steps.   One constraint for the past ten or so years has been how little time I have had to connect or catch up with or even say hello to people.  Now I must do so.    

As a non-profit executive of extensive experience whose most recent work has been in museums,  my primary career opportunities are pretty limited, particularly if I am not uprooting myself, leaving my wife,  and moving far afield.   Which I am not.  I would be happy to work for less money in this market particularly when I assume I would work at something that had meaning and value.   I have begun to parse out those things that I am pretty good at and those things that are not my greatest strength.   At this stage of life,  self-scrutiny is essential.  For example, I know that I am good at things like developing plans,  communicating ideas, strategizing, remembering the details, and being able to have direct conversations with others-employees, customers, whomever. I''m also fairly good at seeing a fresh way to view what exists.   I also know that I am not very good at being 'warm and fuzzy with people I don't know',  raising money individual by individual,  or suffering through posturing and ignorance.   I am not abashed at all about asking someone to give a million dollars to a campaign in which I believe.  I am not, though the best person to spend years being nice to people in the hope that they may sometime be contributors.   I can and have done all these things but I try to be real about where my strengths lie.  

The kind of background I possess means that I may find employment incrementally as people I know invite me to do projects for pay.  And I am very comfortable with that.  I like project work and have done a fair amount.  I like helping people solve problems and the idea of getting compensation for doing so is appealing.   At nearly sixty,  I am not looking forward with great hunger to build my 'career'.  I am looking forward with great hunger to being able to continue to do work that has meaning and to help pay the bills.   Before I reached the precipice of unemployment,  I had created a small  DBA called Mind/Matter  (Mind over Matter) which I have billed as a problem-solving consultancy.   In addition to looking for permanent jobs,  I have been handing out my Mind/Matter business cards with an eye to stimulating either project business or referrals to a steady job.  

At bottom, though,  I have many activities and projects and interests filling my life.  Employment is one but not the only one.   I am lucky among the unemployed in that I am not in debt and I have a roof over my head and a place to sleep that's pretty solid.  I am surrounded by a strong family and many friends.   This piece of my life, this adventure is probably a good and needed experience along the road I traverse.   And perhaps I'll blog with more insight as I pas through.

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Sporks and silver

I was very happy to read a brief piece in the paper describing how the parents, students, and teachers at Duniway School (where my father attended in the 30s) had shifted away from using disposable sporks and plastic trays to using silverware.   This small choice makes so much sense and reduces by tens of thousands the plastic debris in the waste stream.  I suspect costs are lower as well.  Small steps motivated by a little bit of thought are worth taking. 

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