29 April 2009

September.

A friend of mine who is a journalist asked me to send my "layoff story" to her as she researches how lives have been changed due to downsizing. I thought I'd post it here as well, as in writing it I've been reminded once again of the Lord's amazing love, sense of humor, and kindness.

Until September, I had never lost a job.

Well, there was the time in college when I worked part-time for a fully automated radio station as receptionist/traffic manager/production assistant. I called in sick one day, but magically recovered within a few hours, donned my cheerleading garb and headed to my other job – that of a “Diamond Girl” for a minor league baseball team. When I came to the station the next day, I was immediately called into the boss’s office, where I was told a local TV station had shown me, smiling and signing autographs. The boss said I needed to think about honesty and integrity. I suggested he do the same, as I was tired of telling his wife he was busy when his girlfriend was in his office. I was fired on the spot.

So, let me rephrase that – until September, with a career spanning more than 25 years, I had never been “downsized.” I had left the corporate world to follow my heart’s passion: working fulltime for an organization that cared for orphans and at-risk children in the United States and around the world. As Marketing Director, I was given the opportunity to find new ways to challenge people to give their time, talent, and treasure. Ambassador programs, social networking efforts – all would be built to grow participation. And best of all, I would get to travel, to places like Russia and Guatemala and Honduras, to care for the countless children without families.

In many ways, the position mirrored corporate life. There were egos and fiefdoms and dress codes and meetings upon meetings to discuss meetings and “organizational effectiveness” and such. The “money” language, though, was different – “donors” replaced “customers,” and in-kind, continuity, and planned giving programs were regular phrases used to describe the various ways the nonprofit received its money and goods. The organization was heavily endowed, with a consistent number of planned giving efforts “maturing” each year. And the in-kind donations of humanitarian aid were delivered in bum bags to orphanages as part of mission trips.

When the economy began its downward turn in the summer of 2008, “organizational efficiency” became the catch-phrase around the nonprofit. There was talk of restructuring, consolidation – but never reductions. But after a two-day closed door meeting of the senior executives, the tone changed. 10% of the workforce was eliminated, and major budget reductions were made to hedge against the storm of recession.

So, on September 23rd, just four days before my birthday and five days before a trip to Gautemala to deliver shoes to orphans, my department was dissolved, my job eliminated. I immediately began making the list of “things to do” to equip myself for a job hunt – new resume, networking lunches, a quick tweet to friends – but I felt something inside simply say, “Stop.” And I did. I made a purposeful decision to simply savor the season rather than rush to the next thing.

And the most amazing thing happened. The next thing came to me.

I am doing marketing work again – this time for not only nonprofits, but churches and small companies and people who need help with their careers. I’m also handling artist relations for two musicians and helping launch a new nonprofit that will focus on the needs of foster children. This time, the egos and fiefdoms and dress codes are kept to a minimum – in fact, I’ve been known to office in my jammies when the mood strikes me. And those meetings about meetings? They simply don’t exist. Operational effectiveness is moving along smoothly, and best of all, the office is extremely relaxed. Facebook is my “cube farm” now since I work at home. My assistant is a dog – a real dog, as in Cocker Spaniel. My business partners are fellow freelancers, who work alongside me on projects to create the perfect team for a client in need. Sure, the money isn’t as great as it was with the huge nonprofit. But the payoff in freedom and laughter has been worth it. It’s what I love to call being “gainfully unemployed.”

And what about the opportunity to travel, now that I’m no longer working for the organization? Funny you should ask. This year, Argentina, Honduras and Guatemala are all on my calendar. Honduras and Guatemala will include those bum bags of humanitarian aid – I am leading the mission teams, courtesy of the very nonprofit that laid me off last year.

Looking back, I think September was a very good month.

2 comments:

Arnie Adkison said...

Very nice. Although there's no way you should get to go to Argentina without me.

holly becton said...

:)