The Cardinal Visit

There is an old wive’s tale about getting a visit at your bird feeder from a cardinal. It’s supposed to be a good omen. Some people believe it’s a visit from a loved one in heaven. Others believe it’s a sign that good fortune is going to come your way. Where I live, I get several cardinals at my bird feeder every single day. They’re beautiful birds, indeed. And yes, I know a lot of people in heaven. Whether they’re visiting every day, I can’t say for certain. I do know the cardinals love the birdseed I put out. And their bright spark of red always catches my eye.

It’s been a week since I last heard from the recruiter for the job I was pursuing. I had thought I was going to get an invitation for the next round of interviews, which would have meant a day-flight to another state. Instead I was told another last-minute candidate had been added. Supposedly that interview was to have taken place on Tuesday and a decision was going to be made yesterday. No news today.

It’s such a challenge for me to sink my heart and soul into an interview, see myself in the job, and then sit and wait only to find out I came in as Number 2. “Always a bride’s maid, never a bride.” No one ever remembers who comes in second in a race, in an election, any time. And I’ve been trying to figure out what I need to do to get myself in First Place. Granted, I haven’t been told I’m out of the running for this job…yet.

On the same day that I was told another candidate was being considered, I heard from a recruiter for another job I applied for a couple of weeks ago. We scheduled a phone interview for earlier this week. So I left work early on Monday to take the call and it went well, I thought. I was told it would be a week before the next round of interviews would be scheduled, so I was quite surprised when I received an email the next day from the hiring manager asking to arrange a phone interview with him.

So today I left work for an early lunch. I drove my car about a mile down the road and parked in the lot for a doctor’s clinic. It was a warm day, so I parked at the far end of the lot under a tree in a shaded spot. I had about 15 minutes to myself before the expected call, so I went through my notes and tried to imagine the questions I might be asked. Suddenly, I got hit by a wave of nervousness and I started hyperventilating. Why in the world would I be nervous? Why today? Why this interview? I tried to calm myself by taking slow, deep breaths. I pulled from old and dusty files in my brain some lessons learned to control breathing (for moms in labor). I put down my notes and looked out the window of my car, and there it was. A flash of red. Right in front of my eyes, sitting on a branch, as if on display only for me. Immediately the old wive’s tale came to mind. And instantly I felt a wave of peace pass over me. My breathing returned to normal. I knew I would be just fine. I even smiled at the bird. He stayed for a minute or so, then flew on his way.

The phone call came and I had a fantastic interview. It was only supposed to be a half hour long, but it ended up lasting an hour. At the end of the call, the hiring manager asked if I would be available to come in for a two-hour interview early next week to meet with him and his team. Absolutely! And in that moment I understood why it was that two months ago I had the courage to insist that my boss let me (finally) have a week’s vacation next week. Two months ago I chose next week for some much needed time off. And today I chose a spot under a tree in the midst of the paved jungle of the city to have a phone call. And I got a visit from a cardinal.

The rest is up to your imagination.  I know what I’m going to imagine.

“There’s been a development.”

My experience has been such that whenever you hear those words, something not good is about to happen. Makes me think of Apollo 13. Bush v Gore. The Cuban Missile Crisis. Okay, yes, I admit it. I’m trending a little melodramatic at the moment.

In the last month I’ve been interviewing for a job that at first I didn’t want and now I want the job and I want to start it next week. This past week I had a great in-person interview session with several people and all indications were that I had done well and that I would proceed to the next step. Even the HR contact indicated as much to me. So I dropped my rose-colored glasses today when I received an email telling me that a last-minute candidate has been added to the mix. They will be interviewing that person on Tuesday and making a final decision on Wednesday. What happened to the next step of traveling to the headquarters for an all-day interview session?

Life is what happened. Reality.

It’s so hard for me sometimes to dream and wish. It’s so easy to fall into the fantasy that those dreams provide. And the slap in the face when reality strikes is just too harsh, too disappointing, too painful.

I’m grateful that I’m still in consideration. Perhaps it was healthy to have a forced reset on my expectations. Hopefully I can let go of my frustration and impatience and find a way to hold positive thoughts a few more days.

Daring to Hope

So many times in my life I have been afraid to dream. Wishing for things doesn’t make them happen. Hard work, diligence, determination. Those behaviors make things happen. But it feels so much more fun to dream, so much more energizing.

My daughter Rose and her husband have been dreaming for the last year, hoping to become homeowners. It’s been a rough ride for them. They put in several offers only to be pushed away by higher bidders or houses not up to code because of mistakes made by contractors or appraisals much lower than the selling price. It was tough to watch this young couple trying so hard to follow the process and jump through the right hoops when really very little was in their control. They quickly became discouraged and were about to give up when it happened. They found a house they wanted, put an offer in the same day, waited, and proceeded to be tossed and turned through the process. The sellers agreed on a price. The inspection came back with some required updates, albeit minor. The sellers resolved the problems. Then the appraisal came in too low and we all thought it was a dead deal. Imagine our shock when the sellers agreed to lower the price. It was at that point that Rose began to feel like it might just happen. But she was afraid to hope for it. The closing got scheduled, then moved out, then scheduled again. The day before the rescheduled closing, it was discovered that names were misspelled on all the documents. So it was rescheduled again. Rose couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep. And then it happened. Everything fell into place and they are proud first-time home owners as of this week. And now they are full of ideas and dreams, talking about painting and pulling up old carpeting, and planting a garden. The rough ride is behind them. They have energy. They have dreams.

Interviewing for jobs is much the same roller-coaster process. All my life I’ve hated riding roller coasters. I can’t stomach the ups and downs, the twists and turns. But I know that sometimes a person has to take the ride or never have a chance of creating change. For me, the entire process is wrenching. I want to believe. I want to have faith. I want to hope and imagine possibilities. But I’m so afraid of the freefall that occurs when the dream doesn’t materialize and I’m faced with reality and an inability to foster change.

But desperate times call for desperate measures. I took a chance on applying for a job in an industry I’ve never worked. This week I had a third interview, one that lasted several hours and had a revolving door of people asking me questions. As time ticked by, I could feel hope creep into my body. People talked to me about problems they (and I) know I can solve. They talked about fostering change and all the hard work they’ve done. And they asked me questions trying to determine if I’m the one they want to add to their team. “Pick me! Pick me!” I wanted to shout out loud. But I know desperate people are usually not the chosen ones. So I did my best to remain calm on the outside, answering every question with careful but educated answers. And now I wait. It’s as if I’m perilously perched at the top of a roller coaster hill, waiting to find out if I’m safe and I can climb higher, or if I’m going into freefall and my ride will be returned to the starting line.

Next steps? If I’m lucky, I will be invited back for a fourth interview that will require me to travel to another state and to sit through an entire day of meetings and interviews. Hope is creeping in. I’m writing this in the wee hours of the morning because my dreams won’t let me sleep. I’m smart enough to know this isn’t over until it’s over and someone is offered a job. But suddenly, despite all my efforts to hold them at bay, Hope and Dreams are swirling about me. Do I dare reach out and grab hold of them? If I can’t grab them, will I survive the fall?

The Little Spark That Could

So the spark I thought I saw, I didn’t see. The opportunity I was hoping for went to someone else, less qualified, less experienced. The hiring manager told me, “Don’t let this discourage you from applying for another opening.” Although when pressed, she said there are no other openings and she doesn’t foresee one in the next year.

Fool me once…

At the same time I was interviewing for that position, I had another opportunity heating up with a different company. At first I wasn’t thrilled about it because it’s doing the exact same job that I’m doing now. Just a different company—in a different industry—and a different location. It’s a much farther commute and the wage is the same as I’m making now, so really I’ll be losing money because I’ll be paying more for gas. But at this point I’m so desperate to get out from where I’m at that I’ll seriously consider a longer commute and switching to a different industry. If they’ll have me.

Tomorrow I have an in-person interview that will last several hours and I’ll be meeting with several people (not all at once!). They must be seriously considering me to set aside that much time and involve that many people. I’m not worried about the interview or meeting with that many people. I’m worried that I’m so desperate to get out of where I’m at that I’ll sound desperate. This position requires that I make order out of chaos. I need to be calm and relaxed and controlled in my interview, not desperate.

I must go into work tomorrow for the first half of the day. If any bullies show up at my desk, I may just throw up on them. Ha! Hopefully I’ll enjoy the slightly longer drive to the other company, relaxing and re-energizing along the way. I plan to turn up the radio and play some favorite songs, and sing a mantra of, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can….

All Politics Aside…

In full disclosure, I used to be a public official. I served for 17 years in local government and then I thought I was good enough to run for the state legislature. Well, I was good enough but my opponent ran a smarter, nastier campaign and I lost by four percentage points. Having experienced all those elections probably has something to do with the fact that I am interested in the whole process of elections, especially elections for U.S. President. Or maybe I’m just an election junkie.

But I have to tell you, I’m absolutely fascinated by what is happening in our country right now. Think about it. Whether you love him or hate him, Donald Trump is a master marketer. A couple of weeks ago he gave a speech and told everyone the cell phone number of one of his opponents. That opponent was furious! And several days later, the opponent, seeking revenge, gave out Trump’s cell phone number. But Trump had planned on that all along. When people called Trump’s number, they were greeted with a campaign message and directed to Trump’s website. And, in the process, Trump’s cell phone recorded every single one of those caller’s phone numbers. What an interesting way to build an election database!

Candidates for election are held tight by all kinds of rules, and one of them has to do with “advertising”. If you appear on a TV or radio show, then that show has to offer “equal” air time to your opponent. With 17 GOP candidates right now, it’s very challenging for TV and radio shows to offer up equality to all the candidates. But if a candidate makes “legitimate” news, well, then, that falls under the category of covering the news, not advertising. And every time Trump appears in the news, he’s getting the best of free advertising. Given our country’s extreme dislike for established politicians right now, Trump is loving every minute of it. He doesn’t care if it’s positive or negative news. He just cares that his name is being spoken (or heard) in households every day.

Another rule candidates have to deal with has to do with fundraising. The rules are many and complicated. However, if a candidate is rich and can finance his own campaign without having to raise enormous amounts of money—which Trump is—then that candidate can pretty much do whatever he wants. He doesn’t have to cater to special interest groups. He doesn’t have to make any pledges or promises. He can do whatever he wants. And anyone familiar with Trump knows that’s the way he likes it.

Honestly, I think Trump is having a blast and laughing every minute. Will he be the GOP nominee? Probably not. But, there is a slight chance that he could still win the election. As I wrote above, the majority of voters are totally fed up with establishment politicians. They could very easily vote for Trump. Stranger things have happened. If you doubt me, check out the Minnesota 1998 election for governor when a pro-wrestling lunatic was just as shocked as everyone else when he was declared the winner. Jesse Ventura ran as a reform party candidate and he won! Trump could do the same thing as an independent party candidate. Just saying…

Crossing over to the Democrats, Bernie Sanders spoke to a crowd of 26,000 people this week in Washington State. Hillary Clinton barely gathered a crowd of 6,000 on her East Coast home turf. At this time in 2008, someone else from the non-establishment ranks was drawing big crowds—then-candidate Obama. And just like Trump (and Obama in 2008), people are drawn to Sanders because he’s not an established politician. People are clamoring for change.

Speaking of change, I think this election cycle is going to bring about a lot of changes once it’s all said and done. I won’t be at all surprised in January 2017 when Congress takes up a bill dealing with election reform. With Trump self-financing his campaign, both parties will be eager to establish some firm rules about how much money a candidate can spend. And once election financing is on the table, you can bet on a Pandora’s box being opened. PACs and Super PACs will have to reach deep into their bank reserves to lobby for the status quo since all their money will have been spent on the election. And I won’t be surprised if people demand rules requiring term limits to do away with established politicians once and for all.

Just think, we have another 15 months of this before we head to the polls. Sit back and relax. Toss aside your hatred of the other party. Stop listening to the rhetoric and start thinking like a marketing manager. Consider this all a learning moment. How would you run a campaign?

Did you see that spark?

For some time I’ve been struggling with hopelessness about my current job. It’s a story so many people tell these days. Bad manager. Company struggling to make profits. Low morale. Employees are not engaged. Yet, no matter how miserable I am, I consider myself blessed to have a permanent job.

About six weeks ago, an incident happened that forced me to do the most challenging part of my job. Essentially I had to call out a woman for sidestepping process and doing something that would have ended up costing the company tens of thousands of dollars in fines. This woman was not happy with me at all. She came over to my desk, yelled at me (for doing my job) and called me names. She was loud and rude and everyone who has desks around me heard this. Two people came over to me afterward to tell me I did the right thing. When I connected with my manager a couple of days later, his only comment was about how it was an unpleasant mess. It would have been a perfect opportunity for him to say, “So glad you were on the job!” or “Good work!” or anything along those lines. Instead, his reaction was more of him being annoyed that the incident happened.

The experience threw me into a tailspin. I have a very strong work ethic and that day I was doing my job, just as I had been hired to do. I didn’t deserve being yelled at, especially not in such a public setting. I saved the company untold expense in fines and public ridicule. I didn’t need an award, but a “thank you” would have gone a long way.

On any given day you can walk through our building and find a majority of people surfing the internet or sending text messages on their cell phones or sending messages to friends on social media. Nearly every employee is physically at a desk but each person’s mind is not. No one ever bothers to say anything to those people for being late on projects or missing deadlines or only putting in a five hour work day. And I sit there and do my job, because that’s the kind of person I am. And then one rogue employee comes over and bullies me for doing my job.

It was the last straw. I decided then and there that I had had enough.

The problem…I can’t afford to quit my job until I find another job.

About a year ago my manager left the company. The next day, I started looking for another job. I’m still looking. This event of six weeks ago caused me to step up the pace in my job search. And today, I might have seen a spark of hope. I’d like to ask others if they saw it too, but I can’t. They weren’t in the interview I had, an interview to take on a different job in another department. Sure, it’s with the same company but at least I know the situation. It won’t change my commute. It will put me back in the kind of work that in the past has made me the most happy. Most importantly, it gets me out from under my current manager (who by the way never should have been made a manager) and away from having to do any work-related tasks with the woman who caused the rude scene.

I know I saw a spark of hope. I just know it. And even though I keep telling myself to be cautious and not to start counting my chickens, I can’t help but feel a light bounce in my step and a flicker of joy in my heart. I’m either on the cusp of something really great or the precipice to falling off a cliff. I’m really hoping I truly did see a spark and I can turn it into a full-blown fire.