I’ll say this right away: my thoughts and prayers go out to the people already being affected and those about to be affected by Hurricane Sandy. There are millions of people along the Eastern shores and far inland who are going to be impacted by the wrath of a “superstorm.”
They’ll see their homes in jeopardy, their lives disrupted. When the storm is over, many will be left to pick up the pieces and wonder what their next steps should be to try and return their lives to some resemblance of normality. For many, “normality” will take longer to return to than others.
I’ve never had to deal with a powerful storm like that. For us, living through a powerful storm involves something more along the lines of digging out of blizzard-like conditions that can drop a couple of feet of snow in the benches and drifts a few feet high. But we’ll still be thinking of all those in Sandy’s path in the coming days.
Storms like Sandy can leave a very personal wake of destruction. I can relate more to that. I can relate very well to having a life disrupted, having to pick up the pieces of a life and wonder what the next steps will be, trying to return my family’s life to some semblance of normality.
My family’s “personal storm” hit exactly one year ago today when I was told that I was among a group of people at my workplace who were going to be losing their jobs because of budget cuts, although the same feelings that hit me a year ago started being revisited by me last Friday because that was the day of the week when the storm hit full force.
Those feelings are being revisited by me right now, because I went through nearly an entire weekend before breaking the bad news to my family members on a Sunday night, merely because I didn’t want to ruin their weekend.
I’m not going to claim that I was the “perfect employee.” Everyone makes mistakes at some point. It’s learning from them that counts. I do believe that I can be and have been a very good employee.
I can go back through a lot of years, back to the days when I worked on a straight salary basis as a sports editor or managing editor at a daily newspaper — when I worked weekends on special projects, working 16-hour days for weeks during murder trials or during athletic tournaments, working in the press room as a managing editor because of mechanical problems that resulted in an emergency situation needing every available hand to get a publication out the door at a decent time to meet the needs of a customer.
All of that was done without earning an extra dime, because help was needed in a sticky situation.
I could tell some stories.
I could talk about numerous hours with some sleepless nights spent as a computer programmer in an on-call rotation because of problems that weren’t always machine-caused.
I could go back to my last programming job, when I fixed human-caused problems that were a result of a “brain cramp” by my own boss or someone else who had been there for years before me. I could go back to the first project that I was put in charge of there not long after getting that job, a “favored nations” project that worked well that ended up with me being recognized as an “employee of the quarter” at my very first quarterly employees’ meeting.
I could go back to an absolute mess of a system that I was put in charge of and dealing with people between Utah and Miami with me on the phone for hours at a time or making special trips to Miami, trying to make a messy system less messy.
I could talk about the time I got a call from one of our help desk people just weeks before I was let go, who was trying to handle an emergency in our shipping warehouse nearby because tracking numbers being scanned through an automated system were suddenly coming out wrong, it was bringing shipments through a global courier company to a complete halt and it was suddenly starting to affect shipments at our other warehouses around the country. The problem was that the courier company changed its tracking number formatting, passed the word on the change to our company’s shipping supervisor, and the shipping supervisor neglected to pass that information on to our information technology department.
With that information, it took me a matter of minutes to track down where the code for that was in our huge system with millions of lines of code, change the formatting to the courier’s new layout, and install a fix so shipments could go out again. It was an effort that drew praise from the company’s chief information officer because a fix was put in so quickly.
I can talk about a foreign currency conversion project that I was involved in last year that helped me to get an above-average rating in my last performance review because my supervisor felt I’d helped to drive that project to the finish line in a big way.
I can talk about how I received a five-year anniversary plaque at my last programming job in October 2011, having my supervisor say he hoped I’d be around for another five years with a smile and a handshake, and then two weeks later have him tell me on October 28 that I was being cut over budget concerns (while the private equity-run company gussied itself up for a potential sale) and that he hadn’t been happy with my efforts for a while.
That was when the “personal superstorm” hit for me and my family, when you’re cruising along and thinking you’re doing okay in your job except for a few “hissy fits” from the boss that pretty much everyone lived through every once in a while, and then the earth gets pulled out from beneath your feet.
A year later, we’re still feeling the devastating effects in our family. A year later, our own personal floodwaters are still there. A year later, I’m finding more leads on jobs and gotten more response on inquiries than I’ve found in the past but the ripple effect of others out there like me who’ve been caught up in that same kind of “flood” is still there — jobs are still tough to compete for and get. And then, as I heard myself with my own ears on the phone last week from a technical recruiter, there are employers out there who won’t even give the long-term unemployed a chance at a job for the simple reason that they’re long-term unemployed.
I was given a slight bit of personal reassurance by the CEO of another recruiting firm last week that the skill sets that I have for the particular computer language where so much of my experience lies aren’t so readily overlooked by those who do the hiring just because of the length of time I’ve been “out of the game.” I hope that CEO is right.
But here I am as a potential employee who knows what it’s like to give your all for a company, who knows what it takes to help a company succeed, who does what is asked when it’s asked, and I’m still looking for something better than a job that effectively pays minimum wage with house payments and other bills to worry about.
Here we are as a family, a year after our own “personal superstorm” hit, and we’re still struggling to stay afloat.
Here we are — with millions more people like me, thousands more families like ours — with homes in jeopardy, lives disrupted, being left to pick up the pieces and wonder what the next steps should be to try and return those lives to some resemblance of normality.
We’re left to wonder when that huge storm cloud over us is ever going to move on, and we’re left to keep looking toward the sky for that ray of sunshine that represents a real change, a true bit of hope.
We keep on looking. We don’t give up.
Copyright 2012, Daddysangbassdude Media