November 15, 2004
I have been unemployed for more than two months. A friend asks me to apply for a position as an executive assistant at the seminary where she works. “They could use your skills for college fairs,” she says. I'm intrigued with the prospect of working on the exhibiting end of things. And let's face it, Web job postings are drying up fast after months of trying to replace the job I had handling, registration, site selection, and functioning as part of a corporate education team.
November 18, 2004
Everything goes really well with the interview — until we start discussing salary. I knew they could not pay well, but this is so low. I feel awful, but I have to say no. That answer doesn't feel good when you're in my shoes …
November 20, 2004
Today, it's a different kind of no. I interview at a company looking for a program coordinator, with the possibility of moving into trade shows. As I sit there waiting for two hours — one in the waiting room, one in HR — I think: What kind of company brings someone in to interview and then just leaves them? No one so much as offers me a glass of water or a chance to visit the rest room.
No, I do not want to work for this company.
November 30, 2004
Not one, but two companies call me for interviews! I can't get one of the appointments for a couple of weeks, but the other, an insurance company, offers to see me later that same day. The position is for a travel coordinator — not really what I want — but meeting planning is part of the job description.
The hiring manager, Diana, is a former meeting planner now working in administration. As she reads my resume, we laugh over common stories. But as she shows me the lay of the land, my excitement begins to slip away. I would only have a small cubicle, with one file cabinet and a shelf above the desk. As much as I like Diana, it's hard to get past the accommodations. Then she apologetically makes me an offer, a little below what I made at my former position. I ask her to reconsider the salary, and she promises to get back to me.
Did I just blow it, or did I make the right move?
December 10, 2004
For the other interview, I decide to go on a shopping spree to find something to wear. I spend too much.
When I was laid off in September, I spent a lot of time walking my dog, Pumpkin. But these days, we're doing more cuddling than walking. I need to get out of the house more!
One thing that does make me feel better is keeping up with my friends on the MIMList, the meeting industry listserv. I really like it when someone posts a problem in an area where I can help by sharing my previous career experiences. That's what I need to do to feel better, I tell myself. I don't need to shop — I need to connect with my peers.
We hear great news on the home front: Our son has been nominated by our congressman to attend a service academy. I cry, and we celebrate at his favorite Chinese buffet. Life goes on, even when you're unemployed.
December 13, 2004
Interview day! I'm energized by the train trip downtown. I like the idea of commuting by train to Philadelphia from our home in Willow Grove (about 14 miles away). Maybe it's because my dad was a conductor on the now-defunct Reading Railroad.
I meet the direct-report for this job and am pleased with his opening statement: “I don't know anything about meeting planning, but I'd like to learn.” This tells me that he is open to learning, and he was most likely given this job because no one else knew anything either! The rest of the day (3.5 hours of interviews) feels just as good. As I leave the building and gaze out at the city, I call my husband and say, “This is the company I want to work for.”
The message is waiting for me on the answering machine when I get home. “Can you come back two days from now and do a second round?” You bet!
December 14, 2004
I get a call from the unemployment office telling me that I need to return some money I've been paid me because I turned down a full-time job. What? I was never offered a full-time job, nor did I turn one down! As I follow the procedures outlined in the letter, I am sure that my appeal will go fine.
December 16, 2004
It doesn't. The next correspondence is a fax stating that I turned down a full-time job when I stopped working myjob for the travel agency. But the contract had ended, and they had not offered to extend. I am frustrated, angry, and tired — not the best frame of mind for my second interview, but I manage a smile and project professionalism. I meet four new people, and sense a consensus from them that I will be hired. I wish I could jump for joy, but the unemployment thing has me furious.
December 17, 2004
I have another interview, this time for a medical meeting-planning job. The drive — or trek — takes more than an hour on a beautiful, cloudless day. I can't imagine what the commute would be like during rush hour. The interview goes well, but the commute …
December 18, 2004
In the mail, I receive a notice to attend a hearing, with the defendants being my former full-time employer and the travel agency. It says that the hearing is scheduled for 2:30 a.m., which makes no sense.
Later that day, I receive a fax changing the time of the hearing to 2:30 p.m., and notifying me that I will not receive any more unemployment checks until the hearing takes place. Ouch!
December 20, 2004
As my industry friends read my “Diary of a Job Hunter” article in Corporate Meetings & Incentives, the e-mails start pouring in. It's hard not to get teary as I read about the struggles my peers are going through. Many have been unemployed much longer than I have and have very tenuous financial situations. Some are just plain giving up. One wrote, “Thank you for writing about your struggles. I laughed and cried. I needed to know there was someone else out there that was going through this.”
December 21, 2004
The phone brings welcome news in duplicate: I am offered the job downtown on a contract basis and a better offer with the insurance agency! Never in a million years did I think I would get to choose between two jobs! My first glance at the insurance company's e-mail offer is a shocker; they came up with 35 percent more money! This creates a real dilemma: Do I choose the downtown position with its accompanying commuter costs or the other, with a not-so-nice turnpike commute and cubicle accommodations?
December 22, 2004
I can't believe it: They also want me for thejob! After four months without a position, I am overwhelmed with gratitude. My troubles with unemployment are pushed to the back of my mind. It's time to enjoy the holidays and start decorating. I hadn't done much until then. I couldn't face the strains of “We Need a Little Christmas.”
December 27, 2004
My family, friends, and industry peers all help me decide on the position downtown, starting right after New Year's. I sign the offer letter and begin to regain my optimism.
January 7, 2005
We celebrate my first work week with dinner out. Who cares that it's only Friendly's? I am wiped out from the commute and the learning curve.
January 12, 2005
I leave work to go to the hearing. As the taxi zooms off, I am chokingly nervous. I'm not sure why, since I am completely prepared with my documentation and have done nothing wrong. As I walk in, I see the glowering owners of the travel agency. The defendants and I are told to be seated on opposite sides of the table and not to speak to each other. As I share my side of the story, the proctor leans back and says, “I guess we have a mistake here, so you can go.” Just like that! I wanted them to at least explain why I had to endure all this hassle and worry, not to mention the lack of checks! But as he put it, “Sometimes people make mistakes.” He was right — so I let it go.
January 25, 2005
We head to Florida for the first meeting for my new company. Never mind that I've been with them three weeks, and never mind that someone else negotiated the contract. Just make it happen. It is the hardest meeting I have ever done, for those reasons.
February 15, 2005
I receive an invitation to attend Joan Eisenstodt's think tank group, Women to Women 2005, to be held at the Chaminade Conference Center in March. As I look over the list of invitees, I think, “Why would they want me?” I cautiously accept and hope to find a way to pay for it.
February 28, 2005
In the midst of the highest-level meetings of the company, I am offered a full-time position. But wait: There is no title and no job description. The VP of HR tells me, “Write your dream job description.”
March 18, 2005
It's one day into the W2W conference, a summit for women leaders in our industry. The talent and passion of these women and their desire to improve the meeting industry overwhelms me. As I tell them my story about writing my own job description, one says very simply and profoundly, “Don't settle.”
April 1, 2005
My job description is accepted! It needs to be changed a bit to conform to the company lingo, but the changes are minor and I can live with them. I am also finally given a title, Manager of Meetings and Events, which is what I had suggested after doing some research.
So I have achieved what I wanted. “But where is the victory dance?” I think to myself.
That's when I decide it's not just about this one achievement — it's about the journey ahead. So I start making plans to raise the bar at my new company in two areas: 1) creating measurable goals and objectives for our meetings; and 2) having more meaningful meetings, where we actually accomplish what we set out to do. I will develop my plans based on one of the most important lessons I learned at W2W — that meetings can indeed be life-changing.