I confess – I wanna get off the ride! 

I busted out of the world of somewhat-steady work nearly four years ago (in a vendor role onsite at a large, well-known company who was our client) and into the world of contract project management.  Meaning, short-term positions that *might* get extended in length or *might* lead to opportunities to join the group as a full-time employee but nothing guaranteed.  What WAS guaranteed was a load of excitement, learning and feeling your edges. 

And for me, stretching and growing professionally and personally in ways I’d never imagined.

Never underestimate the significance of a random phone call!  I’d gone about as far as I’d wanted to with a company after a little over seven years and posted my resume online as part of my way to network.  A few weeks later I got a call out of the blue from a recruiter asking if I’d want to interview for “a really great opportunity.”

Boy, this group moved fast!  I had two phone interviews with their client’s department manager and lead, and within about an hour they wanted to hire me!  And the pay rate…could we BE more seductive?  A HUGE jump from what I was making earlier.

Little did I know what I was getting into.  I have to thank the teams, agency recruiters and account managers profusely for their guidance and support, as I dove somewhat naively into the pool with a message of “this is how we do things – you do the same – figure it out.”  I was naive in understanding the mindset shift required in being a contractor versus being a full-time, permanent employee.  After a few unsuccessful beatings of my head against various walls, I realized as a contractor that many companies don’t WANT you to propose other ways of handling things if they’ve got a rhythm and groove already established.  Just execute as they’ve always done!  Collect your paycheck, work hard, and that’s that!  End of story!  Thank you!

So, I did.  And yet I still so innocently, painfully assumed that this was how it was going to be going forward.  I would make this same fabulous in-a-new-tax-bracket pay, I would either get hired on full-time by this client who seemed to love me or I would be able to network and immediately find a new gig after finishing up this one.

HA.  Turns out sometimes the folks who want to bring you on quickly can let you go just as quickly.  As in I’m driving home one night after work and get a phone call to say I don’t need to come back the next day after 7 months kinds of quickly.  So quickly that my agency account manager has to collect my desk items and hand them off to me in a plastic bag at a Starbucks a couple days later.

Did I take it personally?  You bet I did – no lying here.  And admittedly I’d gone through a bad breakup mere weeks before so I was feeling very unhappy and bolted off my normal stance and pedestal already.  As time went on and other work assignments came and went I realized there are far more factors at stake and that taking things personally is totally unproductive. 

So that started the ride of feeling the burn/feeling the edges.

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do contract work forever, but in the short-term it was a great way to earn extra cash and zoom in and out of very different work cultures very quickly and learn more about what I like and don’t like in a work environment.

Now, remember, my debut into contracting work was in late 2006.  Remember the days when the economy was thriving?  Silly, silly me never suspected the economy would tank so sharply in the next few years.

But dang it sure did!  Haven’t we all felt it in one way or another?  I do think we’re slowly but surely pulling out, as I am getting more phone and email activity around potential job openings as this year unfolds.  Ummm…but let’s face it – I’ve worked only two months out of the past nine and being out of work is getting old.  I don’t find it relaxing at all – I wish I was in a place I could feel that way but that’s not my story.  When you have super high paychecks for the short term they can mellow out and dissolve over time.  And once again, the paychecks are zero. I have days I feel energized and elated and a few days I want to hunker down with the TV and hide out from the world.  Thankfully it’s more of the former than the latter.  I am incredibly blessed to have wonderful family and friends around me to keep me positive and motivated on the days I just can’t feel it myself.  

And the roller coaster’s been at it weather-wise as well recently!  I went on an amazing walk the other day, deterring a bit from my typical “up the killer hill/lung crusher” route and decided to go explore a home development (which also has good hills) in the suburb next door.

Talk about the economy tanking.  This hillside development is a handful of absolutely gorgeous, breathtaking homes polluted and punctuated by barren, seedy and weedy vacant lots randomly throughout.  It’s been this way for over a year.  Some lots have markers for foundations or sewer hookups, some not.  Sidewalks are paved and yet achingly empty and unused.  And only the faint pounding and whirring of workers on one new home echoing on the hillside.  It was like looking through a gorgeous coffee-table type book and finding pages missing or ripped out. I hope this year brings more hope and promise to that neighborhood struggling to get legs underneath itself and to all others out there feeling the same pain and strain.

What happened today?  A wonderful interview!  I had a somewhat restless night the night before which is not typical as I usually sleep pretty soundly.  Know the old expression, “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb?”  Well, this year around here it’s been a total reversal – we’ve had cold, biting blustery winds and pounding rain and hail recently!  And calm, even balmy weather most of the rest of the month!  Now, when you’re trying to get a good night’s sleep and your (south facing) bedroom window is taking the brunt of the storm (i.e. it sounds like you’re going through a car wash at 4am) that is not a good sign.

I rolled over during last night’s storm and saw the clock glowing back at me – 5:19.  Obviously, that’s a number close to my heart and being. Heh.

I also felt good getting up this morning despite the late March chills and rain, feeling more like I was getting up to go to work rather than to an interview. Anyone remember when I was talking about getting ready to go to an interview a few weeks ago, but feeling overly stressed, sweaty and jittery trying to get dressed, blaming it on too much coffee?  Well, looking back it was my gut telling me the job, as much as I thought it would be a good fit, actually wasn’t!  Despite how incredible everyone was and my friend K who got my foot in the door!

I remember the same “jittery/no-go” feeling a couple years ago when I was in a relationship and he’d been over to my house for dinner as he did so many joyful and passionate times.  God I loved cooking for the two of us.  But one night we were doing something simple like washing and drying pots and pans and my body freaked out and started trembling.  And no, I’d put on the decaf coffee and not regular by mistake.  Hmmmm.  In the end as much as we cared for one another there was just too much baggage we weren’t willing to sort through together.  I’d felt kept at arm’s length from what could have been something really wonderful.  And, sadly, I felt more like his mistress than his girlfriend.  And yes, I told him that to his face.  But anyway, that’s fodder for another post another time.

Good luck charms for today’s interview?  Well, I’m not superstitious but I did bring the last purse where I’d interviewed and received my last full-time, permanent job offer a few years ago, rather than the tried and true one that has gone on many a recent interview prior plus a few business trips.  Who was the lucky charm purse today?  Why, my dear old black leather Coach Ali shoulder bag.  Not sure if it’s even still available but it’s a wonderful, understated bag and great no matter how iffy the weather!

I try to remember to relax, breathe, pray and enjoy.  But I also remember how Tom Petty so spot-on nailed it:  “the waiting is the hardest part.”