I’ve become a lot more flexible and adaptable over the years given all I’ve encountered and experienced.  Things change all the time – maybe like death and taxes it’s a constant that’s always there.  I’ve even been evaluated in job performance reviews on how well I handle change…”…stays flexible and adaptable with changing priorities.”  Oh hell, I haven’t had a performance review in over 4 years but I think that was one of the line items. 

I’ve also heard sayings, shot through with humor, like “don’t get comfortable.”  And I lived that out working for one particular company where I probably changed offices seven times in the seven years I worked there, on a large, corporate campus.  There was a good reason for the wheels on those filing cabinets!

And in this most recent search for work I’ve read countless job descriptions.  It’s now pretty commonplace to read/see things about dealing with ambiguity.  “Comfortable with ambiguity.”  “Navigates successfully through ambiguity.”  Let’s face it – as a contract worker, working short-term assignments, you’re expected to dive into the deep end of the pool and figure it out – FAST.  And while your manager might have the best of intentions, they may just not have the luxury of time to get you fully oriented.  In my recent experience, “training” is as rare as white tigers.

It’s been a long, dry road these past few months.  Other than a very brief 8 weeks in late 2009, I’ve been out of work since late July.  Yes, July 2009.  I’ve been very, very diligent networking and interviewing wherever possible, and the spreadsheet I use to log my progress is LONG, people. 

And I’ve learned quite a bit about staffing and recruiting practices.  Bottom line, they’re unpredictable.  How can they not be, given the heavy human element?  We are people, not black and white bits of data.  One of my past work assignments was working on projects within the staffing and recruiting industry, and it was very eye opening getting to peek under the hood and behind the curtain.  While it was a bit shocking learning what’s “normal” in that field I am very grateful for the experience as I gained a huge amount of understanding as to why things don’t happen consistently. It’s helped my tolerance in this recent job search for sure.  I’m not going to go on and on about the details, other than my hat’s off to recruiters out there.  I’d have flung myself onto a sword long ago.

So while it’s fresh in my mind, I’ve gotta recap the past few weeks.  Talk about wacky and unbelievable!  Yes, I’ve been through quite a bit in my day but nothing compares to this.  And as I’ve written in here before, you can’t make this shit up.

Let me set the stage here…we have:
– Company 1 (“C1”), where I worked briefly late last year as a contract worker.  It was a very short assignment as I was actually covering for someone who took an unexpected, emergency family leave. Granted the pay was about half of what I usually make, but after being out of work since late July I figured it would be a great way to get my foot in the door at a very respected, well-established company.
– Recruiter 1 (“R1”), an internal recruiter at C1.
– Company 2 (“C2”), a consulting firm who places people at multiple client engagements. 
– Recruiter 2 (“R2”), a recruiter who works for C2, my point of contact for interviews on behalf of C2.
– Company 3 (“C3”), a company where I worked for about a year a couple of years ago.  I was a full-time permanent employee, but my business unit was RIF’d so it ended up feeling like a contract assignment even though it wasn’t.

Targetted new job start date:  April 26.
Actual new job start date:  May 17.

Come with me on this recent goat rodeo…*cough* I mean timeline.

December 30 (2009):  all contract assignments wrap up at C1 (by design). Lots of hugs, smiles and handshakes – a job well done!  Yes, our team sliced through the ambiguity (there’s that word again!) and met our deliverables a bit ahead of schedule!

January 1, 2010:  Happy New Year.  Never did I think I’d start off the new decade out of work.

[The next few months are spent nonstop interviewing and networking.  I’ll fast forward to the “good part” starting in March.]

March 15: R1 emails me about an opening at C1 (full-time, permanent).
March 17:  Phone interview with the hiring Manager at C1.
March 29:  In-person interview with the hiring Manager at C1 and 3 others.
April 1:  R2 contacts me about a contract assignment with a large client. It’s a 6-month backfill for someone taking maternity leave.
April 5:  In-person interview with a manager at CL2 (the client for C2). They want someone to start around 4/19.
April 5:  Contacted R1 and told her about CL2 and asked how the hiring was coming along.  R1 explains they’re very early in the interviewing process and likely won’t have decisions made by 4/19.
April 8:  R2 advises I didn’t get the CL2 gig.  The manager went with the other candidate.
April 8:  R2 schedules another interview with a different manager in a different group at CL2.  This is a year-long engagement.
April 13:  Interviewed in-person with the other manager at CL2.
April 14:  Follow up phone screen with a peer of the manager at CL2 from yesterday’s interview.
April 15:  Got a call from R2 – I GOT THE CL2 JOB!! A year-long engagement scheduled to start 4/26.
April 15:  Told R1 I accepted the C2 position at CL2 and that we’d keep in touch – perhaps there will be another time to interview in the future.

Take a deep breath…we’re not done yet…

April 16:  My garage door opener dies.  Thankfully I was able to flag down a neighbor to hold the door open while I backed my car out; the door doesn’t stay up and open securely when I use the manual release.
April 18:  Filed my weekly unemployment benefits claim, my typical routine for many a Sunday.  My allocated amount is now depleted.  No problem, as I’m supposed to start a new job 4/26.
April 19:  R2 finishes all of my reference checks.  Meanwhile, I’ve filled out, scanned and emailed the job offer acceptance paperwork back to C2’s office.
April 20:  Garage door repairman replaces my garage door opener.  Most of that last weekly unemployment check goes toward this.  Good times.

Somewhere in the next few days I found out the job start date would be delayed due to getting paperwork processed at CL2.  So, 4/26 was a no-go. Targetted new start date slips to Monday 5/03.

April 29:  I go to C2 to pick up my laptop, finish onboarding paperwork and meet with my soon-to-be new co-worker.  We walk to a nearby coffee shop and get acquainted.  Love it!
April 30:  emailed C2 to confirm if 5/03 was still a go.  Start date slips to possibly 5/05.
May 3:  emailed C2 to check status about 5/05.  Nothing confirmed.
May 5:  still no updates.  C2 is calling the manager at CL2 but has not heard back.
May 6:  still no updates from C2.
May 6:  I’m pissed, panicked and frustrated.  This was the day I asked The Universe for help and my friend P who works at C3 IM’d me out of the blue and from there got me an interview with her Director.  Her Director and I speak on the phone briefly and he sets up an onsite interview for me the morning of 5/07.
May 6:  R2 and I agree that if there are no confirmed start dates as of 5/07 he will start submitting me for other opportunities with C2’s other clients.  I don’t tell them about what just transpired with C3.
May 7:  I’m awake, showered and ready to go interview with C3.  C2 calls and says guess what, the paperwork at CL2 is done and we’re looking at 5/10 “or thereabouts” for a start date!
May 7:  I call the Director at C3 and cancel the interview.  But I go have a wonderful lunch with my friend P, which was going to be part of the C3 interview loop anyway.
May 10:  C2 hoped there would be a start date of 5/11 but the final set-up transactions with CL2 are still not completed.  I’m feeling like a racehorse trapped at the starting gate.
May 10:  I call the nice people at our State Capitol to check on the status of my application for an extension of my weekly unemployment benefits.  They’d just received it and it would be a few weeks before I’d have a yes or no answer.  Yep, I’ve heard that before…
May 11:  Around lunch time I hear from C2 that they are expecting the magical data required for me and one other person to start in just a couple hours at CL2.  Start date of May 12 looks likely.  R2 agrees to tag-team with the manager at C2 to get the data processed if it rolls in after business hours on May 11.
May 11:  At around 8:30pm I get an email from C2 apologizing about the false start, but as it turns out they didn’t receive the magical data from CL2 after all.
May 11:  I don’t recall 100%, but it was likely one of those “popcorn and wine” dinner nights.
May 12:  I officially pull out all the stops and start re-networking.  Even R2 and I agreed to chat that day to talk about getting submitted elsewhere.  Yes, this is sounding a little deja vu from last week, right?  Moreso, this is fucking retarded…how long are we supposed to sit around and wait for basic clerical shit to get finished?  Push the damn buttons already!  Sadly, CL2 is somewhat known for backlogged, bloated processes but this was now beyond what anyone would consider reasonable.  I ate a big bowl of Crow with a slice of Humble Pie and called the Recruiter at C1.  Ummm…remember me?  You might be surprised to be hearing from me!  R1 explained that they actually hadn’t filled the position I’d interviewed for back in March!  And that there had been some changes within the group leadership which was part of the delay. She said she’d let a couple key people know that I might be available after all!  And I let the people I know at C3 about all this too.  Yep, C2 is at High Risk of losing me.  I’m ready to walk.
May 12, continued:  At about 9pm I got a call from the Director at C3.  I was a little surprised to receive a call so late but at this point ANY sort of contact -phone, email, carrier pigeons – was like manna from heaven.  I told him my start date at CL2 was delayed yet again and he asked me to come meet with him in person the next morning!  He explained the opening was a contract to hire position and that he’d need someone on the ground as soon as Monday 5/17.

May 13:  I get up, shower and go interview with the Director and some other people at C3 and have a great lunch interview with my friend P.  Remember, she’s the one, thanks to that totally random instant message back on 5/06, who helped me get re-introduced at C3 and this latest batch of interviews lined up with her Director!  In typical interview practice, I had my cell phone turned off. [Side note to job seekers out there – PLEASE be sure to do this or at least put it in silent mode.  Zero distractions while you’re interviewing!].

After lunch I turn on my phone while getting ready to drive home and it pops and bubbles back to life – it’s R2 (from C2) and the job at CL2 is starting…Monday May 17!  Absolutely, positively, for real!  Ummm…are you sure?  Yes, yes, I’m told this is REALLY for real this time.

The engagement with CL2 is slated to last a year.  And you can bet dollars to donuts I will make sure C2 adjusts the dates given the delayed start date as they’d promised.  The engagement with C3 would have been less than half the time and at the same pay rate.  If you had to choose between one year and four months, what would you choose, given your wallet is hurting? 

So while nothing is guaranteed, I decided to stick with C2 and start onsite with CL2 – yes the one that got three weeks delayed.  If I’d received and accepted an offer with C3 I would have had to go through all the onboarding with a totally different agency and who knows how long that would take.  Given my tolerance for financial risk gets lower and lower with each month I’m not getting a paycheck I wasn’t willing to take that gamble.  

So let’s put away the Clown Shoes, folks.  After a long, dry spell and some continental drift this girl’s going back to work Monday!