February 22, 2016

Planning for job evaporation and asking “What’s next?”

My jaw aches set in at dawn. When I close my eyes, my stomach’s flipping and turning like a bucking bronco. I think I know why.

My body is signalling: PAY ATTENTION.

By and large, I’ve been happy at my current gig. That’s shorthand for “I’m discontent with some things, I hate other things, and I’m fine with the rest of the things.” The scales tilt back and forth but always come back to neutral-positive.

This job’s been good for work-life balance in a way my previous gigs have not been, though, there are trade-offs. There always are.

My current set-up gives me autonomy and flexibility in exchange for being spare to the point of bare in the benefits department. It’s the first time I could make that choice and it’s because PiC and I have joined forces. I can now spread the risk and rewards across both our jobs, so I am not alone in providing all the income, all the care, and all the savings.  This gig’s crap benefits don’t impact me the way they would have five years ago.

I took a calculated risk taking this job with this compensation package, for specific reasons, and for the most part it’s paid off: our money management has gotten better, my health has slowed its steep downward trajectory, and we even grew our family. These are not small things. These are all good life-changing things. Even if I harbor some disaffection over poor management, again, by and large, this has been a good career move for my life and my family.

It’s also somewhat less stable than your standard job in an at-will state. We renew my commitment every 12-18 months rather informally.

Financial State of the Union

As with all jobs, I maintain the perspective that this isn’t forever.

Every year, we sit down and discuss our budget, our savings plans and goals. After this year’s chat, PiC and I are facing something new. If I’m reading the tea leaves correctly, there may not be a renewal of my gig in about 12 or so months.

I’ve seen company buyouts before. I’ve been through corporate buyouts, and small partnerships hitting the reef buyouts. I’m seeing some decisions that may be nothing, or may be the early warning signs to a buyout situation. We don’t know. We do know that it never goes smooth…

Captain Reynolds: How come it never goes smooth!

And thus: the tension.

What if this job is over a year from now?
What if I am allergic to a traditional workplace after having tasted the nectar of a flexible working arrangement? (Magic 8-ball says: odds are high)
What if the next jobs are full of politics, meetings, and bureaucratic crud? (Ugh, I hate playing office politics)
What if I don’t want to stay in this career path after this?
NOTE: Since I started writing this, I’ve gotten confirmation that my reading of the red flags was right. It’s not imminent but I would be wise to plan ahead, starting now!

What shall I do next?

A job loss would immediately halve our income and dramatically focus my waking and unsleeping hours on replacing that income. Not the early retirement anyone dreams of!

My Catastrophizing Catamaran takes flight and I’m rethinking our 7-year-plan to pay off the mortgage, look for a house, heck, even digging into our savings to buy a replacement car.

It all boils down to two main things to worry about: money and what’ll I do next in my career.

The money part

We have a nearly impressive pile of cash in CDs and savings accounts totaling 2 years of living expenses in cash-like accounts. My secondary goal this year was to pull half of those cash assets into dividend stocks. The market’s down right now, it’s a good time to buy.

With this moment of uncertainty, if there’s no job in a year, it might not be great to lock that cash up. We’ll still be fully investing in all our retirement accounts, but our stock portfolio may only get about 1/3 or 1/2 of the cash originally intended.

The job part

This part is more complicated and doesn’t have a firm conclusion yet.

Much as I would love to be one of those bloggers who finds herself transitioning from a job loss to blogging full-time for a great income, this isn’t that kind of blog, is it? I’ve been around these parts for on a decade, doing what I love, and it’s fulfilling but it’s not filling any coffers. At best, this hobby has paid for its costs but it certainly hasn’t bought me a donut. Not even a bag of donut holes. And any money I made was put aside for the dogs. Dogs before donuts!

For now, this is a labor of love, not an income stream because the writing only truly flows when it’s authentic and authentic me isn’t necessarily Ye Most Marketable.

Instead, I cultivate our mundane income streams: the rental, our dividend investing portfolio, and of course a day job. Except replacing that last isn’t really firing up my engines.

Beyond all other things, my career was my passion, for years. The weight of the world rested on my shoulders so I hustled with the best, I outpaced the tireless, I strove and I strove. With that awful responsibility, working a traditional job was the only thing I wanted to do. Entrepreneurship could take a flying leap. My parents had been entrepreneurs. They built, they innovated, they slogged, they toiled 365 days a week, 18 hours a day, for years. It ended abruptly, with no savings, because of a huge number of factors. The upshot of that shared experience and picking up their pieces was I got as far away from it as I could. I did perfectly fine for myself running away from my parents’ choices. “Fine” got us to a place where we could actually plan ahead for emergencies, taking them in stride when they hit, and even have fun.

Having tasted the nectar of freedom from a traditional office, particularly when this lifestyle preserves precious energy, I find myself never wanting to go back there, either.

I get so much more done when I dictate my schedule, don’t have to dress up for an office, and don’t waste time on a commute. Twitter serves as my water cooler. I can dip in for quick mental refreshers, get caught up on news, and keep in contact with the rest of the world. Who needs an office?

Lastly, I’m great at my job in my current industry but I’m at my role’s peak if I don’t want to make massive sacrifices of time on business meetings and travel for not much more money. Quick confession: Nope. Life is too valuable to trade “up” for minimally more money.

So, what’s that leave?

I’m honestly not sure. I’ve never been this uncertain of my professional path forward before. There’s always been some plan, harebrained though it might have been. At least this time it’s not fraught with nightmares. There’s some self imposed pressure to make this next step a good one, but that’s always been true.

My instincts are directing me to look away from this field and explore something new. It’s worth a try. It’s worth kicking around some ideas and seeing what sticks.

One of my skills is resume and cover letter review and editing, and career advising. This is only offered on a highly selective basis but, to date, every single one of my advising sessions and rewritten resumes have borne fruit. For one friend, it spawned two promotions and a $10,000 raise with each. For another friend, lessons in negotiation resulted in 2 promotions and three raises. For the last, three interviews, two job offers, one perfect job. Not a bad track record but the sample size is small.

Another thing I’m pretty darn good at is money management. Again, for a select few, I’ve served as a financial adviser with all the requisite warnings that I’m not a licensed professional. I can only promise that I take this service very seriously and the suggestions and recommendations I make are what I would do for myself if I were in their shoes.

Could I hang my shingle out for either of these things? Sure! But the question is: is there enough of a demand that it would be a sustainable, worthwhile, pursuit? I’ve had a few people say in passing they’d pay for either one of those services but not enough to establish a strong demand.

I’ll keep testing ideas and testing the waters. Something will pop out.

What would you do if your job were over in a year? Is there something you’ve always wanted to do? Never wanted to do?

Self assessments always ask “What would your friends say you’re great at?” I don’t know. What would you call out as my employable strengths? 

*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich, Disease Called Debt and Lively Chicken*

October 29, 2014

Have I lost my fire?

A strange thought struck me as I poked around the internet instead of keeping on top of the work I intended to get done tonight: Have I lost my ambition?

The most enjoyable parts of my day are more and more domestic: watching the dog sleep. Having dinner prepped well in advance so I can bunk around online, recreationally or working. It’s not totally unthinkable, I’ve always enjoyed housework just as much as I do working professionally.

Granted, some part of this is because there be a critter parasitically using what energy I do have, to spare me the trouble one presumes, but for the first time in my medium-length career, I don’t have any lofty job related ambitions except to be comfortable in my role and to make good money while I rock it. I’m not the fire-eater of half a decade ago, tearing a path through the ranks and taking no prisoners (except for the inevitable scheming backstabbing bastards, I’ve got your names and someday karma will kick your asses).

Occasionally, and this is more frequent when there’s a thousand conversations about side hustles everywhere on twitter and in the PF blogosphere, I’m motivated to think about getting off my moderately well paid duff and doing something more than just the usual investing and saving. After all, if I intend to be a multimillionaire before I’m either 40 or broken, whichever comes sooner, there isn’t that much time to be wasted!

But this year feels less like a growing and conquering year than any other. Maybe I have lost my fire. Perhaps this is the fallow season in preparation for the next push.

Or maybe I’m just riding out a wave of boredom that will crest in new ideas and new projects. I could use an interesting new project around here.


After some reflection I realized what this really is.

I’m harboring some resentment over a financial agreement that was reneged upon at work as a direct result of Little Bean.

I won’t get into the nitty gritty at the moment but to summarize: the principle of having had an agreement, and then being penalized specifically because of the time I’ll need to take off for LB makes me reconsider my commitment to a workplace that I otherwise love. It reminds me of all the times I’ve had to fight tooth and claw to be paid what I’m worth, and all the times I’ve had to compromise or put up with horrible people and harassment for the sake of the work experience and paving the way to a better next step.

February 19, 2012

A catching up and cookery Sunday

Oddly, being in new surroundings, a side effect of the promotion, has actually seen me behaving in a healthier fashion. The promotion itself was meant to promote better health, as I said before, but I truly didn’t have any expectations for it to be this soon or this naturally. I thought expected the stresses of the new role would be obvious more quickly than the benefits and definitely expected to have to be very conscious in my healthy choices.

New things

I eat now. I never used to eat during my work day. I’m actually eating at a reasonable hour of the day. Snacking a couple times rather than regular meals but that was something my doctor and I discussed as a healthy alternative.

Being less sedentary: It’s more than just for meetings, though just barely. The goal is to get away for at least 15 minutes per work day for a walk of some kind.

Logging miles: Though the days can be longer because there’s just that much more work to be done during this period of transition, I’m taking advantage of that and squeezing in nearly a mile walk up to a few times a week.

These are small things, and we’ll see how long it comes without much effort because it’s really early but it’s significant. Already I’ve gone five full days without a stress or fatigue headache despite my still carrying serious responsibility and throughout major, unexpected, chaos. That’s unusual. And reading this post about my friend and professional inspiration, Single Ma’s, Health Breakthrough this week had me absolutely choked up in my happiness for her. I actually teared up at work. That never happens.

See, pain and I have been close companions for nearly 20 years now, and I’d (sort of) become resigned to living with it for the rest of my life. From that vantage point and as a friend, I hated every minute of Single Ma’s struggle with her injury that derailed her journey to physical fitness. The setbacks and the time it was taking to get answers were familiar as well, and depressing as anything. I hated that a friend was living the same kind of hells I had. Hearing that she had a breakthrough was all kinds of happy.

It gives me hope that my dear friend Ruth who is also experiencing some pain issues will find answers that lead to a pain-free life as well.

And there was a minute where I started to wonder if maybe there’s a chance I can improve too, even a little.

Posts for Perusal

Shawanda’s 20 Rules To Follow After You Quit Your Job:  To be honest, I like these guidelines for everyday use, whether or not you’re working a “regular” job. I believe in maximizing your time, no matter the reason or the current commitments. We all only have the same 24 hours, after all.

Nicole and Maggie asked: How do you pay for presents?  This is a new thing for us to work out this year. For those of you who are partnered, do you set a price limit on how much you can spend on gifts for each other? Or is there an understanding?

Stacking Pennies started a weekly Monday list to set up her week back in January. It’s a great idea – you may not have control over how the week develops but at least giving it the best opening that you possibly can keeps you from being flustered out of the gate. I try to do this with cooking and laundry over the weekends, if nothing else.

A Recipe

A delicious, easy, recipe we’ve been enjoying thanks to our one sane neighbor who shares food and recipes generously. Plus: it only costs pennies since almost all the ingredients are in our cupboards. This is one offset to going out to eat with the same neighbor nicely. **We do have more than one sane neighbor, it’s just that this is the only one we trade foodstuffs with.

Lentil Soup

I’ve made this soup twice now, modifying it the first time with cubed potatoes and keeping to the original the second time. It was pretty fantastic the first go-round, just as good the second.

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon margarine
1 large clove of garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon cumin powder or seed
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder (I never cook w/cayenne so I’ve substituted paprika)
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon coriander
6 cups water
1 cube vegetarian boullion (I prefer more fresh ingredients so have just used veggie or chicken broth instead of the water plus boullion)
1 diced onion
1 pound lentils.

Saute the onion and garlic in the oil and margarine in a large pot until tender.
Add the spices and saute for 1 minute.
Add water, vegetarian bouillon, and lentils.
Cook until lentils are tender, about 1 hour*.
*I used pink lentils, it only takes approximately 20 minutes to become tender.

Do you have any quick and easy recipes to share?  Please do!

April 28, 2010

Workaholism: The quiet contagion

One of the oddest things about starting this new job is taking on a supervisory role, officially performing the duties I was unofficially in charge of in previous jobs, and going to a salaried position. I’ve never been salaried before and this is a dangerous thing.

I run with workaholics.  I always have. This particular set seems to avoid imposing their schedules on me, but when your peers or people you report to are diligently at their desks before and after you arrive …. well, I don’t know about you, but that gives me a touch of indigestion and I feel compelled to at least match their time in the office. That seems silly but most especially in the first six months, I think it’s crucial to do your best work and oftentimes, it has to be made evident via face time while you’re just learning the ropes.

The difference between starting this job and any other job in the last ten years is that while I want and expect to excel, I’m not willing to let the job take over my life. So rather than automatically resigning myself to mimicking their behavior, I’m on the lookout for ways to become extremely efficient and good at my job without having to log 14 hour days. As it is, I’ve naturally worked until almost 6:30 every night even on days where I’ve arrived before 8 am.

Part of that is the settling-in process: I have meetings back to back all day and very little time to do actual work. But every single meeting produces more reading, more meetings and more follow-up I’ve got to do. I expect that a third of the meetings will go away, but that’s only a few extra hours in a day.

The real boss has finally been in the office this week, so that’ll be part of the settling in process as well.

Does anyone else have problems balancing work-life-expectations?

August 14, 2008


As much fun as some of the travel has been, I’m starting to feel a bit turned around by so much of it. Already, I’ve got to pack tonight for another trip, this time for a wedding up north. Of course I’m looking forward to seeing and spending time with people but there’s been scarcely a moment to breathe between trips (or blog!)

I’m looking forward to a weekend or two of peace and quiet to catch up with myself.

I did get a nice 30 minute workout in last night. Spent some time on the treadmill, broken up by chasing the dog around the yard or being chased by him, and worked with some free weights for a while. It’s hot enough that it’s not hard to break a sweat, but at least some of that was from actually working out. The dog joined me because he needs a workout too, but I get nervous playing the chase game with him, he’s still a big galumph and tails me too closely. He nearly took me down last night and I’m not sure if that’s because he meant to or because he sprang too closely. Anyway, if I end up with some major injuries caused by falling during a run, you can blame the dog.

Also, I managed to fit in some studying before and after dinner. It wasn’t a ton, but it was good brain food.

Yodlee’s acting funny. It refuses to retrieve ING account information.

Regarding work: *sigh* All I can say is, I’m Kim Possible, “so not the drama.”

Lastly: I love Bin Bin rice crackers. (aka: MSG crackers, to some folks.)

July 22, 2008

Careering: Depth or Breadth?

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately. By my measure, I’ve reached the height of my career with this company. There are a lot of reasons to stay: more experience, projects and management courses, not to mention the fantastic tuition reimbursement and retirement plans, but the overriding reason to leave can’t be argued with. This environment will get a whole lot worse before it gets better. My sanity has already been through the wringer and back, and the law of numbers says I’m going to lose it permanently if I stick around too much longer. No one wants to be the best-performing lifer in the asylum, right?

This brings me to a very important question: what’s next?

I ask myself that question daily to keep myself moving, working harder, smarter, faster and as best I can manage, more than 100%. And it was all to build my skill sets and knowledge, to get the promotions and raises to set myself up for the next step in my career. I thought I kept my eye on the bigger picture this entire time, but it turns out, the next step isn’t always that obvious. I need to break out of the comfort zone that is my job with the uberstress but is a known quantity, my responsibilities, my cushy healthcare with a doctor that takes me seriously and takes good care of me. The benefits, the things that are basically peripheral to the job itself are great, but the main dish isn’t so hot anymore.

So, this early on in my career, I’m not sure what the best next move is: to pursue higher education, deepen my experience by climbing the ladder to the next logical step (management), or broaden my horizons by expanding on my current experience in a related job (lateral move)?

What’s more important? Which road is the best for both the journey and where I want to end up? More than job security which doesn’t truly exist, more than oodles of money in the bank that can go away, I want to know that come rain or shine, richer or poorer, I have developed the ability to survive and thrive. I want to be the person who can pick herself up in any set of circumstances, determine what needs to be done to succeed, and make it there. The key to this is marketability and flexibility.

Decision making process to follow ….

April 23, 2008

Response to Americans at Work

Meg’s post on the American work ethic and who would benefit from working in an environment where they were only paid for what they produced for a period of time, and the comments, really resonated with me today.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been doing a lot of managerial work for the past 18 months, and that includes training the employees I helped select, and directing them in their work. When they have a semi-slow day like today, they’re at loose ends, and aren’t familiar enough with the routine tasks that are often pushed to the side during deadlines. Their automatic response is: “I could go home. At 10 am.” My automatic response is: “Get your notepad and sit down. I’m going to train you on something new. There’s always something to do, or something to learn.”

The reason I’m the one in this seat of responsibility is because of that attitude. The reason no one wants my position is because no one else has my work ethic.

Here’s the dichotomy: It’s good in that, based on my work record, I can command a much higher salary in this field than I’d get elsewhere at my age and three years of experience. But, the recognition and smoother work relationships that ought to have developed thanks my decision making and efforts have not. Considering my tripled workload, I should have been promoted and received more raises than I have, by now. So, it’d be one thing if this job translated into the kind of progress that Miguel’s made:

To the point of the post, there is no doubt that people treat their work very differently when they have accountability – either positive (pay tied to results) or negative (keeping job tied to results). I’ve always sought situations where accountability is taken to the extreme because this is usually where the maximum pay-off resides. And it has served me well.

But because this path has become stagnant, I’ve realized that I’ve allowed the job, because of my work ethic, to consume my life for an unworthy goal. It didn’t start out that way, but that’s what it’s become, possibly due to external influences on our office.

That was starkly evident at our Christmas dinner. We went around the table, at Big Boss’s behest, to say something about everyone. The general theme was everyone’s personalities and how they interacted with one another. C1 and C3 are the gigglers, they laugh at anything and everything. They catch every pop culture reference known to man or beast. C2 often exists in her own universe, and when she emerges, is either the smartest or funniest person in the room.

The theme of my roast? Little Boss: How I could do better. Everyone else: How hard I work. How my life revolves around this office. My knowledge. My function as a reference for every question. My working like I was an indentured servant, or like I was profit-sharing.

It’d be flattering, I suppose, if I didn’t realize that it’s also a sign that I’m fast becoming the cautionary tale, or the precautionary tale of the dark side of this moon. Little Boss is already the cautionary tale of someone who rose in the ranks based on this kind of work ethic, and continues to sacrifice his family for a place that doesn’t appreciate him nearly enough. That’s what I could become in ten years if I were foolish enough to stick around that long. And you know something? If Little Boss was half as interested in growing me as an employee as I am in growing my team, I’m pretty certain that I’d be the perfect employee: willing to bust my butt for as many hours as it took to get the jobs done, and feeling appreciated.

There’s a fine line between being a great employee and a sucker. While I don’t regret putting my best effort forward because I always want to be proud of my work, and I can always learn skills to take home, there’s no need to remain married to this job if it’s evident that there’s no room for growth. That’d be a sucker’s move.

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