As much as some people tout that we’re becoming a free agent economy, if you’re the one living that life, it often seems like everyone else is still doing the 9 to 5 corporate (or nonprofit) thing. Maybe it’s just in Maine that most people found their dream employer right out of high school (or college) and has been with them ever since.
When I look back over my own career, it’s the equivalent of a cat’s nine lives. By that I mean that there’s the “Indiana era,” “the CMP years,” time served at “Moscow Mutual,” etc. Work relationships from each one of these periods in my life have fallen away and seem to be forgotten by everyone but me. Oh, a few people from my past are on Facebook, but I don’t consider social media the reality-equivalent that everyone else does. There are a handful of people that I remain connected to and actually spend some time with periodically. I treasure these relationships and the qualities represented by true friends.
Probably the most meaningful period during my pre-freelance career journey were four of the six years that I spent working for the Local Workforce Investment Board (LWIB). Our nonprofit organization was housed at the Lewiston CareerCenter, a place that elicited mixed feelings. I’m not a huge fan of government bureaucracy, and the Maine Department of Labor certainly operates like one. Then there were the other nonprofit partners also housed there. I won’t bother to name them.
Last fall, the boss who hired me at the LWIB died. I wrote about his influence on my life as a mentor, and what an outstanding person he was to work for. My co-worker, Judy, was also someone that I really enjoyed seeing each and every day. I think about that period from time to time and the memories are fond ones.
Reinvention is a topic that gets bandied about often at the JBE. I almost always rate that experience as life-changing, and it has been. I’ve invested 12+ years to developing my writing craft, publishing, and finding a way to piece things together and make it work. I am well into full freelance mode, which for me also includes moonlighting and a host of other adventures—like umpiring and funeral work—so it’s difficult to relate to people’s bellyaching about having only three weeks of vacation, or having to stay 10 minutes over to cover tasks. It all seems surreal when your work life and compensation is dependent solely on your own guile and accumulated skills. If I’m not working, I’m not getting paid. Freelancing is like that no matter how much people like Seth Godin hype it.
This week, I interviewed for what is likely to be a new position. It’s an intriguing one, with a well-respected financial services firm that I’m down with. My role will be a part-time one, but I think it will be a great fit for me. It will also be a change from the nonprofit consulting work I’ve been doing for the past three years.
During my interview, I mentioned my workforce development background, and that the lament that I used to hear all the time from employers about “not being able to find good people” was likely still an issue in an aging state like Maine. Yet, when you send out resumes online and even direct them to a specific person, it often feels like it’s going out into some giant black, digital hole. I mentioned to the interviewer that I often wonder if it actually gets to a human being.
I really liked meeting with this woman (as well as the very personable and approachable HR director). In the course of our conversation, she remarked that I had an “eclectic” work background. She meant it as a compliment, and I couldn’t disagree with her. But, it got me to thinking.
My experience doing many different things is very different than someone who has been doing the same type of job since God was a baby. It probably makes me stand out, but it occurred to me that it also makes it more difficult for a paint-by-number HR director to assess whether or not I can perform the required tasks. I’m probably viewed as too-great-a-risk by most. That’s too bad, because anyone that has taken a chance on me has been treated to someone who delivers value, brings passion, and it adaptable, able to roll with whatever comes my way. I can also do more than one or two things.
I’m looking forward to yet another employment adventure. I’ll approach yet another work chapter with the curiosity of a cat.