Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Job Hunting

August 30th 2005 Job Hunting...

Way back in the middle of March, I was a pretty happy guy. I was working for a large company out in the San Francisco area, making good money, and spending my weekends shooting photos of scenic places. I’d just paid off the last stick of furniture in my house, so I had a little extra cash to play with, my cancer was still in remission, and life was truly terrific.

Then I started getting calls from another company that wanted me to come to work for them. I’d known most of the folks on the other end of the phone for some time, as we’d all been working together for years until they split off to form a new company in competition with the company I was still working for.

Their initial offer was of equal value to what I was presently making, in terms of salary and so forth. I appreciated the offer, but was not terribly interested in changing employment at that time, at least not without some incentive to do so. I was pretty well established where I was, had good insurance (important to me because of my ongoing cancer treatments, and so forth), and was somewhat hesitant to take a chance with it. A bird in the hand, so to speak

They understood and said that they really wanted me to come on board with them. They made progressively sweeter pitches to me that resulted in an offer of more salary and responsibilities, more freedom and autonomy in my future position than I currently had in the publicly traded corporation I was with, and stressed that in the new company I could expect a more friendly, family oriented atmosphere than the cold, corporate, quarterly-profit motivated one I was in at the time. Eventually, I accepted their newest offering and turned in my resignation.

In all honesty, there was another contributing factor that was quite personal to me. At the company I’d been with for the past few years, there was another manager that had been making quite a lot of trouble for me behind the scenes. His aspirations for power seemed to outweigh his personal integrity, and time and time again, folks would come to me with accounts of how he’d been saying disparaging things about me to my peers, staff, workers, clients and even the upper management we answered to.

Of course, he always denied it, including the time that I involved our corporate H.R. department to file a formal complaint, which resulted in an official warning to him that was placed in his personnel file.

He’d stated on many occasions that his ultimate goal was to get a “V.P.” title, and it seemed to many that he was obsessing about it. Apparently, he thought that by getting me kicked to the curb, he could take over both our regions, warranting the title. I had no such aspirations myself, and was content to do the best job I could, make a decent living, and enjoy a life worth living between chemo treatments.

The clients he dealt with directly shunned me more and more, making it increasingly difficult over time to negotiate with them. Eventually, they wouldn’t even return my calls and emails. He continued to deny any influence or involvement, and feigned ignorance of the reasons behind their refusal to deal with me, despite the accounts I continued to receive over the years from third parties who’d heard the disparaging remarks against me directly from him or overheard him making them to others.

So, I saw the new opportunity as a way to get away from his power trip and the detrimental effect it was having on my ability to work with our clients. If he wanted the V.P. title so bad that he was willing to stab others in the back to get it, so be it. I had no interest in trying to fight against a campaign of malicious slander. I would simply leave him with his little pot of gold, and move on to a less competitive atmosphere, where I could work in peace.

With that, I turned my attention to the future. I was eager to get very involved with the new company. It seemed at the time that there was a lot of opportunity to grow with them, both personally and professionally. It was all very exciting. I dug right in and worked hard at the tasks before me, and put together a new database that would allow the company to track workers, work and materials, do reconciliation, and a number of other things. All seemed to be going very well.

Five weeks after I started with the new company, the manager I’d left behind walked through my door bearing my job title and description, and carrying with him a FedEx envelope containing a letter to me from the V.P. stating that my services were no longer required, effective the next day.

It was apparent to me that he’d negotiated my demise as part of his bid to take over my new job as his own. No doubt, he’d played the cards he’d carefully stacked against me with the clients, as the means to justify why he could do a better job than I.

A few phone calls later, and my job was saved, at least for the time being. While that was going on, he was bad-mouthing me and my abilities to the folks that worked for me at the new job (they told me later). To my face, he feigned ignorance of why they’d let me go, how valuable he thought I was, that he’d “gone to bat” for me, etc., etc., etc. He said he didn’t even want my job. He made it clear to me again that day that he wanted to be a V.P. and that he could do a much better job than the guy presently holding the position.

I recognized it as the same bullshit as always, just a new company and location, but was naïve enough to think that he’d target the current VP with his malicious campaigns, take the VP position, and leave me ‘beneath him’, which was actually fine with me.

A few days later, the current VP was “let go” and, shortly after, the owner of the company flew out for a visit. He personally apologized for the “thing” that happened to me, and reassured me that my job was not in jeopardy. He reviewed the database I’d been working on, and seemed to be very excited about it, stating that he wanted to deploy it to all the job sites across the country, and also wanted to present it to our biggest client to show the level of competence and documentation ability “we’d” developed. I was all for it, seeing it as a way to be a very productive asset to the company, anchoring my future with them.

Shortly after that, on a nation-wide conference call with the managers of all the job sites, the owner of the company named the new VP. Not surprising to me, it was the guy who’d waged a campaign for several years to get the position. I hoped he’d be satisfied at last, that he’d use his influence with the clients to get lots of work for the company, and that we could all finally just get to work without having to constantly watch our backs.

One of his first decisions was to transfer me to the corporate office in Virginia to work out the intricacies of deploying the database nationwide, and to be the national representative in charge of administering it. I would deploy it to existing job sites, set it up at new job sites, train personnel in its use, and so on.

First though, he wanted me to go to Detroit, though his reasons were vague. He said that he anticipated he would be getting rid of the managers at that site, and wanted me there in case they saw the handwriting on the wall and jumped before he was ready with new management to take it over. He said that he had to be careful because the managers on that site had been with the owner for years, so he had to first convince the company owner that the “change” was necessary. He had no doubt that he’d get what he wanted because, as he put it, the owner had already given him almost unlimited power to do whatever he wanted. He explicitly told me not to say anything about it to anyone, and I instinctively knew the consequences if I did.

Meanwhile, he told the managers in Detroit that I was there to help them with their inventory, which made no sense to any of us, since they didn’t really have an inventory problem, which I discovered upon arrival there. They smelled bullshit, and so did I.

It also didn’t escape my notice that with the transfer, I was in point of fact no longer the regional manager I was hired to be. No one answered to me and I answered only to the new VP, who was now too busy to return my calls. I was suddenly in limbo, without a job title or clear direction.

Sitting in Detroit, feeling about as useful as a screen door on a submarine, I continued to work on the progression of the database structure toward something that could be used nationally, trying to fuse it with existing systems that were in place at corporate, working via phone and email on daily issues the managers left behind in California asked me for help with, and even putting together some photos to be used on the company’s future web site, at the request of another company department’s VP.

Then, 16 weeks after I was hired, the new VP called to let me know that they had to cut back on overhead, and that he had to let me go. Of course, he was very sorry, and offered two week’s severance as a parting gift.

The Detroit managers, who’d been transferred to Chicago when the Detroit job got shut down a few days earlier, came and got my company vehicle, cell phone, laptop computer, etc. So, there I was, stuck in a motel room in Detroit, without a job to continue to pay for it, without a vehicle to get around, everything I owned in a storage unit that would require almost $200 per month to keep, and without fresh prospects to get back to work in a job market that’s presently very slow.

I rented a car, got a personal cell phone and moved into my mother’s unoccupied condo nearby. I typed up my new resume and started making phone calls, looking for a new job. Nearly five weeks later, I’m still looking. I only rented the car a couple of weeks, to get to job interviews and so on. My personal savings continue to decline, and I figure I’ve only got about a month or two left until I’m completely broke, unless something turns up.

And right in the middle of it all, the dread that my cancer may need treatment again soon. I’ve no insurance now, no money to get any insurance, and no idea how I’ll be able to deal with the situation if I get sick. It’s been over two years since my last treatment, which means that I could be facing some serious health issues soon. If caught early, I can work right through my treatment periods, as I’ve done before, but if I get too sick before I can get insurance and treatment, I won’t be able to work; to get a job; to get insurance. And without insurance and the proper treatment that it provides, that means I could soon be facing the end of my life.

The idea that I might actually die as the domino-effect end-result of a campaign of malicious slander waged by an egomaniac on a power trip is like something out of a conspiracy novel, but there it is, staring me in the face with all the stark reality of a freight train coming straight at me.

Still, I keep my spirits up and my outlook positive. I continue to feel confident that something will turn up in my job search, and all will right itself again.

And if not, well… I did the best I could, and my integrity remains intact, which is more than I can say for some...