Life being unemployed for the first time…


I have been lucky.  I have been paid (worked)- to do something that I have loved for basically all of my working life.  At 15, I was a camp counselor at Brookdale Community College Sports Camps and worked there every summer until I was 30. I played sports throughout high school and college- thus playing and coaching were the mainstays of my life!

After college, I did have a couple of months where I did not know what I was going to do but needed money, so I picked up a nighttime job at a local pub called The Parker House. It’s a great place to grab a drink, and a hotbed for summer visitors down at the Jersey Shore.  With my luck- it was also filled with football coaches and teachers working the bar to supplement their income.  This led to me being connected with a young football coach, who at that time, needed a coach immediately to start.  Thus began a 15 year saga of teaching elementary school, at the absolutely best level of 4th and 5th grade, while coaching state championship football and softball at the varsity level.  I was living the best life…….

That is until the perfect storm began to form and blew into my life- giving me the opportunity to advance myself and expand my learning! The storm included my 3 kids growing up, a jealous and vindictive union president, the bleak teacher financial outlook, and one special offer.  Coming out of the storm, I found myself building a new home at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt under some of the best leadership and colleagues I have known.

While it hurt me (and still does to this day) to leave the classroom and ability to positively impact my students- I made the move for the betterment of my family over the asks of my extended family of students. The opportunity to change the classroom by being a Solutions Architect brought new goals and adventure. By listening and collaborating with school districts nationwide- I was able to help position technology being used properly in the classroom with the proper form of content from HMH. I never felt like a salesman for HMH- but rather shined as an advocate for the district. By making sure their purchases were going to fit their need for today and vision for year to come- I was able to position solutions for many important districts like Frederick MD., Ceres CA., Sapulpa OK., Asbury Park NJ. to name a few- along with a great trip/meeting with the Minister of Education for Trinidad Tobago! These solutions led to great Partnerships and relationships which led to great student outcomes. Simply by taking the time to listen and understand the use case for the classroom, administrators from across the nation would trust in me and eventually my team!

And then came Oct. 17, 2019…..A call, that while not a surprise- totally hit us from left field. I will never forget the phrase used “HMH has decided to NOT pursue being in the business of Tech Services. HMH has chosen to partner with a 3rd party to provide your services……Your services are no longer needed.”  After the initial shock began to fade, I remember thinking that this is some kind of a joke.  Should I unmute myself and laugh out loud? We all knew that a 3rd party would not be able to ‘provide’ what we actually did. There was no way they overlooked the positioning/partnership with Google I initiated, or the creation of the internal access to our new ED Platform. Yet- the shock must have been felt by everyone else also- as no one said anything. How did we get to this point? How did executive leadership believe that all we did was roster districts to our platform? Yet here we were waiting for our leader to speak up- but all we heard was nothing…..a sound I will get to later…..

In the blink of an eye- I, no we, were now unemployed.  We were part of a massive layoff impacting 8% of the HMH workforce, but we were the only division to be let go as a whole group. Did I have questions? You bet! Was I angry? Yes! Was I confused? Without a doubt! Our group was told over and over how important we were to the success of the company, and more importantly, to the success of sales and relationships. So who could I/we turn to at this point in time for answers? Our direct boss? Well- hindsight is 20/20. Our trusted leader had gone radio silent for a week, and missed our manager’s meeting the night prior. There would be no outreach there……

So there I was- after several phone calls with colleagues who were also impacted- all alone.  My wife, who worked night shifts as a manager at the hospital, was still sleeping upstairs. Waking her wasn’t going to change anything, and she needed her sleep. She was now the bread winner of the family and it is important for her to get her sleep in as her job could be impacted negatively for lack of sleep- Who wants that?  My kids were going to be coming home soon….What will I tell them and how will they react?  I was able to make the best use of the time given me to put my own life beliefs into play. This was not a situation where I did not do my job. As I have always believed- the efforts I put into the work given me was done to bring respect to my name. By taking care of my name, I would always be representing the company name with respect. My reputation was undeniably in good light- as this was a business decision. I didn’t have to agree with it, and I certainly didn’t have to let it soil my name and the work my team and I were able to accomplish. While the company may not have seen the value, I looked at my team and the trusted relationships we had built with PRIDE! The more I thought about our accomplishments over the last 3-4 years, and the accomplishments I have had over the last 8-9 years- the PRIDE built up and my smile returned to my face and my decision to post my feelings on LinkedIn. The feedback has been tremendous and uplifting from simply putting my feelings around a bad situation into writing. The power of the printed word and the internet is incredible. Thus my decision to write about this journey on my blog. I hope that my thoughts and feelings are able to provide some peace and comfort to those in need, but hopefully just inspire you to look at your situations in a positive light to learn and progress from!

So fast forward to today- a full 2 weeks since we were let go.  I have put together my resume, and began the search online with LinkedIn, Indeed, and ZipRecruiter.  I have reached out to friends, and old colleagues who moved on years ago.  I found it sad that I had let so many friendships fade simply because we did not work within the same company, but yet- isn’t that just how life works? I worked with folks who did not live next door- but yet- we developed a great work environment virtually. Out of sight/out of mind- right? For the first week- I was surprisingly relaxed. I felt no pressure to run out and find a job. It was an eerie calm that I succumbed to as the week went on as the voice in my head kept repeating: Something will come to you. Your work ethic and reputation precedes you! And yet, I could faintly hear another voice trying to be heard- something about not sitting around and just waiting for an opportunity?

Week 2 was filled with optimism and disappointment. As applications are being filled online- it is obvious that an employer doesn’t get to know the real me by just submitting a resume. So when the replies come back that ‘after review and consideration’, I am not what they consider a match- it is a punch to the gut. I would not have applied if I didn’t feel as if I would bring something to the table….how do I get to the table to showcase me at a face to face interview? Remember how I stated ‘I have been lucky’? Tell me I don’t need to be lucky just to qualify for an interview……and then there’s the email to set up an interview- and the return of optimism!  So here I am heading into week 3 with some hope of landing the new role that will bring the new adventure.  I have begun to expand my view outside of education with the knowledge that teaching and coaching is my passion. I can lead, teach, coach, and inspire a team of individuals to be successful without it being focused on education. I’ve done it in the classroom, on the football field, on the softball field, and in the business environment- all with success. Someone saw it in me then, and someone will take a chance on me again! I can’t wait for the silence of waiting to end. It is the sound that brings me my only disappointment and learning moment of this whole situation. I do not hate my former boss for remaining silent during the call, but I have lost all respect for the choice of remaining silent since that call. A simple phone call to simply talk and break the silence would have meant the world to me and the other managers. Your silence to this day speaks volumes about your integrity and character.  Leadership is about being vocal and personal in good times and bad (especially in bad times).

Well- I will check in at the end of week 3 or 4!  I know some of the people have already found a landing spot elsewhere- and congrats to those companies for scooping up those great individuals. As for me- the search is still on……..stay tuned and stay positive!

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