Tuesday, May 01, 2012

The back story

Okay, so here's how it all went down.

(Get a cup of tea. This may take awhile.)

At the end of February, my corporate HQ made the decision to close the STL office. This was expected, and came as no real shock to any of us. In fact, we started predicting how long it would take for them to also close our Rutherford, NJ office. The North America Zone Director (my boss) likes to have people working right in front of him. If he can't see you sitting at a desk, you might as well be on vacation.

With the announcement came a phone call from him, ostensibly to check in and see how the STL staff was doing. "Um. How do you THINK we're doing?!" Two people were laid off, the rest of us told we could keep our jobs and work from home. It was pretty crappy that he made the highest ranking person in our office break the news to us, and called only afterwards to check in. After he dispensed with the grunt work of feigning empathy and care, he drove home his point: while I was allowed to keep my job and "work from home," I was also expected to be in Lenexa, Kansas at least 2-3 days EACH WEEK.

I sighed. And started mentally updating my resume.

The first week of March, I sent out 13 resumes. Folks in KS were asking me if I was looking, and I cheerfully denied it and claimed that I love my job so much that commuting across the state and leaving my six-year-old daughter each week was no big deal. I figured if they were stupid enough to come right out and ask the question, they deserved to be lied to.

I got a few calls back on the resumes, and went for some interviews. The most promising response was for the application and resume I submitted for the position of Director of Communications at a local private school with an abbey. On March 13, the head of the school's search committee, an alum named Jim, called my cell. It was a Saturday morning and we had NCAA games blaring on the TV while we played Uno with Zoe on the floor of the living room. As soon as he identified himself, I jumped up and ran from the room, causing Zoe to essentially say "WTF?" in kindergarten terms. Her father, a sharp man, told her Mommy had to take a call about a new job.

Jim reminded me that we had briefly worked together years ago, when I was at a major not-for-profit. We had hired him for some freelance writing when we were short-staffed and up against some deadlines. We caught up for a minute, and had a great conversation. He told me he was thrilled to receive my resume, and that the search committee also had copies and they were looking forward to meeting me. I was the first candidate they called, and I had my pick of interview time slots for the following Saturday.

Being a big believer of just getting it over with (the pulling off a band-aid method - rip it!), I took the first slot at 9:30 a.m. I also figured I'd have the rest of the day to spend with the fam. Then I launched into research mode, both to get a good idea of what the position entailed and to learn more about the organization. The more I researched, the more I realized that I wanted this job. I mean, I really, really wanted it. I wanted it so much that by the time the interview rolled around I was as nervous as a recent grad trying to get an entry-level spot. I haven't been that nervous in years.

The 45-minute panel interview went well. I answered a variety of questions, and asked a few questions myself. The one person I couldn't read was the monk who would supervise the new director. I got him to chuckle once, but other than that he was pretty stone-faced. "Must be a monk thing," I thought. At the conclusion of the interview, I shook hands with everyone and made a closing pitch. It never hurts to let them know how much you're interested, after all. They laughed and said something like, "Gee, we couldn't tell you were excited!"

Jim let me know that the monks move pretty slowly, and since it was Holy Week things would be pretty much at a stand-still for at least 7-10 days. At that time, I might be called for a second round of interviews with members of the search committee who were unable to meet that day. My heart sank; I'm not so good with the patience thing and I was really ready to stop traveling to Kansas. I came home and told M and Zoe about the meeting, and that it'd be awhile before we heard anything.

At about 3:45 p.m. that day, my phone rang. It was Jim. "Remember how in the interview this morning I asked you what the headline would be if you were hired and you had to write up your own announcement?" My mind started racing. "Holy crap. They want me to write something up. I need to submit a writing sample. I have to actually write something up that will probably never be used, and I'm already under deadline for some other things..." My mind freaks out sometimes. I tentatively said, "Yes, I remember that question. It was a doozy!" Jim replied, "Well, you might want to start actually working on it, because you are the unanimous first choice of the search committee and we're moving forward with you! We wanted to call you today to tell you, and to say don't take another job." I think I sat there with my mouth hanging open.

He explained that due to travel schedules it would be about two weeks before I could get back in for the second round. He took my availability for that time and said he'd get back in touch. I hung up, and just sat stunned for a few minutes.

The supervising monk was actually the person who called me back a few days later, pulling me out of a meeting in Kansas. The next round of interviews was actually three weeks away, not two. More waiting. Those weeks crawled by. I came up with creative excuses to not go to Kansas, which wasn't horrible as for most of that time my boss wasn't there anyway.

I waffled between feeling like this was looking pretty good, and that something would surely happen to blow it all up. I learned they were also considering another candidate, although that knowledge was third-hand and I'm not sure of its accuracy. The info was enough to set me on edge, though. It was definitely not in the bag.

Last Wednesday, I went in for my second round of interviews. Five people, back to back, 30 minutes each. It ran over by almost an hour. It was a long, long afternoon and I was exhausted but happy by the end. The monk stopped by to formally conclude the day, and asked me how it went. I grinned. "I think it went great! I had an afternoon of wonderful conversations with people who are clearly dedicated to this organization and its mission." He said that he hoped to be able to call me the next day with good news, and that he was sure I'd already know if it was anything else. He also said he wanted to extend an offer in person, and since I was leaving town that night could we set up a time to meet next week. Sigh. More waiting!

Sure enough, on Thursday as I sat at a volunteer desk in the offices of the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, KY, the monk called and told me the position was mine. We arranged to meet at 4:30 p.m. on Monday (yesterday) for the formal offer. Finally, 4:30 rolled around and I found myself back in the public section of the monastery. He handed two documents to me, the top being a formal letter and the bottom outlining compensation. I asked for a night to think about it (having learned over the years that this is always a good course of action, no matter how sure you are) and he said he understood. We walked around the campus a bit, and I got to see where my office will be should I accept, and he promised that Fr. Michael's pet birds would be cleaned out. (Yes, pet birds. My office is currently inhabited by 3 parrots and a boatload of finches.) He also said the space would be thoroughly cleaned and re-painted. We also discussed technology, where I happily learned that it's a Mac campus and yes, I would be given a lovely MacBook. (This is better than my current role, where they did give me a Mac but made no attempts to support it, causing continual struggle between me and the PC folks. Now I'm living in a Mac world!)

M, Zozo and I celebrated last night, and then I filled out all my forms while M battled with AT&T to get our wireless account registered so we could have internet access again. (The AT&T rant will have to wait for another day.) Once we were back on-line, I pulled up my resignation letter and sat there for a minute with it. Cursor blinking, M prodding, "Just hit send." Deep breath, and at 10:31 p.m. I hit send. This morning I delivered my signed paperwork to the monk's empty office after waiting for awhile to see if he'd come by. He called after I left, expressing appreciation for my prompt decision and excitement over getting to work with me. He actually said, "I'm so looking forward to you joining our team. I am tremendously excited about working with you." Tremendously excited! He's not the only person tremendously excited, I'll say that.

I don't start until June 11 because of vacation schedules (his, mine and others). I gave my current job a little over 3 weeks' notice. Between my old job and the new, I'll take my kid to Disney and drive my Corvette to Nashville for Chevelle-a-bration with my Dad. Not too shabby.

I've talked to several people this morning at my current job, letting them know. I'm mostly met with silence, and then an outburst of, "Ohmygosh I'm so happy for you! Now you won't have to leave your daughter all the time!" No kidding. And I get a nice free lunch every day, too. 

So that's the scoop. It's been a long time coming, but it's here. My traveling days are over, and I think I'm going to an organization where I will be a better fit all the way around.

This is going to be a good thing. A really good thing. I can feel it in my bones.



Anonymous Tifferz said...

Yeah, congrats so excited for you! Sounds like an amazing opportunity :)

4:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I got my new comp this year I totally forgot to transfer your blog to my favorites. I'm just getting caught up on all the exciting things in your life. Congrats on the new job! SSee you in July!
Angie Z.

5:23 PM  

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