Monday, March 24, 2014

Overcoming Unemployment

Last week I finally said GOODBYE to the unemployment world. We had a rocky couple of years together, unemployment and I. I hope to never have to re-enter her treacherous realm. Here I document some of our comings and goings.

When I graduated from College I figured the world was mine for the taking. I had performed extremely well in my field while in school and was offered a job (multiple actually) right away after graduation. In fact, getting a job had always been an easy task for me. I'm not sure why that was, but I never complained about it!

In May of 2011 I changed all of the plans I had in the world and moved to Connecticut. I decided not to take the trip to Nepal, I moved my entire life out east, I even started a blog! The job seemed promising, and for the first little while I enjoyed it. Until I didn't. I wasn't satisfied with what I was doing or where I was going. Through a series of traumatic events, I had a career-crisis and paradigm shift. After my experience, I figured I would never go back to the world of landscaping, plants and design. 

Tree Prunin' Machine!

I wandered through many fields from 2012 on. I was a personal assistant to a horticulturalist and then to two men at a construction company. Then I decided that maybe being a health coach was my calling in life. When I realized that my own health was more than enough to focus on, I moved back to Utah and after 7 years of independence, I boarded up with my childhood roomies. Hey Mom and Dad! Back in the good 'ol SLC, I tried my hand at becoming an interior design assistant. But yet again it didn't work out. So I babysat, I crafted, I lingered. I applied for about a million jobs, I looked into a million programs, I went to therapy, I even started working with a career coach. I read multiple self help books and did just about everything I could. And then FINALLY... I became a server at a restaurant. 

For me becoming a server felt like an all-time low. Here I was, with a college degree, an award-winning landscape designer status, and plenty of experience to back me up. Yet no one wanted me. Or maybe I didn't know what I wanted? Either way I felt worthless. Yes, I was grateful to have a job, but I felt so debilitated. Other people were working towards their dreams or already had them. I wasn't even sure if I had dreams. The feelings of worthless-ness were powerful to say the least.

Oddly enough, I really started to treasure my job at a country music playing, giant portion serving, over-the-top boot displaying steak house. I met some of my most treasured friends among the servers and employees, I enjoyed giving people a great dining experience, and I enjoyed the fast-past and run-around environment. Some amazing things came to me that I would have never experienced had I not been working there at that restaurant. It truly enriched my life on every level. 

Some of my crew on a "sparkler" break
When I decided to leave the restaurant, I knew I had to find something that suited me, my background, and my love for people. I had thought about going back into the landscaping world, but I still couldn't stomach the idea of an industry I had been completely disillusioned to. I still loved plants, but I couldn't see a way of working with them outside this industry. So I decided to try for another personal assistant job. I applied for a position and was 99% sure I was going to get it. I put in my two weeks at the restaurant and hoped for the best. 

However, what I thought was "the best" did not happen. Not even close. And I didn't get the job.

Panic set in as I realized I had no way to provide for myself. I had been searching for the right job and career since January of 2012. And 2 years later I felt worse off than I did before I declared a major in college. At least back then I had hope for the future. Now I had little desire to keep searching. I didn't know what else to do. I started to get a little desperate. Nursing school? MBA? I didn't want to get into debt, but what were my options. And what if I hated the new field too? What was I to do????

Then one day my sister-in-law sent me a link to work at a botanical garden here in Salt Lake City. I had never considered working in a botanical garden. At first I felt averse to even considering another horticulture related career. But then it occurred to me that this could work. I could both work with plants, and people, and NOT be in the residential or commercial landscape management industry. A tiny little light bulb lit up in my head, and somehow I gathered the gusto to apply for the job. 

But I didn't get it.

They told me that there was an assistant position opening up for the job I had just applied to, so I applied to that one.

But I didn't get it.

Loosing steam at an alarming rate, I turned to my last resort. Through the whole process I had been talking to a friend of mine who works there. He finally said to me, "Jenny, we have some seasonal positions opening in my department, why don't you apply?"So, as a last ditch effort, I applied.

And I got it.

I would have never imagined it, but so far this job has been perfect for me. I get to work with plants, I get to be creative in coming up with new ideas, and best of all, I get to teach children about all of the great aspects about nature. Every element of this job works with who I am and what I love. I had elements in my life that I already knew I loved, but I didn't know they could all come together. This was my dream and I didn't know it until it presented itself to me. 

I don't know what the next step will be. I don't have a 5 year plan. Or even a 2 year plan. I am hoping that I will be able to use this position as a stepping stone. Maybe I will be able to move up gain full employment at the gardens. If not, I found a great master's program in Portland that focuses on garden education. In any case, I am finally pointed in the right direction.

Most of the stories I heard during the whole ordeal were about people who knew what their dreams were, and somehow achieved them through lots of failure and hard work. Or people who had huge paradigm shifts whilst already pursuing another career path. The moral was always the same: "Follow Your Dream" and keep working at it until you get it. I felt hopeless because I didn't have a dream. I didn't know what I wanted. Everything was a means to an end. 

It felt cruel to me that I had to go through this process for two years with unprecedented amounts of pain and confusion. And honestly, I'm so fresh out of it that I don't know all of the reasons why I did go through what I went through. Some seem applicable, but many of the reasons are still very unclear to me. There are others who have gone through much more or much less. I don't yet have the whole "moral" to my story, but what I do have is hope. And it's more hope than I have felt in a long time.  

To that, I say CHEERS!