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Not From Toronto
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June 2, 2003

Back In The Saddle Again - Again!

Over the past year I've been telling you the sad story of my professional life. First, I told you all about having too much free time on my hands. After that I wrote on some insights into the possibility of relocating for work and then having it not work out in the end. I then headily proclaimed that I had indeed finally found work, only to report back months later that it fell through due to a worst-case scenario happening. Later I came really close to finally working again, only to have a recruiter muck it up, just like the first time.

Well, I'm back again, hopefully to tell you once and for all that I am finally an employed, productive member of society again. It's been thirteen and a half long, unfathomable months. Although there were some positive benefits to being off for so long - like being able to watch my daughter grow up - I think it's safe to say that both my wife and myself will greatly benefit from my being back at work. Not only will I have an income again, but we now know where we're going to live for the next many years (yes, the fence is going up in a couple weeks), and we'll finally have some sort of schedule and routine that will add much-needed structure to our lives, which we can start living again.

Can you guess how I got this job? Did you read Tips, Pointers, and Trivia I Hope You Don't Need parts one and two? Everything I told you in there did me pretty much no good. I saw a posting on Workopolis and applied to it. That's it. No networking, no fancy mother-of-all-cover-letters cover letter, no cold calls or follow-up phone calls or heavy research into the company's history or product line, just a simple application and basic cover letter. They called shortly afterwards to schedule an interview, and within a week the offer was made. That's it. It was simply a matter of being qualified and having the right kind of experience. So, while I'll still use everything in my bag of tricks the next time I'm looking for work, none of it really did me any good this time around.

Of course, I'm only one case study out of many. A friend, ex-housemate, ex-classmate (and thereby fellow alumnus) also recently found gainful employment after an agonizingly long period of unemployment (even longer than my own). He almost found employment based on a tip about a job I didn't get, but managed to weasel himself into a different company via networking. It's a good fit too, from what I understand, so the networking and cold calling game obviously paid off for him. YMMV.

Now, you'd think that after such a long dry spell and so much disappointment that I would be jumping for joy over finally having a company - especially a local company with cool products - bring me on with such expediency. Somewhat surprisingly, I'm finding that I'm somewhat cool to the whole thing, and I can trace that back to one very specific reason. As is quite normal, there is a probationary period for this job. In some companies it's 3 months, in others 6, and perhaps even longer. In my case it's 6 months, which is fine - I can live with that. The part that bothers me isn't the duration of the probationary period, it's how it's been implemented.

Instead of be being a full-time permanent employee on probation, I have become a contractor with a 6-month contract. Were it done in any other way, I'd likely be happy. However, making my probationary period contractual makes it seem like they don't want to commit to anything. In essence, I get to go to work, get paid, but still look for work in the meantime because I have nothing guaranteeing that I'll be employed in another 6 months. I'm sure that if I had not just gone through 13 months of unemployment in a seriously depressed job market, I wouldn't worry so much. As it is, however, I cannot allow myself to be optimistic about 7 months from now.

I find it rather unlikely that the job market is going to pick up from this point forward - there is simply too much economical turmoil going on. What's worse, my contract will expire just over a month from Christmas, a time when virtually nobody will be hiring. So while I am grateful for the opportunity to prove myself and earn a living again, the clock is ticking on finding something that is permanent. I certainly won't wait until the end of my contract to determine whether this particular company wants to keep me - they should know well ahead of time if I'm working well or not.

Of course, the longer I'm there and the more comfortable, useful, and productive I become, this feeling will subside, as it is already starting to do. Even my drive to find alternate positions to apply to in case of a poor fit is waning quickly. Despite an extremely slow start, I've managed to very positively contribute in some small yet meaningful areas in a very short time. Although I haven't received an attaboy yet for these accomplishments and initiatives, I'm feeling good about what I've been able to do and what I'm working on. I can only hope that both my supervisor and boss feel the same way.

In any case, being able to go to work (and get paid for it this time) is doing wonders for the mental health of my entire family. Of course, the flip side is that so much mental anguish was a writing bonanza for Not From Toronto. Oh well... I'll just have to dig up some juicy gossip from around the office.


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