I was just let go from my third job this year, and I have to tell you, this one bloody hurt.
Way back in March, when all was well in our world and we didn’t know what we didn’t know was coming, I got myself a fairly grouse office job, thanks to a family friend putting in a ‘good word’, and getting me an interview. The interview stage, I find, is where the ‘good words’ end, and you either sink or swim on your own recognisance. I’m pleased to say, I landed the job. All parties were excited and looking forward to the start date. That start date was to be on the 23rd of March. All I was waiting for was the paperwork.
It was a bit of a shock, then, when I received a phone call from the keen as mustard fellows I was due to begin working for after their morning meeting, telling me that they would not, in fact, be sending out said documents. During their meeting with the head honchos of the business, they and the rest of the team were directed to close all offices, as a result of COVID-19 restrictions, that were about to be announced by the state and federal governments.
It’s safe to say we were both shell-shocked. All the signing off with head office and enthusiasm in the world had not foreseen a global pandemic and the consequences for business around the world. We agreed to stay in touch and reconvene when the whole thing was over. We figured it’d be a few weeks. Oh, how I now laugh at our naivety. Maniacal laughter, obviously.
Fast forward 6 weeks. This whole pandemic nonsense appears to be a spot more serious than I had originally believed. The fellows I was supposed to be sharing coffee and daily banter with during the commission of our work were toiling from their family homes, among their children, spouses and neighbourhoods. And I…I was unemployed.
While scrubbing the children’s bathroom one sunny arvo (given domestic labour was all I had left to keep me busy), I got a call from a local real estate agent, with whom I had chatted a couple of months back about the possibility of me working there, should the opportunity arise. Turns out, my opportunity was here! I went in to see her to discuss the role, and bibbidi bobbidi boo, I had secured myself employment!
I was exhilarated. I Facebook bragged that I had managed to get a job during a global pandemic. I should have known better.
No sooner had I begun learning how to hog tie into submission the software required to do my new job, stage 3 restrictions were unfurled by our state government. My hours were slashed in half before I had a chance to work a full week. Undeterred, I purchased some new heels and some very snazzy work attire, and started to become more familiar with my work chums. They were a lovely bunch, none of them buying in to the real estate agent stereotype. I was deliriously happy. And then, of course, came stage 4 restrictions here in metropolitan Melbourne.
I was stood down once again, this time with a few tears of regretful frustration. I knew that once I’d settled in, this job would have been very rewarding. I felt awful for the owners of the business and the rest of their staff, compounding the loss and regret. I allowed myself to feel a bit shite for an afternoon, and then I gave myself a week to regroup.
It was high time that I upskilled and got myself into a position where I could monetise my very favourite thing to do. Write. I looked about internet land, and found myself a copywriting course. Once booked in, I felt a tiny surge of excitement, and the sense that perhaps the previous losses had come so that I could find my true path. Or something. This jury is still out regarding whether or not “The Universe”, fate, destiny, is a thing.
After completing one course, I was keen to keep up the momentum, and was in need of something that would assist me with what I truly lacked. Confidence. Finding a course that helped out in this arena, while still being in copywriting world, felt like the right direction. Unlike my prediction regarding the negligible impact of COVID-19, this one was bang on!
I’d also been checking out jobs on an excellent site called Rachel’s List, as well as the usual LinkedIn, Seek etc, for writing and copywriting roles. A few popped up that I knew I wouldn’t suck at. What’s more, they were remote jobs, which meant that I could not be stood down due to COVID lockdown ever again! I zhuzhed up my CV and arranged my cover letters, just so. Applications were sent. I was not hopeful, as happens after a couple knocks. I emailed a
legend friend of mine after sending off an application to a magazine that was in his field, to see if he’d heard of them. Turned out, not only had he heard of them, he’d featured on their podcast a number of times! He graciously and without provocation emailed both parties in order to make an introduction. This provided the cut through that I sorely needed, given my lack of hands on experience in the industry. The Boss knew my name, and a couple of days later, put in a call to me! There was much wooting and ermahgerding. From my end, anyway.
After a couple of lovely phone conversations, an online meet and greet, and a practice run with the work that the job entailed, I was beyond excited when I was bestowed the job. Bending over backwards to let The Boss know what I did and did most certainly not have a wealth of experience in, I felt that both of us went into the arrangement with our eyes wide open. I went the extra mile, and jimmied The Boss’ eyes open with toothpicks as I took great pains to explain that I had not used certain software previously, and would need time to uptake the ins and outs of those bad boys. There were about 8 new pieces of software to learn. The Boss did not flinch. Not even one time. I had found a mentor, without ever realising that I’d wanted one.
The very cells in my body pinged. I seesawed between elation at the enormity of the opportunity that had somehow arrived at my keyboard, and doubt as to why anyone would take on a middle aged writer with bugger all experience in this field. The Boss had, after all, pointed out that over 70 qualified journos had applied for the job. But The Boss chose me, and I was ready to absorb and excel. I knew that I would be great at this job once I’d nailed the three months training.
In a strange twist of timing, my second copywriting course began on the same day as my job. I had already completed one course with the lecturer, and was very happy to be making a return to her tutelage. Sure, the extra workload from both course and job would be a bit burdensome, but I was so ready for the challenge. And let’s face it, all that I was going to learn in my course was only going to improve my skills within my work.
By the end of the first week of my job, I was feeling a touch…jittery. The 20 hours a week that I was employed to work were more like 36, but given all of the ‘new’ in the job, that was more than alright with me. I was absorbing a heck of a lot of information, and The Boss had reassured me that I reminded them of them when they first began in the industry. Any self doubt was swept away.
The following Tuesday, things took a turn. After I asked for some help with the navigation of some website plugins, The Bosses attitude shifted. I received a phone call wherein I was referred to as a square peg trying to get into a round hole. I responded that I could not, realistically, be expected to have learned the job within a week. I had, after all, bent over backwards to highlight my lack of experience during the application process. Bending over backwards after three children is painful and ungainly, so I clearly recall doing it.
After this call, I had what can only be described as a massive freak out. I had gone from being reassured that I had only been doing the job for a week, and could not be expected to know what I was doing, to being shamed for not knowing what I did not know. I felt off balance as a result, and in need of direction. Out of pure desperation, I contacted my course lecturer.
What a godsend. After explaining the events that had lead up to my current hyperventilation, she swung into action. The questions she asked were considered. Her response, wise to a fault. And it worked. For a brief period, I still had my ‘dream job’. Come the Friday, after I had emailed The Boss to let them know what tasks I had completed so they could cast an eye over them before I hit publish (as requested), The Boss called me and unceremoniously sacked me.
I had not been fired from a job before. Resigning from jobs had been hard enough. Being stood down due to a global pandemic certainly did suck. This was way worse.
To my considerable embarrassment, I cried during the call. I reiterated, through voice wobbles, that I had been quite clear about my lack of experience, and that The Boss’ assurance that this did not matter a morsel appeared to have been, well, crap. The Boss told me that it would be wrong to judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, and I started to feel kind of angry.
I was neither a fish, nor a monkey. And I sure as HELL had no interest in climbing trees. I was a writer, trying to earn a living via my craft. Trying to support my family. Trying to take the pressure of earning off The Groom’s shoulders, and have it spread more evenly between us. Y’know, work life balance and all of that tosh. The Boss then changed tack. This was not my fault, I was assured. This was poor timing. Due to the resignation of The Boss’ EA, the running (by The Boss) of a number of courses, and other imminent workplace factors, there was simply no time or mental space for training a newbie. Perhaps The Boss had gotten lost in the romance of becoming a mentor when choosing me for the role. I guess I could understand that.
To make matters worse, the day to meet the client for our course was, you guessed it, the same day. My eyes. Swollen. My nose. Red. My face. Blotchy and smile free. Confidence. Shattered into seven-hundred-and-ninety-two-billion pieces.
While the urge to retreat upstairs to my bedroom and Netflix’s latest episodes of Hannibal was strong, with the support of my ACTUAL mentor, the lecturer, I pulled up my big girl pantaloons and attended the course (via Zoom, obvs).
Not only did I attend, I refrained from losing my mind. I took the client brief, I put together the copy for the required job, and I got on with my life.
You see, reader, the less-than-two weeks that I had worked for The Boss had taught me more than just how to navigate several new pieces of software (which I now use all the time). It taught me to have faith in my abilities. It taught me that desire and ability are not the same thing. It taught me to be more assertive. It taught me that, when you fall, there are always, ALWAYS people around you who will catch you. They just might not be those you expected.
My lecturer turned out to be more than just an information conduit. She is a supporter of writers. She is nurturing. She is nuanced. She is elegant. She is a master counsellor. And above all, she cares about her charges, a bunch of writers who yearn to earn using their craft. So if it was really a mentor that I was after, then this was just a shortcut to finding one. Not one I would recommend to a friend, mind you, but that is a side issue.