If I had the chance to do it all again…would I, could I?

January 31, 2010

Redundancy, when it happened, took so much from me –my structure, my income, my sense of style. Ironically, though, and almost begrudgingly, (I hate it when my friends are right) it also gave me so much – a new perspective on life, a love of everything oversized and an incredible sense of community.

The support has been one thing (overwhelmingly so), but what has been particularly rewarding is uncovering a network of like-minded people (some former redundants, others business start ups and the rest freelancers) who come together in an incredible exchange of services. No fees are charged. Instead, what manifests is a whole lot of back-scratching.

It really started with Motivator who gave me career advice, and in return, I helped publicise a book he was launching. Unbeknown to me, however, being a new business, he had been trading services for months – helping a chef with a resume and receiving free meals for a week; writing a marketing plan for his osteopath in exchange for back adjustments which were required after he injured it in a personal training session which he swapped for web site assistance. It was endless. When his pink slip was due he helped his mechanic’s son with his HSC exams and got mug shots from a photographer who was in need of a business strategy. I was inspired to say the least!

But just as I was getting comfortable in my kitchen table-working, service-bartering, tracksuit-wearing world, I got a call. Would I like to apply for a job? It had been four months since our initial contact, yet here they were with a real opportunity. “Of course”, I replied enthusiastically, even though I could feel a rush of panic setting in. How would I deal with the real world again? Will I be able to walk in heels, cope with no visible panty lines, hairless legs and structured clothes? My anxiety levels started to rise and I became aware of sweat gathering under my arms and across my brow as I contemplated my future.

In an effort to ensure I was a good fit with the existing team, they requested I complete a personality assessment. I agreed, confidently thinking I’m Miss Personality, how hard could that be?

Famous last words…

That thing was hard. Lots of extreme scenarios and questions that seemed similar in nature, but were ever so slightly different, clearly designed to test the consistency of my responses. You frequently and easily express your feelings and emotions – yes or no? You find it difficult to speak loudly – yes or no? The more people with whom you speak the better you feel – yes or no? You find it difficult to talk about your feelings – yes or no? I can tell you that by the end of the test I was completely ready to express my emotions and speak loudly to whomever wanted to listen and you can be damn sure it made me feel a whole lot better!

After what was an excruciating wait, I got the results. Horrors of horrors, it seemed (shockingly) that I had been stripped of my Miss Personality title. My profile had been deemed invalid. While most adults score between 50 and 65, I had only achieved an index of 45. I had somehow failed a personality test! Who knew that was even possible?

The report attributed my low result to, among other things, lack of self knowledge. Yeah right! I started to draft the email outlining the thousands of dollars I had invested on personal development (read therapy) over the years, but then figured that was possibly not the best fact to promote in my first interview!

Despite my (apparent) personality shortcomings,  a few meetings later an offer was on the table.  And within a week  (nothing like a swift re-entry!) I found myself sitting on the bus, uncomfortable in my tailored pants, g-string and heels, on my way back into what had become a foreign world – real desks, colleagues (who I wasn’t related to), stationery cupboards, communal birthday cakes, water coolers, and a board room (without a bed in it).

As I rocked in rhythm with the rest of the passengers, I reflected over the past five and half months (with Babs on my shoulder singing Memories) to when I first became a casualty of the GFC – my grandmother’s unsympathetic words as she reminded me unemployment was nothing compared to being single at my age; the huge task of deciding which tracksuit to wear each day; and ultimately, coming to terms with the fact I had to recalibrate my entire life. A wave of gratitude then followed as I realised (thankfully) things never got dire enough to have me move back in with my folks (much to their disappointment), bake a single cupcake or buy pre-loved clothes. Oh what a ride! I knew the experience had definitely changed the way I was, and the way I will be, forever.