Atta-Girl Day, February 15, 2014

Yes- something changed. My job at Neptune Society suddenly ended at 9:35 AM, Wednesday, February the 5th.
Wednesday, February 5th: the day after I took luxurious time to get my hair cut for the President’s surprise visit. Of course now that haircut symbolized the vanity of assuming this visit was to congratulate me for winning the “Silver Elite Club Status” for impressive production, taking 9 out of over 200 Independent Sales Representatives (ISR’s) in 2013.
Wednesday, February 5th: the morning I saw three SUV’s, one minivan, one sedan, and one double-cab truck stuck in the snowy icy ditches on my 1.5 hour drive to the Waukesha office. I should have heard it in my manager’s voice when I called to tell him the drive was taking me much longer than usual due to the weather and the frequent blocked lanes for accidents. I should have understood his message, “There is no rush,” as the code for, “I really wish you didn’t have to drive here to hear this.”
The President flew in from Florida to tell the entire Wisconsin office in person that due to an acquisition and a 70-year-old Wisconsin state law, the Wisconsin office had to close. He let this sink into our chilled morning brains, as he didn’t even have the decency to bring donuts or bagels and hot coffee before slicing our future into tiny pieces, like thousands of shiny icicles dropping dangerously to cold cement. Once he saw the harsh reality register on our faces, the pain of realizing that as of that minute we had no job, he verified this by explaining that we had to call all of our appointments and cancel. “We cannot in our good conscience sell more cremation plans in Wisconsin now.”
The smell of foreign hair product teasing my nose from the increasing heat of my head offended and embarrassed me. My fingers still stingy from white-knuckling the steering wheel itched to punch something and pierce any surface with their boney knuckles.
Instead of unloading exaggerated expletives onto this guy in a violent eruption of emotion, I tilted my head back so the inevitable tears didn’t drop onto my fancy tunic, leaving dark dots all over my boobs. On cue, as if this were rehearsed or scripted, my manager shot up out of his chair and called me into his office, leaving some new guy I just met to sit there with the bad news and the big bad President. The other teammates were off on appointments, lucky ignorant bastards.
Even though Gary shut the door, the wide glass window revealed to the President and the new guy that I instantly collapsed into my manager’s chest and sobbed with my whole body. I’m pretty sure they could hear me wail, “This Fucks Up Everything! EVERYTHING! This really fucks up my everything! WHAT THE FUCK?!” And Gary just patted my back and consoled me like a father would, “I know, Honey. I know.”
After the tears flushed my face clean of what little makeup I used to hide how tired I looked, and my nose finally deflated into a few tissues, I took my usual full-bodied breaths when I need to put myself back together again. And after a short good realistic pep talk from my manager, I put myself on the path to move forward and quit fretting about what is out of my control.
Gary told the truth. I do possess a talent and drive the workforce has a difficult time finding “these days,” as if there were a time period in which incredible salespeople fell from the sky by the hundreds. But I knew what he meant. Generations behind me are not celebrated for this Great Midwestern Work Ethic, and the generations ahead of me are either already employed, facing age-discrimination during the hiring process, or looking at retirement.
Gary said he would write me an excellent letter of recommendation, and if there was anything he could do to help, just name it. That reminded me, pretty much every sales manager I have ever had to leave said the same thing. So after calling all of the people I planned to meet, and either explained over the phone the situation or left a detailed message, I scoured my cell phone for my past manager’s numbers. They were still there. By 3:30 that afternoon I was meeting with one past manager for a counseling session, and had a lunch date with another for the following day. That wasn’t enough for me. So I called all kinds of past colleagues and recruiters I liked.
This major bread-winner of her household was not going to be left unemployed for long. So when I explained that to people who couldn’t meet for two weeks that I expected to have a job by then, the response every time was, “Wow! Really?! Love the enthusiasm, Laura! Good luck!”
I truly expected luck to not have a large factor in it. I expected to pluck my next job out of the Madison area like harvesting a big plump pumpkin off the vine just before Halloween. I believed that I would be able to see the right opportunity, standing out there bright and orange with enthusiastic energy and promise, just waiting for me to finally walk up and grab it.
That night I found myself not only facing the new rage from my husband (what company doesn’t suck?) but also a little confusion by my past manager wondering if perhaps I should consider a supportive role rather than a sales position. That was the opposite of what I wanted. What I learned from myself all these years is that I love the hunt and the challenge in addition to the relationship-building, not instead of the helping-people-part. At about 9 PM, almost twelve hours after my unfortunate visit from the President, I remembered getting a hopeful message from a young guy with a tech company, “Would you ever consider selling technology for funeral homes?” He sent that message about a year ago when I loved my job and explained there was no reason for me to leave. Well now I had a reason, so I messaged him on LinkedIn that perhaps we should reconnect soon over coffee or lunch.
He asked, “Are you still with Neptune?”
“Let’s talk about that.” I returned. The friendly volley and coordination ensued, ending with a coffee date for 8:45 the next morning.
Thursday morning, the day after I lost my job, I am showered, dressed, and heading out the door when my husband woke up. “Where are you going?”
“I think I have an interview this morning.”
“Of course! And then I have a lunch. I’ll see you later this afternoon.”
And just like that, I was off into the great pumpkin patch of opportunity, in the middle of sub-zero temperatures, when pumpkin harvesting looks dismal if not impossible.
Meet me, Laura Beck Nielsen, the ridiculously ambitious and optimistic income-earner.
Six days after the bad news I signed a very respectable offer that I had been sitting on for five days. Before I could make it official, I bought a new pair of boots, a couple new blouses, and then set up to officially harvest my bright orange, glowing pumpkin, all fleshy and heavy with opportunity, healthy and ready for what I make of it. And I’m going to make as much out of this pumpkin as I possibly can. You can bet on that. I start on Monday.


8 thoughts on “Atta-Girl Day, February 15, 2014

  1. I am so happy for you Laura, not everyone could get a job so fast. You have great people skills and chrisma. I know you will wow them too. I cried too on the bus home from my last job 4 years ago when I was laid off January 2010.

  2. Congratulations & a big well done for being so ‘pro-active’ and going for it! When opportunity knocks, seize it around the waist & hug it into submission πŸ˜€ Best of luck for your bright new future.

    1. Thanks, Heidi. I agree with your “seize the opportunity” attitude. As a writer, it was interesting to observe all of the many different reaction, not only from the different teammates as they trailed into the office that day, but amongst my friends. I can safely say my attitude was not like most.

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