Sunday, December 15, 2013

Sixteen Months Ago...

It was announced that DPI Specialty Foods, the company for whom I had worked for 14 years, spent most of my "adult professional life" with, and was there to see my children grow up as I had as a person, was going to close its doors in the Midwest, putting me and about 108 people out of work.

I took this very hard. But thought, when a door closes, a new one opens, and decided that this could be the best thing for me because I can find something new to do. Of course I know and didn't expect to find a place to land on my feet right away, but I was going to try and find something soon so that I can still take care of my family when the severance ran out.

Weeks turned to months. And I realized that by January-February, that while the unemployment checks still came, the places I wanted to work for did not have the jobs I could take. Or the ones that did were offering less than what I was making in unemployment. Needless to say, it was a struggle. While I was getting used to the idea of being a stay-at-home dad, being able to be home for my kids after many years of being late to many of their activities - or worse, missing them entirely - I really wanted to get back to work. Even if it wasn't in the food industry that I grew in. I just needed a job.

So I began working with a temp agency, Ajilon Professional Services, in hopes of finding a temp-to-hire job that would at the very least get me out of being unemployed, and at best introduce me to something new, whether it be a new computer program, or just a new career. After a few months of interviews with different companies, which consisted of auto parts manufacturing to outdoor light repair, a company that worked in the home-decor field picked my resumé from a handful (literally) and asked for me to start working form them as a data entry clerk.

With my wife now on summer break (meaning no money would be coming in), I was more than happy to take the position. I was just happy to get a job. Two "trying" months later, the company decided not to upgrade me to a full-time employee and terminated my contract with them. After notifying Ajilon, I was in a daze. Now not only was my wife NOT working, but now, neither was I. Which meant that neither of us were bringing home a paycheck. Yes, it meant I was back on unemployment until I found another job, but how long would that take? How many interviews would I have to go to before one place decides to take a chance on me?

Well, August turned out to be a fun month. As a family, we were able to spend some quality time at home, and even took a weekend camping with my brother and his family (and actually enjoyed it...the camping part I mean...that's another story). Well, sure enough, I was told that there was a job opening at a company that works IN THE SAME BUILDING as Ajilon, and they needed somebody with visual content experience. Which I had none off...until I worked for the home-decor place. So I interviewed, and eventually was offered the position. And let me tell you, I had hit the jackpot.

The position was with a company that supplies office equipment nationwide. They even have those really big catalogs with pictures of everything in it from pens and paper, to office furniture, even down to the little rubber door stoppers. They sold it all, and my job would involve making sure that any new images of items that arrived from the suppliers matched the item descriptions that were an item database so that when it would be used in future catalogs, the picture would be correct. You never think that there would be a lot of work involved in making a catalog of this magnitude. But sure enough, it is a full time job just to acquire images. And I loved the job. The people in my department were nice, and took a very detailed approach in my training. The building even had its own cafeteria...something even the food company I worked for never had (and I know we all kept insisting to have one...but anyway). Since September, I've never had to leave the building to get they served it every day, hot and ready to go. But I digress. I was having a lot of fun here, and as the workload increased, my supervisor was happy with the way I had adapted to the quick changes in roles and responsibilities. People I had been working with had been telling him that I was doing a great job, and even suppliers would note how polite I was in communicating with them.

Certainly, if I was ever offered the position full-time, I would have taken it in a heart beat.

Then a phone call came a couple of weeks ago. From one of my former co-workers.

He (and a number of other people from my old job) now worked for a specialty foods company in Chicago. Before working at the home-decor place, I had heard that they were going to add a second person to a position that I was very familiar with, and would be working alongside another former co-worker as well. So I sent in my resumé, and after a brief conversation with the gentleman who would have been my supervisor, was told to wait until I hear back. But then I had found out that the company decided to put that position on hold, meaning no job at this time. But now the person who had this job all this time was leaving, and instead of going through the process of interviewing many people, wanted to know if I would be interested in the job. After weighing all the options, and thinking about what it would mean for me and my family, I accepted. I have been training for the position since last Tuesday, (which is why I haven't been posting anything new Random Cards of the Day lately). I'm familiar with the job itself, but now I have to learn a new computer program, a new set of pricing formulas, and work with a lot of new customers, many who weren't around during my days at the old place.

It's hard to leave the visual content job. I couldn't ask for better co-workers than the ones I have been with since September. But, I was still a temp, and knew that my contract was going to run out soon and that the possibility of being told that I was not going to be renewed was still there, no matter how well I was doing. So it was with a heavy heart that I had to give my notice.

There are so many people to thank over these last few months since I started working again. I have to start with my family first, Zebeda, Lynn, and Taylor, for being my main support since DPI closed. I loved the adventures we were on and felt that the time together made up for all the others that I could not be there. We finally went on the vacation that we so desperately needed (yes, St. Louis after the snowstorm...but still). You saw me at my lowest and helped raise my spirits when I needed them. I love you guys very much, and am so happy that you are going to be with my on this next journey.

I have to thank my parents, my siblings, and my in-laws, for their support and understanding as well. I know that working full-time means I won't get a chance to hang out at the bakery any more on Thursdays, but I won't be too far from you guys that I can't run over there if need be. Thanks for being able to take Lynn to her classes on Wednesday when we couldn't find anyone else. To my brother, my sisters, and their families, thanks for keeping me sane and motivating me to find something...anything...that I can do, and even giving me job leads. Even my in-laws helped out, whether it be taking Lynn to her dance competition during the summer, or just letting me air out my grievances when I couldn't find work. Thank you all for being there for the four of us during this rough patch in our lives.

I must also not forget to thank Lauren Schoepke and Karen Oehme at Ajilon for helping me with my resumé (it was 14 years since I had last updated it), and for finding places for me to interview. I know you had other clients to help find jobs, but I always felt that you made it your top priority to help me find the right job for my skill set. I owe you both lunches at the Atrium before I leave.

Thank you to the wonderful people at Star Creations, Inc, for literally taking a chance on me and introducing me to the world of framed art and decor. That would be Brandy Givens, Minnie Hamilton, Amy Cope, Todd Weingardt, Laura Gross, and Pam Roseaur. Never again will I pass the framed art section of a department store and not think "double mat with one v-groove, under glass."

Another round of thanks goes out to my co-workers in the visual content department at United Stationers. To Marc Hertz, Reilly Hood, Janet Wheatman, Mai Lee, and all the other people who make sure that the images and written descriptions are perfect before they print the catalogs, thank you for the training, thank you for having confidence enough in me to expand my role and responsibilities within the content group. You took a chance on a guy that really had no experience in this field, but is now able to find the subtle differences between low and high-resolution images. To Reilly, especially, you are probably the most patient, selfless person I've met in the workplace. How you just turned 30 last month is beyond me. You are way wiser beyond your years, someone I wish I could have been when I turned 30. I know that whether you have a long and established career at US, or decide to go on elsewhere, that you will do very well in whatever it is you do. I couldn't have asked for, or found, a much better person to train me and hope that the next person you teach will take to this job just as well, if not better, because of your leadership (and if I'm lucky, I have a couple of resumés to leave on Marc's desk of people before my last day).

Thank you very much to Denise Guiffre and Diane Kowalewski for keeping an eye out on me these last sixteen months. Whether it be the latest job opening or updates about former co-workers, it was great to hear from both of you from time to time, even if it was just a text to say hello. Thank you to Bill Gathercoal and John O'Donnell of Euro USA for giving me the opportunity to get back in the specialty food business.

To our friends in Des Plaines, thank you very much for going out of your way to pick up and take home my daughter for her dance classes, especially Stephanie Temple, Jamie Bock, and Heather VanBladel. I am so happy that our daughters are close friends and it's always nice to see them together. We owe you big time in terms of giving your kids rides home...please, don't hesitate to ask us to do so...especially now that the car is closer to home than before.

I think that should do it. Sorry for the long and rambling post. It's been a very interesting sixteen months since DPI closed its doors for good. My card collection never stopped fact, I was able to close a lot of holes in it since September of last year (time at home will do that to you). But it's time to finish this chapter in my life and start writing a new one. With a new company that I can help expand its presence in the Chicago area. Sure it will be a lot of work, but I'm looking forward to a fresh start with Euro USA.

It can only get better from here. It has too. I've stayed in the valley for far too long. It's time to start climbing the mountains again. And so, the journey continues.


JayBee Anama

1 comment:

Play at the Plate said...

Good luck with the transition James!!