Sunday, May 4, 2014

An Easter Present or Bust?

         No, it wasn't a pastel colored egg. It was better. In mid-afternoon on Holy Thursday, I received a call I was waiting for all day. In fact, it was the kind of call I was hoping to get the past 6 months. Can you believe that it's been that long, and just about the time my unemployment benefits were supposed to run out? Other than my brief jaunts to Pechanga and Las Vegas, it has been an extremely boring 6 month staycation.
          I've probably sent out close to 50 resumes and applications and only got 4 interviews, 2 of which appeared like automatic rejections because they own the hospital I used to work in. Because I wasn't rehired by the company when they took over last year, it's almost implied that I had done something wrong, thus never given a second look. It had been a frustrating 6 months and I was getting desperate because the unemployment checks were about to stop coming.
          Someone from my walking club suggested that I check out the jobs section of, so after our Saturday morning walk, I got on it and found something interesting almost immediately that I thought matched my skills. One hitch though - they required me to send my resume via fax. I mean, who still uses fax machines nowadays? I had to sign up and use a free internet fax conversion website to submit my application, which after a few clicks and keystrokes, sent my resume successfully.
          The place I faxed the application to, which I was sure I didn't have a chance of even getting an interview because I didn't have any kind of certification for the position, called me the same day and asked me to come in for a group interview. REALLY?! What a surprise invitation! I showed up on Tuesday morning and despite having sent in my resume, I was asked to fill out a regular application form, which is not unusual. What made it different was that there were a whole bunch of applicants in the facility's lobby filling out applications too, thus making me less likely to get a job offer. After a few minutes of waiting, about 20 of us were ushered into a dining room and were seated around a table. To me, it resembled a cattle call, or like an American Idol audition to find out who is going to Hollywood. That presented an unusual and nerve wracking situation. Thus began the group interview: introduce yourself, what is your experience, how did you hear about us, and why do you want to work here? So each one tried the sell themselves, and me being not comfortable speaking in public, became highly anxious and almost walked out of the room and building. I had to remind myself to take a deep breath and just try to remember what was written on my resume. I waited so long to open my mouth that I was the second to the last person to speak. Well, the 20 people in that room were applying for different positions. Still, I felt like the people who were applying for the same position as I was were more qualified. All I had going for me was work and life experiences.
          After the group interview, we left the facility and I didn't expect to hear any more from them. Imagine to my pleasant surprise when I got a call merely a few hours later inviting me for a 2 hour "preview" where I would shadow a regular worker to see what they do, to find out if the job really interests me. I accepted the offer and reported at the designated 7 a.m. appointment. That in itself was a challenge since I haven't reported for any kind of job in the past few decades that early. I showed up and reported to my designated contact, M. She oriented me to the surroundings, then we went to each one of her assigned resident's rooms where she woke them up, changed their clothes, made their beds, brushed their teeth, combed their hair, shaved the men, and set them up in the dining room for breakfast. Pretty much the same routine I'm used to in psychiatric hospitals. I posed a lot of questions to M because there was a glaring difference with how they took care of residents compared to what I did in a psych unit. That being - the least amount or even absence of restrictiveness being given to the residents. This, in spite of their supposedly confused mental state. However, this mental state I observed did not even come close to what I've experienced in my previous jobs, where when we get these residents, they have already reached the worst stage of the disease. Another observation I had during the preview was the absence of male staff and a surprise female visitor in a male room whom I thought was his wife (let's just leave it at that). However as a caveat, I was only there for two hours so it's difficult to make a full assessment in that amount of time. But from what I saw, felt, and breathed in, I was immediately impressed and wanted to work there. Heck, I would even want to live there if I can afford it in retirement, but this is a very classy and expensive joint where the funds come completely from the families of residents. After the 2 hour preview, I was escorted back to human resources and asked what I thought by the business development and assisted living managers. I told them my first impressions about how I liked the place, how the residents were treated, how clean it was and didn't have that nursing home feel and smell. Finishing my preview, I left feeling good and with much hope that they would offer me a job. I changed into my running clothes and ran in the area, enhancing the high I was already feeling from my observations of the staff and residents of S.S.L. Besides, how can you not love a place with its own dog, whom (which?) I met before the group interview? The place was like walking into a hotel for seniors or the set of the movie Cocoon.
          Reading through their website afterwards made me teary eyed because of how it described how they take care of their residents. Of course anyone can use superlatives to sell their products, but during my preview visit, I was able to observe first-hand how they apply it in practice.
          Early afternoon of the same day, I got a call from the assisted living manager asking if I was still interested in working there. I exclaimed that not only would I want to work, but live there as well! The next day, I was back to sign the employment papers and to get a physical exam, drug test, x-ray for TB, Livescan fingerprinting criminal background check, and reference checks. The turnaround time from submitting the resume via fax to the day I was offered the job was an astoundingly quick 6 days!
          After the initial euphoria, things slowed down considerably while  waiting for the results of the background check. I was beginning to think that they changed their minds about me and I began feeling sorry for myself. Two weeks from the date of the physical exam, the call finally came. I was to report for orientation on Cinco de Mayo!
          I'm grateful for the job offer and will do my best to live up to the culture of the company (whose name I shall not mention for now, but which I already "LIKED" in social media). I was so stunned by being offered a job that I forgot the questions I was going ask such as - is it a full time position, are there benefits, and what shift do they need me. Granted, the offer was only for a part time position which I hope will turn into a full time one down the line. And the pay is lesser, much, much lesser than what I was earning in my last job, and only slightly over the unemployment checks I've been getting the last 6 months to sustain me financially. But at this point in my life, sometimes it's not so much the pay as the satisfaction I think I may derive from this job. It's the mental sustenance that I need more of.
          So tomorrow, Cinco de Mayo, a new journey starts and I shall keep you updated on the experience. It should be good. For now, I'll be dancing a jig to Pharell's "HAPPY"!
          p.s. -  I don't know if I'm jumping the gun when I post this, but hopefully everything works out at the new job and I'll let you know if my initial love for the place from my first impression continues. It's time for me to continue helping others as I have for the past 34 years, other than the recent 6 month break.
Lord, please lend me your compassion and equanimity so I may do my new job well, for I may have become jaded through the years. On the day of Jesus Christ's resurrection, I experienced a career resurrection which I consider my Easter present. Thank you for the blessings.

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