How I Handled Adversity During a Long Job Search
This is the first of a series of articles chronicling my career transition from employee to entrepreneur; from technologist to full-time musician; from the practice room to the stage at Disney concert hall; from the daily grind to the daily pursuit;
First up is an article inspired by an email that I wrote in April of 2011 during the dark days of what turned out to be my last job search in technology.
“Give up the funk” – George Clinton
I have a career in technology & software sales and I am currently unemployed. I was laid off last November. I’m writing this now as I’m reflecting on the last six months of searching for a new job.
I’m doing all of the right things…
I’m treating it like a job – I’m putting 40 hrs per week into my search.
My resume is strong and I’ve had plenty of interest.
I’m told that there are some real prospects if “things open up next quarter”
…but alas, 6 months in and no firm offers.
As I watch my emergency fund dry up, and unemployment run out, I guess it would be easy to see this period of loss and rejection negatively and spiral into some sort of funk or depression.
“Just Another Manic Monday” – The Bangles
This past Monday was one of those days where the spiral was spinning.
It started with another rejection from a job recruiter. Sigh…
Next up was to call my mother, who at only 67 years old is no longer able to walk due to Diabetic Neuropathy and early stage Parkinsons.
I was calling to help her cope with the fact that she’ll never be able to go home again AND help her choose the nursing home where she’ll spend the rest of her life.
Oh, by the way, I also had to deliver news that Mom’s long-time friend had passed away over the weekend and that she wouldn’t be able to go to the funeral because of her lack of mobility.
“You’re Going to Carry that Weight” – Lennon/McCartney
After I hung up with mom, my Dad called and I spent an hour on the phone with him. Dad’s still reeling from the loss of his 25 year home and 15 year business to bankruptcy.
To help him stay afloat, I loaned Dad most of my savings during his financial troubles.
He now carries the weight of watching me struggle knowing deep down that, despite his best efforts, he can never pay back the money that was lost.
“Teach Your Children Well” – Graham Nash
Then, my step-daughter Kristen called from college. She’s an anthropology Major Boston Univ. ($40k annual tuition – ugh)
She’s just been accepted into a summer archaeological dig program in the mountains of Peru.
“That’s great news, I’m so proud of you” – I say
It “only” costs $2,500 plus travel expenses.
I open quicken to see our already low bank balance turn red.
“Send in the paperwork and we’ll find a way to make it work”
Great news indeed…Sigh
“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, Ain’t no Valley Low Enough” – Ashford & Simpson
It seems like all around me there is uncertainty, difficulty, rejection and loss.
But then, came the highlight of my day.
I spent Monday evening with my wonderful wife, Gail, in rehearsal for a concert recital we have planned for next month.
Gail plays trombone and I play trumpet, we met seven years ago playing in a band together.
Our shared love of music is the first among many deep connections between us.
“You are the Sunshine of My Life” – Stevie Wonder
By the end of the evening, if only but for a moment, all my cares and worries were gone.
To be able to spend that time focusing on just making music with my best friend and musical partner was like finding an oasis in the desert.
“We Need the Funk, Gotta Have that Funk” – George Clinton
Music has been always my source of sanity, my escape. While I’ve built a strong corporate career over the past 18 years and I enjoy working with technology, I’ve always known that the trumpet and music is my true passion.
As a result, while growing my technology career, I’ve worked hard to build a part-time freelance performance career at the same time.
So, for as difficult as things are in certain areas of my life right now, I’m looking at my calendar and over a 90 day period from mid Feb to mid May and realize that I have 60 performances and rehearsals scheduled.
I’m in my busiest musical period ever
Today, for instance, after receiving yet another rejection, I got a call from a local concert promoter. “Bob can we hire your brass group for a concert in 3 weeks? The group we had booked had to cancel at the last minute, we found your website, and we like your clips.”
Here I am fighting hard every day and experiencing rejection for a corporate job, yet I’m getting job offers out of the blue for music.
My musical cup runneth over
The Mysterious Hand of Google?
I’m not necessarily religious, but I do believe in a higher power. It’s almost as if opportunities are being provided, through the gift of music, to help me find peace and solace during difficult times.
Don’t get me wrong, opportunities in music do not happen by accident. I’ve worked hard to develop my musical skills, promote my talents, and build a professional network of musicians to ensure that I’m in the best possible position to perform.
But, why are all of these opportunities happening now?
Why now, at this very moment, when my struggles are greatest, are gigs more plentiful than they’ve ever been?
It seems to me that God/The Universe is calling out to me like George Clinton:“We want the funk, gotta have that funk”. And yes, I do play with an R&B band, which means that I’m breaking out of my funk by literally bringing the funk.
“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make” – Lennon/McCartney
If you’ve read this far you might be wondering why I’m sharing this story.
None of my problems have actually been solved. (reminder: this was originally written 5 years ago. Fast forward to today and the beat goes on: Sadly Mom passed way in 2012, while Dad’s coping best he can. Kristen had a great time in Peru and as for my career…well even if you didn’t read the intro, it’s pretty obvious how that turned out right?)
As problems go, my troubles are certainly not unique. Frankly, they pale in comparison to the some real suffering currently in the world.
But then again, maybe my troubles resonate with you.
Maybe, you have your own concerns over career, money, aging parents, providing for your children, and the thousand other challenges life has to offer.
Maybe, through my story, you can find comfort, reassurance, and faith in your own story.
“Get into the Groove” – Madonna
I have learned first hand, that carving out time to focus on the things that I enjoy allows me the chance to slow down and live in the moment. I can get into the groove with a partner and friends who share the same passion. (Author’s note: now that music is a full time pursuit for me, Gail and I are spending our recreational time playing on a co-ed softball team)
Together, we find moments of peace as our respective days spiral around us.
Maybe, through my story, you can give yourself permission to focus on your productive passions and escapes. (I’m also passionate about watching TV, but that doesn’t really help me get out of my funk)
Maybe, you can find others to share moments with.
Maybe, you can bring the funk back to your groovy lives.
About Bob Wagner
With a degree from Lehigh University, and training as both an Electrical Engineer and Musician, Bob Wagner spent the first 20 years of his career pursuing both technological and musical interests professionally until 2011 when he finally figured out what he wanted to be when he grew up.
Having made the choice to be a full time musician, Bob maintains an active schedule as a freelance trumpet performer, arranger, bandleader, and musical contractor based in the Philadelphia area.
As a performer, Bob has appeared as a soloist with various classical, jazz, R&B & theatrical organizations throughout the country; His talents have carried him to solo performances at some of the nation’s most prestigious concert halls including Verizon Hall (Phila), Strathmore (MD), & Disney Hall (LA)
Most recently, Bob has performed as trumpet soloist, arranger, musical director, and contractor with touring productions of “The Gene Krupa Story” and “Beatlemania Now”.
Bob also maintains a part-time interest in technology where his focus is on helping small business owners identify and implement technology to make critical business operational processes more efficient and automated.
Bob is available for consulting and speaking opportunities.