It is exactly a year since I lost my job (read my first ever post here) and seven months since my wife and I swapped roles and I become a Reluctant Housedad. She now goes to work with her Big Hair and Bigger Shoulder Pads while I run the household and look after our three kids: my nine year-old stepdaughter and our sons, aged six and three.
I’ve continued to try to find another job that would cover the cost of childcare, plus a little extra for those added extras which make Working Life worth living – but I’ve continued to fail. I’ve been down to the last two four times, but then it transpired that three of those jobs didn’t actually exist: the employers were merely dipping their toes in the water to see who was out there and to see what ideas they had to offer. Call it free consultancy.
Last week, I heard back about the last job I went for. I’d been pitching for this position for a month: had written a presentation, survived two interview stages, then was shortlisted for the last two. My final interview was a fortnight ago – a five-strong panel vs me!
I was as nervous as hell, and it showed, but it was because I wanted the job so much. I’d grown into my role as a housedad, but after much discussion with my wife, we decided that we could create a situation where we both worked and afford excellent childcare for our kids.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, I received this email yesterday…
After a lot of deliberation, I’m sorry to say that you weren’t our final choice this time around. You got some very good feedback from your interview, but in the end we went with someone who has more specific experience. Really sorry – I thought you did a great job and would love to have worked with you. Everyone here liked you too, and will definitely be in touch with you if more opportunities come up. Thanks so much for your hard work and interest ‘
I’m obviously disappointed, but I’m not bitter or twisted or malevolent or downbeat. In fact, I’m up, up, UP. And all because of one man.
My friend Ian is someone I didn’t know existed until a year ago. He drinks in my local pub and one day saw me tapping away at my computer, preparing another application for a job that I wouldn’t get. We connected over beer and sport and over the weeks and months his own story unfolded.
Like me, he was a senior executive at a big media company.
Like me, he was made redundant in the cutbacks – part of the principle of the tallest poppies get their heads cut off first.
And like me, he despaired of ever finding work again.
Unlike me – then – he wasn’t new to this unemployment lark. He’d lost his job 18 months before I lost mine.
Unlike me, he didn’t have a Very Intelligent Beautiful and Talented Wife to fall back on.
And unlike me, he wasn’t in his Forties, but in his Fifties. Fifty nine, to be exact. Until Monday.
On Sunday, he threw a party to celebrate the beginning of his next decade. And, yes, there was much to celebrate.
For just three weeks ago, Ian received a phone call from someone who used to be his boss. This boss had a vacancy – and he wanted Ian to fill it. No interviews, no pitches, no presentations or jumping through hoops. He simply knew that Ian was the right man for the job and he wanted him to start as soon as possible.
So that’s what he did. Two (now nearly three) weeks ago, Ian – as frightened as a mouse confronted by a hungry tiger – started his new job. He bought a new suit, some new shoes and had a haircut. And then he went into work. A man in charge of a dozen new people but, also, crucially, his destiny.
His first day went like a dream. And then his second. And they’re still going like dreams now. It’s hard work and he has to ‘perform’ but he loves it. Because more than anything, he feels valued again. Someone wants to pay him a handsome salary for doing something that very few people could do.
Over the last year, we have shared many beers and many tears. He has tried to re-invent himself as everything from a small business consultant to a dog-walker, all without success.
But something he did in his previous life has made someone remember his qualities and skills – qualities and skills that have a value.
He is an inspiration and proof that life ain’t over until that Big Fat Lady With The Helmet and Horns starts to warble.