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Job Hunting and Jpouching – pt 2

Also…I live in Michigan, where the job market is coming back but still isn’t particularly strong. Before I graduated you could often find me talking to my co-workers at school having mini mental breakdowns about how I’d pay bills and how I’d never find a job. A week before I graduated I was approached by the university about a full time position, and I literally thought that I had been saved by some divine intervention. Rather, I had made a strong impact on my co-workers and had done my job well, so they created a position for me to keep me on board. In addition to that, they also gave me a temporary 3 month contract so I could continue to work while they pushed the lengthy university paperwork through. Right at this same time, I had my practicum site ask me about doing some temporary work for them, because again, I had showed a strong work ethic and a knack for archives. Much to my surprise, I was also approached by another company who had received my resume from a friend. This company had nothing to do directly with Libraries or Archives (what I was getting my masters in), but they were essentially an internet marketing company. I love social media, and I know marketing but on paper, I don’t have a ton going for me. And here is the kicker folks…they wanted me because of my online work with Girls With Guts and this website.

Let me write that again. A potential employer wanted me because of my online work with Girls With Guts and this website.

They didn’t pass me over because I talk like a trucker, or because I have a butt disease and a brain disease and because all I do is share the consistency of my crap. They wanted me because I showed that I know the internet marketing space and how social media can be utilized to make an impact. All I have been doing, is what I love, and what I didn’t realize, and what you should all realize is that people are watching you all the time when you have a presence online. They are watching your triumphs and your faults.

So what did I do? I essentially had 3 job offers on the plate. Read that again. 3 job offers despite my health history (which they all were very aware of, in fact we talked about it during interviews), and despite this very blog. Take a moment and let that sink in.

Got it?

Ok.

So what did I do? I took the job at the university because I loved that job and the benefits were amah-zing. But I only worked there a month before I quit.

Wait, what? I had a stellar job, with amazing benefits, and stability and I quit after a month? I sure as hell did. Why? Because I got offered a better job.

The latest addition to my desk
The latest addition to my desk

A job so good that my boss at the university told me I HAD to take it! And here is where the world comes full circle people. Remember how I said someone is always watching? Last year, I had a concerned father email me about his daughter who was going through the same thing many of us had experienced. After some back and forth, we realized that I had already been in contact with his daughter and we had realized that they lived within miles of my house (small world!) and I met her for coffee. I continued once in a while to converse with her father when he had a question or concern. Through a strange series of events, I ended up at a football tailgate with them and we all had a really great time. A few weeks ago he approached me with a job. Not just a job, but a really good job. I was really happy and comfortable at the university and nervous about switching careers essentially into a field I was unfamiliar with. After many talks, he told me that he had monitored my internet moves, not in a creepy way but how I interact with you all, how I use social media, and how I communicate my message to the world through this blog and Girls With Guts. He really showed me that my hobbies were in fact, marketable skills.

So I took the job and I started last week. And now I work for a giant company, with amazing benefits for anyone but particularly people with chronic illnesses, in a position that will challenge me but also reward me with new skills and relationships, for a boss who knows probably more about me that he would ever want to, but more importantly who understands everything.

So do you see my point? The very condensed version is that this blog got me a career. And to be clear it is a very professional career, at a company I wont mention because while my boss is a-ok with me talking about my butt, I don’t want the company as a whole to come up when people Google my blog/name.

So the long and short of all of this is… be a good person.

Do good work. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, and you might just land a dream job because you told your story. In my mission to help others with IBD and MS, I have reached a lot of people. And my point is that you never know who is watching, and the people you want in your life will commend you for sharing your story and being honest.

What I’ve learned through all of this is that I really wouldn’t want to work for someone I had to hide my past from, but I’d rather work for someone who respects me for the journey I’ve traveled. For me that is what being a true activist is all about. I understand those who write anonymous blogs, but at the same time, I think they are doing themselves a disservice and a disservice to their community. As an activist, I do my best to set an example, and I would feel like a fake if I hid who I was and what I am passionate about.

I am not so naïve that I think what happened to me can happen to everyone else. I don’t think there are concerned family members reading blogs just waiting for the chance to pounce and offer up life-changing careers. But even if it doesn’t result in a fantastic career for you, do you see how you always will reach the right person at the right time? I think that is what it all comes down to. Timing. Karma. Fate. Whatever you want to call it. I do think that if you put good in the world, then someday, somehow you will get good back.

So, thank you boss man, for taking a chance on me and helping to prove to a whole community of people that there is life beyond chronic illness.

 

Job Hunting and Jpouching – Pt 1

I wanted to talk to you guys about employment and how to tackle the medical history exposure part of it. I am only going to speak of my experience, as that is what I know best.

More than likely, I’ll be breaking this post into two parts because if I don’t, I know you guys won’t read it all, and this is about to be some inspiring shit ya’ll.

So the first part is how I’m going to tell you that I totally understand employment and financial woes.

Before I was diagnosed with UC, I was working a mediocre job that I liked, but didn’t love. It paid my bills – barely – but I had enough money and freedom at my job to live a comfortable life. Then I started to get sick. And then I got sicker.

My job performance lacked and for a while my employer understood, but as I got sicker and I wasn’t as good of an employee as I previously was, their compassion dwindled. I think they thought whatever was wrong with me would go away, but when I had to leave work to go to the ER unexpectedly, which would turn into a week-long hospital stay… they weren’t so understanding.

Then the complications started. The long and short of it all is that I eventually got fired. Yes, I know that is technically illegal. But I was too poor and way too sick to do anything about it at that time. Besides, it opened up the door to grad school. The most important part of this was that I knew that I’d not be able to get another job at that time of my life. I had at least 2 surgeries approaching, and no one would ever hire me if they knew that.

Not to mention that I had already posted to the world that I had Multiple Sclerosis, and by this time I was already telling the internet about the graphic details of my bowel movements. Sure there have been moments where I thought about going anonymous, or perhaps even stopping blogging, in the fear that I would always be tainted by the healthy history I’ve posted on the internet.

But honestly (and this will sound super cheesy), I felt like it all had a bigger purpose. I knew I was helping people from the emails that I would get, and more importantly I was helping myself. I have posted my biggest ups and the deepest downs on this blog… you guys know it all. And most of the time I feel like its just you and me butt buddies. But I forget the harsh reality that the world is always lurking. And frankly, smart employers are looking for potential employees by Googling them.

There is that old adage that “If they won’t hire you because you’re sick, you don’t want to work for them anyway”. Right. Thats easy to say when you don’t need a job. The reality is that there is stuff on the internet since 2006 about my medical disasters and much more now specifically about my issues with my diseased ass. Oh..and there is that. Have you guys noticed my vocabulary? Its not like I can use this blog as a writing sample, and there is the whole ‘wanting to die’ thing that I so publicly pushed to the world. Sometimes I think I paint myself as a diseased, mental case with a tiny vocabulary.

If I weren’t me, I would have thought that I’d never get a job. At least that’s what I thought until about a year or so ago. I was still in grad school and I had a former teach approach me about a graduate student assistant position through the school. I wasn’t even looking for a job, but it paid my tuition so I said I’d take the interview. Well…I nailed it. I got a job offer that day. You guys, I felt on top of the world. For the first time since I was fired, I was working a REAL job that wasn’t under the table, working on REAL projects and making a REAL “paycheck”. Well…at least this is what I thought. The reality is this is the first time anyone had wanted to give me a job in a long time, and the first time I felt worthy of a job. It did scare me that they’d look me up and see that I was some degenerate swearing butt talker. I had my family telling me I “deserved” the job, but I didn’t feel like that. It was only a part time job and all I could think about was, “Can I even do 20 hours a week?”. But I had this shining moment where I realized that I didn’t get that job because of anything other than they thought I could do it and that I brought something to the table. This GSA position was like a real job, and I wasn’t just a gopher. I did that job well for a year until I graduated and then had planned on trying my damnest to find another job. During that year, I worked hard, played hard and met some fantastic co-workers. No one there knew I was sick, or had been sick.

And when I decided to tell them all, you know what they did? Told me that I was impressive. They didn’t say that my job was on the line or anything negative but that despite my illnesses they respected me that much more. I must have impressed them, because right before graduation, they offered me a full time job at the library. And university jobs are no joke, we’re talking like a real grown up job, with grown up money and benefits and no one gave half a shit about my health history. IN FACT…most of my co-workers donated to Girls With Guts.

I want to also tell you guys that during this time I had many conversations with friends and blog readers about finding employment after you post your crap (literally) to the world. After starting Girls With Guts, it became my goal to work for myself – that way I never had to worry about who my boss was and what would happen if I got sick again. However, working full time for your own non-profit is incredibly difficult. After graduation I had to be realistic in my job prospects…I had to find a job that would pay my bills, and give me some flexibility in my life to be able to run GWG…

 

Stay tuned..part two tomorrow!

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