Monica Luchak

work, work, work, work …

Success — suc·cess [ sək’ses ]

ImageThe Merriam Webster Dictionary defines it as, “favorable or desired outcome; also : the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence” This relatively simple definition doesn’t really seem to hit the mark and leaves me wanting.

I know it may sound silly and maybe even a little naïve to think there could be one word that would measure my life. I always felt success was that word. Success, is a nice strong solid word.  A word I thought was quantifiable.  No middle ground, you either are or are not. Ahhhh, but that’s the trouble with words and their dictionary meanings. A word like success has lots of room for the 256 shades of gray there are.

When I got out of the military, went to school, and ultimately started a job, success seemed pretty clear. It was a “boatload” of money, a big house, and an expensive luxury car.  Wham, then came the dot COM bust and reality set in. Now success had a more humble appearance, keeping the 10 year old car running, paying the mortgage on a 900 sq. ft. home, buying food, and making the utilities, and daycare tuition.
Reality can really be a wet blanket.

Fast forward a number of years, lived thru another economic bust (real estate this time), watched my beloved country attacked from the shadows, and seen my life savings squandered away by unscrupulous financiers. Success, didn’t even make it into my vocabulary. I’ve never really said it, but success was waking up every day.

That was a while ago and success has morphed again. This time it seems more peaceful, even spiritual, and at the end of the day hopefully attainable. The last several months I’ve been working to build my graphic design business. My dear husband has afforded me the resources to build it for the long haul. I do the design work and marketing, while he does the legal and accounting.  He’s given me time to be creative, open minded and to do quick turn around projects. Even before my business is turning a profit I’m already a success, because this time success is not something I’ve assigned as quantifiable, it’s squishier than that.  Success now is people who are in my corner and have my back.  Will, fame and fortune follow? Maybe, but even if they don’t I’ve become a successful human being.

Hello World, It’s Me!

The real question is, “Me who?”  Is it the “Me” my friends know, my family, or maybe the reflection that looks back at me in the mirror?

How many times have any of you looked in a mirror and asked, “Who am I really?” This week that question has taken on a new meaning for me. This is the week I focused on completing my design website.

As any website this is all about self-promotion.  Let’s face it, who is really good any good at self-promotion? For me, I’ve elevated reserve to an art form. I’m just not good at telling the world about myself. I tend to down play achievements or accomplishments. I’ve always sort of depended on friends to endorse my abilities. As you can imagine this has meant that I’ve traveled under the radar for a good part of my life. Even when I have been recognized for a job well done, I’ve always said, “Ah shucks ‘twas nothing.”

So world the next time I’m asked, “who are you?” I can direct them to my website, grafixworksdesign.com, hold my head up and say, Monica Luchak, design professional.

Rejected Not A Reject

A good deal of time has passed since I last posted to this blog. I wish I could say the reason I’ve been so remiss is because I found a fantastic job, and I’m going to work every day; however, that is not the case. I’ve come to realize, I’m at an awkward age, to young to retire, and to old for someone to hire. HR people don’t know what to do with me and are torn.

I wish I could accurately illustrate the expression on the interviewer’s faces’ when I show up for an interview. You can literally see the play of emotions on their faces and in their carriage. It’s as if they want to say, “I never thought you were this old” and “I wonder how quickly I can get you out of here?” Talk about an alternate universe.

Years ago when I was coming up, I was regularly overlooked for positions because I didn’t have enough experience. I needed experience to get a job, but no one would hire me so I could get experience. Now that I have the hard won experience and knowledge under my belt, I’m overlooked again, but this time for other reasons, namely age

I had some amazing mentors early in my career. They taught me things that you never learn in school. They always told me, “Monica, the experience you get now will be your professional nest egg later in your career.”  Unfortunately, that has turned out not to be true. There is one thing that is true in my upside down world, and that is I no longer have to “fake it”. I actually “know it” now.

Let’s face it the likelihood of being hired by any company, as a full time employee is pretty slim. You know you have a problem when AARP didn’t hire you. I know this may sound bitter to some but I’m not ashamed to admit that’s a tough pill to swallow. All this ongoing rejection has taken a toll on my self-esteem and forced me to look at my skills and experience through a new lens. Let’s face it; self-examination is meant to be humbling. After much reflection, I decided not to allow others to dictate my worth any more. Hell, I’ve got a lot to offer. I don’t make stupid mistakes any more and I know how to get a job done. I’m confident there are companies/organizations out there that would benefit from the services of a seasoned design professional on a project-by-project basis.  Using that as my premise I’ve decided to throw myself into building a design business.

This decision is not a big surprise to my close friends. These people have given me encouragement, a hand up, and work. (You know who you are, and I am grateful.)  Without you I would have just continued to wallow until, who knows when.

Until recently this business concept has been more of a loosey goosey, catch as catch can, sort of thing. No real marketing just what fell into my lap. That will and has changed. I’m putting myself out there. Even now I have a project and I’m feeling good about it and myself. I’ll need to learn to toughen up my outer shell and prepare for the emotional ups and downs. I’ll still get rejected but now it will be on my terms.

There are those that may say this is distinction without a difference. I say it’s enough of a difference to allow me to look in the mirror and feel good about what I’m doing in my life.

“Titling at Windmills”

I never thought I would be one of those people on social media, “titling at windmills”, but that’s exactly what I’m doing with this blog post. In many respects you could call this a “social” experiment. I’m asking one question, “Do businesses really care what’s said about them on social networks?”

Many businesses and organizations hire “specialists” in social networking.  I wonder aren’t these specialist just specialized customer service people at the mercy of front line customer service reps? Let’s test the power of social media and see what it can do. Which brings me to the main thrust of this post.  I’m hoping my social group, and their social groups can get action for me from Verizon.  Let me give you the details that brought me to this.

More than ten weeks ago I cancelled my Verizon/Fios bundle subscription because of price. No problem right?  That’s what free enterprise is all about, a consumer voting with their pocket book.  By my accounting I was entitled to a refund for approximately 18 days of unused service which I had paid for. So I waited. December, I receive a bill showing a smaller than expected credit with a charge for a secondary phone line that had been cancelled years ago.  And we recently notice that, more than 5 years ago, we were being charged for a phone line that we no longer had, Verizon agreed and gave us a credit equivalent to 1 year of phone service for that line as compensation. We enjoyed several months of credits on our monthly bill. Fast-forward 5 years and only after closing our Verizon account, we discover they never canceled that line and have been charging us the entire time.  Shocking? Just wait it gets better.

I called Verizon/Fios to bring this to their attention. It took 10 minutes to navigate their horrific phone tree and be connected to a customer service person. Bottom line, the rep told me that the phone line is some sort of “ghost” and she can’t close it either and will need to get IT on it.  Okay dokey. I wait a couple of weeks and contact Verizon again and this time I got a service rep with an attitude. I asked, “is the phone line cancelled”, and she said, “no” but she would cancel it. I pointed out that I was told this for years and yet the line continued. This is when she got testy as I to say that I was doubting her abilities and that I can be assured that the line has been closed this time. Riiiiiight.

This January and I got a bill, for you guessed it, the “ghost” line. So much for it being closed. Now I was really annoyed and posted on both Verizon’s and my Facebook pages about what’s going on. I got a Facebook message from Verizon asking how they could contact me.  I messaged back my contact information. Nothing! So I tried again. Nothing. Now I bumped this up to corporate and get a woman who wanted to do an audit of what happened. She said she’d call me back in a couple of days. I heard back about a week later. Her “investigation” indicated I had been erroneously charged for service I did not get for a very long time. I’m thinking now we’re getting somewhere. She offered me $800.00 which includes the 18 days service I didn’t get when I cancelled my service. They actually owe me $1200.00 but I agreed to the $800.00. I just want this nightmare to end. That was more than 2 weeks ago. I have not seen a check.

BUT I did get an email notification on January 22nd that my bill is ready.

Every Day, Everyday!

2013 started with all the optimism associated with any new beginning, and twelve days into the New Year I’m struggling to keep the momentum alive.

The match that was struck midnight December 31st sparked to life, became a gentle flame, and now has begun to flicker some. The old childish frustrations for something to happen surfaced, and I grow impatient with my circumstances and myself.

Every day since the first has felt so… everyday. Don’t ask me what I expected. Publishers clearing house would have been nice, not likely but nice. Those who know me know that’s not how my life has worked. As a rule things don’t drop from the sky for me. I’m one of those that work for everything she gets.  Although I do have to acknowledge life’s little surprises. Finding a 5 spot on the sidewalk, pushing a button on the soda machine and getting a soda for free. I look at these as the cosmos giving me an “Atta boy”. This year I hope the cosmos sees fit to give me an “Atta boy” and two thumbs up.

It’s said the greatest journey begins with one step, maybe every day is meant to be everyday. The out of the ordinary days are like diamonds and not meant to be everyday. I’ll  keep my eyes open for those diamond days.

The Second Day of the Rest of my Life

What is it about New Years that makes a person think anything is possible? It’s like the “mutha” of all Mondays, a fresh start, and clean slate. Alright, I’ll admit it, and say the words, “I’m an optimist in my soul” and yes, the glass IS half full.

This year I have an ambitious list of things I will accomplish and this blog will help keep me honest.

These are the first 4 items on my list for 2013:

  1. Keep looking for a 9 to 5 job while seeing if I can grow a design business.
  2. Redesign my website so I can market those design skills to a wider audience.
  3. Get back into working out.  (I will master that damn exercise ball and it’s evil cousin the balance ball.
  4. Sew the messenger bag I’ve designed and see if there might be interest.

Pretty good start, and I’ll be looking to scratch them off in short order and add more.

As I said yesterday this is my year. I’m due for a bit of good luck. Watch out world.

Our fate lives …

Our fate lives within us. You only have to be Brave enough to see it.

This will be the year I’m Brave enough to take my destiny into my own hands and not acquiesce. I’ll not let my insecurities or self doubts discourage me and keep me from all I know I’m capable of.

I have a great deal to offer and refuse to one day use my last breath to say, “if only.”

World, this is my year.

Employment Insecurity

I’ve completed the second week of my two-week assignment, now extended to another week or two. The agency had contacted me about doing another assignment for them starting next week but I had already committed to stay with the organization I’m at.  It’s the right thing to do.  Can’t go jumping ship after you give your word.

Working a temp job is not what I remember it. Years ago I worked office temp jobs for Manpower. Each assignment had a start date and an end date. The jobs were clear-cut; you sit in a chair and type one letter after another, or post transactions to a ledger, or do inventory adjustments after a physical counts. It was all cut and dry.  Sometimes if the boss took a “shine” to you he might offer you a full time position.  Often those “position” weren’t even worth the breath it took to turn down.

Temp jobs now are more …subtle. Resumes are sent to a prospective client/customer, they look through them, and pick who they want. You could call it a resume beauty pageant. I’ve always wondered what attracts the eye of someone reading a resume.  As the writer of a resume I never know what to include and what to leave out. I guess that’s the tension, the pursued and the pursuer. The real questions is who’s, who.

Temporary work is just so temporary. When I did temp work all those years ago, I remember feeling a sense of insecurity.  Not knowing when the next job would come along, the original employment insecurity. In those days if I didn’t line something up I would go hungry. This time it’s different. I won’t go hungry, even though I could afford to lose the extra pounds. I’m confident the reason this time it’s different is because I have the support of someone who believes in me.  When I start to doubt myself he reminds me I’ve been successful in my career and still have more to contribute. Now if I can parlay that optimism into a real job we’ll be cooking with gas.

One Foot in Front of the Other

I’m in the second week of a two-week assignment for the temp agency I’m with. From all accounts, I seem to be meeting their expectations, dare I say hopes. I don’t know yet if they’ll keep me on after Friday. However, the real million-dollar question is, “Will I be offered a permanent position?” I don’t have an answer to that one. They’re playing their cards pretty close to the vest. What I do know is they are in desperate need of someone. If I’m not the candidate, I hope for their sakes they hire someone with strong organizational skills, otherwise they will be in a major mess sooner rather than later.

This morning walking to the office, it occurred to me every one struggles with employment in one way or another. People are either working to find employment, struggling to keep what they have, or trying to get something new, even President Obama is in that boat.  Currently he’s working to keep his job. If that should not happen he’ll be doing what I’m doing, job hunting. The major difference between us though, is he will be swimming in a much larger pond.

Often I wonder how the long-term unemployed keep their spirits up. How do they keep going. It’s harder than I thought. Perhaps that’s why so many people have fallen off the roles and are no longer being counted. They’ve just stopped looking. Even though I’m doing this temp gig I feel myself being … antsy, maybe even restless. It’s hard to describe. Those that are going through this know what I’m talking about. Why can’t the hiring authorities see what a great, hard working person I am?

This evening I reviewed the several automated responses to postings from last month. They were all short and sweet, “thanks but no thanks”. The military rejection email was the most telling, “Due to the higher than anticipated applicant response to this announcement, only those applicants meeting the Best Qualified criteria were reviewed for consideration at this time.” High response? This country has an 8.9% unemployment rate and they felt the need to point out a high response rate. Duh! And what is Best Qualified?  They only want PhDs? 20 years of experience isn’t exactly chopped liver. I just hafta keep marching. Many years ago a drill instructor in my basic training platoon told us, marching is just putting one foot in front of the other in unison.

So, chin up, chest out, right foot first, hut, two, three, four, hut, two, three, four, “I don’t know but I’ve been told” …

Burning the Candle on Both Ends

Today was my first day working full time as a temp. I’d forgotten how stressful it could be. I’m confident of my skills. I know the work upside down and side ways. Hell I could do it standing on my head, but what I don’t know are the people, politics or the context of the projects. It seems almost everything has a back-story. That sort of thing takes more than two weeks to work out and this assignment is only two weeks long. It makes me chuckle, (to myself) just as I figure out all the subplots I’ll be leaving. I hope whomever they hire really knows there stuff or they’ll never make it past the probation period.

It feels strange being back in the saddle again, and the old neighborhood. Nothing has changed but me.

Now that I’m working temporarily full time, my job search has moved to part time.  Prior to this gig I was dropping my resume almost everywhere. My filter for culling out viable jobs was the word “graphic”. I wasn’t to discriminating. Now that I only have a few hours a night to devote to the search I’m being a lot more selective.  I just don’t have the time to go down the digital rabbit hole of job postings. Right now I have a bunch of resumes out and the postings are just now starting to close. In the next week or so hopefully I’ll start hearing if I am worthy.

To kick things off, I have a phone interview tomorrow at 7:00pm with a government contractor I spoke to more than 2 weeks ago. It’s exciting. I wonder if I should tell them I know how to sew. I can make my own mask and be a stylish beltway bandit.

I never thought I would say this when I quite BoardSource, but I need to be vigilant and not over commit myself. I’ve been on a hiatus for 7 weeks and I don’t want to start burning the candle on both ends like I’ve done before. My matches only just now have dried out.

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