Browsing randomly through LinkedIn yesterday I came across one of my contacts who I now saw was self-employed mowing lawns. I was surprised. Nearly 10 years ago he was my boss, the head of practice at the consulting firm where I worked. I remember we got on well right from the word go. He’s a tall, good looking, and very affable Swede. Back then he was based in Sydney, I was in Brisbane, and whenever we found ourselves in the same town we’d catch up for a beer at least.
We maintained contact after I left that company and returned to Melbourne. He’s rarely in Melbourne, but when I’m in Sydney I try to catch up with. He’s a lovely, genuine bloke, and if we lived in the same town I reckon we’d be good friends. Anyway, reading his update I sent him a message.
He responded soon after. He’d quit his previous job, got married, then spent about 6 months back in Europe living well, catching with his family, skiing, and so on. Back in Sydney he’d applied for a number of roles he thought he was perfect for and got nowhere, to his great surprise. In light of that he decided to change tack and so started his own lawn-mowing business. Etc.
I read all of this wondering if I should take the hint. There seems to be a bit of a trend. This guy is a good operator with an exceptional CV. Unlike me, he can at least claim to be a specialist in something – as a practice and project manager, and with MS Dynamics. Perhaps where he is now is where I was 12 months ago when I decided to buy a massage shop, for much the same reason he now mows lawns. In hindsight that was not a good decision for me, and here I am back where I started trying to get back into what even my friend cannot get into. Is there a message in all of this? Should I be looking at other options?
Well, I am looking at other options, but as well as rather than instead of. Ultimately I don’t know if I have much choice.
Funnily enough I contacted another long lost acquaintance a couple of weeks ago. A name came up in my contacts list and on impulse I sent a message to a guy I met in Singapore about 13 years ago. He, and his wife, were very good to me then, and when they returned to Melbourne to settle I maintained contact with them, up to about 4 years ago.
So I sent my message and about 24 hours later got a response, which in turn led to a telephone conversation. I learned that my friend had been unemployed for about a year and was preparing himself for that potentially becoming a permanent condition. I was shocked to hear that, and also pretty spooked by it.
Now he’s a lovely, decent person, smart, but without perhaps the credentials to secure a job easily, though he has good experience in certain areas, including politics. His wife is working, so at least they have an income.
Then, of course, there is me. I’m not encouraged by these stories, but I can’t afford not to succeed. It’s a funny place this world when perfectly capable, and in some aspects, exceptionally capable people can’t get work. I’ve just come off two days of a seminar where the course instructor said I was way in advance of the material, and where I ended up effectively assisting in the presentation. I was told once again what a good communicator I am, how confident I appear, how intelligent I present, and so on, all of which I respond to with an ironic smile that verges on the bitter. I’ve heard it all before, but if that is the case then why am I in the position that I am?
I may seem way ahead of everyone, but reality is I’m no better off than the lowliest of them. Talk is cheap as they say. Bottom line is I have to write my own story. It gets scary sometimes though.