Monday, April 04, 2011

Redundant as a Roo with a Pogo Stick

I have a tattoo. No big deal I hear you say but mine's special, very special because only employers can see it. It's brandished across my forehead I assume - since they can see it when I'm fully suited up. It says "Retrench Me". I'd rather it said "FIGJAM" but clearly it doesn't.


The real problem I think, is poor choice-making in terms of career. I went to University, I studied to become a History/English Teacher but at the tender age of 21 decided the verbal playground abuse from 17 somethings was more than my awesomeness could bear and I finished my degree with only three years of the Education component. I also fell in love. So the combination of juvenile abuse in the playground and a man (he was worth it), led to me dropping the education component and ending up with a totally useless BA. I blame neither the abusive 17 year-olds or the man for my decision. I copped out.


So what to do? I did a crash course in 'secretarial studies'. Learned how to touch type,  for which I am eternally grateful because I can have a conversation and type 90 wpm at the same time, and began a career (I use the term loosely) as a supplicant to arrogant men who needed someone to type for them and make their coffee. (that's a bit bitter since being an Executive Assistant is very complex and yet appreciated as much as being a housewife). Actually it turned out rather well. I had a job with Amway of Australia at first as a Girl Friday (can't call them that anymore) and graduated to a Publications Coordinator, where I dealt with Graphic Artists and printers to produce their rather paltry in house magazine and then through to Editor and Copywriter of a rather sophisticated in house design department. It was awesome. Our circulation was higher than Vogue Australia. I had access to wonderful people, designers, photographers, art directors and the fucking talentless asshole son of a tug captain, who was to become my boss, protagonist and eventual 'firer'. The rivalry between us went unnoticed by me but obviously felt by him, and the minute he was escalated to a position of power within a very misogynistic, highly religious and bigoted organisation, my job was advertised without me even knowing!


Redundancy No. 1.  Personal, bitter and after 15 years of service, being asked back after resigning when I had Adam, a little uneducated peasant who knew how to talk boardroom speak and agreed to be manipulated by the powers that be, is now the Managing Director. How the fuck?


So, into a series of temp jobs which irks me because Admin is probably the only temp position that pays less for freelancing and contract than any other, I found a fabulous job. National Exchange of Police Information. I was sent as a temp to deal with a 'difficult boss' who's Executive Assistant had gone on stress leave after an altercation. He turned out to be lovely. No other word for it. We are still friends.  I had five happy years there as gatekeeper, project administrator and his right hand and made many friends among colleagues. The department was in need of new hardware and after presenting an awesome business case, the Federal Government agreed to fund a new system but it would be based in Canberra. This is three hours drive from me and my kids in their early teens were less than enthusiastic about the prospect of a  move so I took a voluntary redundancy.  Redundancy No. 2. It wasn't all bad, I had a good severance pay thanks to the wonder-boss and travelled a little before going back on the 'temp' trail.


The next Job was also fortuitous. My best friend's husband insisted I come to work for him. At first, I offered a temporary 'wait and see how it works out' arrangement. Working for friends can be difficult and I didn't want to jeopardise the friendship, but he wanted commitment so in December 2000, I took the job as his EA. Graduated to Practice Manager. Combined two practices into one. Streamlined their systems and fell out with one of the Partners. There were three. One loved me, one didn't care either way, one hated me. Probably because I sent an email about him, too him. Mostly because he's an arrogant shit that everyone has fallen out with since but that's bye the bye. Redundancy No. 3


After 9 years, my best friend gave me the "This is the conversation I don't want to have" spiel. Stop there. Had it before. Knew it was coming. This decision was financial thanks to the GFC but it cut me to the core. Then began the 18 months from Hell.


These are my best friends. Note I use the term 'are' because I know both tried hard to keep me there but with three partners and only one who gives a shit . . hey, shit happens and I know that my closest girlf in the world shed many tears over the decision. But the following 18 months were loveless and luckless. Yes I found a job working for a State Owned Corporation but it was not a happy time. A mad boss who was dismissed and not replaced saw my income drop. A job with a project team that I loved was taken away in case other projects asked for the same level of support . . so I began looking again.

Landed a sweet 'work until I retire' job with an Accountancy firm as their Practice Manager. Awesome people, Lebanese Christians with hearts of gold. I was appreciated, given flowers for doing my job, a bonus at Christmas a turkey AND a ham. But sadly, the BDM they hired left and didn't bring in the new business they were hoping for. They'd been operating out of overdraft for months, which I knew, but thought (thinking I knew the Lebanese stereotype) that there'd be a slush fund hidden from my view - there wasn't.  As the work dwindled, so did their cashflow until a board meeting where once again . . .a rather teary partner began, "This is the conversation I don't want to have . . " spiel. Redundancy No. 4 and no severance since I'd only been there 5 months. Two week's pay, two nice Chardy's to drown my sorrows and $100 gift card, which of course, I spent on booze.


So that brings us to now. Am I devastated? Actually I'm surprisingly calm and after 3 days off, my house is immaculate, my garden tidy and my pool finally on the blue side. No, this time I'm not bitter or upset. I'm disappointed. I liked that last job. I'm frustrated because I'm back to a shitty hourly rate, no sick pay or holiday allowance -  but this time, I'm not taking it personally. I'm not the suicide-contemplating mess that I was 18 months ago. I don't need my daughter to pay for a trip to Paris (although Clare if you're inclined I wouldn't mind going back). I've just done a 4 week contract job with awesome people who will give me part time work in the short term. They like me. They appreciate what I've done for them and they were so much fun I'm still reeling. So I'm now aware that not every employer is an asshole.  However, come May 4, I will again have to work in a lowly paid position, be told that I'm competent and do it for $25 an hour.  It's a humbling experience that I don't wish upon anyone.


Do I feel valued? No. I don't. My self-esteem is buoyed by one person these days and he's not in a position to employ me.  Bottom line is that if you're an admin in a time and billing environment, not bringing in revenue, you will be the first to go.  If you compete with a young gun that knows boardroom speak and will do everything in his power to raise the glass ceiling, you'll go. If you write an email about someone and send it to them - even if they're a devout fucking Christian and don't get the principle of forgiveness - you'll go. If you're over  54 and can't balance on five inch stilettos or manoeuvre in a pencil skirt - you will be the last to be employed. If you trust a pert-breasted embryo to find you the perfect job, you're living on another planet. If you're an idiot that borrowed against an unrealised inheritance and a property that nobody seems to want, you deserve all you get.


Hey but I get a month off to go to the Symphony at the Opera house, be scared shitless at the Quarantine Station, watch aerial ping pong and road trip in search of the great Gippsland worm and enjoy the natural wonders of the Great Ocean Road with a creative, irresponsible, irreverent, gorgeous, OCD, noodle-eating arrogant American whom I adore.


Parents, don't let your children grow up to be admins. They're better off digging ditches. Yep, I'm as redundant as a roo with a pogo stick.


26 comments:

C.P.Adorio said...

Aaaw Helen! This is just terrible. I am so sorry. So very sorry. It sucks. Damn! Pray? Pray. Just pray because you have done the best so far.

C.P.Adorio said...

Take care. I will keep you in my prayers. In fact I'll do that now. It's past two and I drank two cups of coffee at 10Pm and I have a project going live tomorrow so I will be wasted if I don't force myself to go to bed and stare at the ceiling. Take care. Tsup!

kylie said...

ha! i reckon i can beat you on the whole sorry tale!

Kath Lockett said...

Oh Baino....... I so felt for you during your shocker 18 months but didn't realise that you'd been through it twice before and now AGAIN!

I've been 'fired' by one person and that's still left me recovering over four years later only to find that I'm now working with her SON. Lucky he was blissfully unaware of his parent's evil maneouvres then and is actually someone who is incredibly intelligent for a youngster.

But I will say that, in my three part time jobs, only one pays me anywhere near $25 an hour. I'm finding that I'm working way more than 40 hours and doing lots of running around town, but the money is trickling in at a steady rate. A reliable rate. Still no sick leave or holiday pay but I finally feel as though I'm contributing my share.

I wish you however, a pay rate much higher than mine with a top boss, fun staff, heaps of resources and a stable future. You don't have a tattoo on your forehead but you do have fuckin' bad luck! Hugs to you, K xo xo xo

Alan Burnett said...

Your self-esteem shouldn't need to be buoyed by anyone (especially him) and there are a fair number of people out here who think - indeed know - you are one of the most talented and amusing writers around. The only tattoo I see stenciled on your forehead reads "QUALITY"

Roy said...

Ditto what Alan said! And a lot of empathy here - I definitely know what it feels like to be redundant.

Ocean Girl said...

Evaluate the situation and make plans to adjust. Count the blessings and pray for the better. And surrender and accept. You would be fine. God willing.

kj said...

hells, thinking of you and knowing all will be well. when i started reading the first couple of sentences i was sure you were writing fiction, which is to say you have become a fantastic writer.

what a roller coaster career. but there is one constant and it is you. you are a fiesty bright shining star. that will soon be clear i am sure of that.

my couch awaits. meanwhile, i'm glad you got this written and now it's time for a very interesting month. i'll be following you.

love love
kj

Grannymar said...

Good to get that off your chest. Now go enjoy the holiday adventure and then look towards Adam's Big day. Then march out into the world of work refreshed and ready to take on the world!

Brian Miller said...

welllife can sure be a shit sandwich at times cant it...sounds like you are already making positive steps...going on 2.5 years part time for me and we have survived. i know you will persevere you are good people baino..

nick said...

Well, I've been lucky enough to do a whole lot of very enjoyable admin jobs but of course they don't pay any better than in Oz. Fortunate that Jenny earns a fat salary to compensate. I hope you find a decent job before too long.

Kate Hanley said...

Good luck with the jobs. If I decide to stop Stage Managing (or if I don't get hired again) my skill set closely matches that of an Executive Assistant and it's the same thing really: organizing shit for arrogant directors/bosses and smiling while they ignore you. You sound like you are handling things well though so congrats to that.

Carolina said...

I'm sobbing. Such a sad story. Will have to drown my sad feelings in a glass of red Merlot now. Your fault!
I do hope you'll have a wonderful time with your OCD gorgeous guy. Cheers!
And I agree with Alan Burnett.

Babysis said...

Couldnt agree with Alan more....could this be the universe telling you to try writing a book? Could this be the universe telling you - youre not an admin girl! C'mon Nellie, time to change tack me thinks....use the talents that you've been given girl! Luv Ya.

Tina said...

I can relate to many parts of your story. I'm still reeling from getting my ass kicked out the door a scant two months after a fabulous promotion which included the chance to develop the company's here to non-existent new HR department...and that was 11/09. I hope the two of you have a fab trip. Assuming you'll be taking us all along? Please? I've never seen a giant earthworm, and I need picture proof of how long his hair REALLY is. The nipples thing isn't visual enough . Take care, drink all you can, and send pictures.

e said...

I'm sorry for all your redundancies, Helen. I think your baby sister is right. Time for you to get published.

Jill from Killeny Glen said...

Hmmmm, this sucks big but then when I think of YOU I think that you should write...where is the MONEY in that though so that you can LIVE and actually pay for the Lily food?

You are an awesome lady....there is something out there just waiting for you...and definitely without the freakish boss!

PaddyinBA said...

That is quite a shitty run of bad luck by all accounts. There's a lot of my peeps at home and yanks here out of work too some for extended periods. You'll come thru this as you have everything else once the frikkin' economy gets back on track

Janice said...

A brilliant, amusingly written saga. I was captivated by every word. And Alan really summed it up for me. There's nothing for me to add to his perfect comment.

Megan said...

Sorry - $25 an hour? For an admin position? Did I read that right? Wanna trade places?

Pam said...

As a teacher, abuse from students (or parents of) is really something else! 33 years of it now from me, and have changed to teaching in the disability sector,where challenges are of a different nature and students and parents are as a rule,are much more appreciative.Don't know that you did 'cop out' from teaching in many ways!
You knew what you didn't want. Most teaching graduates these days flee after five years.
As you've found however,redundancy is the down side of other areas of employment, particularly the corporate sector.
Don't really know what the answer is Helen, but like others, I do know that I agree with Alan.

laughingwolf said...

shit happens, over and over... esp if you're not a member of the same church as the assholes out there

i suggested some time back you put out your 'consultant' shingle....

Betsy said...

Ugh. So sorry!

And 90wpm? Wow...girl, that is so very fast! I thought I typed fast at 80wpm.

PattiKen said...

You have no idea the parallels here, except rather than stilettos and pencil skirts, it was big hair and knit dresses for me. oh, and the fact that I deliberately never learned to touch type for all the reasons you cited. I guess I showed them.

River said...

You could always work in a supermarket....but the pay is only $18 an hour. $25 an hour is something I'd love. one of my girls works in admin, has been in her current job about 8 years, they love her there.

unstranger said...

Baino, it's like there's nothing to say after that. You can leave your readers speechless at times. I only know that there is a great sense of a powerful spirit about you from what you sometimes write about and from how you put things. I get the clear impression that when others around you panic, you have the wherewithal to go put the kettle on. Not many have that coolness about them you know.
I have to borrow that leaping kangaroo photo though, it's excellent.