Shirley's Story

Shirley EnglishBy Shirley English, Sales Assistant, WCGL client

Time is a funny thing. I, like most people have spent most of my life wanting more time. More time to spend with friends and family, more time to read, more time to think, more time to sleep, just more time. How many times have you thought to yourself, If only I had more time, I would do all those projects that never seem to get done. I would clean out the closets, sort through the piles of photos, and a million other things that come to mind.

My perspective changed drastically while I was unemployed. Time was no longer something I yearned for, but something that I learned to despise. Time had become my constant obstacle, my biggest fear, and my arch nemesis. Time had become a four letter word.

The first weeks were the worst. I had never really been unemployed before. I had been in between jobs before, but not really ever unemployed. I was a nervous wreck. All the things I had dreamed about doing had fallen to the way side. I couldn’t concentrate on anything other than finding a job. That was a task that I soon learned was going to be a lot more difficult than I first thought. I felt like I was pretty employable. I had a lot of work experience, an impressive resume, plenty of letters of recommendation from previous employers, plenty of ambition, and most importantly a real need to be employed and quick.

It was around March and my unemployment was about ready to run out, and I didn’t have a clue as to what to do. I applied for jobs that I was completely qualified for, and jobs that I didn’t think I was qualified for, jobs I wasn’t at all qualified for, and even jobs that I didn’t know who the hell would be qualified for.

It was around that time that I happened to go to the Allen Neighborhood Center to see if there were any possibilities there. They were unable to help me, but suggested that I try the Women’s Center of Greater Lansing. I only live a few blocks from the Women’s Center, but had never gone there. For people that know me it would be a huge surprise or even a shock to them to know that initially I am painfully shy. So just going to a place where I didn’t know anyone or anything about it would not be something that I would normally do.

With resumes in hand, (see I had different resumes for all my many career choices) I ventured to the Center. I met Cindie and quickly recapped my story. She told me that they offered a job club on Monday mornings at 10:00 am and another one Tuesday nights at 5:30 pm. She told me to bring my resume and to attend one of the sessions and see what they could do to help me. That was on a Thursday afternoon.

By Sunday evening I had pretty much decided that they wouldn’t be able to help me and going would just be a huge waste of my time. See, I had been unable to receive much assistance from traditional avenues because I am a single female and I don’t have any dependent children. (Don’t get me started, that is a whole other story.)

Monday morning came and I decided “What the hell” I was going to give it a shot. I look back now and think the only reason I went in the first place was to get out of the house. When you start planning your entire day based on T.V. programming, it is time to make a change. I showered and found something presentable to wear and left. I immediately felt uncomfortable upon arrival because I was over dressed. We started going around the table and women starting telling their stories, and talking about what they had been working on. There were a couple of things that I found very interesting from that very first day. The women in the group not only talked about finding a job, but about anything that they considered to be an obstacle to their success. By the end of the first session I felt better about my situation. I had met people who were better off than me and people who were worse off than me. The common theme for all of us was we needed to find a job, but there were many more things that we all had in common.

I continued to go to the job seeker group every Monday morning, and even found myself looking forward to it. It wasn’t long before I had bonded with some of the participants and would have missed them if I didn’t go. I still hadn’t found a job, but my outlook was better than it had been for awhile.

In the meantime, my unemployment benefits had run out. According to the Unemployment Agency “There were absolutely no extensions at this time.” I guess if unemployment is low they can afford to extend it, but when our state’s unemployment is among the highest in the nation then it is apparently not in the budget. Somehow that whole concept doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

The Center was there to meet my every need, whether I needed to use the computer, or the phone, or the fax machine, or to just have someone to vent to on a regular basis. There were many a day that I would not have been able to eat had it not been for the generosity of not only the Center, but people who I had met at job club that were willing to give anything that they could spare.

I have spent most of my life as an independent woman, and I was not the kind of girl who would even ask for help, let alone take a hand out. I had the mind set that if you were unable to take care of yourself, then you were a complete failure. That thinking was one of the biggest obstacles that I had to overcome. Being vulnerable and asking for help were foreign concepts to me. I had to bite the bullet and to ask for help because I was unable to pay my car payment or insurance. It was more than two months behind and the company was threatening to repo my car. I asked Cindie if she had any suggestions for me. It was about a week later that I was lying in bed dreading the day because I knew that I still didn’t have enough money to pay my car payment, and I didn’t know what to do. Just when I thought it was a hopeless situation, Cindie called and told me that she had found an anonymous donor who was willing to help me out. It was unbelievable to me that a complete stranger would be willing to help me when they didn’t know anything about me. It was very humbling to me.

Not long after that day, I went to job club and Manuela had lined up the Assistant Manager and Human Resource Director for the Holiday Inn West. They were in the hospitality business, an area that I have a lot of experience in. Cindie got a copy of my resume from my file and I filled out the applications that they brought with them. They stated that they held open interviews on Wednesday afternoons from 12:00pm to 3:00pm and to stop by. On Wednesday afternoon, I put on a suit and went to the open interviews. After the initial interview, the two interviewers popped their heads out of the office and asked me to see them when I was done filling out the personality profile. After returning to the office, they said that they needed to fill a new position that had just been created and that with all of my experience in the field, they felt that I would be a great candidate for the position. I told them that I was interested and to keep me posted. Later that day I received a call from the Human Resources Director and she set up a second interview with the General Manager. I was afraid to get my hopes up because nothing positive in the job field had happened for me for months. It used to be that if I got an interview, I was offered the position. My self esteem had really begun to suffer. If I did get an interview, I was unable to go with my head held high and a positive attitude. I again put on a suit and had a second interview with the General Manager. On Friday night of that week I got another call from the Human Resources Director, to ask if I could again meet with the General Manager on Monday morning.

On Monday morning I once again put on a suit and went to meet with the General Manager. I was indeed offered a position and was offered a fair starting wage. Little did they know that I would have probably worked for food. I started the next week. I now am a sales assistant at the Holiday Inn Conference Center on the west side of town. I work with a great group of people and I laugh every day at work. The company has since changed owners and we recently got a new General Manger. He may be one of the best bosses I have ever had. He allowed me to update the priority club suite. He just believed in my ability and said “make it happen.” I love my job!!! I don’t know if I have ever been able to say that before.

The new owners are in the process of remodeling the whole hotel, and I think the possibilities are endless. My finances are still in poor shape, but it is a great feeling knowing that I have a steady paycheck every week. I am very grateful to the Women’s Center for what they did for me when things couldn’t have been more grim. It has renewed my faith in mankind. Thank you Cindie and Manuela.