When a New Beginning is Terrifying

As I have said before, I left my Assistant Director role at a major research university in Cleveland in April 2018. I was there for 4 months and things got off to a bad start going back to the hiring process (it took 8 months between decision and start date and one of my eventual supervisors was talking bad about me to colleagues during the hiring process). There was a bad work environment with no onboarding, a rigid and conservative organizational culture, a lack of departmental structure or hierarchy, a lack of direct communication on roles or performance or otherwise, gender and racial issues (I was the only male and one of 2 blacks in the office — the other felt as if there were room for only 1), isolation, and disrespect of my work product and character. The way I left caused mental and emotional trauma as well, and I am convinced that those I worked with there colluded to blackball me from other local opportunities — Cleveland is very small.

As a result of all of this it has taken some time to accept what happened, heal from the situation, look for new opportunities, and regain confidence in myself and my skills to be a successful professional and team member. I have gotten through all of those steps except for the last –regaining confidence in myself and my skills. It took time (almost a full year) to work on the other areas to successful outcomes, though if specific people or incidents are brought up I can be angered and bitter. However, those seem to be things that I can work through afterI get back to work and focus on the new experiences and opportunities. It is far more difficult to rebuild your self-confidence which is needed in the hiring and search process beforegetting back to work. Furthermore, having been off of work as long as I have complicates the process even more. I must add that I am thankful for my family, friends, unemployment insurance, and some odd jobs that have helped me survive financially in the interim. But, without the self-confidence needed to find jobs that fit my skillset and experience, compensation, and growth, I feel stuck.

Ever since I left my last job, I have contemplated about the things that I’d have done differently, areas that I can improve upon and grow, and areas I once thought I was good at performing. I say “once thought” because the longer that I’ve sat on the employment shelf I’ve questioned how good I ever actually was and whether I will be good enough now. After being out of the job market for nearly a year, you question your ability to do what you once were able to do — even the simplest things. This second guessing embeds itself deep into your psyche and is hard to remove. I feel that I have diminished or outdated skills and that I am being outpaced by peers in the workforce to a point of no catching up. My biggest fear is going to work an experiencing a complete breakdown due to “paralysis by analysis” where I second guessed everythingto the point where I’m rendered ineffectual.

Also, as I previously mentioned, I believe with high certainty that my previous employer has blackballed me out of jobs in Cleveland. Due to it being a small city with many interwoven social and professional circles, I cannot help but believe that my resume has been met with a level of toxicity. But, what worries me about this blackballing is the stain on my previous work product and my professional reputation which was well regarded. I’ve known professionals to “fail up” into higher roles, here and elsewhere, but I wonder if any karmic justice will prevail for myself and my employability. Often, I worry that I’m being marked by employers as toxic and if I’ve been deemed unemployable at all. I question myself when I apply to jobs that fit my mission, values, skills, and experience as though I’m being too picky, too tainted, not good enough, etc. That has led me to look at entry-level roles more and to start thinking about starting from scratch professionally. Also, this has led to a terrible mindset and I can see why unemployed people often get so disenchanted that thy stop looking for jobs and leave the job market altogether. It’s a Sisyphean dilemma.

Then, I look at the personal toll of a lengthy unemployment cycle on myself and I think it has affected my self-confidence most in regard to my personal worth and character. People who know me know that I am trustworthy, honest, and of high character. My character means a lot to me. My character is also what I perceive has been most damaged by my last job and unemployment. I feel like my character has been judged, directly or indirectly by others and myself. That judgment may be because of how my last job ended, for why I’ve been unemployed for so long, and why I may be unsuccessful professionally moving forward. When I have battled depression and anxiety during this process and worked through the path of getting things back on track, this feeling of being unworthy or of diminished character has been top of mind. Subsequently, I feel like I have let myself and others down by not being further along, by not being able to find a job, and by not being able to compete with my peers and support my family. This is the area that hurts the most and affects me the most, and it’s the area that I need the most now in order to build towards success again.

I have often wondered if this is the cause or symptom of why I still do not know what I want to do in life (my purpose). Part of me says that you have to know your purpose going into things and sometimes I think you find it as you go along, or a bit of both. I want to go back to school in the near future for law and the ease of a lifetime profession or education which is something I am passionate about though less clear regarding employment options. I also feel like this unemployment has disrupted every thing and idea that I once thought was possible or attainable; and, now I don’t know what to do, what I’m good at, or what to pursue. What I do know is that time is ticking against me and that I believe that I have something positive to offer the world. Recently, there have been some opportunities that seem promising and may lead to employment, but I cannot help but worry about if I am ready, how I’ll perform, and whether it is the right choice. Like former President George W. Bush said, “fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, you can’t get fooled again.” So, here’s to courage, prayer, and hoping that I will make the right choice at the right time on the right path.

Cleveland | 30 | Seeking to make small change with my words and thoughts. More material available on The East by West https://www.theeastbywest.com

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