Today I spent some time reflecting on where I was one year ago. It was a pretty dark place, February of 2010, right before I took on my part time jobs, and in the midst of my lowest low of the job searching experience. Let me share this very personal journal entry from last February:

“Well I have hit a new low. I was rejected from the job I wanted — apparently they changed their minds about wanting to continue interviewing me. I think that I should just give up sometimes. Nobody will hire me. It’s been eight months since I lost my job. I don’t like living with Ronny and Barbie. I totally BLEW my phone interview with another company yesterday because I was sick and unable to BS my way through the questions. I know that all my friends think there is something wrong with me. ALL of these thoughts are against the “positive” thinking my STUPID self-help book tells me to do, so I can’t even do that right. I can’t even THINK the right way. I wish this were a video game and I could use up my lives and start the level over.”

I share this not to depress you, my readers, but to give you hope. I felt like giving up so many times. My confidence was at an all-time low. I didn’t see a way out. I’m not saying the road to recovery is easy (or fast), but I did find my way. I eventually found my path, I found a decent and inspiring job. I made it.

So can you.

And you’re never alone, because we have all been there. At that lowest point, when McDonalds seems like your only career alternative. But it’s not. So hang in there!



30,000 Foot View

Literally. I am 30,000 feet above ground right this moment, on my way to Phoenix, AZ. And it seems, my friends, that I’ve finally found time to reflect on the past few months. So while I am 30,000 feet above ground I am able to share a 30,000 foot view of…well, my new life.

Starting a new job is always stressful, as is going through a career change. Trying to navigate through both after a year and three months of unemployment, well, that is quite a challenge. There have been the usual adjustments to make, you know, waking up before 8am, trying to fit into clothes I bought a year ago, making lunches and trying to stay fairly active even though I sit at a desk all day.  Then there was getting the feel for a new company, the people, environment, expectations… and for me there has been a bit of travel. So, there were airports and planes and GERMS (sorry, hypochondriac moment) and hotels, and way too much restaurant food.

So, now, 10 pounds later, and four months into my new career I feel like I am getting the hang of this whole “working” thing again. I have finally been able cast my fishing line and set some goals (see week 27: Five Year Plan).  I have been able to dig a small tunnel out of the hole of debt I found myself in this year.  I have been able to learn and grow as a professional and person, and for me that is probably the most important thing.

As of late, I’ve been able to reflect on my experiences as an unemployed interior designer in some new and interesting ways (which I plan to share with you in due time). I have also discovered that it’s oh-so-easy, once working again, to forget all those out there still struggling to find a decent job, and so I am trying to make more of an effort to stay abreast of what is happening in, not only this industry, but in the national and global market as a whole. Because when 300 people lose their job, because a local paper manufacturer shuts down, it impacts us all.

So there you have it, folks. A 30,000 foot view of my life as I know it at this moment. Stay tuned for more brilliant insights.

Save Energy and Save the Space

My latest and greatest blog for Spacesaver.com is a reflection on some great ways to save energy on a corporate level. Thought I would share!


Looking for ideas on how to save big bucks on energy costs? Look no further than Buildings Magazine. In the September issue, their staff member, Kylie Wroblaski shares 31 “Expense Slashing Solutions” for your building, that not only save money, but also….

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Here are a few standouts from the article, (and we are proud to say, Spacesaver’s innovative heating controls retrofit is among them):

Innovations in Cleaning. State Farm Insurance uses a combination of daytime and cooperative cleaning to save as much as 27% on cleaning costs and 8% on lighting costs each year.

“The program includes cleaning the high profile areas before the building opens each morning,” says Steven Spencer, facilities specialist in State Farm’s Facilities Management Department. After the building is open, the restrooms are cleaned continually while break areas, entryways, and conference rooms are cleaned on a set schedule and with high-productivity equipment. In addition, “employees take their food waste to a collection area daily and additional trash can be disposed of when they deem necessary.”


Read the full blog here.

Thoughts on Rejection Letters

Guest blog by Shannon Cooper

After being officially unemployed for over a year now, I have a pretty large folder of rejection letters…  well, not really, since I don’t actually save them.  However, I have some general thoughts and advice to those in management or human resources positions that do follow this blog.

Being unemployed for any length of time is hard enough, finding an interior design job in this economy is even harder. Rejection letters are first and foremost, in a sense, appreciated, since most companies don’t even send them anymore.  The point I’m trying to make here is, although rejection letters are hard to write,  and hard for us job-seekers to receive, the effort which you put forth to write one means something. The letter can and should be thoughtful and professional. I especially appreciate the heartfelt, sincere, and “custom” per say, rejection letter.  Acknowledging my name somewhere other than the address block, or referencing a strong quality I presented, is a little softer blow.  I can appreciate that form of rejection letter and let down so much easier than when the rejection letter isn’t so… generic, and my address block wasn’t just inserted.

Personally, I would prefer not to see anymore rejection letters (meaning, I actually got the job)! For now, I want to thank to those of you writing personal rejection letters and taking the time to do so.

Week 4: Why I Choose to Boycott Bottled Water

This week, I found a great video on YouTube made by a very eccentric Canadian (I really am becoming a Canadian at heart these days), and I felt it very blog-worthy. Since he is so eccentric and makes his case with such great passion and humor, I will leave you with the clip and say no more.


Week 1: Oh Canada!

There is a first time for everything. I started my first week at my new job, by attending IIDEX/NeoCon in Canada. It was also my first time in Canada… ever (yes I know it’s sad, since Wisconsin is their neighbor)!

It was also my first time eating Ketchup Chips (a Canadian delicacy) and thank goodness I have a whole case coming my way this week. Thank you, Paul.

A trip, a nice hotel, great conversation with coworkers and associates, educational and inspiring seminars… many vodka shots, what could be better? I’ll tell you what. Having a job! How many months did I hope for this… did I struggle to find this? You’all know. It was many, many months!

But, in all seriousness, folks, having a job that inspires me is the point I am trying to make here. Working on a team of dedicated and passionate people is so refreshing. It’s hard to work when you feel indifferent about the cause, or when you can tell the people around you are miserable. It’s hard to work when you are under-appreciated or underemployed.

I am excited about the future! My future, the future of my company and the future of the architecture and design industry as a whole.

You can read more about what inspired and excited me at IIDEX on the Spacesaver blog by clicking below:

“When I sat down to listen to the Innovation Keynote speaker, Avi  Flombaum, the Co-founder and Chief Product Officer of Designer Pages, at IIDEX/NeoCon Canada, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Innovation. It’s just another buzz word… right?”

It’s good to be back, people! Don’t stop searching for a job that is the right fit for YOU! Really, don’t.

Inappropriate Interview Questions….

Inappropriate Interview Questions….Guest blog by Shannon Cooper

So, as an unemployed interior designer, I’ve had a handful of interviews this past year, most of which were good, professional interviews. However, during a more recent situation I was asked if I “had a family.”

Hello inappropriate question!

Did they ask because I’m a woman? Familiar with the laws, I was reluctant to answer, but ultimately I did (with much regret). I knew what they must have been thinking: “Uh oh, primary care provider = sick kids = missing work.” To say the least, I didn’t get the job and I wondered if all the candidates were being asked the same question (unlikely). The more appropriate, law abiding question would have been, “Is there anything that would interfere with regular attendance at work?”

After I left the interview, I wondered what I could do about this. How was this fair? So, I did some research. Below is a link stating which questions are inappropriate to ask during an interview.

Sections 111.31-111.395 of the Wisconsin Statutes provides that it is unlawful for employers, employment agencies, labor unions and licensing agencies to discriminate against employees and job applicants because of any of the following:

Age, Ancestry, Arrest Record, Color, Conviction Record, Creed, Disability, Genetic Testing, Honesty Testing, Marital Status, Military Service, National Origin, Pregnancy or Childbirth, Race, Sex, Sexual Orientation, Use or nonuse of lawful products off the employer’s premises during nonworking hours. Employees may not be harassed in the workplace based on their protected status nor retaliated against for filing a complaint, for assisting with a complaint, or for opposing discrimination in the workplace.

Now the above statement says “unlawful” however, this is what I learned when I called the STATE OF WISCONSIN DEPARTMENT OF WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT, EQUAL RIGHTS DIVISION, CIVIL RIGHTS BUREAU. What I was told that there are a lot of inappropriate questions and no illegal questions. I was told that the company that interviewed me and clearly asked if I had a family, didn’t break the law. I learned that if I felt strongly about the issue and wanted to take action or file a formal complaint, I would need proof.  I’d have to prove and find documentation that the person hired instead of me was equally or less qualified and DIDN’T have a family.

So, as for inappropriate interview questions, potential employers aren’t really supposed to ask you any of these questions, but there are ways around the law. It seems like really anything goes unless you have the cold hard evidence to prove they asked you something unlawful.

This doesn’t really sound like Equal Opportunity.

On to the next interview…


Week 66: Wait for the Wheel

Ferris Wheel on Mt. Tibidabo, Barcelona

It has been a while, my friends, since I’ve shared my adventures with you. The past six weeks have been quite a whirlwind and I apologize for keeping so much to myself, but it was extremely hard to reflect on—and write about all the changes that were happening as I was going through them. Now the winds have quieted down a bit, and I have had some time to gather my thoughts, conclusions, observations… and wits!

In the past six weeks four major things occurred: I went to Spain, I resigned from my part time marketing position with UW-Waukesha, I accepted a great job with a local furniture dealership, I was offered my dream job with another local company and decided to un-accept my previous job offer and accept the new one (uh, yeah, stressful).

So, you see…much has been happening in this gal’s life. It seems fitting that I started my job search with a trip to Neocon in July 2009 and now I will end my job search with a trip to IIDEX, Neocon Canada next week. I have come full circle, in more ways than just attending Neocon as a beginning and end to my year and three months of unemployment.

Several years ago I began to feel unsatisfied in my career. I was restless, longing for more of a challenge (don’t get me wrong, space planning is one of the most challenging job duties known to mankind), and so I decided to create a new position for myself within the company I worked for (pretty ballsy, yes I know) and pitch it to leadership. I wrote up a three-page summary of my job duties, and a one-year action plan for how I would succeed in the position. This new position: A&D Marketing and PR Coordinator.  As you might imagine, no one really took my young 26-year-old self too seriously and the position, though necessary, was never created. That year I instead poured myself into greening our office, creating some excitement about sustainability, studying LEED practices and principles and gearing up to take the LEED exam for Commercial Interiors.

Then, I lost my job. And so I embarked on my journey, the one all you lovely readers have followed me on, and one year and three months later I have landed a position as A&D and Environmental Marketing Specialist. Essentially a culmination of my two passions…

Oh it all sounds so good, so “meant to be,” right? In reality this past year has been the hardest, most humbling, degrading, depressing time of my life thus far. But it has, in many ways, been the best and most life-changing year ever.

I left the design field, bitter, unsatisfied, angry (young and overzealous as well). I searched in vain for a job that was far removed from the office furniture industry. I was rejected time and time again. The Julie that felt in her youth she could do anything (Goonies never say die, right) started to disappear. I felt lost.

I started a marketing job in a totally unrelated industry and, surprisingly, I didn’t love it. I missed cubicles. I missed the challenges and fast paced nature of office furniture. I missed innovation, design, working with clients. I was even more confused than ever.

Hadn’t I wanted something different?

Hadn’t I worked so hard so that I could leave the furniture industry and try something new?

Who was I?

I left the country in July, still not really knowing the answers to these very important questions. Sure, I had already learned a few life-changing lessons such as:

HUMILITY is a necessary component to any success story. Had I learned nothing from all these Shakespeare tragedies where the hero always falls because of his PRIDE? Apparently not. Life has to teach you that lesson first hand. Go work retail (as I did) every now and then. It brings you back to reality right quick.

PATIENCE really IS a virtue. Youth sometimes gets the better of us, and we think we can do and be anything. And yes, we can, it just takes a bit more finesse and TIME than we think.

RESPECT yourself, your employers, your friends, your family. This is one thing I have always done well, but I learned to do it even better… especially the whole “self and family” part.

Life doesn’t have to be ALL about your career, or your family, or your partner or whatever. It’s important to have BALANCE. I never really had that. I placed too much importance and stock in my professional life and often missed out on the real things that mattered, like friendship and family and cooking and traveling. The little things and big things alike deserve attention.

You’re never too good, too strong, or too independent to ask for HELP.

I traveled through Spain and didn’t really think much about my life—and it was wonderful. I actually LIVED IN THE PRESENT MOMENT (as my horoscope told me). I stopped my worrying and analyzing and dreaming for 17 days and when I returned to the states I had a newfound clarity that somehow came out of all that living and peace.

I knew I didn’t want to work for the university any longer. I knew I wanted back in the design, architecture and furniture industry. And as soon as I realized how much I loved that field, how much I wanted to be a part of it interview opportunities started flying in. And I was thrilled.

I was ready and excited to start delving back into the world of cubicles, and I think perhaps it showed, and so, I received a job offer from a great company, close to home and which would allow me to be reunited with Julie #1. Yay me! I felt like I was 23 again, ready and willing to take on the world of office furniture.  Just as I realized how truly full circle I had come in terms of where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do, another offer came in for a job I could only before ever dream of. It was in the right industry, it was a new and exciting position, it was a culmination of all my skills, interests and experience.

The wheel always turns, and we always come full circle. What goes down must come up. It’s so hard to remember that when in the throws of tragedy, or pain, or hardship… but your wheel will turn. And the new Julie, who is patient and humble, knows that her wheel could turn again and she is okay with that.

Monday I will no longer be an unemployed interior designer. I will be an employed interior designer in a new role. And you will continue to hear from me about my adventures, and I will continue to share the experiences of others going through the job search and career change experience. XOXO

Week 60: Take Your Skills with You

Another great guest blog, this time contributed by Michael Gauger. Visit his blog here: mikgaug.wordpress.com

Take your skills with you

by Michael Gauger

For nearly 20 years, I was a newspaper copy editor in Milwaukee, where I was born and grew up. But in the last few years, the Journal Sentinel had been cutting its staff through buyouts. In the summer of ’09, a round of buyouts didn’t yield enough cuts for the company, and in August I was laid off, among dozens in the newsroom who lost their jobs.

One year later, I’m happy to report, I have landed in a rewarding position: grant officer/writer for the Columbia St. Mary’s Foundation (http://www.supportcsm.org), which cultivates philanthropic support for the health-care system serving the Milwaukee area.  When I told this to Susan Older, whose Displaced Journalists online community (http://displacedjournalists.com) shines light in a gloomy time for journalism and employment, she urged me to write about it, to show out-of-work journalists that we should and could survive, even in a wretched economy. So I’m writing this for Susan, for my friend and fellow writer Julie Weber, who writes a blog that I recommend (https://jewliweb.wordpress.com) –- and for you.

I knew that I could do the job with the foundation. And I wanted to do the job, as I would be writing applications for grants to support programs such as free health clinics for the poor. I would be telling important stories about a vital resource, and how it could be brought to people who lacked access to it. Like journalism, the foundation would call on my communications skills to comfort the afflicted. For me, it was the right opportunity at the right time.

Yes, before making that case and getting the job, I needed to hear numerous résumé critiques and make revisions, to do lots of networking and to profit from luck. Most important, however, was that I could talk about significant transferable skills from journalism: writing, editing, research, working on my own and as a member of a team to meet deadlines. (That set complemented one from my background as a scholar in American history and political science.)

Earlier, I had put those skills to work for scholars who had me edit their grant applications. More recently, I used the tools in volunteer work for two nonprofit groups. I sought out the work after getting excellent advice from a grant officer who was kind enough to give me an informational interview —  build a track record, he said. So I did some cold-calling, got a lead from a networking contact, consulted Web sites listing volunteer opportunities, and found Make A Difference –- Wisconsin (www.makeadifferencewisconsin.org) and Daystar Inc. (www.daystarinc.org) The former recruits and trains volunteer instructors who present seminars on basic financial literacy (how to handle credit, make a budget and manage a checking account, for example) to teenagers. The latter operates a long-term shelter for women who are recovering from domestic violence. My work for these groups was very gratifying because it enhanced my credentials and references, showed initiative, gave me a chance to do some good work, and allowed me to add nonprofit experience on my resume.

In the meantime, I was taking courses at Milwaukee Area Technical College for a certificate in information design and publishing: introduction to digital media, Web site development, Photoshop and InDesign. The coursework was a step toward another important credential (I need just two classes to finish), it showed employers that I wasn’t standing still during unemployment, and it let me meet instructors and students who gave me job leads, contacts and valuable advice.

All these things put me in a good position to get the job that I’m fortunate, grateful and proud to have. I’m glad to tell this story, and share some advice that I hope will be helpful, even if it isn’t new to you:

1)    Get out there and network, network, network. And network on the Web, especially on LinkedIn. If you’re not on LinkedIn, get busy and get connected.

2)    Get some retraining. Go to school or seek resources on the Web that will add to your knowledge.

3)    Do volunteer work. You will feel better for it, you will help someone with your skills, and you will make good networking contacts.

4)    Seek out informational interviews with people who work in jobs or at companies in which you’re interested. They can give you valuable information and lead to job contacts.

5)    Identify transferable skills and promote them. Journalists: remember that grant writing requires the type of skills that you have honed for years. So does RFP (request for proposal) writing. Think of how you can communicate important messages, for your own cause and for others you make your own.

6)    When you see a need for your skills, offer to fill it. You’ve seen many business brochures, PowerPoint presentations and promotional and informational literature that are filled with typos, grammatical errors and infelicities. So fix them. Look at it as a chance to make freelance money, or to do pro bono work that will make you feel good and gain networking contacts.

7)    Even though opportunities aren’t abundant in this economy, do not –- do not — give up easily. Find a place for yourself. Make a place for yourself.

This article is also posted at: http://www.displacedjournalists.com

Week 58: Departure

Today my horoscope said: It seems as if you have been worrying about your future for a long time. You could be tired of running around on the same mental circuits as you try to make something different from the life you have. But fighting against the resistance is tiring, so try to let go of the attachment that you have to your long-term goals. You may be totally surprised by what happens once your mind is freed from the limits of your own expectations.”

Tomorrow I leave for Spain and I am going to free my mind. I am going to immerse myself if Spanish food, architecture, beaches and culture. I am going to live in the moment. I will try not to think about my future, my career and my goals… and just BE.

I think perhaps we all need to let go every now and then. Especially when we hit road blocks, or feel frustrated with our job search / career. And yes, I am lucky to be able to do that in SPAIN! 🙂