Losing my job! Downsizing my career, gulp.

Pipersville_CarolJanuary 16, 2007

Some background: I've had a lucrative but exhausting career for 20 years, and have been dreaming about changing to part time employment as soon as our 7-year-long home remodel was complete. I couldn't quite figure out how to walk away from my good salary, though.

Well, I said goodbye to our final remodeling contractor on Wednesday and got the news on Thursday that my job is being eliminated (the new editorial team wants to bring in their own design team). Talk about timing! I was offered a demotion and relocation, but will probably take severance instead.

My husband and I (no kids) have been planning for this for years (decent retirement savings, no consumer debt, small mortgage, inexpensive cars, energy efficient house), and we should be okay financially if I work part time, but I'm still really SCARED!! It's a sea change for me to choose to earn less money on purpose, feels weird.

Has anyone else out there dropped out of the corporate rat race and lived to tell the tale?

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I've been in your situation, but in the middle of a deflating economy, with a remodel just completed, and my wife 7 months pregnant with our first child. I was offered the same choice as you (down or out). At the time I thought it was the worst thing I could imagine, but it wasn't. I was out of work for 3 months and ended up in a rather different job at about 70% of my former pay; but it was a very interesting job, a welcome change, and -- because I was fairly sound financially before the bottom fell out -- I somehow managed to not feel the cut in pay that much. Several years later, I transferred to a much better job, and part of the reason I got it was the skills I'd picked up in the prior 3 years.

From your brief description, I think you are well-positioned and will land on your feet. I've read many a story in the NYTimes and the Wall St. Journal about high-flying business execs who voluntarily chucked it all to do something radically different at much lower pay. That doesn't mean it's easy for any of them, or that they have had no second thoughts, but it usually works out.

I take inspiration from my own daughter...who is now 25. She had a very high-paying job in Manhattan 2 years ago that was exciting, but with a crazy boss. She started having some serious medical symptoms and we didn't know if this was a real illness or stress-induced. I, the cautious dad, was hoping she would talk to management, stick with it a little longer, and see if the job and her health got better. But she decided to quit, leave Manhattan, and move to the West Coast with no job prospects, and to a city where she knew no one. Her symptoms (migraines and other neurological problems) went away. She found a low-paying, part-time job to make ends meet, and two months later got hired in a field (at an Internet company) that she had no training in, but which was a natural fit for her. She is now making more than twice as much as her salary in Manhattan and has a vastly improved work environment. Where she got the risk-taking skills I don't know!

I relate these stories to affirm to you that there is life after the corporate ratrace, and to tell you that in a few years you may even be grateful for this development. Good luck.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2007 at 7:07PM
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Before I logged on to this site tonight, I completed drafting a cover letter that'll go out with resumes, starting this Thurs (day off to attend a trade show in the new field). We have 1 debt which I'll be paying off and which should have that 0 balance by next December. I'm hoping to leave a 29 year career, my MBA so that I can completely change fields - from investments to horticulture. My plan is to try and find a very part time job in my new field now, probably making minimum wage, show them what I know and can do for the next year, and then bail on the long term career. Personally, I can't wait to make the change. My career just isn't fun for me any more - just wish this debt would pay itself off NOW!

I agree - there is life after the rat race. What's the old saying about clouds with silver linings???? There's also another good saying - "feel the fear and do it anyway!" I'm sure you will do just fine!

    Bookmark   January 16, 2007 at 9:25PM
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I've always liked: "That which does not kill us makes us stronger."

(Probably too much of my German-Scandinavian darkness showing through...)

    Bookmark   January 16, 2007 at 10:22PM
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Wow - your story sounds like something that could happen to me some day - either by choice or not. I'm not there yet but DH had something like that happen. He wasn't planning to downsize his career or go part time - but he clearly wasn't happy with what he'd been doing for 15 years. We were fortunately in a position where he could take some time off though to decide what he wanted to do - including spending some time pursuing buying a company - which is something he always wanted to do. In the end he took 18 months off and then went to work for a small company in a similar field. It was the best thing that ever happened to him - he was long overdue to make a change but just couldn't bring himself to do it. When the company did it for him he knew it was a good thing.

It sounds like you are in a really good position to do this - I bet you'll do just fine.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2007 at 12:05AM
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March 2003, I walked away from fulltime professional salaried work. By choice, sort of. My workplace situation was grim and hurtling into horror - I was lucky to get out when I did. I had a PhD, 20 years' experience and expert status. Boom, it was over. Scarey? You bet.

Too young to retire, too old to start over, too specialized to replace my employer...it was weird. Like you, our finances allowed for 'no work', but that didn't feel right. Yet I found I didn't want to lock myself into another fulltime box, even if there were one.

The solution: I call it PRETIREMENT. A combination of better life management and some type of work, on your terms, that you can continue for the next 20 (or 30) years. It took time to craft the work part, deciding on something and laying the groundwork, and waiting and shaping. What I'm doing now is flexible, parttime, and I can keep doing it well into my 70's. I don't make a lot of money but the work is meaningful and I'm happy. Perfect.

On the life management front, consider whether you have interest in taking on challenges that are, well, more pedestrian or domestic. We are now much more self sufficient, and I've learned to do many things I used to pay others to do. We eat better, spend wiser, travel better, shop smarter - *everything* goes better if someone can put time into sweating the small stuff. We are both 25# lighter and in excellent condition because we made fitness a priority. We have found time for spiritual development, community involvement and intellectual growth. (I say 'we' because husband's life calmed when I shifted from crazymaking job to taking better care of both of us.) I am calmer and avoid stress like the plague. Free to volunteer, help out a friend, or do a favor anytime. It is a completely different quality of life. And money? Go figure - our net worth has nearly doubled since I quit, mostly because there is time to be more careful with money.

Think about it. You have a chance to craft your next 20-30 years to be very different than the last 20. There will be bumps: spousal jealousy, lost days, weird confusion/guilt/doubt, etc. It will be a challenge to rebuild your life in a deliberate and mindful way - but very, very worth it.

Go for it.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2007 at 12:29AM
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I've been forced into a temporary retirement situation at age 46 due to an illness that hasn't been completely diagnosed, even though it's been ongoing for nearly a year. I've worked since age 16 - only been out of work maybe a total of a year over those 30 years - so it's very different now.

To accommodate my sudden non-working status my husband and I moved from expensive SoCal to less expensive Oregon. Fortunately we had some equity in our house and were able to sell it even in the market downturn.

I feel guilt about this. My husband was able to transfer his job up here so he still goes off to work 5 or even 6 days a week, sometimes long hours, and I stay home and recuperate. In the 2 months that I've been here (he had to move first for the job, I stayed behind to sell the house) I have managed to find us a new house which we move into this week. I've taken care of the househunting, the inspections and repairs, the paperwork etc, but I still feel as if I'm not pulling my weight.

I hope to go back to work at least part-time, when I can get my health straightened out. We can meet our financial requirements on his salary alone but I'd like to contribute to our retirement funds (we aren't doing so well there) and also have extra money for vacations and to pay for vehicles etc.

Reading through celticmoon's post and other posts above makes me feel much more positive about my outlook, and I hope you will feel the same.

I hope he doesn't mind my telling you this, but there is a member here who occasionally posts on the buying/selling homes forum. He's an inspiration to me - he left the rat race voluntarily to earn his living with a craft. And he seems to be doing well. His name is christopherh - you might look for some of his posts. He probably posts in other forums also.

It can be a fine line, balancing financial health with mental/emotional/physical health. I'm glad to hear others are managing it successfully.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2007 at 3:35AM
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25 years ago, when I was working at my chosen profession--teaching--that I loved--I suddenly got the news one day that my services woudln't be needed the next year. I cried quite a bit that evening. But as it turned out, 2 other women in the department were pregnant and had babies--which gave me fulltime sub work right up till Christmas. By that time, I was pregant, too. I've never worked fulltime again, and I can truly say that losing my job was the best thing that ever happened to me in my life. I've had so many opportunities since--things I couldn't have done if I'd continued to work fulltime. I've found many ways to indulge my love of teaching children--and in ways that don't involved all the stress and politics of teaching in the public school system.

I truly believe the saying about closing doors opening windows--every major life change, good or bad, results in many opportunities. You just have to keep a look out for them, and take advantage.

So, best of luck to you--sounds like you're about to engage in a new life adventure. May it be as wonderful, satisifying and lucrative (yes, I've made more money NOT working, than I ever did working fulltime!) as mine have been.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2007 at 8:08AM
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pipersville Carol,

From your post, it appears not only that you have wings ...

... but know how to use them.

Trust yourself - you can fly.

You'll look back in five years with a smile on your face - trust me (and the others above who spoke in similar vein).


You and hubs are a team - working together.

Look in the mirror and be thankful.

Being within less than a couple of weeks of being 78, and hot having taken a pill in 30 years or so, I can testify to how important good health is. It's worth spending some time to recover yours.

Sometimes I suggest to someone with a measure of disability that often we forget to be thankful for our good health - while we continue to have it. Many agree, some rather enthusiastically.

But - that's preaching to the converted. It's the ones enjoying good health that need to remember to be thankful for it.

Good wishes to all of you for a more satisfying future.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   January 18, 2007 at 8:37PM
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Pipersville Carol,

See if you can find a copy of 'The Joy of Not Working' by Ernie Zelinski (sidebar to Joyful: he's a fellow Canadian). Quirky, but very helpful tool for thinking about your new life.

How is it going for you?

Here is a link that might be useful: readers' thoughts on TheJoy of Not Working

    Bookmark   January 18, 2007 at 11:44PM
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Although DH and I are planning for the same thing (for me) three years down the road, it would be quite a shock to have it thrust upon us unexpectedly. I can see that it would be scary.

Once the initial shock is past, look at this as an opportunity to do something less exhausting, and hey, maybe even fun!

Speaking for myself, when the time comes I'll probably get a job at Borders or Barnes & Noble part time and sign up for Master Gardener classes.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2007 at 8:15AM
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Wow, thank you, I am very grateful for all of the terrific, comforting advice. I feel like I just got a big Gardenweb hug!

I'm going to reread this thread frequently, lots of food for thought here...

    Bookmark   January 19, 2007 at 1:32PM
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(((((Pipersville Carol)))))

ole joyful

P.S. See? You're feeling less like chewing fingernails already!

o j

    Bookmark   January 19, 2007 at 4:13PM
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Well, I made it to the Horticulture trade show in my city this week and found out that employers in that industry are very interested in career change, "middle age" people (not that 51 is middle age or anything!!!). I'd suggest doing some serious soul searching, figure out what you'd love to do, and go for it! I haven't dropped out yet, but I'm finding that with a plan, I'm going to be just fine! You will be, too! I can't wait to make my move!

    Bookmark   January 20, 2007 at 7:04AM
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I'm in my last three days of work here, getting ready to sign the severance contract. Feels strange!

My family is reacting badly to my pending unemployment. It doesn't fit their image of me and they don't know what to say. My friends are being very supportive, though, full of congratulations and happiness.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2007 at 1:01PM
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Carol, Well you are just going to have to give those family members things to create a new image with! Seriously, as comfortable as you were with your job, the family was with you having the job. Tell them to offer you the same congratulations as the friends have - that just might make every one feel better.

Just as new haircuts and flared leg slacks after years of straight legs create new images, you are 3 days away from the first day of the beginning of your updated image! What a chance to make it a great one!

    Bookmark   January 22, 2007 at 7:03PM
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It's my first Monday of unemployment, and I'm surprised by how good I feel. I spent the morning unpacking boxes from my former office and reorganizing my home office space. Tonight I'm seeing my former coworkers for one last get-together.

I also baked a loaf of bread, did two loads of laundry, and got a county library card so I can use high-speed internet. Last week I sent my resume out to two freelance agencies. Next step is updating my portfolio.

I feel so much lighter. I realize now how unhappy (despairing, really) I was in my old job, mostly due to the long hours. I used to regularly get home at 8 pm, and even later for at least one week out of every month. I know there are people who don't think of that as a long day, but it was killing me. Never again!

    Bookmark   January 29, 2007 at 2:09PM
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Pipersville Carol,

I took a survey today, and one of the first questions was as to my age ...

... the last day that I can say, "double 7".

Tomorrow I'm to be 78, enjoying good physical and (I hope) mental health.

And spiritual health as well, though I was pretty p'd off a number of years ago when I was cashiered as a clergyperson.

Losing your marriage and being informed that your employer wasn't going to ask for annual renewal as of six months ahead isn't a great cup of tea ... and that all in the same week, yet.

(Even if you like tea).

It's been an interesting life - so far.

Landlord (a sod farmer) is fixing a fairly new shed on what was old uncle's farm into a machine shop, yesterday had an electrician installing some plugs, etc. and there's to be a welder, of course.

He dug out dirt floor, installed gravel, levelled it, installed concrete floor. Insulated walls and over flat part of rafter-trusses, covered with sheet steel. Built a large, heavy duty workbench, doors with routed edges, nice handles, painted. To cover the part of it where he'll be welding with metal sheet (sparks and wooden work-benches are minimally compatible, I hear).

I told him that he's done such a nice job that he'll have to invite suppliers, clients, employees, family and neighbours to a "shed-warming" party when he gets it all finished.

He's not installing a low-level window - too vulnerable. There's a line of translucent panels along the top of one wall, about 15' up.

Maybe he won't want to advertise its presence that much, either.

My offspring gave me an upgraded computer forChristmas, but haven't been able to go online with it. Son got my old one so I could connect, but it blocks a lot, freezes sometimes - and is a general PITA. Hope to get the "new" one operational soon.

If you read this before you go to your farewell party tonight (unlikely) - have a pile of fun.

If after - I hope that it was a happy, memorable evening.

Ain't it great to have that big load shifted off of your back??

Good wishes for having a lovely, free week - kick up your heels a bit and have fun!!

ole joyful

    Bookmark   January 29, 2007 at 8:23PM
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Carol - I'm so glad to hear you had a good day. What you say reminds me of a place I used to work - that had deteriorated over the years. People were leaving in droves and they'd comment that you don't really know how bad it is until you leave. I finally left and found out how true that was.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2007 at 10:53PM
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Carol, you sound great!! When I left I was so spent I could hardly move. Knew I was depleted when at 4pm the monthly day I cook for women friends I had no idea what I was going to make and no energy to get to the grocer. And that was a couple weeks after leaving.

So you might expect a little crash. But it will be brief.

Breathe deep that freedom. Your life can take so many directions. Know you are fortunate.

Oh, and Joyful, happy birthday!!

    Bookmark   January 29, 2007 at 11:14PM
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celtic moon, THANK YOU, I so needed to hear about crashing. I'm going through that right now. I feel busy and tired each day even though I'm just puttering around the house. Where did I EVER find the energy to work in an office for 11 hours AND do all of this stuff?

I've been having some panicky moments, but calm myself by mentally running through the budget numbers. I'm taking baby steps towards the job search, mostly setting up a studio at home and researching potential employers. Next step is updating my portfolio.

My husband and friends (including Gardenweb friends!) have been very supportive, I'm so lucky. A friend called this morning just as I was feeling particularly scared, and she was really positive and encouraging... exactly what I needed. It changed my whole outlook on the day.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2007 at 2:03PM
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pipersville carol, thanks so much for asking your question. I am going through the same thing in about 3 months from now, by choice, and am feeding off the confidence given by all the positive responses.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2007 at 2:33PM
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Hey Carol. This is your, what, fourth week? Long enough to sink in that it is not a vacation. Long enough for the initial excitement/thrill to fade. Long enough for all that underlying exhaustion and apprehension to break through. Let it.

Certainly not long enough to make any big changes or judgments on how this is going. Try to roll with it and get through the pent up exhaustion. It will pass.

You have plenty of time to sort this all out. That was the point, right?

    Bookmark   February 21, 2007 at 3:02PM
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If you'd like something to do, more or less as an interim measure - or you could stretch it, if you chose.

I worked for a number of years as a full-time/part-time security guard.

The pay was only slightly above minimum, but I had a choice as to where I worked. If they called to ask whether I'd like to take a certain assignment, I could tell them that I didn't without repercussions.

One of the other attractive things about it is that it is mostly done nights, weekends and holidays, so one is free during workday periods to do what one wishes - seek desireable work, etc.

If you're part of a partnership with a spouse working regular workday hours, that would make it less attractive, butI lived alone at the time.

I might take an assignment occasionally in some unattractive situation, but usually was able to arrange a situation where I had about 10 min. per hour (or less!) to actively perform the security guard duties. I also sought, and routinely got, a place where I had a warm place to be, well lit, with tables that I could use for various writing, reading, etc. related to what I wanted to do. And a radio, of course!

I said that was almost like being paid for doing nothing!

Also, I could not do supply teaching in the city where I lived, for they required a teaching certificate, but in some county school boards, they were willing to employ supply teachers who held only a general Univ. degree.

I didn't do a great deal of that - but when I reached age 69, the teacher's pension plan made a one-time settlement of more than $5,000., most of which I added to my tax-deferred retirement account, so avoiding tax liability at that time.

I hope that your body and mind are working at the task of recuperation from the years of insult.

Good wishes to all of the facets of your being as you proceed with it.

ole joyful

P.S. Just think - one of these days you'll be able to call yourself "old joyful', too - (anywhere but here!).

But not as soon as though you'd stayed where you were - you'll almost certainly age more slowly.

Like good wine!

o j

    Bookmark   February 22, 2007 at 3:39PM
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YAHOO!!! I got word this week that I'm being downsized and out of a job next Feb. 28!!! I was planning a career change anyway, this just makes it a bit easier.

Things sure do happen for a reason!

    Bookmark   September 30, 2007 at 7:03AM
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I got burned out with the professional job back in the 90's. I moved across the country and did a secretary gig for three years at about 40% of my former salary. Had a nice apartment and managed just fine. Then I got a job offer in my old profession again. It's better, but I didn't mind the secretary gig. Easy hours, no thinking about work at home, and nothing very complicated about the work. Well, at least no treasury regulations to memorize. ;)

    Bookmark   October 5, 2007 at 2:31PM
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Here's an update on my situation. I can't believe it's been a whole year since I got laid off.

After losing my job, I spent about six months resting and recharging emotionally. I reconnected with friends, helped my mother move into a retirement community (a huge project), visited a relative in Venice (Italy!), and generally just tried to find myself. I also became completely frugal. It was a very good summer.

During that time, I also learned new computer skills that moved me closer to a career goal I'd had for years (website design).

Since last September, I've been freelancing on a fairly regular basis. My husband and I are making just enough to keep on top of the bills (and buy health insurance). We did have to dip into savings during one slow month, which was really scary, but things seem to be picking up. Luckily, we have a decent financial cushion and low debt load.

It's very strange to be making a fraction of what I used to earn. But I'm much happier and healthier now. Few migraines, less insomnia, zero bottled-up rage and despair.

When I was working and commuting full time, I put 18,000 miles on my car each year. Last year's total was only about 6,000!

I'm not quite secure enough yet to call this a happy ending, but I seem to be keeping my head above water for now.

How is everyone else doing?

    Bookmark   February 24, 2008 at 9:30PM
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My my my, Carol. I've been away for months, then wandered here tonight and here I see your update! Has it been a whole year? Wow. Sounds like you are doing very well: "I'm much happier and healthier now. Few migraines, less insomnia, zero bottled-up rage and despair." Priceless.

Me, I'm still crafting my 'pretirement' concept, chugging along developing my niche, making enough not to dip into savings. Markets could be treating the nest egg better, but time is still on my side there.

Meanwhile my husband has been struggling with illness for a couple months. He will be fine, but it has been a haul. And another reminder that life is short - live it well.

Happy to see your post!

    Bookmark   February 26, 2008 at 12:01AM
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Carol, Thanks for your status report. I'm still terminating as an employee at my company this Thursday. However, they "cleverly" figured out that they cut me too early relative to completion of the project that we're working on, so I've been engaged as a contractor for 6 more weeks. Staying on as a contractor means that, yes, I was bought...and it will help cushion us for me to take more time off! I'm excited for my unemployment to begin as I've worked solidly for 30 years.

Your report of being healthier and more at peace sounds like it was well worth the change!

    Bookmark   February 28, 2008 at 5:55AM
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Hi again Carol,

How gratifying to hear your report of how things are going for you and family.

Speaking of family - I hope that yours became accustomed to your upgraded situation without too much distress. Interesting, isn't it, how people get used to seeing others (and themselves?) in sort of a rut, following a familiar path?

Sometimes I wonder whether some of the partially/slightly negative attention that they pay to someone else's changing course may have some connection with their unhappiness with their present situation, possibly having some inner desire to do something similar, but being rather unwilling to give that desire house-room, whether from inertia (? - I thought that there was a more precise word, called son, but this is the best that we can think of at the moment), fear or whatever motive.

I'm pleased that you're finding some success in the field that you've chosen to pursue, and hope that it proceeds apace.

Son and I attended a networking project called "The Beehive" last year that's rather different and enables one to meet a number of folks who might be able to offer mutual support/business contact/development possibilities.

I heard of it through an economic development council that I've been connected to in our area and took son to one of their initial local meetings. Actually, it was while I was taking son home from their first meeting that I attended that my car got smacked!

They divide a number of people in a room into several groups of about 4 each. They pass out a business envelope to each participant, with a card inside.

Each person becomes a "Queen Bee", writing some question relating to an idea that they'd like to develop their business around. For me, a financial planner, instead of writing, "Would you like to pay less income tax?" (which would focus on the hearer[s] only), they encourage me to write, "Do you know someone who would like to pay less income tax?" (asking the hearer to think whether they may know of someone in that situation, in addition to themselves).

Another member of the small group becomes the "worker bee", and when the round begins, starts by asking the question in her/his own group. If someone knows of a person who might be interested, s/he gives her/his business card to the worker bee.

The worker bee takes that Queen Bee's question around to each of the other groups in turn, asking the question.

If someone there knows of someone that might be interested, they hand their business card to the worker bee and the worker bee departs, to visit another "hive".

They get some hype and speed worked into the situation, each flying worker wondering whether they've been to this or that hive yet, and when a worker bee has finished in a hive and departed, the members of that hive put up their hands and shout, "Over here! Over here!" to attract another worker bee.

When each worker bee has visited every hive, they all gather around the coordinator and each reads her/his question in turn, with the other worker bees handing over their own cards if they are interested in that question.

Then each worker returns to his/her own hive and hands the question card with the group of cards that s/he gathered to the "Queen Bee" who wrote the question.

They usually run four rounds, if there were four members in each "hive" - so everyone gets to be "Queen" once, and "worker" once.

They usually run four rounds - which means that each person puts four questions of interest to each participant in the meeting that night.

Each participant usually goes home with a fistful of pre-qualified cards in her/his sweaty little hand.

The recipient of the cards then contacts the owner of each card received to ask for the contact. This avoids the pressure of the person contacted being put on the spot.

I think that several friendships are developed that way, in additon to there being an ongoing live contact.

If one of the other members who gave me his card and meets someone a while later who might be interested, s/he might give my name to that person, or tell me about the person's possible interest.

Check them out at www.neworldcoaching.com.

I've offered a "Christmas gift" to folks here on the "Finance" and "KT" forums, plus here for several years now, a gift that should save them hundreds, maybe thousands, in their lifetime, in addition to keeping former friendships warm.

Write the names of everyone you've known since childhood, with contact info, then, over time, add items that relate to them - training, profession, interests, hobbies, vacation destinations, etc.

When you want to know something - ask the folks on your database.

As time goes along, if you develop some items of interest to several of them, you might begin a sort of newsletter to send to all or a portion.

As people become familiar with what you're doing, they may contact you when they have a question, etc. If you can be helpful in such a situation, that guy owes you one, right?

Isn't that rather shameful - offering the same (no direct cost) "Christmas gift" to the same people, over and over?!

I guess if one's as frugal as I, there are some things about which it gets rather hard to shame them!

Well - I didn't do it last Christmas, at least. I hope that some recent comers weren't left without another potential arrow in their quiver, because of it.

Good wishes as you step forward into your future, Carol!

ole joyful

    Bookmark   March 1, 2008 at 12:40AM
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