Thursday, September 18, 2014

Greatness Born Out of Circumstance

Today is going to be one of those two-fer days. Rare, so don't get used to it, but necessary. I hate to blog on a negative note, and my last post was certainly not the most pleasant topic.

As I may have(?) previously mentioned, I was accepted as a provisional member of the Junior League of Charlottesville at the beginning of August. I happened to receive the official acceptance email in the airport on my trip out to Utah with the boyfriend. Sidenote: let's refer to him as J, shall we? I don't like the disconnect of calling him The Boyfriend or The BF-- just seems rude. I was elated, and immediately texted the lovely Emily, whom I had convinced to apply with me, to see whether or not she was accepted as well. Well duh, who wouldn't love her-- we both had good news to share!

It is through the Junior League that I'm (slowly but surely) able to expand my network, my group of friends, and unite with girls/(young) women of similar interests. It is through my Junior League Provisional Class that I've become acquainted with the wonderful Sarah, whom I just recently found out via Facebook is a fellow blogger. Hello, Sarah!

Sarah mentioned the other day in a post that she just has a feeling that something amazing is about to happen, and she detailed her feelings further in yesterday's post. I was drawn to her positivity, her optimism, and I jumped at the chance to leave an encouraging comment. This got me thinking, I know that feeling. I lived that sensation earlier this year. I have been absent from the blog for a prolonged period of time this year, but I was busy living. Sarah's post sparked a desire for me to share my good fortunate, born from a series of unfortunate events.

2014: The Beginning

At the start of the year, it was no surprise to friends that I was feeling rundown at my job with the biopharmaceutical company. I had a vast territory, "Shenandoah Valley," which ran the length of the state from north to south. And living in the center of this territory in a town that seemingly has plenty of business opportunity, I found myself facing the roadblock that is the University of Virginia Health System. You see, large teaching institutes (and large health systems) tend to have very strict rules and regulations regarding pharmaceutical reps of any kind, so even though they ran the world (Beyonce reference, anyone??) town and surrounding counties, I was able to do highly limited business within about a 45 mile radius of where I lived. Commence long commutes just to get to my first office, and subsequently long commutes home.

As I mentioned earlier in the year, my company announced in November 2013 impending layoffs that would take place after the turn of the year. These took place January 29, 2014. We were told to stay home, on guard for a phone call in which we would learn our fate. On the one hand, no one wants to be laid off. On the other hand, I knew I would burnout sooner rather than later. I was ready for any outcome. Mid-morning I received the call. I would not be returning to work the next day. I would remain on payroll until May 1. I would receive a severance package and career assistance (this is typical for pharma companies, so they tend to have well-strategized severance plans in place to avoid lawsuits and such).

Four days earlier, I had received news that my grandma, the closest of my grandparents (and last living), has passed. It was a one-two punch. I had had time to consider what I would do if I found myself pseudo-unemployed (technically I was still on payroll, so to any onlooking company, I was still "employed"), but it's a different world when you actually find yourself in that predicament. Money was not yet an issue, but it was looking as though it would be for the big ideas I had for my future.

I wanted to go back to school to become a physical therapist. This proved to be more difficult than I thought. Even with my experience in pharmaceutical sales and my educational background in (environmental) science, it didn't translate as well as I'd hoped, and I still needed observational hours at more than one physical therapy clinic in order to have a shot at acceptance. I talked with family members about my future and gathered a few ideas. Being laid off was not in my career plan, but I chose to see it as an opportunity, not a setback.

Entering the Dating Game

Whoever says that dating is not a game is full of horse manure. It's sort of like Monopoly of Risk. You have to invest (yourself), you have to strategize, you are not guaranteed positive outcomes. I was a little hesitant to put myself out in the dating world because, let's face it: with the recent circumstances, it's not like I really had a lot to show for myself. I was a pharmaceutical rep, but I didn't hold that title anymore. I value honesty, so I didn't find it fair to claim to be something I wasn't, and I wasn't about to start any sort of potential relationship by spitting out lies (although, to be fair, it wouldn't have full been a lie).

I did test this out on a couple of occasions, but when I met up with J for our first date, I chose to be forthcoming with my current situation. I mentioned my ideas for my future-- which have since changed (I do feel a little guilty about that, but ideas are not concrete)-- and besides, I do have other desirable qualities. I'm smart, I'm adventurous, I have interests. It was important to me to leave out my bikini competitor alter ego. While, yes, being active and fit and a competitor is a big part of my lifestyle, I didn't want it to define me as a date/potential girlfriend. Several dates (and hikes) later, and we were already getting together travel plans for the near future.

Although I hoped for a decent relationship, I never thought one would rise from the ashes of my failed first career. I knew the end of the pharma gig was the beginning of something better, but I couldn't have imagined all which that turned out to be.

Apps on Apps on Apps, Yo

If you think dating is hard, try getting turned down left and right (or worse, not hearing back) from numerous companies to which you apply. In conversations I had with family members, it became quite obvious that while going back to school is a great idea, there's still value in working and leaving no gaps in employment. Besides, jobs make money, and money pays things like school loans and living expenses. The money I had from the biopharma company would cover things for a while, but not forever, and I would doubtfully qualify for financial aid based on my previous income.

I am very close with my oldest brother, although we are farthest apart in age. We tend to have similar personalities, outlooks, and interests. Oddly enough, he works for a clinical development company-- a company that works with pharmaceutical companies to conduct clinical trials, etc. We spoke at length on multiple occasions about looking into Clinical Research Associate positions, both within his company and others. We concluded that with my experience in pharma sales and my exposure to clinical research terminology and methodology, it could be a good fit.

Flash forward through several turned-away applications and obsessive searches on Indeed and other job search engines, and I was only turning up dead ends. And then, one night at 10pm, my "dream job" appeared. I don't know how I knew, but I knew. Clinical Research Coordinator Trainee. "Trainee"-- that must mean they are open to limited experience. I have translatable experience! That's good right?! University of Virginia-- I've been longing to get a job at the University! Close to home, close to my heart too. Go, Hoos! Department of Radiation Oncology-- Oh my goodness, could you ASK for a more rewarding department to work in?! I've been saying all this time that I really value a job in which you can truly help others. THIS IS IT!

An hour later, at the late hour of 11pm, I had rewritten my entire cover letter. It was risky. I blatantly stated that while I did not have direct experience, I had translatable experience, and I outlined why this mattered. I sent it off to my good friend, Stacy, to proofread, but then I sent in my application anyway before I even got her feedback.

Her feedback was not what I was hoping for. She said what I was thinking--it was risky. Too risky. But it was too late.

International Planning

As I held my breath waiting for word on my job application, it slowly shrank away as it became replaced with thoughts and plans of travel with J. I'd never traveled internationally before. I had always wanted to. I currently had all the necessary resources in which to do so-- time, money, and a wanderlust that had yet to be tapped into. The plans commenced. They got serious. And then I got an email. Requesting an interview!

It was a quick process, but nerve-wracking, as are all interview processes. I met with my supervisor and the department administrator. I sold myself. I'd been selling things-- clothing, meals, pharmaceuticals-- for years. I just needed one good sales pitch to accompany the skills I'd so well marketed in my application. I left questioning the unknown.

Two days later, I was asked to meet with one of the head clinicians in the department. By that Friday, I not only had concrete plans/dates to travel to Costa Rica, but I had a job awaiting my return.

This was just the start of the best year of my life to-date, although if you had asked me on January 29, 2014, I wouldn't have been able to venture a guess that my luck life was just about to turn around for the better. I chose to remain open to opportunity. I chose to remain optimistic. I chose not to put my life on hold because of one setback. And that was my saving grace.

Embracing the New

Over the past several months, I have had the wonderful opportunity to try several new experiences. While I find myself with the occasional daily stresses, setbacks, and discouragements (hey, life isn't perfect 100% of the time), I continue to embrace each and every moment. I fall, I learn, I go on. Thank you, UVa, for taking a chance on me. Thank you, friends and family, for staying encouraging and being my listening ears when the time called for them. Thank you, J, for feeding my adventurous soul. And thank you, Amgen, for setting me free.

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