Saturday, March 21, 2015

My new career - one year later

I almost find it hard to believe, but earlier this week - March 17th, in fact - I marked my first anniversary at Meridian Credit Union.  So I thought it would be a good time to review the past year and look ahead to the future as this new adventure continues to unfold.

When I and several others were let go from our radio jobs in St. Catharines in August of 2013, my initial intention was to try to stay in the radio game and continue to do what I know best.  I did secure a part-time contract position at Brock Radio, CFBU-FM for eight months, and it allowed me to grow as a writer, broadcaster and researcher in my new role as Spoken Word Co-ordinator.

It was a valuable experience as I rediscovered my natural inquisitiveness about things and honed my skills as an interviewer to uncover details others might have missed.  I made many great friends both on campus at Brock and off through that association, and in fact continue to do freelance work for the university as both writer and as moderator/host of a series of podcasts produced by the Department of Research at Brock.

But when it came time to look for something else more permanent knowing the eight-month contract could not be renewed, I knew deep down my broadcasting days were coming to an end.  The sad reality is the business has changed markedly since I began in radio broadcasting over 40 years ago, and much of it not for the better, I might add.

As is the case with many businesses today, corporate ownership can drain the local content out of a local institution so that in the end, it resembles almost an empty shell of its former self.  Not always, mind you, but often that is the case.

I knew I had strong local roots here in Niagara even though I grew up in Toronto and only moved to St. Catharines in 1981.  At the time I recall my mother saying I would be here for about ten years and I scoffed at that suggestion, thinking I would work my way back to Toronto and make my mark in radio in my home town in a few years.

Little did I know my love for Niagara in general and St. Catharines in particular would grow so strong over the ensuing 30-plus years the thought of moving away was just too hard to fathom.  Oh, I looked far and wide outside of Niagara when I was job hunting last year, fully prepared to commute every day if the job I wanted came outside the area, as I almost expected it would.

But a funny thing happened on that journey of self-realization and reassessment of personal and career priorities I embarked upon over a year ago:  I discovered you can make a difference right here at home and find gainful employment with a company that thinks like I do when it comes to community values.

I first took note of Meridian when it was announced they had secured naming rights for the soon-to-be-open spectator facility taking shape in the lower-level parking lot.  I thought about that grand gesture more than a little bit when I decided to broaden my career search and think, as they say, outside the box.

I knew if a company made that kind of commitment to the community, they were my kind of people.  So I embarked on a thorough research campaign to learn more about Meridian Credit Union and their culture, to see if I could see myself as a Member of the "team."  Once I did that, the decision for me was obvious.

There was a long process of networking, interviews and follow up emails in order to circumvent the usual process of simply sending a resume to Human Resources and hope for the best in order to secure a position with the company.  In short, I knew because of my age I would have to work my tail off to show a prospective employer I possessed the fortitude necessary in order to rise above the rest of the pack.

Yes, it was hard work.  I found the days long and often disheartening as I continued to apply for positions while watching the clock ticking on my contract position at Brock Radio.  But I never gave up hope and never stopped believing in myself.  More importantly, others continued to believe in me and that ultimately proved to be my future:  I didn't wait for the job to arrive at my doorstep, I fought long and hard to show people I brought determination to the table.

So a year after I began as a Member Services Representative at the downtown branch of Meridian Credit Union, I am feeling a little reflective this weekend.  If you'll indulge me...

I don't mind telling you, this is the hardest job I have ever had and it is not as easy as you think it is when you visit your favourite financial institution (hopefully it is Meridian, by the way...)  I recall talking to people a while after I started training, when I still possessed that "deer in the headlights" look, and they were surprised I had undertaken that kind of challenge this late in my career.

But I always tell people I knew in my heart I didn't want a menial job just to pay the bills.  I wanted a second career, and as such, the road to that goal would be longer and tougher to negotiate, the learning curve would be much steeper, and ultimately the rewards would be far richer.

Radio is fun, plain and simple.  But it is hard work, especially if, like me you got up at 3 in the morning for work every day.  The hours are much better now, yet I have found my present job much more difficult to master.

Integrity is paramount.  Communication skills are extremely important, as are analytical skills.  And some friendly persuasion comes into play as well.  While some of these skills I possessed prior to my new position, others were new to me and I had to adapt quickly to the new reality.

I am happy to say a year into the new job, I am still standing, I am still learning, and the future remains bright.  There is tremendous room for growth in my new position and within the organization, and I find that quite gratifying.

Meridian is a progressive company with some pretty ambitious goals, and I am grateful to be allowed to be part of the team as we work together to achieve those goals.  There is a culture of caring you don't often find in a corporate environment, and I find that aspect particularly appealing.

Where I go from here is up to me, really.  There is opportunity to grow and I plan to pursue those opportunities when I feel the time is right.  But for now, I continue along this path of self-discovery I first charted over a year ago.

If I can offer one bit of advice to those looking for work today, it would be research the company you want to be a part of, network like you've never networked before, and never stop believing in yourself.  Don't fall victim to the negativity that might occasionally gnaw at you; remain positive and you will achieve positive results.

If nothing else, I have proven to myself I can learn a completely new career and do it well, if I am willing to work hard and never give up.  There is no reason why you can't do the same.

Oh, and if you ever need convincing Meridian is a good place to achieve your financial goals as your financial institution, by all means drop me line.

Have a great weekend!

March 21st, 2015.

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