Just before I graduated from high school, I got a job sweeping floors at Mercer Industries. Mercer makes doors and windows. My job was to sweep broken glass in two very large manufacturing plants and warehouse facilities. It wasn’t exciting, and there was very little challenge, but I was only 17 and it was a job. After about a month, I was called into the office and told that they were having some layoffs and I wasn’t needed anymore. That was my last time in a window factory.
Fast forward about 20 years. I was working at La Sierra University in Riverside, California. I was the manager of the campus industries (a retail food store, a dry cleaners, a wholesale food distribution center, and a publishing operation), the commercial properties manager, and the accountant for these operations. When I stepped into that role, the books were very out of date, there were several un-leased properties, and the retail operations needed some tighter management. Over the course of the next year, I addressed and successfully met each of these challenges.
Interestingly, after all this success, I came into work one day, was called into the office, and was told I was being “let go” and that I had two hours to clean out my office. I was stunned. “What just happened?“
Now fast forward to August of 2009 and I’m being fired from pastoral job. After a long year of confusing conversations and misunderstood intentions, I find myself unemployed. When I was hired in that position, I was told they wanted a leader who could bring change and growth. It sounded perfect – because that’s who I am, a creative change agent who believes in growth. In return, I told them that change and growth will be painful, but the rewards are great. It should have been a clue when they told me they didn’t think it would be painful to grow.
Yes, I made mistakes, but nothing that should have led to my termination.”
I spent most of the next several months fighting depression, discouragement, and the feelings of rejection that come from being unfairly terminated. Yes, I made mistakes, but nothing that should have led to my termination. It was a very confusing and difficult time in my life – and to be honest, I did not handle it well. During this time, I retooled and got recertified as a paramedic. I figured that during a down economy, the quickest way to achieve employment was to re-enter EMS.
Defeat doesn’t finish a man — quit does. A man is not finished when he’s defeated. He’s finished when he quits.” Richard M Nixon
In some ways, I felt a little like Tiger Woods when he took time away from his game to retool and come back stronger than before. I left EMS at the top of my game in 1995, but I left to acquire my bachelors degree, a wife and family, and some incredible management experience outside of EMS. I was ready to come back to the profession I’ve always loved and to really make a difference!
I knew I’d have to start over – at an entry level position, and then wait for opportunities to better apply my strengths and experience in the field of EMS. The re-entry was steep, as a lot had changed in the 15 years I’d been absent. It was hard, but fun. In many ways I felt like I was 21 again – diving into my field of dreams! The difference being that I am now more balanced and purposeful than I was 30+ years ago.
As a new EMT, back in 1980, I worked with the field supervisors in downtown Portland. Not only were we running about 30 calls in a 48 hour shift, but the supervisors were also the operations managers – they maintained the daily operations of 10 ambulances and five wheelchair vans. It was an exciting time to be working, and I was in the thick of things. I loved it. Even at that time, I knew I wanted to be a supervisor someday.
My career took a fairly rapid trajectory over the next 10 years. The closest I came to being a field supervisor was at Life Flight – and that was very informal, very unofficial, and mostly in my own mind. Then I became the EMS operations manager at the fire district – and while it had some field supervisory roles, most of that was handled by our battalion chiefs. I had jumped over the field supervisor role and missed that opportunity entirely – or so I thought.
When I was thinking about applying for the field supervisor position, a couple of senior managers told me they really needed some fresh ideas and some “out of the box” thinking. It seemed like a natural progression for me and a great opportunity to serve. I was loving the position. It was a joy to serve the paramedics, allied agencies, and facilitate interactions with our allied healthcare providers. I was having fun and felt that I was making a difference.
they really needed some fresh ideas and some “out of the box” thinking.”
But then last week, I was called into the office and told I wouldn’t be a supervisor anymore. And for the life of me, I can’t figure out why.
And, as I’ve asked myself before when I’ve lost a job, or a girlfriend: “What just happened?”
I’m sure one day it will make sense…
(PS: In every case above, I was released to something better. I have faith that the same will happen here too.)