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  • Sudha

The last piece of the puzzle

Well....not as dramatic or as clear-cut as 'the last piece'. But it certainly is a big piece of the puzzle.

I love jigsaw puzzles. 1000-piece ones. Last 5-6 years I have been doing Wasgij puzzles. They are almost addictive. I find myself using it as an analogy for my life.

My life was a bright cheerful puzzle. It was coming together beautifully. Most of the pieces were in place and they all fitted together perfectly. Suddenly that puzzle was shattered and broken into a million pieces which I just cannot put back together. And so I have decided to build a new puzzle - some old pieces, many new. all different sizes. But in this puzzle, there's one piece which is bigger than it was in the old puzzle. It is a job.

I was very determined to start looking for jobs soon after the funeral. But, I couldn't quite bring myself to do it. Then COVID hit us in March and then summer followed. I decided to enjoy the lockdown and summer with the boys and the Rayments. As the boys went back to school in September and we started to have a structure to the day, I realised I needed a structure to my day; I needed a job. I started in earnest, signing up to all the usual job sites and updating my profile on LinkedIn.

I applied for a few jobs and kept my expectations low. I didn't expect to hear back from everyone. A couple emailed back saying while my CV was excellent, it had gaps and the job market is saturated with candidates with no career breaks and more recent jobs. Well, I thought....Bugger me for having 2 children and a sick husband.

Another agent went even further....She rang me one Friday at 5:30 in the evening (just as I was opening a bottle of crisp NZ Sauvignon Blanc). She wanted to know whether I was free for an interview. Gulp 😳. Yes, I said as I didn't want to miss out on the opportunity. After 45 minutes, she said that I'd passed the interview and that she will now put forward my CV to her client which will just be a formality before I start the job. Just one change she wanted, she said. Could I update my CV so that there were no gaps. Another gulp 😳. I clarified that there were no gaps in my CV. Perhaps I didn't quite understand, she said. She didn't want any maternity career breaks in my CV, "if you know what I mean". Unsurprisingly, the phone call ended soon after that, with no further contact.

I had agents call me after finding my profile on LinkedIn. The conversations always started very positive and how I am a great match for the job they had blah blah blah. Career/maternity breaks were part of life and they were no issues at all for these agents. Until of course, the conversations turned to why I haven't worked since September 2019. A few wondered whether it was too early to go back to work after such bereavement. Others wanted to know a bit more about my family situation - kids, how old they are etc. Whatever their reaction, one thing was certain. None of them called me back or returned my calls. I'm convinced there's a rule in recruiters / HR guide which says don't touch a recently widowed applicant with a barge pole.

By this time, I was getting a bit disheartened and feeling worthless. I have always loved working. My career was my identity. I struggled through my career breaks, doing what was right for our family, yet yearning to work. Paul and I were starting to talk about retirement in the last 3 years or so and I used to say that I will carry on working till my retirement age to fund his various philanthropic activities.

I was so desperate to work that I started applying for admin jobs and the feedbacks were quite consistent - I was overqualified and there's a good chance I will jump ship as soon as I get a better offer.

I took a break over the Christmas period from the job search. It was refreshing not having to log on to endless job sites and click on hundreds of email alerts as they landed in my inbox, each time with childlike hope that 'this could be the one'.

The wheels are turning again and I'm hoping to start a job soon. Something that I can get my teeth into, something that will help me channel my energy and hopefully something that will open up a whole new world of adult conversations - rather than the current limited topics such as who is doing the dishwasher and who is doing the hoovering.

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