Tag Archives: work

Power Up, Bring it On!

This post is dedicated to all the supermoms out there. Who knew that the tiny bump growing in your belly would one day unleash dormant powers that you never knew you possessed. In the first few days of your baby’s life you realize you can wake up at unearthly hours, sleep-walk to the crib, feed and burp a baby and go back to sleep. You can survive months or years without your daily quota of 8 hours of sleep. You become immune to stale spit-up all over your t-shirt or find yourself ignoring the dirty dishes calling for your attention.

How about the one that allows you to keep a deadpan face while your toddler is howling and screaming in the grocery store. Or the one that allows you to straddle a baby and do chores around the house.

If you have a boy or a girl who is into sports (unlike yourself) you suddenly develop motor skills you never thought you possessed. Shooting hoops or hitting a baseball like a pro becomes second nature to you. This goes for things you never warmed up to as a kid but then find yourself doing and also enjoying as a mom. Like say camping and the outdoors.

And then there are other brave moms who venture back to work while nursing infants. They work, attend meetings, commute, stay up at night feeding their babies, cook dinner and still have enough energy to go around. I call it the energizer bunny superpower. I never tapped into that power since I decided to stay home with the kids.

Now when my kids are in middle school and high school, I’m back at work full-time and have to get back home and take care of dinner and the dishes. Throw in some homework help as well and you can see how busy my day is.

Like that wasn’t crazy enough, I have to wake up at 5.00 a.m. to get my daughter to the bus stop at 6.00. A week into this schedule and I was ready to call it quits. But then my superpowers kicked in and somehow I manage to get through the week. There are moments when I find it hard to string a sentence together because my brain has fallen asleep.

Then throw in after-school activities and your walking-on-a tight-rope superpower gets activated to make sure you don’t end up falling on your face. It takes a while to grow into your superpowers so don’t be disheartened if you feel like you are falling apart.

Any challenge you face as a mom, be sure that there is some secret superpower you wield that can help you ace your game. Two sick kids and an ailing parent? You got it! Crazy commute and a husband who is travelling frequently? Bring it on!  Colicky baby and a brand new puppy? Oh yeah!

Now that I have kids, I have a lot of respect for my mom and the way she managed her time and energy to make sure that we were well-fed and that we had clean clothes to wear, while working full-time as a Hindi teacher. Her day started at 5.00 a.m. and she went to bed after 10.00. Also kudos to my dad for driving me, mom and my brother to and from work, college, school and wherever else we had to go.

Same goes for Ganga, my second grandmother who cooked and packed lunches and got me ready for school, and waited by the gate till I got home. My Dadima used to drop me off in school every single day before she went to work. And it was Sharma aunty who used to pick me up from school every evening. It’s not until I had to do it that I realized it wasn’t so simple to show up every day at the same time especially if you had to work or manage other responsibilities. This I call the time-keeper superpower. It makes sure kids are woken up in time to catch the bus, that lunches are packed and kids get picked up on time.

I may have missed a few. If you supermoms/dads out there have any more to add please comment. Power up! You got this!

 

 

The Fruits of Perseverance

It has been a while since I last blogged and I’m writing to share the realization of a long cherished dream. My struggle to find full-time employment in my field is something that shows up in my blogs from time to time. Regular readers are familiar with my transition from unemployed to underemployed to doing odd jobs that weren’t in my field. I have extolled the virtues of volunteering time and again and I still volunteer for an NGO even after getting hired as a contractor.

Although I loved working in schools, a part of me wanted to get back to writing and editing. My blog opened the door to many writing opportunities and several websites have  published my work. The next step was getting paid for the writing. I started writing for content mills and although they paid a pittance, it built up my confidence and honed my skills as a writer.

When I was in India, a referral from a old friend/colleague landed me a contract as a content writer. This was my first job as a writer in the corporate world. While I enjoyed the perks of working from home, it became apparent that after a long break one could benefit from the learning that occurs in an office environment. This role was quite different from writing for content mills and showed me where I could improve as a writer. Before I knew it 4 months were up and I was back to being unemployed.

Long bouts of unemployment coupled with our unsuccessful attempt to settle down in India made one thing quite clear to me. With kids whose future lay in our hands, I couldn’t put my career on the back burner anymore. You never know when life will throw you a curve ball and one has to be prepared. If I had been established in my career, maybe the trip to India may not have been so stressful. Even though my husband was not earning I could have run the household.

I came back to the U.S. with one burning desire – to find a full-time job that could support me and my family. While looking for jobs I continued to gain experience as a writer/editor by freelancing and volunteering. Two interviews later I got a call that changed my life. I interviewed for a job that seemed a right fit for me and got hired as a contractor to do web content editing. There was the promise of being hired full-time if I performed well. Five months into the job and I got hired full-time. Maybe it’s not a big feat for all of you reading this. But for me it has been 15 years since I had a full-time job (other than being a full-time mom).

For 11 years I couldn’t work in the U.S. because it took me that long to get my green card. Then another 4 years to find my way back to writing and editing. Along the way I have had many well-meaning relatives and friends advise me to take up an entirely different career path. Like say pharmacology or QA testing or even running a daycare.  But none of that appealed to me. Somehow I circled back to writing.

As I write this , others in my circle have had breakthroughs in other areas of their lives. Some have been blessed with babies after several years of heartache and pain. Others who have struggled with finances now have nest eggs that give them financial security and freedom. It took a long time for them and for me to realize our dreams but we persevered, kept the faith and took one step at a time in the direction of our dreams.

I cannot say I have reached my destination because ahead of me are more lessons, adventures and truths to explore. For those of you unsure of getting what you want or following your dream, I stand testimony to the fact that it can be done no matter how long or how hard you have tried or how unsuccessful you have been so far. So go for it!  You are supported by the universe and my good wishes are with you.

 

From Zero to Hero in 6

This post is long over due. February was a busy month. I had a couple of interviews and had this feeling that I was really close to snagging a job. But that phone call I was waiting for never came. One day I was wondering if I should do the substitute training course to get a job at the school district, when a recruiter called. She felt I was a good fit for the job (yeah they all do and once they’ve forwarded your resume they forget all about you). So she said I needed to do an editing test. That perked me up as I recalled getting my first job straight out of university after doing an editing test. The last job I landed when I was in India also happened after a series of tests.  I had some good test-taking skills, I figured. Interview skills? Now that was a different ball game all together.

I cleared this editing test and was to do a phone interview and a face-to-face interview. The phone interview got scrapped (whew!) but I still had to do the face to face. The recruiter told me it would be an hour-long interview and that gave me the jitters. I practiced for it as well as I could but I knew from past experience that you can’t always be prepared for every question. You have to be able to think on your feet and come up with something impressive even if you never encountered that particular scenario.

I had three people tossing questions at me randomly. Some were questions I was prepared for and some were not. The interviewers were friendly and did their best to make me feel comfortable. When they were done 40 minutes later (I don’t know if I would have lasted an hour!) I was taken on a tour of the office and met some other editors at the café. The casual and friendly vibe was quite appealing. And then when they showed me the yoga room I was totally floored.

Back home I told everyone that the interview went well. The recruiter told me that they usually decide within a day. Next day came and went, then another, then a whole week. The recruiter reassured me that she was still waiting to hear from them. I honestly did not expect to hear from them after a week. On the last day of February I got a call and finally heard the words I’d been waiting to hear for over 6 months.  “I have some good news for you. The company called and they want to hire you. When would you be able to start?”

I was ready to start the next day! But I pulled myself together and said I would start next week. But  a week wasn’t enough to get my background check and verification done. So then I was slated to start in the middle of March.

Three weeks have passed since I started working as an editor. From having too much time on my hands, I have gone to having every minute filled with activity. My formerly lazy weekends are now spent doing grocery shopping and cooking for the week. It took me over a decade and a half to get back to my career full time. I have to say it wasn’t easy (you know the whole story if you have been around since 2012 when I started this blog) but I persisted and now here I am. Patience, perseverance and prayer got me here and might I add not just my prayers but prayers of some beautiful souls who I am lucky to have in my life (you know who you are!)

My husband also landed a job around the same time and our fortunes changed overnight. I’m glad we held on, kept the faith and kept trying even after facing several disappointments. Now when I tell my kids not to give up when things get tough or they don’t succeed at first, they know that I am walking my talk and not just being preachy. And for the longest time the only reason I wanted to succeed was to teach them that nothing in life is impossible even if you face seemingly insurmountable circumstances.

This I know is true, for anyone who wants something and wants it bad – if you can dream it, work for it even when the results/rewards don’t appear and you have undying faith in yourself or a power larger than yourself, then you shall have it. Sending you all love and light and infinite gratitude for wishing me well, enquiring about me when I was going through a rough patch and praying for me and my family.

My Views About Moving to India

Disclaimer: These are MY views about moving to India after living in the U.S. for over a decade. Many before me have done it successfully and many will continue to do so long after this post has been published. Many like me have struggled to find their footing and gone back to the life they once knew. Which category you will be in is totally up to you and depends on your unique circumstances and personality.

Three things top the list of priorities when you move:

  1. Job
  2. Place to stay
  3. School/ Education (if you have kids)

And some other priorities:

  1. Family
  2. Weather
  3. Time

Job/Career

We already had a place to stay and the kids had gotten admission in a school in Chennai that had a considerable NRI population. So all we had to do was get a job. I thought Indian companies would be vying to hire my husband who has over 15 years of experience in IT and has worked with some big name clients in the U.S. But that was not the case. He barely got any interviews and the ones he got happened only through referrals.

In my opinion it is better to obtain a transfer through your company to India or work remotely for your U.S. employer, if that is an option. Many NRIs who come back to India to settle down also start their own business ventures or consulting companies.

Before you move, secure a job (offer letter and the whole shebang). If you have only a few years of experience or are looking for entry level positions, you can easily find jobs. But if you are mid-senior level, it isn’t so easy. Referrals, recommendations, or having a former colleague as the CEO of the company you are interviewing for doesn’t help. Even approaching a company you worked for before leaving the country may not help. So here is the bottom line – No Job, Don’t Move!

Education

If your kids have only studied in the U.S., then schools in India can be a rude shock. The sheer workload and the amount of writing, testing and homework they have to do is mind numbing. Also the whole rote learning thing got my kids ticked off. They were used to learning concepts and applying it to different situations or contexts, not reproducing word to word the answers that the teacher writes on the board.

Make no mistake. The fees to attend some of the top schools has doubled or tripled since I last attended school but the quality of education has deteriorated. Fees may go up to a couple of lakhs per year per student, something you can’t keep up with if you are not earning. My kids also spent a lot of time commuting to school because the good schools seem to be clustered around certain parts of the city.

I also realized that doing high school in India meant many sleepless nights and unabated pressure to score the top marks in every subject to secure admission in top colleges. The competition is just too much and the stress levels are off the chart. There was little time to pursue art, music or sports except during summer vacation. And that was not something I wanted for my kids.

Family

Most of us move back to India because we miss our family or want to stay close to them and take care of them. Similar sentiments drove my husband to make this decision. We ended up staying with my husband’s parents. It was ok for the most part but after a while I found it hard. I missed the freedom to do things my way.

Vacations in India are always a preview to what things will look like if you stayed with your family. If you have a great time with them always, then you probably won’t have any trouble moving back. If you have niggling issues that crop up every time you are with them, be sure that they will morph into something bigger when you live in such close proximity. Sometimes so big that it could actually sabotage your relationship.

When it started affecting my relationship with my husband, I knew it was time to move. Let’s not forget that I did have the option to move back to the U.S. because we didn’t burn all the bridges. We decided to move only after procuring the coveted permanent resident status.

Weather

Hot and humid with barely any reprieve for most of the year. Add to that cyclones and flooding and an infrastructure that is so fragile that it collapses with every storm. Chennai is not an easy place to adjust to.  Yes, we had air conditioning but only in the bedrooms and sometimes even that didn’t help if you had a power outage. I don’t know how I lived there for 23 years of my life but I absolutely hated the weather when I lived there from 2015 to 2016.

Time

The traffic situation is pretty grim and people spend a remarkable amount of time commuting to work, school or to do errands. Most tasks that can be accomplished using a computer or smartphone, for instance paying your bills are just beginning to get computerized in India. Internet speed is slow, ATMs run out of cash pretty fast and now with demonetization things aren’t getting any easier or faster.

To live a satisfying life it is important to have some control over how you spend your time. For me it felt like most of my time was spent doing chores or commuting from one place to another. Social activities took a back seat and I simply felt like a hamster on a wheel – doing so much but not getting anywhere at the end of the day.

It’s not important where you stay, what’s important is that you are happy, your family is happy, you have a job to support yourself and time to spend on activities that enrich your life. That was not the case for us and we were lucky to have the choice to move back to the U.S.

 

 

Why I Volunteer

So things haven’t changed for the better since my last post. I’m still looking for work and resigning myself to the fact that I will have to wait until next year for something to come my way.

When I feel stuck or feel that things aren’t flowing or working for me, I do two things.

  1. Write in my gratitude journal. I did this to land my last job. I wrote thank you for my new and wonderful job in my journal every single day and even wrote about the kind of job I was looking for.
  2. Look for opportunities to give or serve. This worked for me years ago when I was trying to get back to work after a long hiatus. I volunteered in public schools for several years and then landed a job in a charter school.

It doesn’t help that most people are posting pictures of cruises and vacations in the Caribbean when I’ll be doing a staycation this year. So I decided to look for volunteer opportunities on Idealist. I found something that would use my skills as a writer/ editor and for a cause close to my heart (children and education).

Volunteering helps you feel good and gives you the satisfaction of contributing to the community in meaningful ways. It also helps you make friends and learn new skills. By taking away your focus from what is lacking in your life, volunteering allows you to appreciate what you have.

You have to give to receive. So whenever you feel things are not flowing to you, it is a good practice to give and get back into the flow of the Universe. Waiting till you have enough will keep you waiting indefinitely. Give how much ever you can of your time, money and efforts and you will be rewarded with peace and contentment.

Even if you are in a good place in your life, take the time to give back. There are so many out there who are hurting and can benefit from your generosity. Serve wherever you are, even if it is for an hour every week or every month and you will find it brings you more joy than all the comforts and things money can buy. This is truly one of those cases where the giver of the gift benefits as much or more than the receiver.

Still need convincing? A study report by CNCS titled “Volunteering as a Pathway to Employment” found that active volunteers were 27% more likely to get a job than non-volunteers.