Thank you so much for sharing your story! You give credence to the saying, “When one window closes another one opens”. It’s really up to us to take advantage of that open window. Thanks again!
Michele’s Career Story
While typing an email to my friend Gabriana, residing in California, thoughts popped into my head about what I learned during my career.
The main thing is how I stepped outside my comfort zone and took on new challenges. Most of them were taken on willingly and one not so willingly.
From Customer Service to Collections
Prior to transitioning into collections, my background was customer service. That experience was obtained working for a couple department stores as either a sales clerk or department manager.
Then one day I saw an ad in the newspaper where a local bank was adopting a new collections approach and hiring people with a customer service background. I said “I can do that!” So I mailed my resume, got an interview and was hired. I remember my first week thinking “What am I doing?” “I must have been nuts to think I could learn to do this.” However, I did learn collections.
Once I got on the phone and started talking to people, collections became easy. Easy because people wanted to spend 3k on toys for kids Christmas presents instead of paying their mortgage. Or they started having financial trouble after having their first kid – and now wife has just given birth to their sixth kid.
I listened to the customer’s explanation and would interview them to make sure I had gathered all the facts. Then I examined their situation from all angles and viewpoints in order to determine the next best course of action. Active listening and thorough review were done because I believe people deserve quality customer service and support – even in a collections environment.
Becoming a “Fixer”
Working in a bank’s collections department gave me the opportunity to collect on various portfolios including car loans, mortgages, home equity loans and lines of credit, overdraft protection on checking accounts and student loans. Additionally I got to perform numerous functions as a Team Leader (Assistant Manager) in the Sub-Prime Mortgage and Automobile Lease portfolios.
Collecting and managing these portfolios gave me a chance to learn the different policies, procedures and systems associated with them. Management recognized my adeptness for translating this material because they saw the ease which staff members learned and retained new information.
Because of my in-depth knowledge, I became the “go-to-person” for any questions in addition to earning a reputation for being a “fixer” of customer account problems.
My last assignment was a collector on the mortgage portfolio the bank moved from its New Jersey office. Once again I was relied upon to train new employees so the department could expand and increase the collection of past due accounts.
Getting Thrown Outside My Comfort Zone
Then I had a challenge to deal with I did not ask for and unfortunately it impacted both my personal and professional life.
I became a widow. It was sudden, unexpected and I was completely out of my comfort zone in handling this situation. It was one problem I could not run through to a conclusion on my own initiative.
I dealt with this challenge as best as possible but it was difficult and not something one can recover from easily or quickly. It was hard trying to be a good collector after bereavement leave. Management did let me adjust my schedule to attend a grief support group and which helped but it takes time to adjust to a new beginning in life, especially a new beginning which happens in a split second.
Widowhood is by far the toughest problem I have faced in my life and God willing the toughest one I will ever face. It takes more time to tackle and deal with than people realize.
A year after Joe died, I was offered the chance to take a severance package after Senior Management realigned the department’s hours. Taking the package gave me the necessary down time I needed to regain my footing personally and professionally.
During this time, I have learned the new rules of job searching, developed my social media skills by participating in daily career chat forums as a Careerealism Club member, and creating and maintaining both a LinkedIn profile and a Twitter feed.
However, my greatest accomplishment is the launch of JoyReturns.com. While creating the blog, I decided not to reveal all the details of Joe’s death. What is relevant is that he died and these are the adventures encountered during my recovery. That decision led me to establish a four part blog purpose:
1) Be living proof that joy returns.
2) Support and encourage widows through their grief journey.
3) Educate people about grief who are not living with grief.
4) Develop lasting relationships with my readers.
JoyReturns is designed to be a cheery uplifting site where widows and those not grieving learn that, while not easy, joy does indeed return after a spouse’s unexpected move to heaven.
I decided to focus on joy because there are numerous “woe is me” websites and recovery is not possible as long as one has a “woe is me” attitude. None of these sites did anything to encourage, support or even give me hope I would recover.
After reviewing other websites, I decided my site would be positive and uplifting. I share my bad and ugly adventures but with the hope of letting other widows know what to expect in their journey and educate those not grieving in hopes they gain a better understanding of what a widow goes through.
New Challenge – Small Business Social Media
I now see myself using both my social media skills and my ability to see issues from different angles and viewpoints helping small businesses develop, implement and manage a social media plan.
Also, I will continue to use those skills in changing people’s perceptions about widowhood with JoyReturns being one of my educational tools. It is me continuing to do the training I was known for but using a different delivery method to educate others so they see us widows as I see us -
a wiNdow of opportunity.