A WiNdow of Opportunity

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!


Variety The Spice of My Career

I love learning new skills and industries. I’ve worked in banking, collections, insurance, retail sales, social media, yard products and grief support industries.

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.

Time to Transition to Another New Industry

One day I saw a newspaper that a local bank was adopting a new collections approach and hiring people with a customer service background. I said “I can do that!” and sent them my resume. got an interview and was hired. My first week there I thought “What am I doing?” “I must have been nuts to think I could learn to do this.” However, I did learn collections.

I became knowledgeable regarding systems, policies and procedures in the automobile loan, sub-prime mortgage, total loss, lines of credit, student loans, overdraft protection, secured personal loans, and mortgage portfolio’s. I was promoted to team leader of the sub-prime mortgage portfolio and then transferred to the total loss group of the auto lease portfolio where I served as team leader for 5  years.

Active Listening

While working in collections I fine tuned my active listening skills. that skill is essential to developing a rapport with the banks customers. I listened to the customer’s explanation and interviewed them to make sure I gathered all the facts. Then I examined their situation in order to determine the next best course of action. Active listening and a thorough review were done because I believe people deserve quality customer service and support – even in a collections environment.

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.

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, especially a new beginning that happened in a split second.

At one time I thought widowhood would be the toughest problem I faced in life because it takes more time to tackle and deal with than people realize. However, I was wrong.  The other shoe was about to drop and it would be tougher than recovering from Joe’s passing.

Another Change

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.

My attitude was “I survived the first year of being a widow, therefore surviving unemployment will be easy.” I originally figured unemployment would last 6 months, and no longer than 1 year.  However, I did not realize how much the world changed during my 13.5 years at the bank.  Unemployment was a rude awakening.

During my transition, I learned the new rules of job searching, developed my social media skills by participating in daily career chat forums and creating and maintaining both a LinkedIn profile and a Twitter feed.

Greatest Accomplishment

However, my greatest accomplishment is the launch of JoyReturns.  Joe was the computer geek, not me. What did I know about maintaining a website?  There is a saying “God does not call the equipped, He equips the call.” I was called and God equipped me.

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 stories of my adventures since his passing.

Blog’s Focus

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 give hope for grief recovery and moving forward with life.

While JoyReturns is a cheery, uplifting site I’m not afraid to discuss the tough issues like antidepressants and grief.

A New Challenge

Now I see myself continuing to use my

  • conversational writing skills
  • ability to see issues from different perspectives

in changing people’s perceptions about widowhood, with JoyReturns being my main educational tool.

It is me continuing to do the training I was known for at the bank but using a different delivery method to educate others so they see us widows as I see us –

“a wiNdow of opportunity.

Michele Kearns
Founder | Award-Winning Blogger of JoyReturns

Bio: Michele Kearns is the founder and HUG© (Hope Unites Globally) Award-Winner of JoyReturns. She shares her widowhood adventures hoping to inspire widows to move through grief and rebuild their lives. A graduate of Kent State University with a Bachelor’s degree in communications, she’s currently using those skills as a virtual logistics contact center representative for a Fortune 100 company. She’s also managed call center teams, co-facilitated a grief support group, and helped small businesses with various writing assignments. Michele is a bookworm, and a lover of history, music, chocolate, red roses, and golden retrievers. She is also the amateur photographer behind the blog OgleOhio.com

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