My Big Girl Undies – Part 2

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You can find Part 1 here.

After a week of going through the motions I knew I had to determine my next steps. I was responsible for coordinating Flight Data File procedures for the final Shuttle mission, STS-135. I was also responsible for management of the ODF procedures for the EVA Systems book that would require not one but two books to be flown on ULF7 in two completely different configurations and I was pissed off and bitter.

My motivation for not just walking out the door and leaving my responsibilities to those that were selected as part of the “dream team”…severance.

Even though over 1500 people received a WARN notice…I felt alone. Talk of future projects was limited to those that were staying and I went from being in the know, a lead, to feeling like a pariah. I was instructed to attend meetings that provided information for the layoff process and I walked out of many of them in tears…I didn’t belong.

I threw myself into my work; I had an obligation to the STS-135/ULF7 crew and to my colleagues that were losing their jobs at the end of the Shuttle program.

I do not believe there was a job that I was both qualified and unqualified for on the internet job boards that I didn’t apply for. In the beginning I was applying for Project Manager positions with the attitude that EVERYONE would want to interview my awesome self…I worked for NASA for goodness sake…to applying for an Administrative Assistant near the end just to get my foot in the door. The closer I got to August 12th, the more panicked I became and I was seriously considering applying for a position at McDonald’s. Not that I am beneath a job as an admin assistant or working at McDonald’s but hell I had a role in successfully putting people in space for the last decade…and that didn’t mean a damn thing.

June 15th was my coming out party, before then only my closest friends knew my employment status. I made the decision that I was the only one that was going to improve my circumstances.

A job fair was held on June 15th by the Aerospace Transition Center (ATC). There were so many of us that were losing our jobs that the company provided our own Transition Center…unfortunate but notable. I had never attended a job fair before so I researched every company in attendance and applied for everything that remotely pertained to my skills. I visited booths of each company that I had applied to online and I tried to get the most out of the experience. I did refrain from stock piling the freebies…that was not my purpose…can’t say the same for others. Four hours later I left the event feeling totally drained and a sense that I had wasted my time.

Even though work was frantic I tried to participate in every Shuttle event possible, as it was the last. I found solace by surrounding myself with people that were in the same predicament as I and could sympathize with what I was going though. My friends, although supportive, weren’t losing their jobs and in my mind there was no way they could remotely understand where I was emotionally.

As time went by my bitterness faded when I thought there may be a chance my WARN notice would be retracted after management saw the error of their ways. Not that I really wanted to stick around after I discovered what management thought of me but it indeed was the path of least resistance.

My job search continued, mainly online, and my spreadsheet listing the companies and positions I applied for grew longer and longer by the hour. A long time friend referred me to an acquaintance of hers on LinkedIn, we had a few email exchanges that ended with her(a complete stranger) telling me to pull my head out of my ass and that my situation wasn’t special and if I wanted a job then I had to work for it. Ouch… it was hard to hear but apparently that was just what I needed. If someone in my circle had said the same thing I probably would have discounted the advice and continued to wallow in my pity party.

With new determination I became a LinkedIn expert as I sifted through the wealth of information and abundance of forums. I developed a strategy to contact HR representatives on LinkedIn, unsolicited, and inquire on the status of the jobs that I had applied for. I generally became a pain in the ass. If I knew you or knew someone that knew you I was contacting you for a job.

The final shuttle landing would happen July 21st at 4:57 CDT and I was at JSC standing on the lawn in front of building 1 with my friends, colleagues and their friends and family watching history on a Jumbotron.

The next day I received a request for a phone interview from a company that I spoke with at the job fair.

Finally, retractions went to others and because I had an idea of how many people they were keeping I accepted my fate that I was leaving. It was time for answers. Although the ending of the Shuttle program prompted layoffs in our department management took the opportunity to pick and choose those that remained in order to create a sort of “Dream-Team” in their mind. I don’t blame them but for me…an International Space Station girl…it hurt.

I put my big girl undies on and I went in search of the answers to “Why me?”

To be continued…believe me…you will thank me later.


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