Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A job offer -- part time

Back in April I wrote about having lunch with a couple senior women in my field who suggested I try to find a part time job. They said it was a good way to gain the stability I'm seeking without giving up my freelance freedoms altogether. They also both thought I should find an employer who had been looking for someone less experienced than me, but full time, and convince them to hire me part time for the same money.

The day after my second of those lunches, the woman I'd met ran into someone in exactly that position. His association had been trying to hire someone full time, because consultants weren't working for them -- they wanted someone in house. But after looking they were having trouble finding anyone with enough experience and hadn't hired. She recommended me.

I heard from this association the next day, asking if I was interested. I told the guy I might be, but then didn't hear again. Then last month, I got an email from his colleague asking again was I interested. I said I was. We arranged a phone call to explore how it might work and whether there was a fit. Then a couple weeks went by with no word. Then last week they asked to meet me to discuss it more.

Now, at this point my freelancing is going pretty well. Turns out I had a pretty good year financially after all, and with the new informal partnership going well, I'm feeling a bit more secure about the near future. But this option still intrigues me.

And today they made me an offer. The money is not bad, certainly better than half of a full time job. Their offices are not terribly close, and it would be a 45 minute commute on the bus or bike each way, but they're only asking me to do two days a week in their office, with some additional time at home for them. Their area of business, while not sexy or exciting, interests me and touches on a lot of hot political topics that I like. I'd still be able to take freelance work, I'd just need to look for less of it. And they're telling me they'll be plenty flexible about it all.

So did I find my magic bullet, a way to survive the next 25 years of work? Keep the stability in part time work, keep the freelance in the rest?

I don't know. I've got a lot to consider here. I'll post more later this week while I hash out more details in my head. Opinions?

Monday, July 28, 2008

I am a triathlete!

I did it. Yesterday, I completed a triathlon. At 40. I am a 40-year-old triathlete. I just keep repeating this to tell myself it's real.

Yes, I'm proud of myself and maybe a bit too much, but heck, I did it.

And it was hard. First of all, it rained. First rain this town has seen in nearly five weeks, and just for a few hours, but the hours I was racing. I had to be there at 6 am, which meant I took our family's only car up there, so my hubby and the kids couldn't come watch.

I had to lay out all my stuff in the rain. Good thing I brought a garbage bag. But it was cold, and I had to stand around for two hours after they closed the transition area (where the bikes and clothes go) until my swim start time (those who would be quickest started first). But then, at last, I put on my bathing cap, was marked all over with my race number, and they told me to get into the pool.

My swim went very well. I felt strong and consistent, and even passed a few people, but didn't really have problems with people passing because the lanes were pretty wide. I did my last lap and got out of the pool and walked quickly out of the pool toward the transition area, and then I saw them. My husband and the boys were at the pool exit cheering me on. I nearly cried I was so happy to see them.

I raced to my bike and began doing my clothing change, which went fine and no one saw me slip off my bathing suit under my towel. And I was pretty quick. Onto my bike and off I went, out of transition, up the hill onto the biking route. It was four laps on the blocked-off road. The way there was pretty much uphill the entire way, and the first lap I was going pretty slowly, because I was darn tired. But the way back was easier and more downhill, which gave me more strength for the next uphill. By the end of the second lap I felt faster and stronger and I think that's the point when I knew I'd finish this thing. Then it started to pour. Up until then the rain had either stopped or trickled to nothing. But during my third and most of my fourth lap, it poured. Yet I soldiered on, until I got to the end of my fourth lap and headed back down the hill to the transition area again.

I parked my bike and helmet, grabbed my hat and long sleeve shirt (I was soaked and cold by then) and headed back uphill for the run. Well, I didn't quite run yet. My legs were very, very sore. And while I'd practiced this, and knew it would be tough to get running (it was the same road, still uphill, just over to the side of the bikes), I didn't know it would be so tough. But my kids were cheering so I ran past them and tried to keep running. But I couldn't. My breathing was okay and my energy was okay but my legs hurt. So I walked. I kept trying to run uphill, and managed a minute here and there, but for more than 10 minutes into the running part, I couldn't make my legs work. Then finally they did. So I ran. And I ran as well as I could. I tried to go faster, especially at the end, but as much as I could soldier on and keep running, I just couldn't make my legs go any faster. But the finish line was in sight, and I pushed on, until I came around the last corner, heard my kids call out and I crossed the finish line to hugs from my sons.

And now, I am a triathlete. I didn't break any records. I finished 133th of 146 women, but I wasn't last, which was my goal. And I finished in under two hours, which I was really hoping to do -- 1:54:16. It's not earth shattering, but it's not embarrassing either. And my favourite number is 18:26. That's my swim time, including the time it took me to get out of the pool, walk the length of it out the other end to the exit and across the timing mat. And that time is a good minute or two less than I had ever done in training.

But I'm pretty sure that was my one and only tri. I would swim again, and bike again, and swim and bike again, but the run was too hard for me, and frankly, I just don't enjoy running enough to do that all again. I'll probably keep up a weekly run with my clinic group, but to do the three again, I don't think so.

There, cross that one off my list. I'm 40 and I completed a triathlon.

Now what will I do for 50?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Triathlon worries

Only four days to go now until my triathlon, and the real fear is setting in now.

Up until this week, I had been worried about the big things -- could I get trained enough, would I be able to do this, how hilly is the course, etc. But now it's the details that scare me.

I learned this week that I have to wear a bathing cap during the swim. I have never worn one ever before. I bought a cheap one so I could try it on and practice, although since the race is this weekend, I really only have one swim scheduled during which I can practice. So I've tried it in the shower, and I hate it. It feels really tight, hurts my hair, and it feels really, really weird not to feel water in my hair. Hopefully the one they give me, with my number marked on it, is better than this cheapie one.

I also learned that I'll have a timing chip velcroed to my ankle. Another weird feeling I'm not used to. I'm sure neither one of these things is a big deal in the long run, but the swim was supposed to be my comfort zone -- it's the easiest of the three for me, and now I feel these things will make me feel ill-at-ease in the water.

The other big worry is the weather. Up until today, I had seen weather reports for Sunday saying it would be really, really hot. But today the reports say the really hot weather is actually three or four days back, so Sunday now has a 30-60 % chance of rain, with highs only just at 19-20 degrees. It's hardly cold, and I know I can bike and run in the rain, and have done before, but I planned my wardrobe based on hot weather, so now I'm having second thoughts.

Another concern is that the transition area, where I put my bike and clothes etc -- oh, it's outside. I have to plan to have my clothes in a waterproof bag now if it'll be raining -- closes at 7 am, so from that time until my swim start time, which is likely to be about 8:30ish, I have to stand around in my bathing suit. Worries of discomfort and cold come back to me now here again too.

I think if this weren't the first triathlon I'd ever been in, or even if I'd been smart and gone to watch one before this, I might be calmer about these details, but well, it is my first, so the little things are troubling.

On a brighter note, I am less scared about my ability to do this. I know I won't be fast, but I also know I can do this in less than 2 1/2 hours, maybe even less than 2, although not likely. I might be tired biking, and may even go really slowly up the hills, but I can do it. I've trained on my bike a lot, and hills around town that used to frighten me, that used to get me off the bike and walking up them, I can do now. And the run, the worst of the three sports for me, well, worse comes to worse and I walk parts of it because I'm tired. I keep going back to a 5K run I did in early June, where I was exhausted after a 2 hour bike ride the day before, my legs were killing, and when I did the 5K I felt like I walked more than I ran, but I finished that in 35 minutes. So if I could do it then, I can do it in the tri.

Four days to go, if I can survive the little things. Wish me luck!

Friday, July 18, 2008

How much do you make?

A couple workplace-related blogs I follow have had posts this week about salary secrecy -- the compulsion to hide your annual salary from everyone. I have always thought a reluctance to discuss money was a downfall of our society. What's the big secret?

Take housing prices as a comparison. MLS listings are public, as are annual assessment records, so I can easily look up how much anyone's house costs. That's a bigger indicator of wealth than salary, at least in my hometown. And if you know what someone does for a living, you can guess what what kind of money they might make in many cases. So what's the big deal?

I know, poverty is seen as degrading, and being overly wealthy is seen as elitist. But when you work in a company where you know how high up the corporate ladder you rank, why is it a big deal to know how much more or less the next gal earns?

I began my career working for the federal government, a unionized e where every job has a classification, and every classification has a salary range. So I knew how much every single person in my workplace earned. Then I moved to the private sector, where I wasn't allowed to share my salary with anyone, and no one shared with me. And I just didn't get it. It always seemed like a silly game to me -- hide your income from your cubicle neighbours.

As a freelancer, I have been open about my rates, and find that others are just as open. Asking around helped me set the right number for myself. I used to charge too little, until I started asking around, and then brought up my rates when I found others at the same level were charging more. In fact, I learned last month that I'm charging far too little for media training sessions, because I asked a couple other freelancers, so the next one I do will cost the client a more market-reasonable rate.

I'm not saying I run around telling everyone I meet what my annual income is, but I'm also not hiding it. If someone asked me directly how much I earned last year, I'd tell them. Although with all the deductions, and the whole incorporated business thing, I'm not sure I have a direct answer. I know how much the corporation made, and I know what I reported as net income on my taxes, but it's never as simple for someone like me to say how much we earn as for a salaried employee. But I've certainly got nothing to hide.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Picking up trash earns trip to space?

When I was a kid in the 70s, we all thought that by the time we were grownups, we'd be jetting off to the moon for holidays. Ah, the George Jetson inspired dreams of the future.

Well, eight years into this new millennium, I'm not going to space any time soon, although my seven year old is at a science camp this week and who knows, it might spark the bug that leads him to the space program. Anyhow, I was intrigued by this news item I just saw, Air hostess picks up chocolate bar, wins space trip.

Not that it really has anything to do with my musings on being 40 and work life, but this Charlie-and-the-Chocolate-Factory dream come true for this woman is pretty cool.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Me and J-Lo

I read in the news today that Jennifer Lopez is training for a triathlon, just like me.

With only 12 days to go, it's nice to be in good company.

I'm trying to taper my training this week, but having to bike my kid to camp every morning, since our car died and we haven't decided yet what to do to replace it, is messing with that. Still, I'm feeling more ready as the days go by, but scared too.

I guess it gets to a point where you're either trained or you're not, and no more training can make the difference. 12 days and counting!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Wasting time at work, Free Slurpee Day

I am doing some promotion for a client that wants to give away money, and in addition to promoting them via media relations, I did some social media promotion too. I messaged everyone relevant on my Facebook and LinkedIn contact lists, and got some bloggers to post it. Before I tell the rest of my tale, the "it," which by the way is pretty Vancouver-area-specific, is:

I'm helping Metropolis at Metrotown give away money. They have a community fund which has raised $200,000 in the past couple years -- the money is from their Metropolis Express, the little ride-on train that runs around the main floor of the mall, and they've given grants to 20 non-profits in Burnaby. But the fund has grown big enough that they want to expand the region to which they'll give grants.

To that end, I'm trying to spread the word to non-profits in New Westminster or East Vancouver that they can apply for money from the community fund. All the rules and application forms are available here.

Anyhow, one of my contacts on LinkedIn wrote that she had forwarded my message to a contact at a relevant charity, but that my message sent her to LinkedIn where she updated her profile, looked around a bit, and other time wasters. And then she asked, probably jokingly, if I had any more stuff she could do to avoid working.

We all spend time reading blogs, newspapers, surfing, etc., which feels like work, but is really not getting any client-related stuff accomplished. So I have another one for my buddy and everyone else, but one that necessitates leaving your desk on Friday.

This Friday in Canada (and I think the US too) is Free Slurpee Day. If you don't know what a Slurpee is, imagine all the ice and sugar you can drink -– although I think the free ones are small. Oh, and Friday is also the day that the iPhone comes to town, but with the yucky pricing plans, I'm more excited about the Slurpees.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Professional curiosity

There's a PR agency in my town, one I know of but have never really been close to, and something is happening at their business. What, exactly, I don't know, but boy am I curious!

Last week, a job ad came around from my professional association. A new agency was looking for staff, and it was named after one of the principals in the PR agency I mentioned above. Not only that, but the new agency seemed to have many of the same big-name clients as the previous agency. Really, it seems like maybe this principal left her old agency and started out on her own, taking all her clients with her.

This is pretty juicy stuff, and I'm very, very curious about what happened. Not that it affects me directly. I don't really compete with them for clients, and I am not really impacted if she left or whatever. But I want to know.

I emailed a few freelance colleagues to see if they knew what was up, but no one knew anything. So this morning I decided to take my curiosity a step further, and I emailed the one person I do know somewhat well at the previous agency and asked him for the dirt.

Did I go too far? In elementary school, I remember being really embarrassed when my teacher read a story to the class called "Curious Carla." Did I just make the story come true and embarrass myself just by asking for the gossip?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Work-life balance on summer holidays

When I had babies, everyone talked about child care, daycare, babysitters, etc. But no one ever warned me about summer vacation. I always thought that once my kid started school, my child care woes would ease. Ha! Summers are the hardest time to work around, because there is no continuity.

OK, I could stick my kid in a daycare/regular daycamp situation where he goes to the same place every day, but what fun is that for a child who is supposed to be enjoying time off from a regular schedule? No, like most moms in my hoity-toity neighborhood (where being a working mom is very far from the norm!), my kid gets to go to camps. Day camps. So each week is a new adventure. This week is baseball camp, then soccer camp, then engineering camp (I know it's geeky but he likes science and building stuff!), then two weeks of outdoors camp. Each camp starts and ends at a different time, and in a different location. It's quite the juggling act to get him to the right places. And some camps are only half days, so then I have to deal with playdates, or having him in the house while I try to work. It's a hassle.

That all said, his summer holidays usually work out to a of slower work for me, so I can usually manage the juggle. Because I'm a freelancer and make my own schedule. If ever I did take a full time job, this could never happen. But for now, it's actually kind of nice. I start working a bit later and finish a bit earlier to accommodate camp times. I use my cell phone more in the summers since I spend more time away from my desk. But I still haven't broken down and gotten a blackberry.

Penelope Trunk has written today about how having a blackberry gives her more work-life balance, since she can multi-task, even at her son's soccer games.

Without a Blackberry, you always had to choose one or the other. Work and life were always competing for large chunks of time in the day. But with the Blackberry, you can have a blended life where work life and personal life complement each other. What I mean is that the Blackberry makes it so you can always do work but also always do your personal life, so you choose which one has priority, minute to minute.

Yeah, right. To hear her tell it, by constantly checking her email she has more time with her personal life. I don't think so, at least not for me. When I tune out work, I am focused on my family and much more relaxed. I did nary a stitch of work while on my five-day break last week, and I felt much more relaxed than usual when I would have taken work with me.

Summer should be easier, even for a freelancer. Viva la day camp, viva la summer!