I Typed Too Soon (update – 3 updates!)

Here is an update to this post.

Yesterday about five minutes before a project review meeting with my counterpart, I received an email from my recruiter letting me know my contract wouldn’t be extended. I sat down a little shellshocked, particularly because my recruiters seemed so sure I’d be staying through April. My counterpart is also a contractor, though she’s been there for a long time and is in talks with HR to join the team as staff. I confided in her right away that I hadn’t had my contract extended and we talked about it for half an hour, before even touching our work. She ended our meeting with a hand on my shoulder and her sincere empathy.

The UX team welcomed me not as a temporary contractor, but as another team member. They included me on lunches, events, meetings, jokes, and research outings. We’ve connected, had great conversations, I am learning so much. But now it’s coming to an end sometime in the next two or three weeks. After I read the email I was, for the first time in a long time, heartbroken.

To be honest, at some point in the last week I started to get the feeling that I wouldn’t be staying and tiny as the feeling it was, began to prepare for the disappointment. The signs were there: My project meetings had been pushed off and cut short, I wasn’t invited to design sprints and concept exercises, the time and attention from others that I needed in order to successfully do the work I’d been assigned wasn’t there, and something told me not to upload my photo on the team Trello board until the extended contract had been drafted and signed. I did sign a congrats card or two but I didn’t chip in for the gifts.

They brought me in to cover for someone who was on leave while dealing with Visa issues, “for a few weeks” which turned into a few weeks more, then the option to be extended. I was a band-aid from the start, and I didn’t realize how advanced the work would be that I was dropped into. In fact, it wasn’t until yesterday’s meeting, four weeks into my contract, that key components of procedure and resources were finally shared with me. In the interview, my now-manager complimented me on the wireframes in my portfolio but when I worked the same way for the assigned project, was told they weren’t done in company style (“There’s a company style?” she asked, confused). In fact, during yesterday’s meeting with my coworker, she showed me for the first time, some procedural site design style sheets I’d never seen in the three weeks I’d had the project; key elements to succeed in the assignments they gave me were missing for weeks and no one thought to show me how they do the work. They’ve dropped the ball during my time there, it hasn’t been all rainbows and bon bons, but I was so thrilled to be there, I forgave and smiled.

Last week I was invited to a group lunch to welcome the newest (permanent) hire and in the invitation, I was included as part of the new blood. My gut told me not to go and celebrate, so I let the lunch planner know that my future was yet unclear and I felt uncomfortable being welcomed if I was leaving. Good thing because as I saw the group walk down the hallway to exit the building, noticed one of the directors was in attendance, and she surely must have known about the email I had yet to receive, since she’s been out of office on recruitment lunches for a week and a half. How foolish I’d have felt had I gone, only to return to that email.

I was seeing a fantastic therapist for about a year before we moved out of Chicago. I will readily admit it, I think therapy is great when you find the right person. I’d seen a few before and they never challenged me or held up a mirror in the way I needed, until her. She was truly great and I miss her so much, there is a lot I wish I could talk to her about.

In our sessions, she helped me to realize that I often keep one foot in the cynical world no matter the situation, so I can never be shocked when something crappy happens. At the same time however, when that crappy thing does happen, I beat myself up with something that sounds a lot like, “I should have seen that coming, I’m an idiot for letting myself get excited about ____”.

This was no different. I immediately felt foolish going on about how thrilled I was at the job, and how much I looked forward to work after years, YEARS, of never feeling that way. It was everything I wanted: casual dress, a short commute, frequent and authorized work from home, a warm and excellent program director, and friendly coworkers I actually wanted to hang out with. I tweeted about it, posted a job change to Facebook, bought a new laptop bag. Then… poof. I tried my best to keep the evil voices out that afternoon, “You’re terrible at UX and they don’t want you”, “You should go back to graphic design”, “You should have seen this coming and not gotten so attached”, and while my recruiter insists it’s a budget decision, that they can’t spend to keep me longer, and they only want senior level UX Designers for the team which I am not yet, that’s only a small consolation. There’s literally nothing I can do about my skill set, though I am trying to get better (and I have my opinions about ditching excited and skilled junior staff for the sake of habit-established senior) and I can’t help a budget.

Today, I decided to work from home and give myself a mental break. I’m updating my portfolio and resume, I’m sifting through recruiter emails and LinkedIn jobs, and all the while I just feel… sad. Just sad.

Update #2

Great news, friends! I asked my manager if I could make the Wednesday before Thanksgiving my last day rather than work the day after, when the office would be empty. She didn’t respond but rather, asked for a meeting so we could discuss it.

My recruiters had no information for me, surprise, so I walked in prepared for a long, drawn out reason for their not keeping me. I was extremely pleased to find out that not only did my manager never stipulate an end date to my contract, but that she and her boss, our director, were pissed when they heard my recruiters extended a possible offer in the first place. My contract was always open-ended, and she never implied otherwise. So after much discussion it was clear that after this gig is over, I would not retain my recruiters’ services.

My manager was clear to tell me they like the work I’m doing, like me as a person, and want me around through end of the year. So my contract was extended and I made sure to be paid for the two calendar holidays, I’ve been given a project that should carry me close to the end of the time, and it will benefit the team and those who come after. I look forward to work and am sad that my time with the team is ending, though not nearly as heartbroken as I was when I was under a false assumption.

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