My own job loss and how it launched Design Resumes

To explain how Design Resumes began, I need to tell the story of my own job loss. People often ask me the back story behind how Design Resumes was formed.

The business and even the name of the business, Design Resumes, was a fluke in the beginning. I started writing resumes in 1983 as a response to a little ad we placed to gain some additional income.

The very basic computer we purchased was a result of some classes we took as a bonus from our employer, a property management firm.

I built a small business that grew into fairly heavy traffic when Nationwide Insurance acquired Wausau Insurance. Many people were uncertain about their future.

Suddenly, I worked with executives and many other people who needed their resumes ready to go because they were facing uncertainty and their own job loss.

The Naperville Transfer

I continued that little business until we accepted a promotion to Naperville, Illinois to open another complex for the same owner.

This project was totally different. The 50 unit Section 8 in Wausau was a new property when we came on board in 1981. The residents and the processes of low income property management and government housing were totally different. This new project was 400 units in a luxury housing project on 31 acres in Naperville.

The new project boasted a clubhouse complete with a spa, tennis courts, swimming pools, and a man made lake. Gorgeous apartments in a yuppie-targeted new complex then called Spice Run.

Our son, Tim was born in March of 1986 and the owner was very supportive of our little family. He raised his own son in his legal office until his son was 5.

Transferring to Naperville was a long process, the project was delayed multiple times. We replaced ourselves with a new management team who would take over as soon as we moved. During that time, I found myself pregnant with Dan.

Our advisors, who included our pastor at the time, said not to tell our owner, the developer or his team about the pregnancy. We waited 5 years before Tim was born. It was a total surprise that Dan decided to start his life at that moment. I figured I could handle it.

My role was Community Manager, managing and directing all aspects of the leasing and marketing as well as the staff. My husband was to be the Operations Manager, who was also the owner's liaison during the construction phase with the contractor.

The Mistakes

Our owner and his staff were upset about Dan because his arrival was scheduled for April 5. The project was due to open April 1. I made a very naive, and in hindsight, stupid statement to the owner:

But this is construction, you won't open on schedule.

Telling a developer that must have made him crazy. But I had been around construction long enough to know that there are always delays. This project was already way off track. I was right. The project didn't open until July 1.

During the time we were in Naperville, I did many things. For example, I interviewed vendors for multiple services, landscaping, extermination, and trash removal. I wrote the resident handbook, hired an illustrator, and had it printed by a local printer. In addition I wrote the company-wide handbook covering multiple property management issues.

Dan was born on schedule on April 5. My own ideas of child-raising changed.

We had Tim with us the whole time in Wausau with only occasional babysitting by Grammas.

I thought that it would continue and I think the owner's child care issues made me not even discuss it with them.

Mistake Number Two.

We were told to find full-time child care in a brand new location 5 hours from home one month after Dan was born. Now we had 2 children 13 months apart and no family support.

My own job loss - The Warning Signs

The owner changed our move-in location and move-in date so that we would leave the competitor's apartment complex that we had lived in two blocks from our project. We moved in on July 10. I should have seen the warning signs:

  1. As I drove with my manager from Milwaukee to various locations in the Chicago area, she asked questions about whether I missed Wausau.
  2. The new project was not ready for occupancy, but they made us move onsite anyway as well as new residents.
  3. Dan had colic and the apartment complex's wiring system was faulty. The smoke alarms went off with every lightning strike in the storm-filled summer of 1987.
  4. The lack of sleep between Dan and the alarms combined with the challenges of the project. As a very new mom of two, my emotions were on edge, and I easily found myself driven to tears.

My Own Job Loss - The Termination Notice

Our owner had our manager meet us in the model apartment. She delivered the job loss notice that we were terminated on August 5. We had 5 days to get off property. They instituted a gag order so we couldn't talk to the contractors who had become our friends.

We lost two jobs simultaneously, our home, and had two babies who were by then 4 months and 17 months old. I didn't even think about finding another job in Naperville. We called family and we packed up leaving before the 5 days were up.

The stages of grief - Loss of employment is still a loss

I was so angry. I was so scared. I had no idea what would come next.

Back home, my network didn't work. People I had used as vendors in Wausau didn't want hire me or my husband for their businesses at any wage to support our growing family.

We ended up moving in with Bill's parents and living with them for four months. They had a huge house. Imagine the disruption of two babies under the age of two in a household with both my in-laws turning 65?

Amazingly, the bank agreed to finance our first home that we bought for $29,500. Amazing, since at the time, all we had to show for income was our unemployment checks.

I launched Design Resumes again in 1987. Now you know the rest of the story.

My own job loss is a very long and overly detailed post but as I wrote it, the same emotions came up as they did back then.

They surface every time I tell the story to one of my clients.

It is the reason that I understand how it feels to lose a job, the uncertainty and the fears.

It is also the reason that I can tell you that there is hope on the horizon and that someday you will find a new life that is rewarding again. Everyone will not go on the path of self-employment that I have gone but they will find a new beginning.

Julie Walraven’s unique LIVE writing and coaching process can help you achieve results through the Design Resumes personalized job search and resume writing  strategy that takes the mystery out of the process. To find out how, simply click here!

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  1. Kim Woodbridge on August 30, 2010 at 5:55 am

    I can’t imagine being in that situation with two babies – it must have been so frightening – and it’s a good thing you had family back home. And that your business came out of it.

    I laughed when I read “but this is construction, we won’t open on schedule”. It sounds like something I would have said and then realized later that maybe I shouldn’t have said that.

    • Julie Walraven on August 30, 2010 at 6:01 am

      Thank you, Kim. It was frightening and though it was never confirmed, I think I was depressed at the time. I felt so alone (even when we came home) and it took a long time to get past the feeling of not being good enough.

  2. Jim Rosenberg on August 30, 2010 at 6:00 am

    That is an inspiring story. Thanks for sharing it!

    • Julie Walraven on August 30, 2010 at 6:02 am

      Thanks, Jim, I had no clue you read my blog. Thanks for stopping by! How’s Madison?

  3. Master Resume Writer on August 30, 2010 at 8:05 am

    Loved hearing your back story and literally felt I was alongside you, experiencing your emotions as you revisited the exciting, sometimes difficult and always momentous family and career decisions.

    A common thread I see throughout your story is your and your husband’s initiative in building solutions amidst storms and your ability to construct career bridges to help you traverse change.

    “Hope on the horizon” <– I couldn't agree more with these encouraging words. Your job seeking clients are lucky to have you in their corner!


  4. Julie Walraven on August 30, 2010 at 8:17 am

    Oh, Jacqui, thank you! As I work with job seekers who are either unemployed or career changers, I can see my life experience correlating with theirs. I kind of know why I lived through some of my own hurts and challenges because it has given me a voice and the ability to empathize with those who are challenged.

    Now I am off to see what you or Rob wrote on your always inspiring blog!

  5. HR Margo Rose on August 30, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    Your beautiful story touches my heart. You are one of the many hearts and souls of HireFriday. Your guest post, and steadfast support has made a world of difference.

    Frankly, I read your posts to stay current in our industry. Your are an educational blogger, as you teach us all. I am so glad I know you, and the back story how you got to where you are.



    • Julie Walraven on August 30, 2010 at 3:10 pm

      Thank you, Margo. It has been a journey. I appreciate the support! Carry on… 🙂

  6. Andrew Plath on August 30, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    And I was your little brother with struggles of my own in the area of employment.

    • Julie Walraven on August 30, 2010 at 3:31 pm

      Yes, you were… a challenging time and there are more challenging times…

  7. Ed Han on August 30, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    Julie, I’m so glad you DMed me about this blog entry. I am grateful that you chose to share about such a difficult time in your life. Thank you both for your candor as well as your unflagging support: they are each equally welcome!


    • Julie Walraven on August 30, 2010 at 3:30 pm

      It was a post that was long in the writing and I am glad that it is completed now. For job seekers to know that I am really in their corner, they have to know that I really have walked in their shoes. Blessings, Ed on moving forward with your own journey.

  8. Dawn Bugni on August 30, 2010 at 6:43 pm

    Julie –

    You know I’ve always referred to you lovingly as “my Energizer Bunny”. No matter what, you keep going and going. I had no idea you’ve been going and going like that since the 80s; and through so many difficult bumps and twists and turns. Whew. Inspirational story. And you still inspire today.

    Every time I get off the phone with you, I feel like I could accomplish ten more things in the next five minutes. (Fortunately that feeling passes quickly or I’d need a nap. LOL)

    Hugs my dear friend. I truly don’t know how you do all you do!

    (PS — have you eaten? :))

    • Julie Walraven on August 30, 2010 at 7:32 pm

      Thanks, most of the time, I feel like I haven’t done enough. I transfer forward things on my list even after working 15 hours a day. Today was more successful than some. I already wrote my list for tomorrow.

  9. Michael Lunsford on August 31, 2010 at 8:50 am

    Wow, your story is amazing. If that old saying is true, then the journey that resulted in this specific post has made you stronger. I can’t say I’m envious of the experience, but certainly of your strength.

    • Julie Walraven on August 31, 2010 at 9:18 am

      Thank, Michael. The sequel to this post is Hurts Stay with you… which explains how short that job was and how long I remembered it. I’ve been called a fighter but I never thought of me that way. I just refuse to quit. Blessings, my friend!

  10. Nancy Carbone on September 1, 2010 at 9:38 am

    Kimba Green mentioned this post to me when we were talking this morning. It’s unfortunate that pragmatism is often mistaken for cynicism as in the case of your construction remark. You were simply an experienced professional, and are quite a resilient woman!

    Best wishes,
    Nancy Carbone

    • Julie Walraven on September 1, 2010 at 10:34 am

      Thank you, Nancy. It was a different outcome than I planned when we took the position, but in the end, I think it was the best outcome.

      Kimba has been very supportive of me and I really appreciate it!

  11. Christine Livingston on September 3, 2010 at 11:01 am

    Wow, Julie. Thanks so much for sharing. It takes some guts and courage both to got through that kind of experience and survive – and indeed to write about it. For me, it lets me see something of where your strength and empathy come from. You have so much to give your clients and the world as a result.

    • Julie Walraven on September 3, 2010 at 2:13 pm

      Thanks, Christine, yes, even the life experience I would have loved to have skipped have shaped me into who I am.

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