A beginning to mark an ending

Friday, January 3, 2013, 7:31 am.

Today is my last day at the credit union. Next week is dedicated to packing and last-minute shopping. On Sunday the 12th I will get on an airplane for Washington, DC, and say good-bye to East Lansing.

My travel orders came through yesterday morning. It is a confusing document. I can’t understand a lot of it. But I have been told that I don’t need to understand it. For now, all I need to know is that I need to provide copies of it often. When I made my flight reservation, the travel agency that the State Department contracts with needed a copy. I might need to send a copy to the hotel, I will have to check with them. I was advised to make three or four copies and bring them with me to DC. Of course I will need more than four copies in total, but we were assured that there were opportunities to print off copies at the training center, so the three or four copies were to last us until we actually begin training.

Today will be marked by sprinting to finish up my projects at work, an exit interview this afternoon with Human Resources to take care of departure paperwork, mainly to settle up my benefits and unused vacation time, and turn in my gate card and access card.

Saying good-bye to my co-workers will be bittersweet. I have enjoyed my time at the credit union. I work with some good, nice, funny and friendly people here. Credit unions are different from for-profit businesses. Because the focus is on member experience, the organization puts the interests of members first. That shows in many ways, from the quality of service that we provide, to long-term strategic directions of the organization. I can be proud to have been a part of the credit union for the last 18 months.

When I began work here, right after losing my job at the university, I was still mourning the end of my academic career. I still regret the circumstances of leaving that job. Two things make that experience less painful. Of course, moving on to the Foreign Service is the more significant factor. I am very excited to begin that new career. But my tenure at the credit union has been meaningful. When I arrived here, I was wounded by the way that I was downsized by the university, and the way that my bosses handled the situation. Right away when I began working here, I was impressed with the competent management, the professionalism and thoroughness of the human resources department, and the collegiality of my co-workers. I have experienced a working environment that is healthy and productive, and that nurtures its employees. I have to say that I did not experience that feeling at the university.

Here is an example of the different working environment at the credit union. A few weeks after I started working here, my boss’ boss knocked on the door to my office, and leaned against the door frame. “Hello, Dennie,” he said. For some reason, I instantly became wary, like I was preparing to be reprimanded or to have an unreasonable request made of me. I returned the greeting, and he asked “How are you settling in here?” Fine, I answered, waiting for the other show to drop. Then he smiled, and said that he just stopped by to see how I was doing. He wished me a good day, and that was that.

I had to reflect on why that exchange freaked me out. After a few days, I realized that in over 17 years of working at the university, the only time that my boss came to my office to see me was when she was going to ask me to do something that I didn’t want to do, or when I did something wrong and she had come to scold me. At the credit union, I had to accustom myself to my boss actually caring about me as a person.

I am incredibly excited to begin my new career in the Foreign Service. I am sure that it is the best fit for my abilities and ambitions, and I have not doubt that the experience will be rewarding and challenging. But if this opportunity had fallen through, I think that I could have been happy, albeit in a different way, at the credit union.

So I am finishing my career here with mixed feelings. I can’t wait to see what the next chapter of my life brings, but at the same time, I’m turning this page with some sadness.

Onward and upward….