The economy looked so bleak this past fall that Mary Jordan created a website giving free tips to job seekers.
"I just decided to do this because people are hurting," said Jordan, a special education teacher serving three Pasco County schools.
Little did she realize that she might soon need her own advice.
Jordan started her job with the school district less than a year ago, putting her employment in jeopardy as officials prepare to eliminate 513 positions to save about $29 million. The pink slips are supposed to start arriving today.
The suspense is killing Jordan, a 52-year-old single woman who relies on her job as her sole source of income.
"I haven't been getting a good night's sleep lately," Jordan said. "I'm having a difficult time focusing, and it's just because it's the unknown. I would rather know this minute, because I could breathe. I feel like I'm holding my breath."
What Jordan is not doing, though, is waiting for someone else to control her fate. She has her resume ready, and has job interviews scheduled, even without knowing whether she'll keep her position with the district.
"I would rather be in the driver's seat," Jordan said. "I have to be employed."
She focuses on the skills that she honed as an educator and administrator, and explains how those can serve a different type of employer. That might be in management, tutoring, even sales.
"Can I take my instructional skills and use them in a sales environment? Absolutely I can," said Jordan, who has been a principal, district-level administrator and college department director in Indiana, Arizona and Florida. "It's just convincing the employer I have the personality and the drive to make this happen."
The thousands of Florida educators about to flood the job market should similarly tailor their profile to highlight the universal abilities they have, she said. Jordan offers insights into the process on her site, www.careerchangesolutions.com, which she said aims to offer specific advice rather than general guidelines.
It includes sections like "Steps to take if your boss is a psychopath" and "Action over 50."
If only one thing comes through, Jordan said, people should remember that they should be ready to do what it takes, whatever that is, and to not be afraid. Prepare a resume and portfolio, and learn about potential employers to see how you might meet their needs.
"Start now," Jordan advised.
School district officials spent Wednesday reviewing teacher seniority, certifications and other factors to determine who will get layoff notices. Superintendent Heather Fiorentino said she wanted the employees to hear the news from their supervisors directly, and not through other means, and that the list of people and jobs eliminated would be made public afterward.
Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at www.tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook.
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Personnel cuts, by the numbers
The Pasco School Board has agreed to eliminate 513 jobs to save $29 million, part of a plan to cut next year's spending by $55 million. The cuts will include:
248 instructional staff
148 instructional support employees, such as classroom assistants
94 school-related personnel, such as custodians and cafeteria workers
9 non-instructional non-bargaining workers, such as some secretaries
4 professional technical workers
District officials hope about 200 of those job cuts can be made through retirements and resignations.