You’re hired: A major change in jobs

Woman goes from being an escrow assistant to a janitor

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AGE: 49.

NEW JOB: Janitor.

OLD JOB: Escrow assistant for a Vancouver title company.

Cindy Williams has seen some dramatic life changes over the past four years. In 2007, she was laid off from her job as an escrow assistant for a Vancouver title company, just one year after her husband had suffered a life-threatening bone infection that rendered him unable to return to work as an auto technician.

To make do while Williams, 49, looked for work, the couple sold their home and their most prized possessions. Last spring, she finally found steady work as a janitor, making much less than she was accustomed to.

AGE: 49.

NEW JOB: Janitor.

OLD JOB: Escrow assistant for a Vancouver title company.

“We went from an income of over $100,000 down to about $28,000 and we went from a $275,000 house to a $13,000 trailer,” Williams said.

Williams is hopeful that she can eventually return to her former profession when the real estate market returns. In the meantime, she feels lucky to have work.

THE BIGGEST CHANGE, SO FAR: I had planned on staying there until I retired. I had no intention of changing careers. So when layoffs started, it was a big shock.

I LEFT BECAUSE: I was laid off because of the downturn in the real estate economy. And since I was laid off, they’ve laid off quite a few people and they’ve closed three offices locally.

I WAS OUT OF WORK FOR: 20 months. I was laid off in September of 2007 and I started doing the weekend cleaning in probably April of 2009.

I RELIED ON: I had unemployment coming in and then I also tried doing customer service over the phone, taking orders for a local craft company. We sold our house and didn’t make any money on it. It was a short sale situation, but at least we were able to get out of it. We moved into a mobile home park. We sold all of our toys and vehicles. He had three snowmobiles and a huge enclosed trailer, a nice motorcycle, and we both had very nice vehicles.

THIS NEW GIG IS: I empty all the garbage and recycling on seven floors, vacuum, dust and mop floors, do windows, and then if the company has apartments, I go in and do the move-out cleaning on them. It’s about 3.5 to 4 hours a day unless an apartment comes up. And then on the weekends in the medical buildings, I go through and mop all the floors and vacuum and dust the reception areas and clean the bathrooms.

ONE THING I MISS ABOUT THE OLD JOB IS: The challenge of it. Each day was something different.

ONE THING I DON’T MISS: Nothing. If they called me up today, I would go back tomorrow. I liked the stress, which sounds really strange. But I really liked the high stress of it just because the energy that came through. If the real estate and lending market would turn around, I’d go back in a heartbeat.

ONE SURPRISE ABOUT MY NEW JOB IS: How filthy people can be.

I’M LUCKY THAT: I was able to find something because I know a lot of people aren’t finding anything. I don’t know what I would have done if I couldn’t find something. A lot of people are still getting unemployment. I probably would have gone into fast food if I could find that, but I’m not one to just throw my hands up and give up.

THE HARDEST PART OF THE JOB TRANSITION WAS: Going from the office sedentary-type style into the physical. I’ve got muscles that I never knew I had.

I LEARNED THAT: It’s amazing what you can live on. I hear people say they’ve simplified, and it’s like, “Oh, I’m sorry you’re not getting your daily latte.”

MY ADVICE: Look at all options, don’t turn anything down, because you might be surprised at what you end up doing and it’s not a bad thing. There’s a need for people to clean buildings, and don’t be too proud to think that it would never happen to me.

If you have a job transition story to share, please send an e-mail to Cami Joner or Libby Tucker at cami.joner@columbian.com or libby.tucker@columbian.com